Summary: Mark fled and folded but was not disqualified. That's the message of Christmas. A first-person narrative.
Christmas According to Mark
Rev. Brian Bill
December 13-14, 2014
Offering: “Under Bethlehem’s Skies”
I understand you met my friend Matthew last Sunday – He would have really liked that song because he wrote about the birth of Jesus under Bethlehem’s skies. My name is John Mark and I focused on one of the lines that Ari just sang – Jesus was born to give His life away.
Like one of your pastors, I have two first names. John is my Hebrew name, which means “grace of God” and Marcus is my Roman name, which means, “the hammer.” I guess I was the Holy Hammer. Since there are so many “Johns” in the Bible, people just started calling me Mark.
Like Matthew and Luke and John, I had the privilege of writing a narrative about Jesus, which has come to be known as the “Gospel According to Mark.” Actually, I’m with Matthew on this – it’s not my gospel but the gospel of Jesus Christ. I simply had the privilege of painting a portrait of Christ from my perspective. Actually, the Holy Spirit moved me to write what I did, breathing out the very words of God so that you can be confident that what’s recorded in the Bible is what God Himself revealed.
I’ve taken some grief because people say that I skipped Christmas. It’s not that I didn’t think that Immanuel’s birth was important; I just let Matthew and Luke handle those details. I decided to emphasize some other elements, like how Jesus was a conqueror – of disasters, demons, disease, and even death.
I didn’t really know my father but I was very close to my mother. Her name was Mary, as if there weren’t enough Mary’s in the Bible! We lived in one of the largest homes in Jerusalem and had a lot of people over all the time.
Peter and I were really close because he’s the one who led me to faith in Christ. In fact, in 1 Peter 5:13, he calls me his spiritual son. [I heard that you’ve been studying the book of 1 Peter and you’ll be picking it back up again in February] After my conversion I spent a lot of time with him, taking notes from his sermons and listening to all the stories about the Savior. Since I wasn’t one of the original 12 disciples, I had to learn about my Lord from someone who was.
One of my purposes in writing was to encourage the Christians in Rome who were being persecuted for their faith.
I understand that some think there is a “War on Christmas” in your culture today. From what I hear, I believe it. But it is nothing like what was happening in Rome in the first century when Christians were being tortured and killed for their confession of Christ under the rule of nasty Nero. I really wanted Christians to stay strong in the face of these trials so I hoped my book would build them up. People need to be reminded to persevere and not lose heart when they’re hurting. Following Christ is costly but totally worth it.
Let me give you a few highlights:
1. I focused more on the works of Jesus, and less on His words. My account has more miracles than message. I was interested in showing both His strength and His servanthood. I wanted people to be wowed by what He did, not just moved by the words He declared. A child can understand what I wrote and yet there’s plenty of depth for those who want to dive deep. My style is succinct, perhaps even blunt and abrupt, yet vivid and dramatic.
2. I loved that Jesus Christ moved quickly to meet needs. One of my favorite words is translated in your Bibles as “immediately” or “straightway.” I used this word forty-two times! The Gospel of Luke, which is much longer, only uses “immediately” seven times. My book has been called “a moving picture of the ministry of Jesus.”
I wanted my readers to know that Jesus moved swiftly in response to needs. He was purposeful and determined to act according to His Father’s will at all times. He was a man of action who responded immediately to minister to hurting people. He is still doing that today, isn’t He? I was also trying to create the sense that the Savior was moving rapidly to the Cross.
By the way, if you have a hard time sitting still or you struggle with ADD, then my book is for you! Speaking of reading the Bible, can I encourage you to follow a plan to read through the entire Bible in 2015? Edgewood will be helping you do that through a new emphasis called, “Take 15 in 2015.” In the meantime, you can find a number of Bible reading plan options under the “Resource” tab on edgewoodbaptist.net.