Summary: From Mark 1.1, this Introduction to the Gospel of Mark seeks to focus our eyes on the surprising Savior we come to know in Mark and to fire our souls with the reality of God with us.
INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES AND THE READING
It was a day that would live in infamy. Not September 11th, 2001 or December 7th, 1941, but Summer of AD 64: The Great Fire of Rome. If you were alive during that time, it would have had the sort of shock value that we all experienced in our own national tragedy. Before then, Christian was growing, but thought of as another religious dish in the Empire Cafeteria of ideas. The fire changed everything. It was blamed on the spread of this sect called The Way, those followers of the Nazarene. It was then that things got real serious about Christianity. True Faith had to be defined like never before. Who was this Jesus and what does He ask of His followers? What does it mean to be a follower of His?
In the midst of that crisis, God answered the cry with His Word. As the great Markan scholar William Lane wrote, "[The Gospel of Mark] was called forth by a crisis confronting the Christian community." Thus, we in our nation and in our congregation do well to re-focus in our generation, in these days of national crisis, on Mark’s Gospel.
In Mark 10.45, we have what I believe to be the central passage in the book:
For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." Mark 10.45 (NRSV)
This shows Jesus as Our Savior, Our Servant, and Our Sacrifice. He is the Lord of History and how we need to see Him and know Him and experience Him today.
My wife often gives me help on illustrations. Knowing my concern this week, she told me about a conference of clergymen she read about in the newspaper. There was apparently a gathering of various religious leaders representing major and minor religions of the world. They gathered to talk about their common themes. Of course, there was a Christian clergyman there. But the bottom line of the article seemed to imply that they are really just all the same. In many ways, Jesus Christ is being placed alongside the other gods of this world, the other religions, as if the Nazarene is simply a religious teacher or founder of a society, as if He is just One Way among many. But, in the name of tolerance and broadmindedness, Christianity in our pluralistic society and in our often wayfaring hearts can never be allowed to devolve into just another religion. Our faith is in the Lord of Life, who died for our sins and who rose again. There is no other name under heaven whereby men may be saved. His uniqueness is His beauty and is the attractive feature to men and women who are tired of trying to please God with ritual and rigorous duties. Anything that hides His uniqueness, His glory, His beauty, His grace and His love is like old varnish that must be periodically scraped away!
The divine turpentine to do the job is the Gospel of Mark. Indeed, in the very first verse (which is really the Introduction to the whole Book), we come face to face with the distinctive features of our Lord. Mark identifies Him right away. He uses no genealogy like Matthew and Luke. He goes right to the jugular. You’re going to have to deal with the claims of Jesus in the very first verse.
So, I read, this morning, only the Introductory words to the Book. But, I remind you: this is the inerrant and infallible Word of the Living God.
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1.1 (NIV)
Let us pray.
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your Name. (Ps. 86.11) In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
A lady of society was gazing upon an image she had never seen before in the city’s art museum. "My dear fellow," she said condescendingly to the Curator, "I have never seen this painting before. I find the image shallow and rather crude in appearance. What do you call this?" The curator answered without giving the slightest expression," That madam, is a mirror." The lady’s vision was not very focused.
Losing focus on the Jesus of Scripture blurs our own view—not only of Christ—but of ourselves, as well. The Bible is also a great mirror. We may go to it to observe its content with a critical eye, but in the end, we are under its criticism.
We can not only lose focus, but lose our fire.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army said, "Look well to the fire in your own souls, for the tendency of the fire is to go out."