Notes for Bible Study, March 16, 2011

Study of the Gospel According to St. Mark

A prayer before reading the Bible

O Lord Jesus Christ, open Thou the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Thy word and understand and do Thy will, for I am a sojourner upon the earth. Hide not Thy commandments from me, but open my eyes, that I may perceive the wonders of Thy law. Speak unto me the hidden and secret things of Thy wisdom.
On Thee do I set my hope, O my God, that Thou shalt enlighten my mind and understanding with the light of Thy knowledge, not only to cherish those things which are written, but to do them; that in reading the lives and sayings of the saints I may not sin, but that such may serve for my restoration, enlightenment and sanctification, for the salvation of my soul, and the inheritance of life everlasting. For Thou art the enlightenment of those who lie in darkness, and from Thee cometh every good deed and every gift. Amen.

Introduction to the Gospel of St. Mark

The Gospel of Mark is the second of the Four Gospels of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Mark was the son of Mary, in whose house the first Christians used to gather (Acts 12:12). Mark knew Jesus Christ personally, and in fact, the episode of the young man in Mark 14:51-52 fleeing in the Garden when Jesus was arrested is considered by many writers to be autobiographical, as this appears only in the Gospel of Mark.

Mark is mentioned several times in the New Testament, as a companion of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:25), but primarily of Peter, who calls Mark his “son” (1 Peter 5:13). In fact, post-Apostolic writers in the second century considered Peter a primary source of Mark’s Gospel, as Mark was Peter’s “interpreter.” It is not known where Mark composed his Gospel. Many Biblical scholars suggest it was written in Rome, but, if that were so, the earliest manuscripts would likely be written in Latin! Alexandria is another possible location.

From Rome, Mark went to Egypt and converted many to Christianity there, both in Alexandria and in the rural areas. On his return several years later, he was captured and martyred. St. Mark is considered the founder and first martyr of the Church of Alexandria.

It is now thought the Gospel of St. Mark was written after St. Peter’s martyrdom in 64 AD, but before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD. The concise, narrative Gospel of St. Mark is primarily directed to the Gentiles. The Gospel of Mark is straightforward but dramatic. The opening sentence declares

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Jesus the Son of God, and God the Father and the Holy Spirit appear in the first few lines! Jesus declares his mission in Mark 1:15, and proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God. The human emotional side of Jesus is perhaps best portrayed in the Gospel of Mark.

Mark presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a mystery – μuστήριον, as he relates in Mark 4:11, “To you has been given the mystery of the Kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God is beginning to convert humanity to improve human values. Jesus often warns his disciples against revealing his identity (1:44, 3:12, 5:43, 7:36, 8:30).

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels, as they follow a similar pattern in describing the Life of Jesus and his teachings. While each of the three Gospels is unique in several ways, both Matthew and Luke appear to follow the general outline of Mark. There is debate as to whether Matthew or Mark was written first. But, as no original manuscript by the author of a Biblical book has yet been discovered, one can only speculate.

Gospel According to St. Mark, CHAPTER 1

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight – “
4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. 7 And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8 “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John Baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
10 Immediately coming up out of the water,
He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him
11 and a voice came out of the heavens:
“You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

12 Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.

Jesus Begins His Public Ministry

14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying,

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the gospel.”

The Calling of the First Disciples

16 As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.

Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum

21They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. 22 They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.

The Cure of Peter’s Mother-in-law

29 And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. 31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.

Jesus Cures the Sick

32 When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

Jesus Goes to a lonely place to Pray

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. 36 Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37 they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” 39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.

The Cleansing of a Leper

40 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 43 And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, 44 and He said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.