Welcome to the start of a new series on Reviewed Thought! As I announced last week, I will review the Gospel of Mark. We’ll start with chapter one and work our way through to the end, however many weeks that takes. Look for a post every Monday.
So let’s get started, shall we?
In this chapter, three things stood out to me about Jesus.
1. His Timing
Isaiah prophesied that a messenger would prepare the people for their Messiah’s arrival. Mark introduces the messenger as John the Baptist and the prophesied Messiah as Jesus of Nazareth. John announced Jesus’ coming, but Jesus doesn’t enter the stage immediately and get to work. Nope. Instead he gets baptized and receives the Spirit’s blessing.
You’d think he’s ready to announce his candidacy, right? Nope. Rather than go to the people, he walks into the wilderness and lives with the wild animals. He stays in isolation from civilization for 40 days. Anyone who has made a Lenten vow knows 40 days is a long time to wait.
Then, when Jesus finally goes public, he silenced spirits who knew who he was and told healed people to not spread the news. Isn’t that contrary to the Great Commission given at the end of Matthew? If I were the promised Messiah, I would start my ministry full-throttle. Hire a marketing team! Build a platform! Get interviewed on late night talk shows!
But Jesus was more patient than that. He didn’t want short-lived sensationalism to jeopardize his long-term strategy. When the cleansed leper ignored Jesus’ instructions, it stirred up such attention that Jesus couldn’t walk freely in towns. But even that didn’t keep people from searching for him.
2. His Influence
Despite his attempts to lay low, Jesus held surprising influence wherever he went. He wasn’t a rabbi or political leader or other well-known public figure. Yet he immediately gathered disciples when he returned from the wilderness.
Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John all left their trades as fishermen at the call of Jesus. James and John left their father Zebedee behind. Mark writes that Simon had a mother-in-law and therefore also a wife. These men gave up their homes, jobs, and families to follow and be discipled by this unknown Jesus of Nazareth. What was it about him that was so compelling?
The people in the Capernaum synagogue were astounded by his teaching, unlike anything they had heard from the scribes (the equivalent of professors or keepers of the Jewish law). They are further impressed by his power over spirits. They couldn’t repost or tweet his teaching, but they do go out telling everyone in the region about Jesus of Nazareth. He went viral in ancient Galilee. What could he have preached that would be that infectious?
From then on, determined people who needed healing also start following Jesus. Remember they had only heard word-of-mouth rumors. They couldn’t go to his website for tour dates. But that didn’t stop people from pursuing him to whatever “desolate places” he had camped with his disciples. When Jesus took a break one early morning to pray, his disciples interrupt to say, “Everyone is looking for you.”
3. His Identity
At this point, no one knew who Jesus would eventually claim to be. Even the disciples. He was just an ordinary working-class person, a carpenter’s son from Nazareth. He had no rabbinic training. So how could anyone explain how he spoke with power in a way they had never heard? Or how he banished demons and healed diseases by his command?
Jesus stays silent and goes so far as forbidding an unclean spirit from revealing his identity. Jesus was undercover. He didn’t walk into towns saying, “Hey folks, the Son of God has arrived!” Instead of telling people his credentials, he let them make their own conclusions from observation.
In Matthew 11, John the Baptist sends some of his disciples to ask whether Jesus is the Messiah he had been sent to announce. Jesus’ answer? “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” In other words: “See for yourselves.”