Reflections on Mark’s Gospel 1 – Know Who You Are

LifeWords Book Club

Introduction

This is not a study, or an overview of, Mark’s Gospel. It is simply a few reflections on some passages in it, hopefully helping us to think about our current theme of being rooted in Christ and reaching out to others. There will only be about four or five reflections in total. The hope is that you will read through the gospel of Mark and be able to share your own insights from your reading. These reflections are just to support that process. Use them if they help. If you get into a discussion about other passages of Mark that relate to the theme we are looking at together as a church, go for it! I recommend that you use the Bible Project to get an overview of the gospel first.[1] If you want a guide to help you in your reading of Mark, there is one accompanying this first reflection. Mark’s gospel reveals Jesus as the Messiah, or King, but in a way that challenges the typical view of what a king and a kingdom is all about. The portrait of Jesus in this gospel is the Servant King.

Reflection 1 – Know Who You Are

Bible Passage

Read the first fifteen verses of the first chapter, and especially note vv.9-11 which this reflection focuses on.

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written:

“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    and he will prepare your way.
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!]

This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.

John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

Reflection

It’s a momentous event. The kingdom of God is breaking into human history. The prophets have spoken of it. After a long silence, a new prophet has arisen: John the Baptist recognises the significance and greatness of the Messiah he is preparing for. As Jesus submits to John’s baptism, it is not because he needs his sins forgiven but because he is identifying with sinful humanity.

Nevertheless, as heaven bursts open, his divine identity as the beloved Son of God, before he has done anything, is made clear. This is a key to understanding his strength, authority and humility as the servant-king, however people may react to him. He knew he was the Father’s beloved Son. The temptations in the wilderness were aimed at undermining this identity but failed (see Luke 4:1-13).

To be rooted means to know who we are and whose we are. We can be secure in our identity. We are the beloved children of God. John the Baptist also seemed to be secure in his identity and calling at this point. That is why he can serve, pointing away from himself and to his Messiah. When we are secure in who we are, we are free to serve and don’t need to promote ourselves. When we know we are beloved children of God, we have nothing to prove.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is your identity? Why is it important that we are clear in our identity before God?
  2. What do you think was the effect on Jesus of being so clear in his identity?
  3. What do you think is the significance of the Holy Spirit being represented as a dove? And why does the Spirit leads him into the wilderness to be tested?

Further Reading

  • Read the account of the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4:1-13 and see what you learn from them
  • Try to read and reflect on the first 6 chapters of Mark’s gospel before our next meeting.

[1] https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/mark/

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