Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Mission of Jesus 5

continued from here

The Mission of Jesus

9. One goal of this book is for you to read through the Bible this year as you read through these chapters. This week, the goal is to read through the Gospel of Mark. You may think, "Why would we start reading through the Gospel of Mark? Why not Genesis, the first book of the Bible? Mark isn't even the first book of the New Testament."

The first reason is that Jesus stands at the center of any Christian reading of the Bible. From a Christian perspective, the Old Testament has a direction, a goal, and that "telos" or goal is Jesus. Similarly, the New Testament looks backward to Jesus' time on earth and forward to Jesus' return to earth. Whichever way you turn in Scripture, you are looking to Jesus, "the author and one who completes our faith" (Heb. 12:2).

The Gospel of Mark was written at a particular place and time. It had a reason. It had a perspective on Jesus that overlaps but is also distinct from the other presentations of Jesus in Matthew, Luke, and John. However, our purpose in this first chapter is not to think about Mark's distinctive themes but more about Jesus as the center of Scripture.

We are starting with Mark because we want to get a brief, core sense of Jesus before we go back to the beginning. The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels. It is thus a great place to get the big picture of Jesus' earthly mission.

Mark tells us that Jesus' mission was "to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). The cross is indeed central to Mark's presentation of Jesus. Jesus offers himself to satisfy the order of things. He offers himself to liberate those who want to be reconciled to God. In the rest of the New Testament, we will also see that his resurrection from the dead signals victory over death and the defeat of the powers of evil in the world.

10. However, Jesus does much more than offer himself as a sacrifice in Mark. His core message is the arrival of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15). The Old Testament gives us the key background here. For reasons God only knows fully, God has allowed Sin and Satan to wreak havoc on the earth for a very long time. Mark does not mention when this situation began. Mark is only concerned with its solution.

Jesus is the solution. When the Gospel of Mark begins, the people of God from the Old Testament, Israel, is alienated from God. In a sense, Israel is not in possession of its land. Its land is occupied by the Romans. Its leaders are not godly, even though they put on an appearance of righteousness. 

John the Baptist starts washing people in the Jordan River, "baptizing" them. He asks them as a people and as individuals to realign their hearts toward God once again. The water symbolizes the cleansing of their sins. He sets himself up on the east side of the Jordan River at the very place where, over a thousand years earlier, a leader named Joshua had led Israel into the possession of this same land. He is calling on Israel to turn, to "repent," in anticipation that God will restore his people once more. John the Baptist was symbolically enacting the return of Israel from exile.

11. John the Baptist was just the opening act. The real show is Jesus. After John is arrested, Jesus begins his ministry. Although he does not proclaim himself as king openly, everyone is thinking it. Could this be the king who will restore the kingdom of Israel? Could this be the "Son of David," the descendent of our ancient royal line? Will he kick the Romans out of our land?

But they have no category for a king who would die on a cross. That is just not what they thought Messiahs did. So Jesus does not openly proclaim himself as king. Instead, he works as a servant. He works on the edges. He begins reclaiming those in Israel who have fallen by the wayside, the "lost sheep" of Israel.

Jesus heals the sick, restoring those who are physically and mentally on the edges. This shows his heart of compassion toward others. He does not focus on the "whole." He does not spend his time around religious or political leaders. Although they take an interest in him, Jesus spends little time around the rich and powerful. He is interested in the poor, the widow, the orphan, the blind (Luke 4:18-19).

Jesus casts out demons...


Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for this entry in the series.

Bob MacDonald said...

OK, So we are reading Mark first - I hadn't thought where you are beginning. But for me that is good. I left off study of the NT in 2006 and switched to learning Hebrew seriously and reading the Psalms in Hebrew. Jesus said to me in effect - how can you claim to know me when you have made next to no attempt to learn my language? The 2006 conference where I first met you in St Andrews was a paradigm shift for me. (And I loved the $1 shots of Oban.) Now after 15 years of immersion in TNK, it seems timely to reread the NT. It's good to start with Mark.

I read, transcribing my Hebrew NT into Left to right SimHebrew on the fly, tkilt hbwora liwuy hmwik bn-halhim. The commencement of the good news (same root as flesh) of Joshua the anointed, child of (the) God. Sometimes I render the definite article in front of God as 'this' God. I don't know why it is sometimes written with or without an article. Elohim is a strange word.

Nonetheless - some interesting aspects of this language in Mark - there is no use of the first word of Genesis, brawit bra alohim // at hwmiim vat harx. In the beginning of God's creating // the heavens and the earth. So to avoid a false connection (though it may be there in the Greek vis-a-vis the LXX), I use commence instead of 'begin'. John 1:1 imitates Genesis. Mark 1:1 does not. I also read the anointed rather than any thing that would initially be seen as a titular name.

Cleaning the lenses... Thanks for the opportunity.

I don't want to go into more detail than you can stand or I could attempt - but the next verse is fascinating. The KJV has - as it is written in the prophets, behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The three italicised words are all the same root in Hebrew pnh - face, 'prepare' and it is even sometimes used as a preposition 'before' (here the preposition is the single letter, l). Because 'prepare' is a gloss I use for a completely different root, I would not use it here and I don't use it in my translation of Isaiah. Here it could almost be 'as it is written in the words of Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger to your face, and he will face your way to your face. To make the English sensible, we have to be flexible with prepositions - they are notorious for assuming several glosses each and frequently overlapping with each other. We could also use a synonym for pnh like this: before your presence and he will present your way before your presence. Note that switching 'l' to 'before' creates a temporal aspect to the sentence that is not part of the preposition 'l'.

There's that timelessness again. Though I hasten to add that real history is very important for all of us in all times.

You can see the transparency of my translation - my heart in text - and all its idiosyncracies - in the full concordance I have put online I left the URL in raw html to show how easy it is to find any root and and you can see there through a glossary page, any English gloss.

Unknown Soldier said...

Good work

Help me not to murmur in my tent
Help me not to foolishly blame God
Help me not to ask why
Help me to walk by faith and not by sight

O           ^.^
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                                  O\    O\

Matthew 4 [8] Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

Revelation 3 [17] Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

    LOOk here, and don't look away!

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