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Mark 1:1-20

The first step in bible study is to observe the text. Read through it a few times and make note of what the text actually says. Then ask questions of the text. Here is a quick example of how I worked through Mark 1:1-20:

  • vv. 1-3. Mark connects this story to the Promises of the Hebrew scripture. What is the Promise that God has been working throughout the story so far?

  • vv. 4-8. John the Baptizer is the foretold prophet.

  • v. 10. The Heavens are torn apart. A foreshadowing of what Jesus will do. What was the understanding of “the heavens” in the ancient world?

  • vv. 10-11. The Trinity is revealed:

    • The Spirit of God descends upon Jesus. How had the Spirit of God functioned in the story so far in the history of Israel?

    • The voice from Heaven says, You are my SON (implying a parent, therefore God is also Father/Mother). What is the significance of Jesus being interrelated to the Spirit and the parental voice from Heaven?

  • vv. 12-13. The Spirit leads (drives) Jesus. What does this indicate regarding the relationship/function of the Spirit in Jesus’ life? in our lives?

  • v. 13. Jesus experiences 40 days of wilderness and temptation by the adversary (the meaning of the term satan). Why was it necessary for Jesus to experience these 40 very unpleasant days before he started his public ministry? Why is there an adversary, if God is all-powerful?

  • v. 14. Jesus proclaimed the Gospel (good news) of God. If he could proclaim the Gospel at this point in his ministry, how is the death and resurrection of Jesus part of the Gospel?

  • v. 15. The Key verse is 15. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the good news.”

  • vv. 16-20. Jesus invited common people to leave their work and follow him.

Unpacking the message of Jesus in Mark 1:15

The time is fulfilled…

  • the term time translates the Greek word kairos. It has more to do with a pregnant moment of opportunity than with a tick-tock movement of time.

  • Fulfillment implies an expectant waiting. Something new is being born. Is this connected to the tearing open of the heavens?

the kingdom of God has come near (is at hand)…

  • the idea of coming near, or being at hand, is as much about physical proximity as it is about time. Jesus declares that the kingdom of God is here. You can live in it now. This is less about a place to go when you die, or an overthrow of the Roman Empire, than it is about a way of being in the world that resonates with the way of God. Jesus will demonstrate that through his life and ministry, ultimately expressed in his death and resurrection.

repent…

  • this is the Greek word metanoia. It means to change one’s mental framework. We need to see the world through new lenses. It is less about giving up sinful behaviors in exchange for righteous behavior (the purpose of the Law) and more about rethinking how we perceive reality. We are invited to walk as if the kingdom of God were our present reality.

believe…

  • this is the greek word pisteuo which is the verb of pistis, which is translated faith. It is more about trusting than about intellectual agreement. To pisteuo is to jump in with both feet.

the good news (Gospel).

  • the Greek term is euangellion. You can see the word angel in there. angel means messenger, angellion means message. put eu– in front of any word and it makes it good. The Gospel is the good message. This phrase is present in the Hebrew scripture, but it is also a political commentary that pokes fun at the Roman Empire. Caesar believed that, through his military conquest of the world, he had brought peace to the earth, and this was good news. The Good News of God is that peace will come to the world, not through military conflict and oppression, but through the self-sacrificing mercy of God made real through Jesus.

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