The No-Name God
A Bible Study by Fred Kenison
As far as his ministry and how Jesus manifested himself, Mark adds little to what we learned in Matthew. Some, including the ancient writers Origen and Iranaeus, believe that Mark’s gospel was written after the gospels of Matthew and Luke. They maintain that Mark only added some incidentals to the events related in Matthew and Luke. More recently, some scholars assert that Mark was actually written first.
Many scholars also think that Mark was the penman for Peter, and wrote his epistles for him. Although he was not one of the disciples, his close association with them would have given him a unique viewpoint of what they had learned from Jesus.
Whereas Matthew 1:1 says,
"Book of [the] generation of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham,"
Mark 1:1 reads,
"Beginning of the glad tidings of Jesus Christ, son of the god."
By speaking of Jesus as son of David and son of Abraham, Matthew was proving that he was the messiah, the descendant of Abraham and David who would sit upon the throne of a rejuvenated Israel.
Mark begins with a different thesis, emphasizing the glad tidings, or good news, or gospel, of Jesus Christ as "a son of the god." This study is concerned with how Jesus, himself, revealed his destiny to the people. Perhaps Mark’s point of view will be different than Matthew’s.
Mark 1:14-15 says,
"And after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the glad tidings of the kingdom of the god, and saying, The time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of the god has drawn near; repent, and believe in the glad tidings."
Mark quickly gets to the message Jesus preached, which was the glad tidings, or gospel, of the kingdom of The God. Believe! The time has been fulfilled for the son of The God to appear.
Galatians 4:4-5 refers to this same issue:
"But when the fullness of time came, the god sent forth his son, come of woman, come under law, that he might ransom those under law, that we might receive adoption."
Paul also realized that when Jesus came he brought an authentic offer of the kingdom of God to the Jewish people.
Mark gave a short resume of how Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother, John. These men immediately left what they were doing, and accompanied Jesus on his mission, becoming the earliest disciples.
Mark also described some of the people Jesus healed, noting that he admonished the people not to tell about what had happened. Both Matthew and Mark agreed that in the early part of his ministry, Jesus did not want a great deal of publicity about his abilities, probably because it would bring too many questions he did not yet want to address.
Mark gives a fuller description of how the Pharisees questioned Jesus about plucking corn to eat on the sabbath. Mark 2:27-28 says,
"And he said to them, The sabbath was made on account of man, not man on account of the sabbath; so then the son of the man is also lord of the sabbath."
When Jesus said he was the lord, or master, of the sabbath, the implication was that if his statement were true, then he was Jehovah, who had instituted the sabbath.
Mark 3:13-19 relates an incident that Matthew did not mention concerning the 12 men Jesus chose as his disciples. He sent these men out to preach and heal diseases and cast out demons, all of which are signs of the kingdom. This is the first mention that Jesus shared his ministry with others.
When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, he said,
"Verily I say to you that all shall be forgiven the sins to the son of men, and whatsoever blasphemies they shall have blasphemed; but whosoever shall blaspheme against the spirit the holy has not forgiveness into the age, but liable to its eternal judgment, because they said, He has an unclean spirit." (Mark 3:28-30).
Attributing works of the spirit to Beelzebub is the unforgivable sin, at least for a period. This verse does not mean that this sin will never be forgiven, as most preachers claim. The period of "unforgiveness" lasts only for a specified time: into the age, or into eternity. We have commented on the grammatical parsing of only a few words, but this is one which should be explained.
There are three ways in which the term "into eternity" may be written: eis ton aion, "into the age," or eis tous aions, "into the ages," or eis tos aion toon aions, "into the ages of ages." Mark used the first case, eis ton aion, which means they shall have no forgiveness up to, or until, the next age begins, or "into the age." However, this does not preclude the people who blaspheme being forgiven at some point after the beginning of the next age.
Mark 4:26-29 describes how one gains entrance into the kingdom of God.
"And he said, Thus is the kingdom of the god, as if a man should cast the seed upon the earth, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and be lengthened, he knows not how. For of itself, the earth brings forth fruit, first a blade, then an ear, then full corn in the ear. And when the fruit offers itself, he immediately sends the sickle, for the harvest has come."
Jesus used the analogy of a farmer planting seeds to explain entry into the kingdom. A farmer puts seed in the earth, yet has nothing more to do with giving it life and growth; that is the earth’s responsibility.
The process is very similar for those who commit themselves to The God, trusting him to bring forth works worthy of the kingdom. They have nothing to do with it; The God brings forth good works in their lives which will qualify them for entry into his kingdom. They may never fully understand how it comes about.
The disciples were concerned with this same issue. John 6:28 says,
"They said therefore to him, What do we, that we may work the works of the god?"
The farmer believes the earth will bring forth food from his seed although he does not know how it does so. Likewise, The God will bring forth the works pleasing to him from all those who have committed themselves to him in faith, and they may not understand how he does it!
Mark 5:22-43 relates that a ruler of the synagogue asked Jesus to come cure his ill daughter, but one of his servants told him that his daughter was already dead.
"But Jesus immediately, having heard the word spoken, says to the ruler of the synagogue, Fear not; only believe." (Mark 5:36).
After Jesus raised the girl, he asked them not to tell about it.
After the transfiguration on the mountain, Mark 9:9-10 says,
"And as they were descending from the mountain, he charged them that they should relate to no one what they had seen, except when the son of the man be risen from among [the] dead. And they kept that saying among themselves, questioning what is the rising from among [the] dead."
The disciples simply did not yet understand what Jesus was talking about. It was not until the event mentioned actually occurred that they would understand, and even then some would not believe it had happened.
Mark 9:43-48 contains Jesus’ comments that it would be better to do away with an offending member (hand, foot, or eye) and go into the kingdom of God maimed, rather than suffer the alternative. The hand signifies what one does in this life, the foot where one goes, and the eye what one sees.
Then, Mark 9:49-50 says,
"For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. The salt [is] good; but if the salt is become saltless, with what will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
There are several things to be learned from this passage.
Salt was used as a preservative to prevent spoilage and disintegration. In the Middle East, when a contract was made with another, both parties would eat a little salt, which indicated that their contract with one another would never disintegrate.
But, what did Jesus mean when he told the disciples they would be "salted with fire?" In the scriptures, fire often meant a spiritual cleansing. Jesus was warning his disciples that they would face many difficult choices, and their work, their walk, and what they observed would be cleansed as if by fire.
Then, Jesus went on to say that salt, or fire, was a good thing. It was meant for good, not evil, to keep them from a path that would destroy them for the ministry for which they had been chosen (to be his disciples). Also, that any disciple who lost his way was useless as a minister for his lord, Jesus, the Christ. This was meant as a warning to his disciples then, and may still be applied to any followers today. A life of sin renders us useless for serving God.
Finally, Jesus told them to "have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." The word in comes from the Greek preposition en. When this preposition is used with a plural, as it is here, then it means "among." Jesus was telling them to use salt to preserve their own group. On several occasions, Jesus told his disciples to love one another, because love is a salt that will hold any group together.
The love Jesus referred to is the Greek agape, a god-kind of love, based on a decision, sincerely wishing the best for another. Agape is not based on emotion; that type of love is called phileo, which is often as changeable as the wind. Agape, however, is steadfast because it is based on a will that has been changed by The God. Only The God living through us can cause us to have a steadfast love, agape.
Mark 11:9-10 gives a different view of the time Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt.
"And those going before and those following were crying out, Hosanna! Blessed [be] he who comes in [the] name of [the] lord. Blessed [be] the coming kingdom in [the] name of [the] lord of our father David. Hosanna in the highest!"
The people who followed Jesus into Jerusalem saw him as "the son of David," the one they expected to rule only over the tribe of Israel. This was illustrated by the phrase, "Blessed be the kingdom of our father, David."
The kingdom of David meant something entirely different to the Jews at that time than does the kingdom of God to us today. They saw only their god, Jehovah, dealing only with the nation of Israel; and, at that time, they were correct. Jesus, himself, had said,
"I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 15:24).
Mark 12:26-27 says,
"But concerning the dead, that they rise, have ye not read in the book of Moses, [in the part] on the bush, how the god spoke to him, saying, I [am] the god of Abraham, and the god of Isaac, and the god of Jacob? He is not the god of [the] dead, but god of the living. Ye therefore greatly err."
When Moses wrote these words, Jehovah was the god of whom he spoke, the god of Israel, and the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore, in this case, when Jesus used the term "the god," he meant Jehovah. Later, after the full revelation of his father, the invisible god of heaven, the term "the god" took on a different meaning. Thus, Jesus spoke truth, both to the Israelite people and to those who would be born after his resurrection and ascension.
Matthew 27:11 had quoted Jesus as responding with a terse statement:
Mark, however, offers a fuller description of the answer Jesus gave to the high priest who questioned him about whether or not he was the christ.
"But he was silent, and answered nothing. Again the high priest was questioning him, and says to him, Thou art the christ, the son of the blessed? And Jesus said, I am. And ye shall see the son of the man sitting at [the] right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of the heaven." (Mark 14:61-62)
This is one of the few times when Jesus admitted to being the christ, or the son of The God. And, even here he referred to himself as "the son of the man."
After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, begged Pilate to give him the body of Jesus for burial. After Pilate had been assured by a centurion that Jesus was really dead, he allowed Joseph to take the body, and lay it in a tomb. However, this was the sabbath, and Mary, the Magdalene, and Mary, his mother, waited until the next day to anoint his body.
This raises an interesting question of tradition, since the bodies of criminals were not allowed to be anointed. Jesus died as a criminal, who bore the body of sin of all humanity. His body, which had borne the sins of the whole world, and which had been crucified as a criminal, could never have been legally anointed after his death. If Jesus’ body was to be anointed, it would have to be before he died, and that is exactly what happened.
Mark 14:3-8 says he was anointed in the house of Simon, the leper, by a woman who broke an alabaster flask of ointment worth a great deal of money and poured the contents upon the head of Jesus. The disciples criticized her actions, but Jesus answered,
"She did what she could. She came beforehand to anoint my body for the burial." (Mark 14:8).
Mark 16:9-14 illustrates just how little the disciples really understood about what Jesus taught them.
"Now having risen early [the] first [day] of the week, he appeared first to Mary the Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. Having gone, she told [it] to those who had been with him, [who were] grieving and weeping. And having heard that he is alive and has been seen by her, they disbelieved [it]. And after these things, he was manifested in another form to two of them as they walked, going into [the] country. And having gone, they told [it] to the rest; neither did they believe them. Afterwards, as they reclined [at table], he was manifested to the eleven, and reproached their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not those who had seen him arisen"
Even though he had told them, the disciples did not understand what he said. Up to the point of his death, they were expecting Jesus to be a messiah who would deliver them from the Romans. Their understanding would undergo a dramatic change when the holy spirit arrived!
# By speaking of Jesus as son of David and son of Abraham, Matthew
was proving that he was the messiah, the descendant of Abraham and
David who would sit upon the throne of a rejuvenated Israel.
# Mark begins with a different thesis, emphasizing the glad tidings, or
good news, or gospel, of Jesus Christ as "a son of the god."
# The message Jesus preached was the glad tidings, or gospel, of the
kingdom of The God. Believe! The time has been fulfilled for the son of
The God to appear.
# In the early part of his ministry, Jesus did not want a great deal of
publicity about his abilities, probably because it would bring too many
questions he did not yet want to address.
# When Jesus said he was the lord, or master, of the sabbath, the
implication was that if his statement were true, then he was Jehovah,
who had instituted the sabbath.
# Attributing works of the spirit to Beelzebub is the unforgivable sin, at
least for a period. That does not mean that this sin will never be
forgiven, as most preachers claim. The period of "unforgiveness" lasts
only for a specified time: into the age, or into eternity.
# There are three ways in which the term "into eternity" may be written:
eis ton aion, "into the age," or eis tous aions, "into the ages," or eis tos
aion toon aions, "into the ages of ages."
# Jesus used the analogy of a farmer planting seeds to explain entry into
the kingdom. A farmer puts seed in the earth, yet has nothing more to
do with giving it life and growth; that is the earth’s responsibility. The
process is very similar for those who commit themselves to The God,
trusting him to bring forth works worthy of the kingdom. They have
nothing to do with it; The God brings forth good works in their lives
which will qualify them for entry into his kingdom. They may never
fully understand how it comes about.
# Any disciple who lost his way was useless as a minister for his lord,
Jesus, the Christ. A life of sin renders us useless for serving God.
# Even though Jesus had told them, the disciples did not understand
what he said. Up to the point of his death, they were expecting Jesus to
be a messiah who would deliver them from the Romans.
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