THE GOSPEL OF MARK
Lesson 2: Chapter 1
Prologue and the Beginning of Jesus' Galilean Ministry
The sending of Your Son was an event foretold by the Old Testament prophets, and St. John the Baptist was the messenger You sent to announce that those prophecies were about to be fulfilled. St. John's message is the same message we hear preached today: "Repent and be saved." Every generation must receive the same call and must respond with humility and faith by submitting to the baptism that only Christ can give through the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms us from children in the family of Adam and into children in the family of God. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, as we study St. Mark's account of the beginning of Jesus' announcement that the Kingdom of God has come to men. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ, "because all divine
Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ"
CCC 134 (quoting Hugh of St. Victor, De arca Noe 2, 8)
All Scripture passages and the links to Scripture passages in the lesson are to the New American Bible. Please be aware that some Bible translations differ in their verse designations from the NAB translation in the Psalms and in certain parts of the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 51:4 in the NAB is Psalm 51:2 in some other translations, and the NAB only has three chapters in Malachi, therefore Mal 3:19 in the NAB is 4:1 in some other translations. Also please note that the original Biblical text of the Old and New Testaments did not have chapter or verse divisions. Chapter divisions were created by Stephen Langton, the Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, in early 13th century, and verse divisions were added by Robert Estienne in the 16th century. The abbreviation LXX designates the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and CCC is the abbreviation for the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The principal divisions in four parts of the Gospel of St. Mark in our study:
Part I: The Prologue (Preparation for the Mystery)
Mark's Gospel begins with a Prologue in verses 1:1-13. The Prologue serves as a prelude/preparation for Jesus' public ministry. Mark does not provide a birth narrative nor does he provide Jesus' genealogy that is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Mark 1:1 serves as the title for the entire book, and establishes the authority of God in the unfolding events of Mark's Gospel in the first three verses. God has determined the narrative and uses the inspired writer to record it, beginning with the statement of Jesus' true identity and the Old Testament prophecy that is fulfilled in the Advent of the Messiah. This is followed by three events that are the preparation for Jesus' teaching ministry:
St. Mark will use the Greek word euthus/eutheos ten times in the Greek text of the first chapter. It is the key word in St. Mark's Gospel and is an adverb that can be translated as "immediately, now, at once, or straightaway."
Mark 1:1-8 ~ The Coming of John the Baptist
1 The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. 3 A voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'" 4 John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. 6 John was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locust and wild honey. 7 And this is what he proclaimed: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
1 The beginning
of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Question: What is shared in the opening words of the Gospels of Mark and John and why is this significant in relation to the opening words of the Book of Genesis? See Gen 1:1.
Answer: The Gospel of St. Mark, like the Gospel of John, echoes Genesis 1:1. It is an echo of God's original creative design. The Advent of the Messiah is a new beginning of what will become a new creation event.
Question: What are the three key components in
verse one? The first is a word and the next two are titles for Jesus.
Answer: Gospel, Christ, and Son of God.
The Greek word euangelion is the root of the English word "evangelize" and literally means "good news." It is rendered in Old English as "god-spel" or "gospel." In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is basar, translated euangelion in the LXX (Greek translation of the Old Testament) and is often translated into English translations of the Old Testament as "glad tidings" or "good news." It was a common term in the ancient Greco-Roman world and usually referred to a military victory, or public festivals associated with a royal birth or the coronation of a king. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word is used to proclaim the "good news" of God's rule, salvation or vindication (see Is 40:9 LXX; 41:27; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1). However, St. Mark uses the noun in a unique way to describe the mission of Jesus Christ who is the promised Messiah. The "good news" is that Jesus is the Son of God!
That Jesus is the Messiah and "Son of God" is the "good
news," but His mission is also to proclaim the "good news."
Question: What is the "good news" that Jesus has come to proclaim? See Mk 1:14-15 and Mt 4:17.
Answer: He has come to proclaim "good news" of the coming of the Kingdom of God.
There is no contradiction because Jesus is the Kingdom Incarnate, as He will declare to the Pharisees when they are questioning Him about the when the Kingdom of God will come. He will tell them: "The Kingdom of God is among you" (Lk 17:21).
That Jesus has come to proclaim the Kingdom of God is repeated 14 times in the Gospel of Mark (1:14, 15; 4:11, 26, 30; 9:1, 47; 10:14, 15; 10:23, 24, 25; 12:34; 14:25). It is the "good news" that was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah:
The Greek word Christos means "anointed" and is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah = mashiah, "anointed one." There were three holy offices where God's divinely appointed agents were ritually anointed with holy oil to service as either prophets, priests, or kings (see Ex 29:7; 1 Sam 10:1; 2 Sam 24:7; 1 Kng 19:16; Ps 2:2). Jesus has come to fulfill all three holy offices (CCC 436, 783). Mark uses "Jesus Christ" like a proper name as will St. Paul in his letters.
St. Mark also identifies Jesus as the "Son of God." The announcement that the Messiah is the "Son of God" could be understood in two different ways by Mark's audience. Jewish Christians knew that Sacred Scripture used the title for one who enjoyed a special relationship with the Almighty:
Mark announces that Jesus is both the Messiah and the Son
of God, defining Jesus as the promised Davidic heir. According to the
prophets, the Messiah was to come from the lineage of the great King David in
fulfillment of the eternal covenant God made with David (i.e., Is 9:5-6; 11:1-5
[Jesse was David's father] Ez 34:23-24).
Question: What were the promises associated with the Davidic Covenant? See 2 Sam 7:11b-16; 23:5; 1 Kng 2:4; 11:9-20; 2 Chr 13:5 and Sir 45:25.
Answer: Every Davidic heir was to be considered a "son" of God. The covenant was unconditional and promised that David's throne was to endure forever.
The Roman Gentiles who were not familiar with Christian doctrine might connect the title "son of God" with the emperor Tiberius who was called the "son of God" because he was the heir of his deified adopted father, the former emperor Augustus Caesar. In Jesus' day the Roman denarius bore the image of the emperor Tiberius (ruled 14-37 AD) and the Latin inscription "Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest" (Harrington, Gospel of Matthew, page 310). The title "son of God" for Romans reading Mark 1:1 probably suggested that Jesus is also the son of a God-King.
In the New Testament the title "Son of God" takes on a meaning not previously conveyed in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus is the ideal king of Israel (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7; 89:26-29) of the chosen people of God (Ex 4:22; Is 63:16; Hos 11:1), and in the New Testament, the title expresses Jesus' unique relationship with God as the Father's "only begotten Son" (Jn 1:18). It won't be until 1:11 that St. Mark will reveal that Jesus is a divine Son who is fully man and fully God. It is for this reason that Jesus deserves the title "Son" of God both in His divinity as God's "only begotten Son" and in His humanity as the Davidic heir and rightful King of Israel. It is significant that St. Mark will place these two titles: Christ/Messiah and Son of God, on the lips of first a Jew and then a Gentile at two points of climax in his narrative (Peter in 8:29 and a Roman soldier in 15:39). The title "Son of God" will become increasingly important as the narrative unfolds (1:1, 11; 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 14:61; 15:39). We know that Jesus is the Messiah who is the Son of God because Mark told us in 1:1, but he will allow the reader see how other people exposed to Jesus' ministry will make the discovery and accept Jesus as Lord or reject Jesus' messiahship as the narrative unfolds.
2 As it is
written in Isaiah the prophet: "Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way. 3 A
voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make
straight his paths.'"
Mark tells his readers that there is a God appointed messenger/forerunner promised by the prophets. The messenger is sent by God and the voice of the messenger repeats God's message. In the prophecy God speaks as "I" to "you," saying "I send my messenger before your face" (literal translation). The one addressed is to make a journey down the "way" that is being prepared for "the Lord." The "you" addressed by God in verse 2 is "the Lord" in verse 3.
Mark attributes the prophecy to Isaiah, but the text he quotes is a combination of prophecy from the 6th century BC prophet Malachi and from the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah. The prophecies from the prophets Malachi and Isaiah are combined to provide the words of God that begin the narrative, witness to the coming of the "One" who is "Lord", Kyrios in the Greek. It is a word in the LXX (Greek Septuagint translation) that is used consistently to translate the Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh). The theme of "the way" (verse 3) will have a significant place as the narrative progresses and will become the first name of the community of Jesus Christ before the title "Christian" is adopted (Acts 9:2; 18:25-16; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).
It will be the last of the Old Covenant prophets who will announce the Messiah's coming: St. John the Baptist is the prophetic voice crying out the prophetic words of God in the wilderness. Please note that when parts and fragments of verses of Scripture are quoted in the Bible, the reader is expected to become familiar with the entire passage. St. Mark quotes:
Malachi was the last legitimate prophet God sent to the covenant people after their return from the Babylonian Exile in the 5th century BC. He prophesied that God will send a messenger who will come to the people in the spirit of the prophet Elijah to announce the coming of the Messiah (Mal 3:1, 23-24). Isaiah was the prophet of the 8th century BC who foretold God's judgment against a sinful and rebellious people that was to result in exile. But Isaiah also prophesied an eventual restoration. In Isaiah 40:3, the prophet refers to "the way of the Lord" as the end of the Babylonian exile, the restoration of the covenant people, and the coming of the Messiah. Mark is declaring that Jesus' Gospel message was announced in the Old Testament and that all the prophecies are now fulfilled in the prophetic voice of John the Baptist and in Jesus the promised Messiah and Davidic king. It is a fulfillment statement Jesus will make to the Apostles and disciples after His Resurrection: Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures (Lk 24:27), and He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled" (Lk 24:44).
Question: What is unique about Mark's statements
concerning Jesus in the first three verses of Mark's Gospel compared to the
other Synoptic Gospels?
Answer: Mark, unlike the other Synoptic Gospels, does not leave the reader to wonder about the true identity of Jesus. He tells the reader in the first line that Jesus is both the Messiah promised by the prophets and the Son of God.
4 John the
Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the
forgiveness of sins. 5 People of
the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going
out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they
acknowledged their sins. 6 John was
clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on
locust and wild honey.
In Luke 3:1 we are told that it was in AD 28, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, that John the Baptist began his ministry. In verses 4-6 Mark recounts the beginning of the fulfillment of God's promise in the one chosen to prepare the way for the Messiah: John the Baptist who is the promised prophetic voice. In omitting the nativity or infancy or youth of Jesus, St. Mark has made his Gospel begin directly with the preaching of St. John the Baptist who is offering a ritual immersion (meaning of the word "baptism") for repentance and forgiveness of sins on the east side of the Jordan River (Jn 1:28). The ritual of water purification was a religious practice used for being purified from that which was ritually unclean (Num chapter 19), for Jewish brides on their wedding day, and for Gentiles who converted to become members of the covenant people (Ex 19:9-11).
Question: Who was St. John the Baptist and what
was his mission? See Lk 1:5-17, 36.
Answer: John is the son of a priestly family, and as a descendant of Aaron, the first high priest of the covenant people, he is also a priest. He was consecrated with the Holy Spirit from the womb of his mother and given the power of the spirit of the prophet Elijah to announce the coming of the Son of God. His mother is a kinswoman of the Virgin Mary, and therefore he is a blood relation of Jesus.
It is written in Luke's Gospel that John is six months older than Jesus (Lk 1:36), but he is actually five months older than Jesus as we count. As the ancients counted, the first month of pregnancy counted as month #1 and therefore a woman was said to be pregnant for 10 months (see Wis 7:1-2). The difference in the way of counting for the ancients (without the concept of a zero place-value) is why Scripture records that Jesus was in the tomb for three days from Friday to Sunday.
Question: Why does Mark describe St. John's manner
of dress and meager diet? See 2 Kng 1:8; Lev 11:22; Lk 1:17.
Answer: The people coming to John for his ritual cleansing by water saw that he dressed in the same manner as the prophet Elijah. When the angel Gabriel announced John's birth he told John's father Zechariah that John was to be filled with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah. The people knew this was the prophet, according to the prophecy of Malachi, who was to be the precursor to the Messiah. John lived a life of privation in the desert, but he was religiously observant of the dietary laws of the Law of Moses and consumed food from his environment that was ritually clean.
Question: John called the covenant people to a
baptism of repentance from their sins on the east side of the Jordan River. Why
is the east side of the Jordan River a significant site in the history of
Israel? See Josh chapter 3; 2 Kng 2:5-12.
Answer: It is where the hero Joshua (Yahshua in Hebrew or Yehoshua in Aramaic, the name that Jesus also bears) led the children of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and it is where the prophet Elijah, whose spirit rests upon John the Baptist, was taken up into heaven.
7 And this is
what he proclaimed: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy
to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the
In verses 7-8 the one described in verses 2-3 speaks, announcing the coming of the One before whom he is unworthy and who "will baptize with the power of the Holy Spirit." The Baptist is preparing the way by cleansing the people in preparation of the ministry of Jesus the Messiah, Son of God. Jesus is the greater and John the lesser. Notice that Mark presents the Baptist according to his mission: he points the way to God the Son and then he fades away to give prominence to Jesus.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his
To untie a master's sandals was considered a demeaning task that was not required by a Jewish servant (Mek. 21:1; b Ketub. 96a). "To be unworthy" of such a task would be to lower oneself below the status of a slave (Maloney note 39 page 66).
8 I have baptized
you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
"He will baptize with the Holy Spirit" is in the future tense. Baptism by the Holy Spirit in the name of God was promised by the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 36:25-27). So while the promise is not new, the announcement of the one who will provide the gift is new.
Mark 1:9-11 ~ The Baptism of Jesus
9 It happened in those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10 On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and [immediately = euthus] the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. 11 And a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased."
St. John the Baptist's mission is presented as God's prelude to the saving mission of God the Son as foretold by the prophets. St. Mark does not provide the details of Jesus' baptism that are found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In the Gospel of John, the event is not described at all; we only hear of it after the fact.
Question: If Jesus is God and therefore without
sin, why did He submit to John's baptism of repentance? See Jn 3:3, 5; CCC 436, 783, 1257.
Answer: For Jesus it was not a baptism of repentance but was instead an anointing by the Holy Spirit for the three holy offices He fulfilled as divine prophet, priest, and Davidic king in preparation for His ministry. He was also demonstrating the anointing through baptism by water and the Spirit to which everyone who believes in Him must summit in order to be reborn into the family of God and thereby receive the gift of eternal salvation.
Jesus affirmed that baptism is necessary for salvation in His discussion with the Pharisee Nicodemus in the Gospel of John (Jn 3:1-7, also see Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15-16). Baptism is at the heart of Christian life, and it is the only means the Church knows of that assures entry into eternal life. However, the Church acknowledges that while God has bound salvation to the Sacrament of Baptism, He himself is not bound by His sacraments and will save whoever He desires to save. See CCC 1257(1).
Question: As Jesus comes up from the water of John's
baptism, He has a vision. What three divine signs coming down from heaven does
He witness (verses 10-11)? See CCC 536.
Question: The Hebrew word for "spirit" is ruah;
it can be translated "spirit," "wind," or "breath." What two other events in
the Old Testament recall the descent of the "spirit" or "divine wind" of God
hovering over water and the image of a dove flying above the water? What is
the symbolic significance? See Gen 1:2 and 8:6-12.
Answer: The descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove over Jesus and the waters of the Jordan River recall the Spirit/divine wind of God hovering over the waters in the first Creation event, and the dove Noah released to fly over the receding waters at the end of the great Flood at the new beginning for mankind on earth. The event of Jesus' baptism is a new beginning and a new creation.
It is the intention of Mark to tell the story of how the Son pleased the Father, beginning with God the Father's announces from heaven. The opening of the gates of Heaven at Jesus' baptism that had been closed since the Fall of Adam marks the beginning of the new era (CCC 536). God resides above in the heavenly Sanctuary and human history takes place below, but now the opening up of the access to heaven promises a new intimacy with God not enjoyed by man since before the Fall of Adam. God has ripped the heavens open at Jesus' baptism, never to shut them again. Through this gracious opening in the void between Heaven and earth, God has now poured forth His Spirit onto the earthly realm of mankind (Gen 7:11; Is 24:18; 64:1; Ez 1:1; Rev 4:1; 11:19). The gift of the Spirit in the new creation promised by God through the prophet Isaiah is now fulfilled (Is 42:1-5; 11:1-3; 61:1; 63:10-14). It is as the One gifted with the Spirit (verse 10) that Jesus will provide to His faithful the baptism by the Spirit and re-birth in His sacrificial death.
The Gospel of Mark, like the other Synoptic Gospels,
presents the first revelation of the Most Holy Trinity to mankind at Jesus'
Question: What is the manifestation of the Most Holy Trinity at Jesus' baptismal event?
Question: The voice of God the Father from Heaven
calling Jesus "my beloved Son" recalls what other father and an angel referring
to a son in the same way? It is the only other time in the Old Testament that
this wording is used for a son. What is the significance of the same wording?
See Gen 22:1, 12 and Heb 11:17-19.
Answer: In Abraham's test of a covenant ordeal in Genesis 22, he was asked by God to offer his "beloved son" in sacrifice. It is a foreshadowing of God offering His "beloved Son" in sacrifice for the salvation of mankind.
After His baptism, the Holy Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness/desert. There is a duel nature of the desert in its relationship to Israel. It was a place of refuge from the army of the Egyptian Pharaoh (Ex 13:17-18), and it was the place of a unique and privileged encounter between God and Israel at the covenant formation at Mt. Sinai. But in the 40 years of wilderness wandering, it also became a place of physical and moral testing, temptation, and sin for Israel.
Mark 1:12-13 ~ The Temptation of Jesus
12 At once [euthus] the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. 13 He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
God's plan for Jesus continues to unfold:
Question: What kind of being is Satan? See Jn 8:44; Rev 7:7-9; CCC 391-92.
Answer: Satan, also called the devil, was once an angel created by God to be good. But, when given the gift of free will, Satan chose to lead a rebellion against God. He and those angels who joined him were defeated by St. Michael the Archangel and his army of angels (Rev 12:1-9). Satan and his fallen angels were thrown out of heaven into the fiery pit known as the Hell of the damned. It was Satan, the liar and deceiver of man, who in the guise of a serpent tempted Adam and Eve into the sin of rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden.
Question: Jesus' ordeal in the desert wilderness
and His testing by Satan recalls what other similar ordeals of other agents of
God in the Old Testament? In Scripture, 40 is a number symbolizing both
testing and consecration. See Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-7 (Rev 12:9); Ex 24:15-18;
34:28; Num 14:34-35; Dt 9:9, 18 and 1 Kng 19:4-8.
Like Moses, Elijah, and the covenant people of Israel, Jesus encounters the ambiguity of the wilderness experience. It can be a place to experience God in a unique way as it was for Moses, the children of Israel and the prophet Elijah at Mt. Sinai. But the desert can also be a desolate place to experience a test of faith and obedience as in the case of the 40-year ordeal of the children of Israel.
Like Adam and Eve, Jesus is tested by Satan. But then the parallel experiences differ. Jesus is the new Adam who resists Satan's temptations (1 Cor 15:22, 45; CCC 411). He is the new Adam of the new Creation, and like the first Adam who was tested by Satan concerning the obedience of his covenant obligation to God in the Garden of Eden, Jesus experiences the test of a covenant ordeal. A comparison can also be made to the way the faith and obedience of the children of Israel was tested in the wilderness (Exodus through Deuteronomy). Jesus passes His test, unlike the first Adam who was exiled from the Garden Sanctuary in Eden and the first generation of the children of Israel who, for their failures in obedience and faith were condemned to 40 years of wandering and were forbidden entrance into the Promised Land (Num 14:34-35). Jesus will usher in a new Israel and a new Edenic Sanctuary that is the true Promised Land of Heaven. The failure of Adam brought death and alienation from God, but the victory of Jesus will bring eternal life and union with the Most Holy Trinity!
Mark's account of the Temptation does not have as detailed
an account as that which is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but he
provides information that is not in the other two accounts.
Question: Compare Mark's account with Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. What is the same and what is different?
Answer: Mark is in agreement with the other accounts in that the same Spirit that descended upon Him at His baptism led Jesus into the desert and that He remained there for 40 days. Mark does not give the details of the three times Satan tempted Jesus, but in agreement with Matthew's account he provides the information that angels ministered to Jesus after His ordeal. The new information Mark provides is that Jesus was "among the wild beasts."
13 He was among
wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
environment as in the wild beasts that inhabit the desert. And yet, no harm can come to Jesus from them because He has power and authority over the beasts. The detail that Jesus was among the bests and they apparently did not harm Him may be meant to recall Isaiah's prophecy that when the Messiah comes even the wild beasts will be tamed and will live in harmony (Is 11:1-9; also see Ez 34:25-28). Jesus' coming is the beginning of restoring order to Creation; it is an order that will not be fully restored until His Second Coming at the end of time. Angels ministered to Him because they acknowledge Him as their Lord God. Perhaps there is also a connection to the angels who accompanied the children of Israel in the wilderness (Ex 14:19). God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are the main actors in Jesus' initial experiences until the close of the Prologue in verses 1-13 where Jesus' authority is revealed over angels and beasts of the earth. The chief agent in the action that follows is God the Son.
Part II: The Mystery of Jesus
Verses 14-15 can be seen as a summary looking back to the first words of the Gospel in verses 1-3. But Jesus' statement in verse 15 can also be seen as looking forward to Jesus' ministry or a gateway into the story that follows. These verses are also a summary introducing section 1:14-3:6 and the first of three summary statements in Part II of the Gospel of Mark (1:14-15; 3:7-12; 6:6a). It is interesting that Mark has designed each of these three summary statements to be followed by a passage relating to the disciples, followed by extended narrative of Jesus' words and deeds during His Galilean ministry, and concluding with a decision either for or against Jesus' mission. For example:
In Mark 1:14-8:30 the words and deeds of Jesus ministry will force the question concerning His true identity which was revealed to the reader in 1:1. These verses ask the question: "Who is this man" and "Is He truly the Messiah?" These questions will be answered by St. Peter in 8:29.
Mark 1:14-15 ~ The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
14 After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15 "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
John the Baptist was arrested by the tetrarch Herod Antipas. He was the son of Herod the Great and ruler of the Galilee and also Perea on the east side of the Jordan River where John was baptizing. Antipas had an affair with his niece who was also his brother's wife and Herod the Great's granddaughter. He convinced her to divorce her husband and marry him, even though such a union was forbidden by the Law of Moses. In his role as an ordained priest of the Sinai Covenant, John the Baptist condemned Herod Antipas and his wife Herodias for the sin of adultery. Herod Antipas arrested John and imprisoned him in the Herodian fortress in Perea called Macherus (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.5.2; also see Mt 4:12-17; 14:3-12).
John's arrest was the signal that John's ministry had come to an end and Jesus's ministry must begin. Jesus is now thirty years old (Lk 3:23). It is the same age that His ancestor David became King of Israel (2 Sam 5:4). The Galilee was the perfect location for Jesus' ministry. The region was a crossroads for the great Via Maris, the ancient trade route that came out of Egypt, extended along the Mediterranean coast, passed through the Galilee, and continued into Syria, Asia Minor, and Mesopotamia. Jesus didn't have to go to the various neighboring Gentile nations where Jews lived because they came to Him in the three yearly pilgrimages to the Jerusalem Temple commanded in the Law of Moses (Ex 23:14-17; Dt 16:16; 2 Chr 8:3).
Mark 1:16-20 ~ Jesus Calls His First Group of Galilean
16 As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." 18 Then they [immediately = euthus] left their nets and followed him. 19 He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. 20 Then [immediately = euthus] he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
The brothers Simon and Andrew and the sons of Zebedee were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee who owned their own boats. They were not poor but were probably well-to-do since they had hired men who worked for them, and after spending three years following Jesus, they still had a fishing business to return to (see Jn 21:3). Fishermen who owned their own boats on the Sea of Galilee were usually under contract to supply fish to the Roman government, and any fish they caught beyond their contracted amount they could sell on their own.
Question: Was this the first time Simon and Andrew
and the Zebedee brothers had seen Jesus or been exposed to His message? See Jn 1:29-42.
Answer: No it was not. They had all met him at the site of St. John ritual baptisms on the east side of the Jordan River. At that time, John identified Jesus as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" and the "Son of God" who will baptize men with "water and the Holy Spirit." Andrew and another disciple (probably John Zebedee) spent an entire day talking with Jesus. Later, Andrew brought Simon to meet "the Messiah" and Jesus gave Simon the name/title "Kephas", Peter.
The message of this passage for the reader is that knowing Jesus' true identity is not enough; one must be ready to give up everything to follow Jesus. Notice that the key word euthus is used twice in this passage.
Mark 1:21-28 ~ Jesus Teaches in the Synagogue and
Cures a Demon Possessed Man
21 Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath he [immediately = euthus] entered the synagogue and taught. 22 The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23 In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24 he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are "the Holy One of God!" 25 Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet!" Come out of him!" 26 The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. 27 All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this" A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him." 28 His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
The covenant people worshipped, prayed, and offered their sacrifices at the liturgical worship services that took place twice daily, seven days a week, at God's holy Temple in Jerusalem. But those who lived to far from Jerusalem could observe the Sabbath obligation at their local village Synagogues when they prayed as a community and studied Scripture. As a faithful member of the covenant community, Jesus observed the Sabbath obligation. In His preaching, the common people recognize the truth in His teaching. He is not like the Scribes who the people criticize for not teaching with the authority of a true understanding of Sacred Scripture.
As Jesus' ministry continues, He will begin to come to the attention of the Scribes and the Pharisees. The Scribes and Pharisees are part of the Old Covenant religious leadership. From the beginning of Jesus' ministry, these two groups challenged Jesus' teaching authority. The Scribes are usually Levites (the lesser ministers who serve the chief priests) that are trained as teachers of the Law. The Pharisees are the most powerful religious sect in first century AD Judea and are largely represented by the intellectual elite of the people. Many Scribes are Pharisees, as was St. Paul before his conversion experience (Acts 23:6; 26:5). The Pharisees were strict interpreters of the Law and considered themselves to be more righteous than ordinary covenant members who they held in contempt. They also controlled the Jewish high court, called the Sanhedrin. Jesus will severely chastise the Pharisees for their lack of charity and their hypocrisy on His last teaching day in Jerusalem prior to His Passion when He calls them a "brood of vipers" (see Mt 23:1-36). The other sects with influence in this period are the Sadducees, who are mostly represented by the chief priests, and the Essenes. The Essenes lived in various cities but also in separate communities. They were dedicated to asceticism, voluntary poverty, mysticism, and daily ritual immersion (baptisms of repentance and purification).
23 In their
synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24
he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you
come to destroy us? I know who you are "the Holy One of God!" 25 Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet!" Come
out of him!" 26 The unclean spirit
convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
The "spirit" in verse 23 is "unclean" because it resists the holiness of God. The spirit knows and fears Jesus, recognizing not only His true identity but His divine power.
Question: What is the origin of demon spirits?
See Rev 12:7-9 and CCC 391-95.
Answer: Demons are spiritual beings who are the fallen angels that were created by God but who, through their own free will choice, became evil by rebelling against God and following Satan who was himself once an angel.
Question: Why does Jesus silence the spirit when
it calls out His true identity?
Answer: This is not the kind of witness Jesus wants to His true identity, and it is necessary for His identity to be revealed slowly through His acts and His teaching.
Following Jesus' example, the Church has always recognized the need for freeing victim souls from the power of demon spirits through the rite of exorcism (CCC 1673). The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation offer protection from demon spirits through the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the believer.
Mark 1:29-34 ~ Jesus Heals Simon's Mother-in-Law and
29 [And immediately = kai euthus] On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. 30 Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately [euthus] told him about her. 31 He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever [immediately = euthus] left her and she waited on them. 32 When it was evening, after sunset, they brought him all who were ill or possessed by demons. 33 The whole town was gathered at the door. 34 He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him. Again this demonstrates his power over creaton, including the demonic. Not only were they driven out, but they were silenced as well.
Jesus will now make Capernaum and Simon-Peter's house His
headquarters. Notice that Jesus' miracles were not limited to public
miracles. In this sweet little story about the healing of Simon-Peter's
mother-in-law there is a message for all who profess to be Jesus' disciples.
Question: How did Peter's mother-in-law express her gratitude?
Answer: She immediately rose from her sick-bed and "waited on" Jesus; perhaps she got Him something to eat.
The lesson for us is that when she is healed, she immediately rises and serves the Lord. Our love for the Lord and our gratitude should be demonstrated by our actions.
Mark 1:35-39 ~ Jesus Preaches in the other Synagogues
in the Galilee
35 Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and those who were with him pursued him 37 and on finding him said, "Everyone is looking for you." 38 He told them, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come." 39 So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
Question: What lesson can we take from Jesus
withdrawing in private to pray to the Father?
Answer: If Jesus felt it was necessary to devote time to private prayer, shouldn't we do the same?
Question: What is the purpose for which Jesus has
come that He alludes to in verse 38?
Answer: He has come to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the children of Israel.
Mark 1:40-45 ~ The Cleansing of a Leper
40 A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." 42 The leprosy left him immediately [euthus], and he was made clean. 43 Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once [euthus]. 44 Then he said to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them." 45 The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
Question: What was the Law concerning a person who
had leprosy? See Lev 13:9, 45-46.
Answer: First they were examined by a priest to determine if they indeed had the disease. If the priest declared they had leprosy, they were ostracized from the community; they had to wear torn garments with an uncovered head and had to cry out "unclean" wherever they went. The life of a leper was like a living death.
Not only was a leper ritually unclean but anyone who came in contact with a leper was also considered unclean. A leper could not worship in the Temple until he or she had been healed and anyone who was in contact with a leper could not worship in the Temple until he or she had undergone ritual purification. The leper makes a bold move in coming to Jesus. He takes the risk because he has confidence that Jesus can heal him (Mk 1:40). Jesus feels compassion for the man, and He is not made "unclean" by coming into contact with the leper. Instead, the leper was "made clean" by contact with Jesus just as we are "cleansed" by contact with Jesus in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Notice that there is a sacramental quality to Jesus healing the man: He stretches out his hand (verse 41), just as God, by His outstretched hand performed mighty acts to save the Israelites in the Exodus experience and in other mighty deeds in the history of the covenant people (Ex 13:9; 14, 16; 15:6; etc., and mentioned in the prayer in Acts 4:30). This ritual sign is accompanied by His divine word: "I will do it. Be made clean." And like God's divine word in the Creation event, Jesus' word brings about what He commands (see Ps 33:9).
44 Then he said
to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for
Jesus asks the man to keep secret the source of his healing. This is the first instance of what Biblical scholars call the "messianic secret" in Mark's Gospel where Jesus insists on concealing His true identity.
Question: Why did Jesus tell the man to show himself to a priest? See Lev 14:1-20.
Answer: The man had to show himself to a priest who had the power under the Law to confirm that he was healed. Then, under the priest's direction, the man could perform the ritual of purification, offer the necessary sacrifices, be restored to the community, and returned to fellowship with God.
Notice in the ritual of purification for a leper that it is on the "eighth day" that the man is restored to the community and to fellowship with God in the Sanctuary. The significant "eighth day" is symbolically the day of his "resurrection" to a new life. The number eight in the significance of numbers in Scripture is symbolic of salvation, regeneration, and new life. It will be the day Jesus Christ will be resurrection from the dead on the day after the seventh day Jewish Sabbath (see CCC 349).
Notice that once again Jesus cautions the person He has healed not to reveal the miracle. Jesus' true identity must not be revealed too soon; He must fulfill the words of the prophets before the opposition to His ministry climaxes in His Passion. The healed leper is, however, unable to keep quiet in his joy over his healing and restoration to his family and community.
Question: After healing the leper, what is ironic about
the condition of Jesus contrasted with the condition of the leper in verse 45?
Answer: The former leper is restored to the community, but as for Jesus, it becomes impossible for Him to enter the town because of the crowds of people who want to see Him. Ironically Jesus and the man have traded places. Jesus has healed the man at a personal cost. Jesus has taken on the leper's previous status: it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places.
Question for reflection or group discussion:
What was your Baptismal and Confirmation experience if you came into the Church as an adult? If you were baptized as a baby or small child, your baptism was completed in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Look up the Catechism references to Baptism and Confirmation. Do you understand your obligations to Jesus and to the Church that you accepted in these Sacraments or for your baby or godchild? Did you know that the Church has always baptized infants from the very earliest years of the Church? In the Book of Acts when "households" were baptized, those baptized included small children and infants (Acts 10:44-48; 16:15-16, 33; 18:8 1 Cor 1:16). It was expected since in the Old Covenant a male child entered into the covenant when he was circumcised on the eighth day of his birth. Boy babies were dedicated to God at the Temple on the fortieth day after birth and girl children on the eightieth day (Lev 12:1-5). See infant baptism: CCC 1250-52; adult baptism: CCC 1247, 1253-55, 1257, 1262-63, 1265-1267, Confirmation: CCC 1285-89, 1293, 1296, 1304-5; commitment to the Five Precepts of the Church as an adult (these are the minimum standards): CCC 2041-43.
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Catechism references for Mark Chapter 1
CCC 422, 515
CCC 151, 422
CCC 541, 1423, 1427
CCC 787, 877
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014