James Tissot, The Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof, 1896

James Tissot, The Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof, 1896

Throughout August we are going to be reading Mark's Gospel. Mark's book is the shortest Gospel and has a focus on Jesus' miracles and mighty works. Matthew makes efforts to demonstrate how Jesus teaches the same law as Moses, and John spends a lot of time recounting his sermons and teachings yet Mark seeks to demonstrate that the work of Jesus fulfills the hope of Israel.

This is why the text opens with two quotes from the prophets Malachi and Isaiah, with Jesus boldly announcing that the waiting time is over and the Kingdom of God has come. There is a pace to this book which moves the reader from one thing to the next, but occasionally the narrative pauses to focus on a particular encounter. The cleansing of the leper at the end of the first chapter, or the paralyzed man who is lowered through the roof testify not only to Jesus' great power, but also his great and embracing love. 

The first section of the book could be described as Jesus cleansing and calling. The miracles of healing and deliverance are interspersed with the recruiting of the Apostles. This builds to a conflict at the end of the third chapter. Having established that Jesus is the promised one of God and then demonstrating his power by recording his miracles, Mark then shows how Jesus and his disciples are almost immediately cast out by the leaders of Israel at the time.

Can Satan cast out Satan?

There is a moment of decision which must occur when one witnesses the work of Jesus. In this argument with the Pharisees he says that those who claim that this miraculous work of the coming Kingdom of God is actually the work of the Devil will never be forgiven. How can such a person who calls the good things of the Kingdom 'evil' ever be forgiven? It seems to Jesus such a person has already decided that they want nothing to do with God's saving work and thus do not want to be saved. It is remarkable how inclusive this teaching is. These words in Mark's Gospel can be easily applied to non-Jews, since Jesus is not arguing over some component of the Law of Moses (as he did at the end of Chapter 2). He is boldly asserting that the wondrous signs and miracles demand some kind of response. Those who look at the work of God and claim it is evil, whether Jew Gentile, have set themselves against the Kingdom and thus are not able to enjoy the forgiveness found therein.

Jesus, though his preaching and healing, establishes a new kind of humanity. He summons twelve apostles, echoing the twelve tribes of Israel and he says that this new way of being human is centered on God, loving him and doing his will. What is God's will? This has been established in Mark's Gospel through the miracles performed: Cleansing of the contaminated, healing of the hurting, delivering of the demoniacs. This is what it means to 'repent and believe the Gospel'.

3 Formation Questions

1. What do you need to be healed of or delivered from? What healing effect has the Gospel had on your life?

2. How could we respond faithfully to God's saving power, unlike the Pharisees who refused?

3. Who do we know who is in need of God's healing touch? Can anything we do reach them?