“Introduction to Mark”
I’d like to ask you turn in your Bibles to the book of Mark, chapter 1. As many of you know, I would like to preach through the New Testament in five years. So I have developed a tentative plan to get us through the entire New Testament in five years. So I thought what would be best to begin our study, would be to study one of the Gospels. And the Gospel of Mark is the most brief and action oriented. So I think that this gospel would encourage us as we attempt to make our way through the New Testament. We will alter a gospel with one or more epistles and then go back to a gospel, another couple of epistles, then perhaps the book of acts, and another gospel, and then perhaps we’ll end with the book of Revelation. Now, we’ll have to break for Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, holidays like that.
So I think this will be a very instructive and informative series. What is exciting to me is that after five years, having gone through the basics for believers class of as we’re doing on Thursday nights, plus doing this book study through the New Testament, I believe we will be able to look back on our spiritual condition today with great rejoicing over having been exposed to the entirety of God’s new covenant for us in Christ. As well as coupling that with our upcoming family nights and developing a church structure so that we ourselves are capable of teaching all of what Christ has commanded… I think we’re going to look back on this time and think, “wow, I have really grown in the Lord!” Me especially!
So I am very excited about being able to feed you the Scripture and I trust that the Holy Spirit will illuminate our understanding and make up for my inabilities and for my “renegade spirit” as one of the pastors in town described me as having!
Now, when beginning to study any new book of Scripture, it is very important, in order to be able to correctly interpret the book as we go through, it is important to at least a brief background study. Now, in doing one of these studies, my fear is that this ends up being a little too academic. But I trust, as we get into the actual message of the book, we will find it warm and edifying as well as perhaps even fuzzy.
So, here is what we’re going to do this morning. First, we will discuss some of the background of the book of Mark and then we will get into a little bit of the kind of style of writing Mark is using. We will also do little study on who this “Mark” who wrote this gospel. And then, a lot of our time will be taken up with summarizing the entire book of Mark, from beginning to end. And finally, I want to develop the overall theme and message of the book, so we can take it’s divine design home with us in our back pocket, sort of speak. And I will hide what the message of the book is until the end.
So, this morning’s message is a little longer than usual, but last week I think was shorter, so I’m excused.
So first of all, let’s discuss the background to the book of Mark.
Mark is the third of the four Gospels in our New Testament. We have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s Gospel. Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels.
So, first of all, I would like to talk about what kind of literature we’re talking about here. Now, when you pick up a book at the bookstore , you’re probably thinking about whether it’s a novel, an instructional book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, or various other elements.
Now, when we come to what is called “a gospel” this type of literature is similar to a journalistic style of writing. In other words, whenever a journalist writes a piece for the newspaper, he has a particular point that he wants to get across. And that is similar to gospel literature. Mark has a particular point that he is wanting to get across to his readers. We will discover what that point is later on in the message. Each of the four Gospels can be termed a passion narrative with an extended introduction. In other words, all of the Gospels have as their focus the suffering of Christ and his resurrection. That’s what we mean when we talk about “passion.” We’re talking about Jesus suffering. So the Gospels are a narrative, they tell a story, a story about Jesus suffering. They are passion narratives.
And I said they are an passion narrative with an extended introduction, because each of the four Gospels have an extended introduction before getting to the actual suffering and resurrection of Christ. For example, in Mark all of chapters 11-16 concern one week of Jesus life. And this is 38% of the entire book. However, Jesus lived for over 1700 weeks. Why so much focus on just one week of Jesus life? Because this is the one week that brings us salvation, the week of his trial and suffering and resurrection.
So the Gospels are somewhat of a biography, though they give a lot more weight to a particular even of Jesus life than a normal biography would do. Normally, biographies give a balanced presentation of the person’s life and work. However, in the Gospels, there is significant attention given to the passion week, the week of Jesus suffering.
Now, just a quick word about the style of writing that Mark is using. As you read the book of Mark, it is clear that Mark is an accomplished storyteller. He comes across with great energy based on how he describes various events. Mark uses the word “immediately” multiple times and by doing so, he gives his gospel and exciting, fast moving, and somewhat of a breathless texture. Mark has a higher concentration of this word than all the other Gospels combined. And again this gives the book of Mark somewhat of a fast, action-packed movie-style of writing. This is one of the reasons why we picked this book first. As we move quickly through this book, we’ll see all the action of Jesus life.
Various words that Mark uses and how he uses them gives us the idea that he is attempting to increase the suspense. Also, in order to increase the suspense, he will start one story and then without finishing that story, start another story, and then go back to the previous story. And by doing so, he is interweaving plots. After reading some portions in Mark, as a reader you end up thinking, “wow, that was strange to end the story there… I sure hope he finishes that.” Well see an example of that a little later.
And so it kind of makes you wonder, who was this masterful story teller?
Author and Date
It was written by a man named John Mark between 60-70 AD, before the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The question I want to answer right now is, how do we know that Mark wrote the Gospel Mark? We know that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark because we have ancient testimony from the second century that, in order to write his gospel, Mark relied heavily on the teaching of the apostle Peter. This is found in the early church father Eusebius when he quotes Papias.
And the relationship between Mark and Peter is well substantiated throughout the New Testament. When Peter, in the Book of Acts, was miraculously released from prison by an angel Luke, the author of Acts, notes that when he was released from prison he returned to the home of Mark’s mother, Acts 12:12. When Peter writes his first epistle, he makes reference to the fact that Mark was with him in Rome. Peter refers to Mark in 1 Peter 5:13, calling him “my son.” Clearly, that is close connection between Peter and Mark. And so its highly likely that Peter informed Mark and Mark wrote this gospel, even thought the NT doesn’t exactly tell us in so many details.
Now, what we’ll do now is work through a summary of the book of Mark. This will take up the bulk of the rest of our time together this morning and I trust as we do that is that this will prime the pump for us as we go through the book of Mark over the next few months.
So what we’ll do now is go section by section right through the gospel of Mark in a very brief, summarized form. You may want to follow along as we summarize together. Now, I will make certain references to passages of Scripture so that you can follow along. However, for the sake of clarity and attentiveness, I will not always be making verse references and you may just have to listen until you realize where we are in the book.
I think as we go through this, you will experience the compounding effect of this exercise. As we do, let it have its spiritual impact upon us. So as we do this together and work our way through this, let it have its way in your heart. Let’s picture this like we’re mounting climbing. It’s going to take some energy to get to the top of this mountain, but I think once we do, we’ll really enjoy the view!
So again, we’re just summarizing Mark’s gospel.
Mark begins his gospel Mark 1:1 (NASB) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
And then, right away, Mark points out that John the Baptist preached and baptized all the while pointing to Christ. John, Mark says, was prophesied in the Old Testament as a preparation for Christ and John was baptizing the wilderness for the purpose of forgiveness of sins. John’s function as well was to point towards the coming Messiah who would be greater than John.
And beginning in verse nine of chapter 1, Mark gives his account of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the spread of his fame. And the spreading of Jesus’ fame is remarkably successful. Chapter 1 verse nine, John baptizes Jesus and the spirit descends on Jesus and there is a voice testifying that this is the beloved son of God. And then without delay, the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days, where he is tempted by Satan. And Mark points out, in verse 14 and 15, that after John’s arrest Jesus took up where John left off, preaching repentance.
It is then that Jesus calls the disciples away from their employment of fishing and verses 21-22 Jesus is teaching in the synagogue with great authority.
While in that same synagogue, a man with an unclean spirit calls Jesus, “the holy one of God” and Jesus casts out that unclean spirit and everybody marvels and Mark notes that his fame from that event spreads.
Verses 29-31 in chapter 1, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law from her fever. The result of this is that the whole city came and brought their sick to Jesus and Jesus was ministering to them late into the night.
Jesus arose early the next morning to pray while the people were searching for him and then Jesus moves his ministry to Galilee for the purpose of further preaching in verses 38-39.
Next, Jesus heals a leper and sends him for testimony to the high priest and warns him not to tell anybody about what Jesus did for him. And then the leper proclaimed the good news anyway and so Christ could only minister in the desert and the people had to come out to him because of the great response to that miracle. So this was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the spreading of his fame from chapter Mk. 1:9-45.
Now, beginning in chapter 2 in running down through chapter 3 verse six, we have the beginning of Jews rejection and resistance from the religious elite of his day.
We also have a number of conflicts with the religious leaders. The first conflict with the religious leaders of the day concerned Jesus’ claim to be able to forgive sins. Here, Jesus heals the paralytic as a proof that he has the authority to forgive sin and the scribes are contesting that claim.
Secondly, in verses 14-17, there is conflict with the religious leaders concerning Jesus’ association with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus calls… in verse 14 the tax collector, Levi or Matthew, the one who wrote the gospel of Matthew. And Matthew follows him. The scribes criticize Jesus for being with these types of people, but Jesus teaches that he came to save such sinners.
The third conflict, verses 18-22, concerns the Pharisees criticizing Jesus because of his refusal to fast. Jesus teaches that there is no reason to do so while Jesus is present on the earth. Everything should be done in its proper time.
Chapter 2:23, the scribes and Pharisees conflict over how Jesus is treating the Sabbath. They criticize him and Jesus responds by referencing David and Jesus teaches that he himself, the Son of Man, is Lord of the Sabbath. You can imagine that in the hearing of the religious leaders. Likewise concerning the Sabbath, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day. Jesus, beginning in chapter 3, teaches that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Then in chapter 3:6, the climax of all of chapter 2 and the chapter 3 occurs when Mark notes Mark 3:6 (NASB) The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
Now, beginning in chapter 3:7 all the way through chapter 6:6, Mark depicts Jesus continuing to minister to the crowds and being in conflict with the Pharisees. In chapter 3, we have a great contrast between Jesus being overwhelmingly rejected by the religious authorities while being overwhelmingly accepted by the crowds. The crowds followed Jesus from everywhere and all around and he is healing and casting out demons many people.
It is during this time that Jesus privately and specifically chooses out 12 in order that they might be trained and that they might preach. And the crowd comes upon him and his disciples to such an extent Mark notes that they struggle even to eat. And the religious leaders are in conflict again with Jesus and claim that his miracles are the works Beelzebub literally the Lord of filth, that is Satan, chapter 3:22. But Jesus challenges them asking them how Satan could oppose himself, and pronounces that their sin is unpardonable, chapter 3:28-30. And it was during this time that Jesus’ family came and wished to see him and he was alerted to that fact, and Jesus told the people that those who do the will of God are his true family.
Now, beginning in chapter 4 we have Jesus teaching through parables. A parable is simply an extended illustration for the purpose of teaching truth. And these parables in Mk. serve to illustrate people’s responses to the truth as well as to illustrate the growth of the kingdom.
Then in chapter 4:35 running through chapter 6:6, Jesus performs miracles that demonstrate that faith is powerful. These miracles as well authenticate what Jesus is teaching to be true. Chapter 4 verse 35, Jesus quiets the storm and he displays his power and he exposes the unbelief of the disciples. In chapter 5, we happen on a demoniac of Gadara. Jesus casts out the demon and it displays again Jesus’ power as well as the faith of that man whose demon was exorcised in contrast to the unbelief of the people who observed watched him.
Jesus displays his power over physical difficulties in chapter 5 verse 24 where he heals the woman with the hemorrhage. We also see a glimpse of his omniscience as well as the testimony of how faith is once again powerful.
And again we have faith in relationship to healing when Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter. It shows a great contrast of faith with unbelief and how it relates to miracles.
And then in chapter 6 verses 1-6, Jesus goes to his hometown but he could do almost no miracles there because of the very fact that they did not believe.
In the rest of chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8, Jesus ministry continues and we have a gradually- increasing focus on the 12 disciples. Chapter 6 verse seven Jesus commissions the 12 disciples and sends them off and thereby extends his own ministry by their preaching and by their healing. Jesus gives them power to heal. And the disciples come back to Jesus in verse 30 and report to him all of what has happened.
Chapter 6 verse 35 Jesus feeds 5000 men from just five loaves and two fishes and Mark notes that from that miracle they had 12 large baskets left over.
After that, Jesus walks on the water and the disciples are astounded because of their continuing Mark notes their continuing unbelief. That is astounding, their unbelief after all these miracles!
And then Jesus enters into Gennesaret where the crowds hear that he is, many gather around to be healed and everyone who touches his hem, are healed.
Chapter 7 we have conflicts with the Pharisees once again. These conflicts concern the Pharisees legalistic rules of eating with unwashed hands. Jesus teaches that it’s not the outside of man that’s the problem it’s what’s on the inside of a man that’s the problem, chapter 7:1-23.
Then the end of chapter 7, Jesus demonstrates more of his power through his miracles. An interesting note here in chapter 7:24-31, Jesus ministers to the Gentiles. He goes into Gentile territory to get away from the crowds and he heals the daughter of a Syrophonecian woman because, Mark notes, because of the greatness of her faith. And again another miracle: chapter Mk. 7:32, Jesus heals a deaf man and everybody marvels.
Chapter 8, Jesus feeds 4000 this time. With only a few loaves and some fish, Jesus feeds 4000 people and immediately afterwards, the Pharisees demand a sign from him and Jesus refuses and he marvels at their unbelief. I mean, he’s done several miracles so far! Having more miracles do you need?
And then in chapter 8:13-21, the disciples also display unbelief when they begin to worry about their food. And then Jesus heals a blind man in multiple stages and tells him not to spread the news about his own healing. Would you have the capability of doing that? Obeying Jesus on that point? That would be difficult. You feel like you’d have to tell the world!
Whew you made it to the first summit in our long journey to the top of the Mark mountain! Congratulations, you know it’s a real privilege for me to be your guide. Again, once we get done with this, you’ll see a great view of Mark. Great, we’re half way through. Let’s keep climbing!
We have a transition beginning in chapter 8:27 and running down through chapter 10:52, Jesus’ ministry to the disciples becomes more focused and there is an increase in an emphasis on the future suffering of the Messiah.
Jesus questions his disciples about his own identity after hearing the public opinion, Peter makes his marvelous confession that Jesus truly is the Messiah. Then Jesus continues to teach them about his future suffering, but Peter brazingly rebukes Jesus for teaching this. And Jesus rightly rebukes him for rebuking him. Then Jesus teaches the disciples and the crowds how important it is to maintain a lifestyle of self-denial in order to claim that you are following Jesus.
Chapter 9, Jesus is transfigured on the mountain in front of three disciples. It says, chapter 9:3, that Jesus closed became radiant and exceedingly white like no launderer on earth could whiten them. Jesus is shining forth his glory through his earthly body.
When Jesus and the three disciples come back from the Mount of Transfiguration, they find that the disciples, chapter 9:14-18, are in the midst of an uproar because they were unable to exercise a demon. Christ responds by casting out that demon according to the man’s faith. Christ teaches the disciples that they were unable to exorcise that demon because of their lack of prayer.
And in chapter 9:30-50, Jesus privately teaches the disciples of his resurrection, but the disciples just didn’t get it. Then Jesus confronts the disciples for arguing about who was greater.
Jesus also teaches them not to reject those that are not part of their little group and he teaches them concerning offenses when they come.
In chapter 10, Jesus teaches the disciples concerning humility and sacrifice and the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ teaching in chapter 10 is unique in that it is a response to other events.
When the Pharisees test Jesus concerning Moses’ provision for divorce, Jesus teaches in response to that, he teaches his disciples that remarriage could result in adultery.
Chapter 10:13, the disciples trying to keep children away from Jesus, but Jesus in response, teaches that all must enter the kingdom by humbling themselves like a child.
Then, verse 17, a young man inquires on how to attain eternal life and Jesus tells him, in order to get him to despair over himself, Jesus tells him to obey the commandments and sell everything that he has to give to the poor, but the man refuses. In response to this, Jesus’ teaches in verse 23, that it is hard for the rich for anyone enter into the kingdom.
And then, in verse 28 Peter congratulates himself on having left everything and followed him, and Jesus assures him that the sacrifice would be rewarded. They then make their way to Jerusalem and some in the group become fearful, chapter 10:32. In response, Jesus teaches that he himself would suffer shame and death. It seems James and John seize upon his departure and they seek for a place of honor in the kingdom and everybody else says the same thing, that they want honor. In response to that Jesus teaches about his own submitting of himself and that true greatness in the kingdom really comes through service, Mark 10:45 (NASB) “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Finally in chapter 10, Jesus heals blind Bartimeaus who kept crying out for help. Jesus heals him, it says, in response to the man’s faith.
Now, you’re doing good, we’re on the last leg of our journey up Mount Mark, and here we have the passion week, the week of Jesus suffering beginning in chapter 11.
We have the triumphal entry in chapter 11 verse one when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt. And upon arriving in the Temple and inspecting it, chapter 11:15, Jesus cleanses the temple. He didn’t wash it with water, no no, but with great anger over their sin, Jesus turns over the tables of those selling oxen, sheep and doves. And in verse 27 of chapter 11, Jesus enters back into the Temple where the religious leaders challenge him concerning his authority and Jesus very craftily escapes their trap.
And will just skim chapters 12-13 to note that Jesus when he faces intellectual challenges, he responds with great wisdom so that no one tries to challenge him anymore. Pharisees and the Sadducees attempted to trap him asking him about the payment of taxes, the Sadducees ask Jesus concerning the resurrection, even though the Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection. And a scribe challenge Jesus concerning the great commandment of the law, and there are other stories there.
In chapter 12 Jesus warns against hypocrisy, he commends simple faith, he predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, which would happen just 40 years later, and in chapter 13 Jesus explains the events of the final days of earth.
In chapter 14, Jesus and the disciples celebrate the Passover. Just previous to that celebration, a woman shows her extravagant love over Jesus by anointing him and Judas leaves the group to arrange betraying Jesus to the Jews.
They celebrate the Passover and Jesus initiates the Lord’s table, and then he and the disciples are in the garden of Gethsemane in chapter 14:27. Jesus prophesies that Peter and all the disciples would flee away from him in the garden, and Jesus is exceedingly anguished over his future suffering and repeatedly prays to the Father for escape, all the while submitting himself to the father’s will.
Jesus is then arrested chapter 14:43 he is arrested by the sign of a kiss. And one of the disciples attempts to fight back and he cuts off one of the servants ears. Then the disciples flee Jesus, just as he predicted.
Chapter 14:53-15:20, Jesus is on trial by both the Jews and the Romans. All the witnesses against Jesus that were found were dishonest because all their testimonies conflicted and so the high priest asked Jesus directly about who He is and He was very clear about his identity, and so the Council responds by condemning Jesus to death. They beat him.
Peter, in his famous denial, denies Jesus three times, the rooster crows. And then in chapter 15 Jesus is tried again, this time by the Romans, before Pilate. Jesus refuses to answer Pilate and at the request of the crowd, after finding nothing amiss in Jesus’ life, Pilate, not wanting to condemn Jesus it seems, still releases Barabbas instead of Jesus at the request of the crowd. The soldiers then mocked Jesus as the King of the Jews.
In chapter Mk. 15:21, Jesus goes to be crucified. Because of the weakness of the beatings and not having slept all night from the trials, Jesus is unable to bear his own cross. And so Simon of Cyrene bears Jesus’ cross for him to Golgotha, that is, the place of the skull. There they crucified him. They crucified him between two criminals and charged Jesus with claiming to be king of the Jews, when they already had a king, Ceaser. They offered him wine which he refused, and they divided up Jesus’ garments among themselves. All around about Jesus below him, as people looked on at his suffering, they were mocking him. But then Jesus cries out with a loud voice and he gives up His spirit and Mark notes that the veil of the temple was miraculously split in two. When some heard Jesus crying out, they thought he was crying out to Elijah to help him.
And then at the end of chapter 15, verse 52, Jesus is buried. Joseph of Arimathea requests Jesus body having received it from Pilate he buries Jesus in his own tomb. And it doesn’t end there, praise the Lord! Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of Joses, come to the tomb and they find an angel! And the angel tells them to go tell the disciples that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead! But they did, the discples refused to believe it! But Jesus appears to his disciples. He appears to the two travelers along the way and then chapter 16:14-18 Jesus appears to the 11 disciples and instructs them to preach the gospel! And then, Jesus ascends the disciples go off and preach the gospel as he said.
Great, we’re at the top of the mountain, Mount Mark! Let’s look around…what do we see? Let’s pretend now that Mark is going to put his arm around our shoulder and inform us of what we’re actually looking at. Mark would say something like…
I want you look out and understand, first of all, the person of Jesus Christ! Mark specifically selects and emphasizes certain aspects about the person of Jesus Christ.
Mark emphasizes the power of Jesus. We see this in numerous miracles, when Jesus exorcises demons and heals Peter’s mother-in-law. So many people in fact came to be healed that caused problems and hindered Jesus ability to minister. Jesus demonstrated power and performed every kind of miracle. He performed miracles over the spirits, over physical difficulties, and He even raised a little girl from the dead, demonstrating his own power over death itself.
Jesus showed creative power when he fed the 5000 and the 4000. Jesus demonstrated his power when he walked on the water, and was able to calm the winds, he healed a leper of his spots and regenerated the withered hand of a man. He healed a deaf man, 2 blind men, and paralytic. Jesus power is so great that even those who were touching him would be healed.
Not only did Jesus have power to do miracles, but these very miracles gave proof that he has the power to forgive sins.
Secondly, we have not only Jesus’ power, but Jesus’ identity, who he is. We have many testimonies to this throughout the gospel of Mark. The very first verse of the gospel, right out the gate, identifies who we’re talking about. We’re talking about Jesus Christ, that is Jesus the Messiah, who is the son of God. John the Baptist announces who this one is, he is mightier than himself, John says. Then when John baptizes Jesus we have a voice from heaven you are my beloved son. Even the demons are crying out saying “I know you are the holy one of God.” Jesus identity is a major conflict between himself and the religious leaders. He claims to have this ability to forgive sins, but they know that only God can forgive sins. But they want to kill him anyway.
Chapter 8, Jesus draws attention to his own identity by raising the question to the disciples. Who say the people that I am? Peter rightly responds that he is the Messiah. Jesus confirms that this is accurate. At the end of the book, when Jesus was being tried by the Jews and the Romans they questioned him about who he was. That’s the issue! Who is Jesus? Is Jesus who he says that he is? And even when Jesus was on the cross and died an unusual death, the Roman centurion himself was able to exclaim truly this man was the son of God!
Also, Jesus suffered. Jesus suffering is clear in the last part book for sure. Then Jesus predicted his suffering and death throughout the gospel. As he progresses through the gospel he becomes more and more clear and detailed concerning how that would come about. And yet amazingly, the disciples were not equipped to understand Jesus prediction of his own death and resurrection. How can that be? How could be that the disciples were unable to come to the understanding of the truth even though Jesus is telling them what would happen? The only way this could happen is because of the last major point that Mark has that is it’s a matter of belief or unbelief!
We must respond, Mark says, you must respond! Respond to this great view you’re looking at! Believe, is Marks point.
Belief makes all the difference! In Mark’s gospel, faith is expressed by those you’d least expect and unbelief is expressed by those you’d least expect.
For example, take unbelief. We talked about Jesus’ miracles, in chapter 6 of Mark you remember that Jesus was not able to do miracles in his hometown , those who know Jesus best, except for laying his hands on a few sick people and then he marveled at their unbelief!
The Pharisees also approached Jesus, after the feeding of the 4000, and requested a sign and Jesus refused that. Clearly, they were responding in their unbelief. And right after that, the disciples as well were in unbelief …you would expect religious people to believe…you’d expect disciples to believe…but disciples were unbelieving when they were overly concerned because they have no food. And then Jesus asked them if they remembered the feeding of the 5000 and remembered the feeding of the 4000 and all the food they took up? With a biting rebuke, Jesus quoted Jer. 5:21 from God’s rebuke of Judah’s unbelief. Jesus says then “Do you have a hardened heart? Having eyes are you not seeing and ears are you not hearing, and are you not remembering?” (8:17-18).
These responses demonstrate that man’s fundamental problem is his unbelief, and that even when he is given clear proof, unbelief will still often prevail.
In another, similar episode, the disciples witnessed first-hand and even facilitated the miracle of feeding 5,000 people, but immediately after that they saw Jesus walking on the water and when He entered their boat, the wind stopped. Mark records that they were completely astounded by this miracle because they did not understand what had just happened when Jesus created food, but their heart was hardened.” (6:52).
You remember that the disciples encounter a powerful storm and chide Jesus for being asleep when they are about to perish. Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, be still. And the wind stopped, and it was very calm” (4:39). Jesus rebuked the disciples for not trusting Him, asking, “Why are you afraid? Are you not yet having faith?” (4:40) When the disciples were incapable of exorcising a demon because of their unbelief (9:19), Jesus worked the miracle, specifically in response to the man’s faith (9:23-24).
Now, Mark, tell us about belief and having faith. Mark would say, I’ve got tons of obvious examples. Let’s take for example those that sought out Christ for healing. The man whose son had a difficult demon laid even his unbelief at the altar of his faith with his prayer, “I am believing! Help my unbelief!” (9:24) The woman with a hemorrhage demonstrated simple, child-like faith when she believed that if she could only touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed (Mark 5:25-34).
Faith is also a focus with the healing of blind Bartimaeus. When the man cries out for Jesus to have mercy on him, Jesus asked “what is it you are desiring (that) I should do for you?” The man bluntly and simply asked for his sight to be restored, and Jesus healed him with the explanation that “your faith has saved you.”
Thus Mark presents a surprising pattern of belief and unbelief. The crowds are generally pictured as having faith and usually respond to Jesus with truly overwhelming acceptance. But those you’d expect to believe, don’t.
Thus Mark presents a dramatic emphasis on belief and unbelief throughout his gospel. And so his point for all who read is this, “Will you believe?” Mark’s whole point is this, “Believe in Jesus, the suffering Savior.”