Let’s Get Started: Mark 1
Opening Note: I’m going to work on alternating between Old Testament and New Testament. I’m not sure if it will alternate every day or part of the time, but we’ll bounce back and forth to break some of the monotony as we work through the Law and still go through the whole Bible.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Mark 1 (link). Generally speaking, it appears that Mark is likely the earliest written of the Gospels, though that’s debatable. A good New Testament survey or quality study Bible will give you some of the different arguments.
Mark does not start as Matthew or Luke does in addressing the birth of Jesus or the announcement of His coming. Rather, Mark jumps straight in by bringing out the coming of John the Baptist and his role as the forerunner of Jesus.
John is one of those strange characters in Scripture. Other Gospel accounts give more of his heritage, but for Mark he just pops up in the wilderness, preaching repentance. Preaching repentance and pointing ahead toward Jesus, that is. Mark then gives us that Jesus comes to John and is baptized in the Jordan River. As this happens, the voice of God speaks from the heavens and commends not simply the message or methods of Jesus, but the person Himself. Mark records it as direct address: “You are my beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
While there is plenty of other material in the first chapter of Mark, camp out there in Mark 1:11. Consider what is being said here by God Almighty, that here is One who is actually pleasing to God. Without getting over-Greeky here, the phrasing shows that the “well-pleased” is a completed action. It doesn’t really refer to one specific action, but is a summary statement about all that has happened until this point in time. It does not, though, preclude the idea that it is possible for God to be more pleased with Jesus later—and that is actually what we see going through to the Cross.
God expresses that He takes pleasure in Christ. Contrast this by looking all the way back at Genesis 6:5 where the only thoughts of man are evil at all times, or by looking forward to Romans 3:23 where we see that all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Jesus is the exception that proves the rule here: only the Begotten Son of God can actually live life that is pleasing to God.
That’s without the miracles, without the parables, even without the Cross and the Resurrection. In His very being, Jesus was pleasing to God. Fundamentally, this is something that is not true of us as descendants of Adam. We are born with a depravity that is inescapable apart from the work of grace from the hand of God.
This is the beginning that Mark gives us here: not just a beginning of miracles or teaching, but a beginning that declares from the start the very nature of this Jesus he will write about. The only One capable of pleasing God.
Today’s Nerd Note: Mark is one of three Synoptic Gospels. Synoptic comes from the Greek words that mean “see” and “together” or “with.” The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called this because they see the life of Jesus through very similar lenses.
That leads to some speculation that the three authors used common sources, or a common source, to develop their writings. It is entirely possible that this is the case. This does not, however, practically affect our response to these texts or our understanding of the inspiration of Scripture.
The inspiration of Scripture is the belief that the words of the Bible are not just the words of the human authors, but actually are the words of God Himself. As a conservative evangelical, I think this extends to the actual words of the original texts themselves, as penned by the authors under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This is how source theory comes into the question: if Mark used a source, is the source inspired and Mark copied it or are only the words Mark used inspired? My response would be that the words that Mark used, wherever drawn from, would be the inspired words. Finding documents that help us undercover any of the potential source documents would be educational, but it would not shake any key doctrine: Mark’s use of the source is inspired, not the source itself.