Study the entire book of Mark, starting with the beginning of the Gospel and ending with the movement from darkness to light. Some of the major ideas explored are: the master teacher, the miracle worker, down from the mountain, and the last mile of the way.
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This revision of the Abingdon classic Genesis to Revelation series is a comprehensive, verse-by-verse, book-by-book study of the Bible based on the NIV. These studies help readers strengthen their understanding and appreciation of the Bible by enabling them to engage the Scripture on three levels:
- What does the Bible say? Questions to consider while reading the passage for each session.
- What does the passage mean? Unpacks key verses in the selected passage.
- How does the Scripture relate to my life? Provides three major ideas that have meaning for our lives today.
The meaning of the selected passages is made clear by considering such aspects as ancient customs, locations of places, and the meanings of words. The simple format makes the study easy to use.Updates will include:
- New cover designs.
- New interior designs.
- Leader Guide per matching Participant Book (rather than multiple volumes in one book).
- Updated to 2011 revision of the New International Version Translation (NIV).
- Updated references to New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible.
- Biblical chapters on the Table of Contents page beside session titles for at-a-glance overview of biblical structure in most studies.
The simple format makes the study easy to use. Each volume is 13 sessions and has a separate leader guide.
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THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL
DIMENSION ONE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Answer these questions by reading Mark 1
1. What is the task of the messenger as the prophet describes it? (1:2-3)
2. What is the main message of John the Baptist? (1:4, 7)
3. What clothing does John the Baptist wear? (1:6)
4. What food does he eat? (1:6)
5. What is the first event in the life of Jesus that Mark records? (1:9)
6. How does the Spirit appear on this occasion? (1:10)
7. What does the voice from heaven say? (1:11)
8. Where does Jesus go after this event? (1:12-13)
9. What is the first message of Jesus according to Mark? (1:14-15)
10. To whom does Jesus extend his invitation by the Sea of Galilee? (1:16, 19)
11. What is the first invitation Jesus extends? (1:17)
12. What is their response? (1:18)
13. What does Jesus do in the synagogue? (1:21)
14. What is the reaction of the people? (1:22, 27)
15. What disturbance takes place in the synagogue? (1:23-26)
16. What happens next at the house of Simon and Andrew? (1:29-30)
17. What two forms of ministry does Jesus pursue as he goes "throughout Galilee"? (1:39)
18. What type of person does Mark now mention as coming to Jesus? (1:40)
19. How does Jesus help this man? (1:41)
20. Then what does Jesus charge this man? (1:43-44)
21. Instead, what does this man do? (1:45a)
22. What is the result for Jesus? (1:45b)
DIMENSION TWO: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN?
* Mark 1:1. The first verse of Mark is essentially the title of the Gospel of Mark. This verse also states the basic conviction the author wants to support with evidence from his account. Thus each word is important.
The "good news" comes from the Greek word euangelion, which we also translate as "gospel." The name Jesus (a revision of Joshua meaning "Yahweh saves") was given to the child by his parents at God's direction. (See Luke 1:31.) Linked with Jesus is Messiah or Anointed One (anointed by God with a special nature and for a special purpose). Other translations use the word Christ, which is actually a title, not a last name.
Son of God refers to Jesus' divine origin and nature and is a title inherited from the Jewish tradition. Mark writes of Jesus not just as "a" Son of God but as "the" Son of God. We will find these understandings of Jesus coming through the material that Mark remembers and records.
* Mark 1:2-11. The words quoted by Mark (1:2-3) are actually a combination of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. At the outset, Mark links the figure and events of Jesus' life with the inherited and revered Old Testament tradition. In this way, the new would be seen as an extension and fulfillment of the old. Before a king or ruler would arrive, a herald or messenger would announce his coming in advance so that everyone would be ready. John the Baptist is seen as such a messenger. His call was not for physical preparations, but for spiritual ones. He urged people to enter into an experience of confession of sin. Turning away from sin by God's help ("repentance") would then result in baptism.
John wore garments like those of Elijah. (See 2 Kings 1:8.) Elijah was one of the earliest of the prophets of great influence. John preached in the desert area between Jerusalem and the Jordan River, a distance of thirty miles. It would have been near where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea south of the ancient town of Jericho. Judea (Mark 1:5) was a province extending from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Jordan River on the east. Judea included the city of Jerusalem.
Through baptism John uses water to symbolize God's washing the people from sin. Moreover, he promises that the One who is coming will bring not a symbolic cleansing but an actual cleansing. This person will be a person from whom the Spirit will enter into their lives.
The dove is a well-known symbol in Jewish spiritual history. Its role is that of a messenger of peace and hope. A dove as a messenger of peace was first seen by Noah when the dove returned to the ark with an olive leaf. The dove let Noah know the destructive waters were receding. (See Genesis 8:8-12.) The voice from heaven (1:11) affirms what Mark has proclaimed in his opening verse (1:1).
* Mark 1:12-13. Here, on the one hand, is Jesus destitute and in danger from physical and spiritual forces. (Recall Matthew 4:1-11 for details.) On the other hand, we see the supportive protection of providence meeting his need through angels. The battle against Satan and God's protection have begun with Jesus on earth.
* Mark 1:14-22. Jesus begins his ministry through a proclamation and an invitation. Returning to his home province, Galilee, northeast of Judea, Jesus begins proclaiming to his neighbors that God has now ("the time has come") stepped into their history in a special way. The kingdom of God is at their doorstep. They are to enter through turning away from evil (repenting) and by faith turning to the good news.
The invitation is extended to the fishermen, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, as they carry out their daily tasks. Jesus meets persons and offers them new possibilities, not just for their sakes but for the sake of others. Either because this is what the fishermen deeply want or because of the attractiveness of Jesus, they immediately change their priorities and follow him.
Jesus goes not only to his home province to begin his ministry but also to his home synagogue. There, to those who would recall him simply as a fellow who "grew up here," he amazes them with his keen insight. Instead of being a means through which the authority of God's law (the Torah) is revealed, as were the rabbis, Jesus seems to be God's Law himself.
* Mark 1:23-34. Anyone whose behavior was strange, destructive, and seemingly uncontrollable was thought to be under the control of an impure spirit. This person, as he disturbs the synagogue session out of his perplexity, is identified by Mark as recognizing Jesus for what he is — the Holy One of God. Amidst physical turmoil, by Jesus' command a release takes place, adding to the people's awe of Jesus. The awe begins to spread.
This cleansing is followed by another expression of care for persons through the healing of Simon's mother-in-law. Now throngs with needs seek Jesus out. Mark sees even the evil forces involved in their illnesses as recognizing Jesus. His divine status was obvious even to evil forces.
* Mark 1:35. Jesus seeks in privacy the spiritual replenishment that will enable him to be God's servant in publicly meeting human need.
* Mark 1:36-45. Jesus is on the move, from place to place and need to need, as Mark will often describe him.
Leprosy was considered to be an example of disease in its ugliest and most incurable form. By touching a person whom no one would ever touch (verse 41), Jesus imparts healing. Jesus does not call upon persons to break with the Jewish law, but advises the healed man to carry out the obligations of Leviticus 14. Although Jesus calls for special blessings of deliverance to be held in confidence, the man who formerly had suffered from leprosy spreads the word widely. His testimony creates frustration for Jesus, who hereafter has to struggle for privacy because of the crowds of the curious and needy.
DIMENSION THREE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN TO ME?
Jesus as a New Possibility
The study of Mark brings us directly to a unique and valuable account of Jesus' life by an author with eyewitness experiences to recount and some strong convictions to express. As you read Mark, see if you can discover for yourself why this short account is included with the other three Gospels.
At the outset, Mark testifies that Jesus' status as Son of God is confirmed by God's Spirit at his baptism (verses 10-11). This new action by God calls for new reactions by God's people, namely recognizing a new day of God's presence and activity in their midst and offering themselves anew to God for forgiveness and commitment. Do you see God moving in some new ways in our time? What shall our reaction be?
In reading any of the Gospel accounts we usually first look for what is happening in Jesus' life. However, in Mark we need to go further and ask, What does this say about the kind of person Jesus was? Also ask, What does this event suggest about the nature of the other persons in the story? Take these questions and apply them to each of the events in this introductory chapter: the baptism and retreat into the wilderness, the call of the disciples, Jesus' teaching in the synagogue and the people's response, and the healing ministries.
The way Mark begins his narrative immediately testifies to the fact that something of great importance and of a most unusual nature is taking place. With forthrightness, as is Mark's style, he comes to the point in his first sentence! Do you recall it?
Then Mark supports that bold affirmation through all that follows in this chapter. Mark further implies that amazing new possibilities are available for those who will follow Jesus (1:17), who are "brought to Jesus" (1:32), or who kneel before him (1:40). What new possibilities has Jesus brought into your life? What new possibilities might he bring to you and your fellow class members if you also seriously encounter Jesus in these ways?
In light of Mark's approach, as you begin this study series, you might well ask, Who do I see Jesus really to be? Next you need to ask, What response have I made to his coming? Perhaps you might even try to read Mark again as though you had not come to any convictions about Jesus and see what Mark leads you to believe.
THE NEWS WENT AROUND
DIMENSION ONE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Answer these questions by reading Mark 2
1. Where do these events take place? (2:1)
2. In what unusual way do persons arrange for the paralyzed man to be brought to Jesus' attention? (2:4)
3. What is Jesus' response to the men's faith? (2:5, 11)
4. What does Jesus see in the companions of the paralyzed man that brings forth this response? (2:5)
5. What accusation do the critics of Jesus make against him? (2:7)
6. Of what does Jesus want to convince his critics? (2:10)
7. Where is Levi when Jesus meets him? (2:14)
8. What invitation does Jesus give to Levi? (2:14)
9. Who are Jesus' companions at the meal in Levi's house? (2:15)
10. What question do the Pharisees raise? (2:16)
11. How does Jesus describe his own calling? (2:17)
12. What difference is noted between the disciples of John the Baptist and those of Jesus? (2:18)
13. What three figures of speech does Jesus use in his reaction? (2:19-22)
14. What new criticism is leveled against Jesus? (2:23-24)
15. What Old Testament story does Jesus recall in response? (2:25-26)
16. What does Jesus affirm about the Sabbath? (2:28)
Answer these questions by reading Mark 3
17. What question does Jesus ask about the Sabbath? (3:4)
18. What is the congregation's response? (3:4)
19. Why does Jesus ask for a boat to be prepared for his use? (3:9)
20. What direction does Jesus give to the "impure spirits"? (3:12)
21. What are the tasks of the disciples whom Jesus appoints? (3:14-15)
22. Who are the persons Jesus appoints? (3:16-19)
23. How do the critics of Jesus explain his actions? (3:22)
24. With what figures of speech does Jesus respond? (3:24-27)
25. What sin does Jesus indicate cannot be forgiven? (3:29)
DIMENSION TWO: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN?
Two contrasting attitudes appear in Mark's account of the ministry of Jesus. One is that of popular appeal and the other is that of constant criticism. Note that the two attitudes are often present at the same time and place. Each positive action that increases Jesus' admirers also stimulates and may enlarge the number of his negative critics.
* Mark 2:1-2. Jesus returns from his private spiritual retreat and the visit to surrounding towns to the central city of the area, Capernaum. Now what Simon had told Jesus earlier (1:37) proves to be true: people in increasingly large numbers gather wherever Jesus goes, including those with various needs.
* Mark 2:3-4. Palestinian houses had flat roofs that often served the function of being what a porch or patio is to us. They had a stairway leading up to it from the side of the house. Up went the four men with their paralyzed companion to the flat rooftop. Then through an enlarged skylight opening or a newly created hole they lowered the litter to a spot in front of Jesus.
* Mark 2:5-12. So many persons are attracted to Jesus that these men cannot get their paralyzed friend in through the door. A group of persons who are highly critical of what Jesus does is also in the crowd. In ministering to the sick man, Jesus recognizes the close interrelation of spirit, mind, and body. In illness the total person must receive therapy for complete healing to take place. In this instance Jesus perceives a sense of guilt within the paralyzed man that is a part of his illness. Jesus offers him forgiveness.
Specialists in Jewish law, sometimes called scribes, knew that Isaiah 43:25 stated that God alone could forgive sin, and they accuse Jesus of blasphemy. Blasphemy is the offense of presuming to act or speak in the place of or with no respect for God. Blasphemy occurs when a person presumes to be God or to act like there is no God. The penalty for blasphemy is death by stoning (see Leviticus 24:16). Already, early in Jesus' ministry, the possibility of creating legal grounds for his death is taking place.
The story ends with a tremendous tribute (verse 12) in the midst of strong criticism.
* Mark 2:13-17. Capernaum (2:1) was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Levi is thought to have been the same person as Matthew (see Matthew 10:3). Jesus comes to Levi in the midst of his daily work as a tax collector. This episode introduces what follows — a meal with several other "tax collectors and sinners" (2:15). Again Jesus is criticized, but he sees himself as a physician who seeks out persons in need of his help.
* Mark 2:18-22. In this passage the relationship of the old with the new is opened for discussion. John the Baptist was an ascetic, rejecting social customs and common attire. Jesus enters into many customs but with a purging influence. Jesus leads people away from the old legalistic religion and its practices, exposing them to new spiritual expressions.
* Mark 2:23-28. These two events deal with a common theme: a new understanding of the Sabbath. While accused of violating the Sabbath by picking grain, Jesus points his critics to 1 Samuel 21:1-6, where David takes sacred bread from the altar to feed his hungry soldiers. In the midst of a healing act on the Sabbath, Jesus raises the question as to what, after all, is the purpose of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was intended to meet human need, and to meet such needs is a fulfillment of the Sabbath.
* Mark 3:1-6. The beginning of Jesus' ministry and his miracles are rejected by the stubbornness of the Pharisees.
* Mark 3:7-19. Again the crowds come, and Jesus must use a boat from which to teach in order to avoid harm from the crowd's size. Sensing he alone cannot meet their immense needs, Jesus appoints twelve to be his coministers. Apostles means "those who are sent out." Mark includes the calling of the Twelve to emphasize "that they might be with him and that he might send them out," facing people who either hail Jesus or reject him.
* Mark 3:20-27. Even Jesus' family begins to question his sanity or his propriety. Since all strange or uncommon human behavior in that day was seen to be the result of spirits or demons, the scribes attribute Jesus' actions to the power of Beelzebul, a name traceable to the idol Baal worshiped in Old Testament days and seen as a powerful demon in Jesus' day. Note that now the scribes have moved from the accusation of "blasphemy" to charging Jesus with being the servant of the Devil. Jesus responds in part by implying that the good he has been doing would not be done by an evil one.
* Mark 3:28-30. No verse has been the source of more perplexity leading to misuse and even fear than verse 29. What is it that the Holy Spirit does? The Spirit in various ways points us toward our need for God and God's gracious forgiveness. If we never respond to the Spirit's prodding and never seek God or God's forgiveness, it is not so much that God will not forgive us as it is that we have never sought or found that which is readily available from God.
* Mark 3:31-35. Compare verses 21 and 32; they may be interrelated. It could be that Jesus now realizes that those outside his own family may understand him better than his own kin. In any event, Jesus opens the door to a multitude to be a part of the intimacy of his family — if they have the same priority (verse 35).
Excerpted from "Genesis to Revelation: Mark Participant Book"
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Table of Contents
1. The Beginning of the Gospel (Mark 1),
2. The News Went Around (Mark 2–3),
3. The Master Teacher (Mark 4:1-34),
4. The Miracle Worker (Mark 4:35–6:6),
5. Under Orders (Mark 6:7-56),
6. Old Ways in a New Day (Mark 7),
7. The Tide Begins to Turn (Mark 8:1–9:1),
8. Down From the Mountain (Mark 9:2-50),
9. On the Road Again (Mark 10),
10. Is This the Holy City? (Mark 11:1–12:12),
11. What Does the Future Hold? (Mark 12:13–13:37),
12. The Last Mile of the Way (Mark 14),
13. From Darkness to Light (Mark 15:1–16:8),