Mark doesn't have as many demonstrable theological distinctives as the other three canonical Gospels for the simple fact that he wrote first and that the others shared several of his emphases. Even John, which is about 80% different from the Synoptics, announces in his purpose statement that what he has included about Jesus is intended to help people believe that he is the Messiah and the Son of God (John 20:31), the very two titles which Mark begins his Gospel with (Mark 1:1). But definitely stressed more in Mark than elsewhere is his famous "Messianic secret" motif: Jesus' silencing people and telling them not to disclose his identity in contexts where you'd think he'd be wanting word to spread. Thus, in 1:25, Jesus silences the impure spirit in a demon-possessed individual who has just acknowledged knowing him to be “the Holy One of God” and then casts him out of the man altogether. In 1:34 Mark generalizes and observes that Jesus consistently did not let demons speak “because they knew who he was” (cf. also 3:12). After healing the leper in 1:43, Jesus “strongly warns” the man to tell no one. On the other hand, after exorcising the man in the region of the Gerasenes, Jesus commands him to return to his own (presumably Gentile) people “and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (5:19). Some would include in this list of warnings to silence Jesus’ teaching in 4:10-12 on why he teaches in parables, including his cryptic remarks about preventing those outside his circle from truly understanding. But this is different enough from not talking about Jesus’ messiahship that it really should be treated more or less separately. The list of examples could be significantly multiplied but these are enough illustrations to establish Mark's pattern. The standard evangelical answer remains persuasive: had Jesus received too much publicity, especially in Jewish circles, especially reaching the ears of the religious authorities of the land, his execution could have come prematurely, before his ministry, as God envisioned it, was complete. Only after his resurrection, moreover, would it be sufficiently clear that his mission was not to reestablish God's earthly, militaristic kingdom (at least not in the 1st century) and rid the land of the Romans (Mark 9:9). Recent studies of the ancient Mediterranean world's culture of honor and shame add some interesting supplementary perspectives to this basic response. Jesus’ message and model of highlighting servanthood above authority required a certain modesty on his part with respect to others publicizing his greatness. A certain amount of publicity was necessary to establish his credibility, but too much could have undermined his own ministry. We live in an age of self-promotion. Neither Jesus nor Paul would have fared well among modern advertising companies or in many churches. When Paul was forced into boasting, he chose to glory in his weakness and sufferings (2 Cor. 12). Jesus knew that signs-based faith were often inadequate and didn't trust that people's allegiance to him based solely or primarily on miracles would hold up if difficult times came. Will we do better? I write this 4th of July blogpost from England, where some of our best friends live and where our daughter is a permanent citizen. The longer I live the more I become ambivalent about patriotic holidays in any country. Last year we were in Singapore for their independence day and it made sense for such a small country to celebrate all the progress they have made since they left the British empire in 1966. But Christians are a "third race" (neither Jew nor Gentile) and their citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). We should have more loyalty to our unknown, suffering North Korean Christian brothers and sisters in the underground church there than to our non-Christian neighbors and family members even if we stand or sit next to them at the same fireworks celebration. Do we?
- Craig Why do you put Mark first? I have studied under Professors who believe that Luke was first. Saying that the writer copied seems to deny the inspiration of the Bible. But on the other parts of your Independence Day points two responses. 1 We may be physically larger but we are definitely a younger nation. 2. We do have at least 2 citizenship's and I agree the heavenly is more important but the rising tide of one unified world government does not seem to bode well for Christians. Blessings as you spend time with friends and family.
- A post so well written with a barb so laconic should not pass unanswered. "Do we?" Well, do we owe more loyalty to people we have never met than we do to those we have, to our neighbors and family and countrymen? Yes, we are strangers and aliens in this world and we should be especially concerned for the welfare of all members of the household of faith--even those we have not met. Does that diminish our patriotism and loyalty to the country and neighbors and family members who don't yet know the Lord which the good providence of God has ordained for us? Oddly enough, sermon prep this morning found me chasing down King Neb's modus operandi which landed me in Jer 29. Jer 29 includes this admonition: "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” We may well feel as ambivalent towards our current rulers and country as they did towards King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, but we can pray for those persecuted brothers and sisters in North Korea and yet passionately seek for the welfare of our own and pray, " God help our neighbors and families and God bless the USA!"
- Dale, any standard NT intro or survey can give you the arguments for Markan priority; I've set them out in detail in my Jesus and the Gospels. There are a few scholars who prefer Matthew first; Lukan priority is rarest of all. Luke himself tells us in his opening verses that he knew of many narratives preceding his. Inspiration has nothing to do with method of composition. God superintended whatever combination of human methods that were utilized to ensure Scripture said what he wanted it to say. Again I refer you to Luke 1:1-4 for the very human, but in no sense faulty, historical processes that Luke underwent. There is little danger at the moment of one-world government. All the major political events of my lifetime have moved us away from that. The Soviet Union dissolved, the Balkans fractured, Arab spring led to nations engulfed in civil wars, the UK is leaving the EU and America is more polarized than it's ever been in my lifetime! The big danger is that we'll become so fragmented as a world that we'll envelope one another in unprecedented warfare. A little bit of peace and unity would be nice!