18. MARK

Lesson 200: Mark 1:1…

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah

Although anonymous, the gospel according to Mark was likely written by John Mark (Acts 12:12). He associated with the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:13), and probably received information from him. Mark wrote around AD 50, primarily for Gentiles. Nearly all of Mark’s material is also found in Matthew or Luke, so little is covered here.

Mark 4:26-27 This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 

This parable is found only in Mark’s gospel. It teaches that God’s kingdom comes from spreading God’s word, (Luke 8:11), just as a harvest comes from scattering seed. Three things should be noticed.

First, unless the seed is planted, there can be no harvest. This is why the most important work of the church is to preach God’s word. If the church does not start hospitals, someone else will. If the church does not build orphanages, someone else will. If the church does not feed the poor, someone else will. But if the church does not preach God’s word, no one else will. The word of God must be planted into the hearts of people everywhere.

Notice second, the seed has power in itself. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how

The farmer can stay awake if he wants to, but that will not help the seed grow. He can wring his hands if he wants to, but that will not help the seed grow either. He can shout at the seed, or sing to it, but that will not help it grow either. The seed has power in itself to grow, and does not need the farmer’s help, once it has been planted. God’s word is powerful, and is able to grow on its own.

Notice third, the harvest cannot be rushed. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head (Mark 4:28). 

Many were hoping the kingdom of God would appear soon, but Jesus taught it would take some time (Luke 19:11-27). The return of Christ could happen at any moment (Luke 12:40), but could also happen a thousand years from now. Christians should be ready to greet the Lord today, and be willing to wait a lifetime. 

Mark 4:29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come

The harvest is an image of the arrival of God’s kingdom. Here it refers to the righteous, but elsewhere to the wicked. The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles (Revelation 14:19-20), wrote John. God’s sickle is coming to earth. The righteous will be harvested for heaven, and the wicked will be harvested for hell. 

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Mark 7:21-22 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.

Since the Old Testament declared certain foods to be unclean (Leviticus 11:7), conscientious Jews were careful what they ate. But Jesus taught it is not what goes into our mouths that makes us unclean, but what is in our hearts.

Many think their hearts are good, no matter where their feet have gone, or what their hands have done. Deep inside is a little part that’s pure, and that’s what God sees, they hope. Unfortunately, that is never taught in the Bible.

According to Christ, the heart is the source of all our sins: sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly

The heart is not a holy place, but a sin-factory that never shuts down. Day and night it manufactures every abomination under heaven. The persuasion that our hearts are good only shows that we are deceived. The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9), wrote Jeremiah. 

During the second world war, Nazi doctors conducted experiments on Jewish prisoners. Identical twins were sown together to see if they could be conjoined. Muscles and nerves were removed from others without medication. Head trauma was studied by bludgeoning a man’s skull with a hammer until he went insane. After the war, some of these doctors were brought to trial, and appeared to be normal, decent, educated people who loved their families. They were not better or worse than others—just ordinary.

This is the human condition, and the reason we need to be saved. Since our hearts are wicked and deceitful, everyone needs a new heart. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), said God. This is what happens when we come to faith in Jesus Christ. 

Reflection and Review
How can believers spread God’s word?
Why do some sinners seem to be so good?
How has God changed your heart?