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Today we focus on the Gospel of Mark, and also begin to transition to the Gospel of Luke. Up to this point we have noticed that Matthew is very rich with the Kingdom theme. But the other Gospels have a lot to say as well.
To begin with our study, I want to mention a few things about the Gospel of Mark, to get a general context about its composition:
Mark, as should be obvious to all, is the shortest of all the gospels. But although it is the shortest, it is widely considered to be the first and oldest Gospel. (Before Matthew, Luke and John, Mark was written) Throughout the many studies that have been made of the relationship between the Synoptic gospels, some scholars have noted that Matthew reproduces about 90% of Mark, while Luke reproduces about 50% of Mark.
We should also remember that it is only Matthew that uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven.” Mark and Luke generally will use the phrase “Kingdom of God.”
Ultimately, because we are focusing on the Kingdom theme, and not a direct study on the synoptics, we note these facts about Mark, but will not spend much time on them. In reality, we will not spend much time in the book of Mark, simply because we have covered a lot of the material in the prior studies.
But today I want us to look at two things unique to Mark about related to the Kingdom theme. And then we will look at something that is found in all three gospels, that has always raised a lot of questions: The Transfiguration of Jesus.
(Let us pray)
Pretty much all of the Kingdom parables in Mark are found in the book of Matthew. But there is one parable that is worth noting, because it is not found in Matthew, nor in Luke, but does refer specifically to the Kingdom of God.
This parable is found in , known as the Parable of the Growing Seed
It is possible that this is one of the more obscure parables found in the gospels, most likely because it is tucked away in the Gospel of Mark, and not repeated in the other gospels. (If 90% of what Mark wrote was reproduced by Matthew, this parable falls under the 10%). It is truly unique to Mark.
But as obscure as this parable may be, Ellen White actually dedicates an entire chapter to the understanding of this parable, found in Christ Object Lesson, chapter 4. Although this parable is not found in the other gospels, for the Spirit of Prophecy to dedicate 1 chapter alone to it’s teaching says something about the importance of the parable.
First, to understand this parable, we must begin understanding the context in which it was given. The parable that begins this chapter is none other than the parable of the sower (or the parable of the different soils). We find this in
After the disciples ask Jesus about this parable, Jesus gives us the key to understanding that parable: - Key —> The seed represents the word of God.
“seed fell on good ground” = “those who hear the word , accept it, and bear fruit”
So the premise behind the Parable of the Growing seed is that the scattering of the seed is in fact the scattering of the word of God (aka the sharing of the gospel, the preaching of the word).
Understanding this premise, we also see that the parable is really focused on the three step process of the Kingdom of God:
First the word is “scattered” - That is, the gospel is shared to others. The seed/gospel produces growth in the people that receive it. Lastly, the growth reaches maturity, and when the people are ripe, the harvest comes.
First, we have a very specific calling: We are called to share the gospel. We are not called to change people. The scatterer does nothing to make the seed grow. His job is to scatter seed. God’s job is for it to grow. Too often we try to change people, but the power of change only lies within God. Second lesson: Growth in the Kingdom is a process, not a next day thing: The plant grows from blade, to head, full grain. To expect immediate changes without the pains of growth is to forget how the Kingdom of God works in our life. Important to remember a child in our spiritual lives, vs someone who has been in the gospel for so long. We expect them to behave like we do. Third lesson: The ultimate purpose of the scattering of the seed/sharing the gospel is to be harvested at the end of time. Ultimately, the growth that God does in us is to prepare us for the harvest, where he can take us back home with him. The growth and change that the gospel produces is not about glory here on earth, but it is to partake of the glory up in heaven.
This same story is found in .
But you will notice in Matthew that the conversation ends once Jesus completes his initial response. Mark presents to us a confirmation of Jesus’ response by the scribe that asked the question. This is unique to Mark.
And Jesus response to the Scribe’s response is also not found in Matthew, unique to Mark.
Jesus final response to the scribe was: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Why was this scribe “not far” from the Kingdom? What stopped him from living “in the Kingdom?”
Truth: There is one God, and no other Gods. We are to love God with everything. And we are to love our neighbor as one self. These things are better than burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Notice that “waiting for the Kingdom of God” is equivalent to being a “a disciple of Jesus.”
“Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.
“50 Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God.”
“After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.”
Notice that “waiting for the Kingdom of God” is equivalent to being a “a disciple of Jesus.”
In other words, to be living in the Kingdom and to be getting ready for the Kingdom, you must be a follower of Jesus, nothing less.
Notice the similarities between the scribe and Joseph of Arimathea.
They were both religious leaders among the Jews. Most likely they were both council members (members of the Sanhedrin) And they both recognized the wisdom and understanding in the teachings of Jesus.
The one big difference between Joseph and the scribe is that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, an active follower and believed him to be the Messiah. The scribe did not.
It is true the scribe believed in one God, and believed in loving God and neighbor. And he also believed that these three things were more important than any sacrifice one could give (obedience is greater than sacrifice). He was near the Kingdom of God. But he needed to take one extra step to be “in” the Kingdom of God: To become a follower of Jesus, a disciple.
What an important lesson for us! That we may know so much about God and the Bible, but unless we go out and follow Jesus, none of it ultimately matters.
The Transfiguration
The story of the Transfiguration is found in .
What is important in this story is the way the story begins: Jesus begins by telling HIs disciples “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” (). We then go on to say that when Jesus said that some of the disciples would see the Kingdom before they would die, He really meant the transfiguration, a representation of His second Coming with Moses representing the dead that have resurrected in Christ, and Elijah, representing those who had never seen death.
Now this makes sense, because all the Synoptics tells us the story the same way
In Jesus pronounces that some will not see death until they see the Kingdom. The next thing that happens is the transfiguration. In Jesus pronounces that some will not see death until they see the Kingdom. The next thing we see is the Transfiguration.
I believe that Jesus most definitely meant the transfiguration when He said some would see the Kingdom before death. But there is also more.
Notice what happens after the transfiguration event.
Conversation on Elijah
Demoniac boy is healed
Demoniac boy is healed.
Demoniac boy is healed
Yes, we have the transfiguration. But the next thing we see is the healing of the demon possessed boy.
And that even is so important, because we already know what it means when Jesus is able to cast out demons:
“But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
So yes, the Kingdom of God comes down when Jesus returns, symbolized by the transfiguration. But the Kingdom of God was already present, because Jesus was liberating souls from the power of the enemy.
Once again, the Kingdom is then, and it is also now.
We too can see the Kingdom of God today, should we allow the liberating power of Jesus to work in our lives. No matter how big the problem. No matter how difficult the task. The power of the King of the Kingdom is greater, and we can see it in our lives today.
See the rest →
See the rest →