A Study of the Book of Mark

Last week, in Part 1 of this series on Mark, we discussed in depth how Mark urges the reader to decide who Jesus is. Who is Jesus? How will I respond to Him? Is His death on the cross an abject failure, or is it God’s plan of salvation for the world?

For Mark, Jesus is alive, and all that He said and did in His earthly life is not merely a past event but a present source of grace and power to those who believe in Him.

Setting the Stage

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

In these verses, Mark sets the stage for God to reclaim His dominion. Jesus begins to evangelize therefore beginning His Galilean ministry, and His fame begins to spread.

At this time, John the Baptist has been arrested. The shadow of the cross emerges at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, since John’s own betrayal and sufferings prefigure those of Jesus. Jesus’ followers, in turn, will share His destiny of being “handed over” to their enemies, Mark explains in 13:9-12. Jesus is preaching a similar message to that of John the Baptist.

Jesus’ preaching is about the good news of God’s rule “breaking in” upon them.  “This is the time of fulfillment,” He states, meaning that now, in Jesus, God is breaking into history to fulfill His promises and bring His whole plan to completion. This moment, fixed and determined long ago by God, marks the beginning of the definitive stage in salvation history.

The Kingdom of God as a Theme in Mark

The kingdom of God is a favorite theme in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), used nearly 80 times, and the most characteristic term Jesus used to signify what He is about. Later, in Mark 4, Jesus will unfold its meaning in a series of parables.

Although this phrase, “The kingdom of God,” never appears in the OT, it sums up Israel’s yearning for the full manifestation of God’s authority in Israel and in the entire world.

The Prophets declare the coming reality and sentiment of the people, “The Lord of hosts will reign” (Isa. 24:23; 52:7; Zech. 14:9)

Both Present and Future

Jesus’ announcement that the kingdom is near suggests both a present and a future quality—like a sunrise below the horizon. The kingdom is already present, embodied in Jesus’ own person. Indeed, throughout His ministry, it will become evident that the “foreign occupation” of sin, Satan, disease, and death are being overthrown.

Yet, the kingdom is emerging and partly veiled; like seeds sown in the ground, it will keep growing until it reaches full consummation (Mark 4:26-29)

Your Will be Done

The prayer Jesus taught in Matthew and Luke provides the most concise interpretation of the meaning of the kingdom of God: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

The kingdom of God is wherever God’s will is done, which already takes place fully in heaven but begins on earth in every heart that surrenders to Him. Paul states that whoever chooses to live in God’s kingdom experiences “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17)

A Twofold Response

The arrival of the kingdom calls for a twofold response: to repent, and believe in the gospel. Jesus is taking up a theme of the prophets: God’s continual call for His people to repent, change their thinking and “turn back” to Him with all their hearts (Neh. 1:9; Isa. 44:22; Hosea 14:2).

John the Baptist had already begun to sound this call (Mark 1:4). But Jesus adds a new accent with the invitation to believe, that is, trustingly accept and yield to what God is doing in Him. Sadly, the gospel of the kingdom was resisted by Jesus’ generation and every generation throughout history. By and large, the world rejects the Good News of the Kingdom – because it’s costly to surrender all to follow Jesus.

The kingdom of God is near enough, then and now, that anyone who so chooses can reach out and lay hold of it through faith, but you must desire it! You must want God’s rule more than your own to experience the Kingdom.

You can have as much of God in your life as you want. How much do you want God’s presence and rule in your life? This is the question for believers today. Stay tuned for the second part of this message next week, where we will discuss full-hearted devotion to God and the high cost of true discipleship.

Bob Sawvelle



[1] References used: Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark; David Smith, Mark: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition; Basil, On Baptism, 1.2; Thomas Nelson, New Spirit Filled Life Bible

For a more in-depth look at this message, feel free to watch my recent sermon, “A Study of the Book of Mark, Part 2” from Passion Church:

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