1. Mark's Gospel opens in a manner quite different from the others. In Matthew, Luke and John, there is what may be termed a lengthy Introduction, but in Mark it is quite otherwise. Matthew records Christ's genealogy, His birth, the visit and homage of the wise men, the flight into Egypt, and subsequent return and sojourn in Nazareth; describes at length both His baptism and temptation, and not till we reach the end of the fourth chapter do we arrive at His public ministry. Luke opens with some interesting details concerning the parentage of John the Baptist, describes at length the interview between the angel and the Saviour's mother previous to His birth, records her beautiful Song, tells of the angelic visitation to the Bethlehem shepherds at Christ's birth, pictures the presentation of the Child in the temple, and refers to many other things; and not until we reach the fourth chapter do we come to the public ministry of the Redeemer. So, too, in John. There is first a lengthy Prologue, in which is set forth the Divine glories of the One who became flesh; then follows the testimony of His forerunner to the Divine dignity of the One he had come to herald; then we have described a visit to John of a delegation sent from Jerusalem to inquire as to who he was; finally, there is the witness of the Baptist to Christ as the Lamb of God: and all this before we here read of Him calling His first disciples. But how entirely different is the opening of the second Gospel. Here there is but a brief notice of the Baptist and his testimony, a few words concerning Christ's baptism and His temptation, and then, in the fourteenth verse of the first chapter we read, |Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God.| The first thirty years of His life here on earth are passed over in silence, and Mark at once introduces Christ at the beginning of His public ministry. Mark presents Christ actually serving.
2. The opening verse of Mark is very striking: |The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.| Observe, it is not here |the Gospel of the Kingdom| (as in Matthew), but |the Gospel of Jesus Christ.| How significant that it is added |the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.| Thus has the Holy Spirit guarded His Divine glory in the very place where His lowliness as the |Servant| is set forth. It is also to be remarked that this word |Gospel| is found much more frequently in Mark than in any of the other Gospels. The term |Gospel| occurs twelve times in all in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and no less than eight of these are found in Mark, so that the word |Gospel| is found twice as often in Mark as in the other three added together! The reason for this is obvious: as the Servant of Jehovah, the Lord Jesus was the Bearer of good news, the Herald of glad tidings! What a lesson to be taken to heart by all of the servants of God to-day!
3. Another characteristic term which occurs with even greater frequency in this second Gospel is the Greek word |Eutheos,| which is variously translated |forthwith, straightway, immediately| etc. Notice a few of the occurrences of this word in the first chapter alone: |And straightway coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him| (v.10). |And immediately the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness| (v.12). |And when He had gone a little further thence, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets, And straightway He called them| (vv.19, 20). |And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day He entered into the synagogue, and taught| (v.21). |And forthwith when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon| (v.29). |And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her| (v.31). |And He straightly charged him, and forthwith sent him away| (v.43). In all, this word is found no less than forty times in Mark's Gospel. It is a most suggestive and expressive term, bringing out the perfections of God's Servant by showing us how He served. There was no tardiness about Christ's service, but |straightway| He was ever about His |Father's business.| There was no delay, but |forthwith| He performed the work given Him to do. This word tells of the promptitude of His service and the urgency of His mission. There was no holding back, no reluctance, no slackness, but a blessed |immediateness| about all His work. Well may we learn from this perfect example which He has left us.
4. The way in which so many of the chapters open in this second Gospel is worthy of our close attention. Turn to the first verse of chapter 2, |And again He entered into Capernaum after some days.| Again, the first verse of chapter 3, |And He entered again into the synagogue.| So in 4:1, |And He began again to teach by the seaside.| So in 5:1, |And they came over unto the other side of the sea.| This is seemingly a trivial point, and yet, how unique! It is now more than ten years since the writer first observed this feature of Mark's Gospel, and since then, many hundreds of books, of various sorts, have been read by him, but never once has he seen a single book of human authorship which had in it one chapter that commenced with the word |And.| Test this, reader, by your own library. Yet here in Mark's Gospel no less than twelve of its chapters begun with |And|!
|And,| as we know, is a conjunction joining together two other parts of speech; it is that which links two or more things together. The service of Christ, then, was characterized by that which |And| signifies. In other words, His service was one complete and perfect whole, with no breaks in it. Ah, how unlike ours! Yours and mine is so disjointed. We serve God for a time, and then there comes a slackening up, a pause, a break, which is followed by a period of inactivity, before we begin again. But not so with Christ. His service was a series of perfect acts, fitly joined together, without a break or blemish. |And,| then as characterizing the service of Christ, tells of ceaseless activity. It speaks of the continuity of His labors. It shows us how He was |instant in season and out of season.| It reveals how He never grew weary of well doing. May God's grace cause the |And| to have a more prominent place in our service for Him.
5. In the former section we have pointed out how that Mark records fewer parables than Matthew, and we may add, fewer than Luke too. But, on the other hand, Mark describes more miracles. This, also, is in keeping with the design and scope of this second Gospel. Parables contained our Lord's teachings, whereas the miracles were a part of His active ministry. Service consists more of deeds than teaching, doing rather than speaking. How often our service is more with our lips than our hands. We are big talkers and little doers!
Mark records just four parables, and it is a most significant thing that each of them has to do, directly, with service. The first is the parable of the Sower, and this views the Saviour as going forth with the Word (4:3-20). The second parable is that of the Seed cast into the ground, which sprang up and grew, and brought forth first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear, and finally was harvested (4:26-29). The third parable is that of the Mustard-seed (4:30-32). The fourth is that of the Wicked Husbandmen who mistreated the Owner's servants, and ended by killing His well-beloved Son (12:1-9). Thus it will be seen, that each has to do with ministry or service: the first three with sowing Seed, and the last with the Servant going forth |that He might receive of the husbandman of the fruit of the vineyard.|
6. In Mark's Gospel, the hand of Christ is frequently mentioned, and this is peculiarly appropriate in the Gospel which treats of His service. It might well be termed, the Ministry of the Hand. How prominent this feature is here may be seen by consulting the following passages. |And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her| (1:31). |And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean| (1:41. |And He took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi: which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise| (5:41). |And they bring unto Him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech Him to put His hand upon him| (7:32). How beautiful is this. Divinely enlightened, these people had learned of the tenderness and virtue of His hand. Again we read, |And He cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto Him, and besought Him to touch him|(8:22). They, too, had discovered the blessedness and power of His touch. |And He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town. After that He put His hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly| (8:23, 25). Once more we read, |But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose| (9:27). How blessed for every believer to know that he is safely held in that same blessed Hand (John 10:28).
7. The Holy Spirit has also called special attention in this Gospel to the eyes of the perfect Servant. |And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts| (3:5). How those Holy eyes must have flashed upon those who would condemn Him for healing on the Sabbath day the man with the withered hand! |And He looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and My mother| (3:34, 35). This time the Saviour's eyes turned upon His disciples, and what love must have appeared in them as He turned and beheld those who had forsaken all to follow Him! |But when He had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind Me, Satan| (8:33). What a touch in the picture is this -- before He rebuked Peter, He, first, turned, and |looked| on His disciples! Concerning the rich young ruler who came to Him, we read here (and here only),| Then Jesus beholding him, loved him| (10:21). What Divine pity and compassion must have shone in His eyes at that moment! So again in 11:11 we read, |And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple, and when He had looked round upon all things, and now the eventide was come, He went out into Bethany with the twelve.| How those eyes must have blazed with righteous indignation, as He beheld the desecration of the Father's house! These passages which mention the Saviour |looking| and |beholding|, tell us of His thoughtfulness, His attention to detail, His thoroughness. Next we will notice,