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Lesson 1: Silence Is Broken At Last!

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Day One Study

Ask the Lord Jesus to speak to you through His Word. Tell Him that you are listening.

The ABC’s Of 2nd Corinthians—Author, Background, And Context

Like any book you read, it always helps to know a bit about the author, the background setting for the story (i.e., past, present, future), and where the book fits into a series (that’s the context). The same is true of Bible books.

Author — John Mark

Since earliest times, John Mark was known to be the author of this gospel. It was common at the time for Jews to have two names. John was his Hebrew name; Mark was his Greek/Roman name. It is thought that he was from a wealthy family. In Mark 14:51-52, Mark may have written a veiled reference to himself since no other gospel writer mentions this incident. He describes a young man, likely a teenager, in a linen garment (his underwear, evidence of being wealthy) who followed Jesus out to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Mark was part of the Jerusalem church community, where he listened to the apostles’ teaching. At times, the church would gather at his mother’s house to pray. About 11 years after the resurrection, Mark left Jerusalem with his cousin Barnabas to go to Antioch in Syria. There, Barnabas and Paul headed up a growing church filled with non-Jews (“Gentiles”).

Two years later, Mark traveled with Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey to Cyprus. A year later, when they got to what we know as southern Turkey, Mark left them and headed back to Jerusalem. We don’t know the reasons behind his departure.

Three years later (as a 30-something), Barnabas and Paul were planning to head out on their second missionary trip. Barnabas wanted to take his cousin Mark. Paul said no, remembering how Mark had deserted them. Barnabas wanted to continue mentoring his cousin so he took Mark with him to Cyprus again. Paul took Silas and headed north to Turkey.

For the next 15-20 years, Mark traveled with Peter, listening to Peter’s sermons and recording them. Peter probably had the greatest influence on Mark. When Mark was around 50, an aging Peter calls him “my son” in the letter we know as 1 Peter, written from Rome.

By this time, Mark’s relationship with Paul was restored. Both times when Paul is in prison in Rome, Mark is there with him. Paul calls Mark his fellow worker and very useful to him. It is generally believed that Mark adapted Peter’s preaching and teachings about Jesus into the book we now call “Mark,” arranged and shaped as he was guided by the Holy Spirit. So, the young teen who knew Jesus as a youth had many experiences that shaped his life and led him to the work that God had in mind for him. (References to Mark in the New Testament are found in Acts 12:12; 13:4-5, 13; 15:36-41; Colossians 4:10-11; 2 Timothy 4:9-11 and 1 Peter 5:13)

Background — Written From Rome To Roman Gentile Christians

Since Mark was with both Peter and Paul in Rome, we can be confident that he wrote his book from there. Most of the Roman Christians were non-Jews (Gentiles) who were definitely not familiar with the Old Testament and spoke Latin, not Hebrew. So, Mark uses Latin terms, explains Jewish customs, and leaves out Old Testament quotes and genealogies. He also explains the Aramaic words that Jesus spoke (similar to Hebrew).

The Romans were designers, engineers, doers, slaveholders, soldiers, conquerors, and partiers. Because they were such action-oriented people, Mark writes in an action style. He frequently uses the words “immediately” and “right away”—7 times in chapter 1 alone. He writes mostly in the present tense when relating the stories of Christ so it feels like they are happening right now. He uses descriptive words and paints vivid word pictures so it feels like you are there in the crowd. In fact, because Mark briefly describes scenes and activities, he is called the photographer of the gospels. Each section of writing is like a snapshot from Jesus’s life. Think slideshow, Facebook or Instagram.

Mark was aware of the suffering that the Roman Christians were beginning to experience under the Roman Emperor named Nero—a cruel, crazy guy. This book was written when persecution against Christians was just starting in Nero’s reign. There are lots of references to suffering throughout Mark.

Context — Where It Fits Into The Bible

When you look at your Bible’s table of contents, the first 4books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—are called the “Gospels” (meaning “good news,” referring to the good news about Jesus). The Gospels tell of the life of Jesus from different perspectives. Mark is thought to be the first gospel written though it’s not listed first in the New Testament. Matthew and Luke were written a couple of years after Mark and share a lot of the same content. John was written after all three.

The basic outline of Mark can be found in Peter’s sermon from Acts 10:36-43—John’s baptism, Jesus’s miracles and teaching, the crucifixion, the resurrection, then go and tell the good news.

Mark answers two significant questions in his writing: 1) Who is Jesus? 2) How can I follow Jesus even when it’s tough?

1. What grabbed your attention as you read the ABC’s of the book of Mark?

Heartbreak to Hope

This world is full of heartache and pain. Human distress is everywhere around us. Chronic illness. Persecution. Poverty. Unrealized dreams. Job struggles. Women and men are in bondage to guilt, fear, destructive behavior, and fatigue due to the burden of responsibilities. Broken relationships leave people with a sense of rejection, worthlessness and extreme loneliness. Add to those any feelings of uncertainty often revealed by the questions we ask about life. “When will I __________ (make a friend, find love, get married, have a baby, get a better job, etc.)?” “What will I do after ___________ (graduation, my children grow up, this job ends, etc.)?” Where do you go for help?

Sadly, if you have been taught that God doesn’t care or is punishing you for something you’ve done wrong, you aren’t likely to trust Him for help. This may leave you feeling empty, confused, and without meaning and purpose. The Bible describes that as being without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). Hopeless. Godless. A miserable existence characterized by heartbreak. But God looked upon your life with compassion and provided a solution—His Son Jesus Christ. God in the flesh. God on earth. The God of hope and love.

Jesus understands every single one of your heartaches. He experienced human life for more than 30 years. He gets your physical pain, rejection, strained relationships, abuse, grief, and impatience because those were part of His life as well. When you go to Him in prayer, you can trust that He understands, that He knows how you are feeling and what your needs are at that moment.

Jesus interacted with men and women everywhere He went. And, there were so many who had heartaches and pain, filled with uncertainty about their future. Jesus looked upon the crowds of people with compassion. He not only felt their need but also wanted to do something about it. Jesus Christ’s plan to meet that need for every person was then, and is now, Himself.

Jesus is the light that gives you hope for every heartbreak that you experience.

All around us it is easy to see the darkness present in this world. Wickedness, greed, selfishness, cold-blooded violence… the darkness can quickly overwhelm a soul. But there is hope! Isaiah 9:2 predicted that those living in darkness would see a great light. Jesus was that light. And when you look at His life in the Gospel books you can see that He broke the darkness that was present in His land. He healed sick people, taught the curious how to live a life of purpose, and forgave the sins of those who were longing to be free from their guilt. He still does the same today. Our world is not completely dark. There is light that always dawns. (John Newton, Advent for Restless Hearts, p. 18)

Through this study of the gospel of Mark you will learn about Jesus’s life on earth, how He related to people and why knowing Him brings hope to your life. Let your heartbreak, pain and uncertainty be overcome by Christ’s hope, healing and love. 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

2. What heartaches do you have right now? What is causing you pain? Where is your uncertainty?

Ask Jesus to overcome your heartbreak, pain and uncertainty with His hope, healing and love as you learn from the gospel of Mark.

Process of Bible Study

The inductive process is the best way to study the Bible. It includes 3 elements:

  • Observation: What does it say? (What is in the biblical text as you read it) Discover the Facts questions in this study are observation questions.
  • Interpretation: What does it mean? (The author’s intended meaning to his audience, leading to what it means for us today)
  • Application: What application can you make to life today? (What you learn personally) Heartbreak to Hope questions in this study are application questions.

We will spend a lot of our time on observation—seeing what’s actually there. Sometimes, we will seek understanding of the author’s intended meaning through additional study. You want to understand the passage before you try to apply it. It helps to have access to great resources to help with interpretation. Here are some online study resources that I use and can recommend.

  • gotquestions.org (write out your question, follow “rabbit trails”)
  • bible.org (search for more detail about subjects)
  • blueletterbible.org or Blue Letter Bible app (translation comparisons, Greek word meanings, cross references)
  • soniclight.com (check out Dr. Constable’s Study Notes on Mark)

Write a prayer to God in response to what He has shown you in this lesson.

Day Two Study

Ask the Lord Jesus to speak to you through His Word. Tell Him that you are listening.

1. Recall a time when you announced the good news that something, for which you had been waiting a long time, was finally going to take place. What was the news? Whom did you tell? How did you feel?

Setting the Stage

During the 600 years before the birth of Jesus, the Jewish people had gone through a lot of harsh experiences. After being sent by God to exile in Babylon for 70 years, they came back to their land only to be ruled by other nations—Persia, Greece, Egypt and Syria respectively. The last rulers were especially cruel. Some Jews revolted which led to about 100 years of independence. Then, Rome conquered the nation. By the time Jesus began His public ministry, Israel had been under Roman rule for 90 years. The people were impatient to get out of their bondage to Rome.

There had also been 400 years of “silence” from God. No prophets had been speaking or writing anything from God to the people during that time. But, the last Old Testament prophet Malachi had promised this:

““I am about to send my messenger, who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,” says the Lord who rules over all.… Look, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord arrives.” (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

As the New Testament opens, Israel’s king was Herod the Great who was not of Jewish descent. The Jewish priesthood was politically appointed and no longer from the God-chosen line of Aaron. The overall mood of the people was one of despondency because they felt like they were still in captivity.

Yet, good things were happening to prepare the way for Jesus. Synagogues, community places of worship that developed during the Exile, had sprouted up all over the country making weekly worship accessible to all the people. The Old Testament scriptures were translated into Greek, the common language of the Roman Empire, so were more accessible to all communities of people where Jews met together. And God soon ended the 400 years of silence in a big way although only a few people knew what was happening.

2. Skim Luke 1 and 2. During the 30 years before the Jewish people as a nation finally heard from Him again, what was God at work doing?

Read Mark 1:1-13.

God breaks His silence by sending a prophet named John. We know him as John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way for Israel’s Messiah to be revealed.

3. Right away in verse 1, how does Mark answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” [Note: We’ll see it answered twice more in this Lesson.]

Scriptural Insight: Messiah comes from the Hebrew word mashiach, meaning “anointed one” or “chosen one.” The Greek equivalent is the word Christos or, in English, Christ. The name “Jesus Christ” is the same as “Jesus the Messiah.” In biblical times, anointing with oil was a sign that God was consecrating that person for a particular role. Thus, an “anointed one” was someone with a special, God-ordained purpose. The Jews of Jesus’s day expected the Messiah to redeem Israel by overthrowing the rule of the Romans and establishing an earthly kingdom. It wasn’t until after Jesus’s resurrection that His disciples finally began to understand that the Messiah would first deliver His people spiritually; that is, to redeem them from sin. Later, Jesus the Messiah will deliver His people from their physical enemies, when He sets up His Kingdom on the earth. (“What does Messiah mean?” accessed at www.gotquestions.org)

4. Discover the Facts: Let’s focus on vv. 1-8 today. The following questions will help you answer the observation question, “What does it say?”

  • What does God promise to send (v. 2)?
  • For whom is the messenger preparing the way (v. 3)?
  • Knowing this, who is John?
  • What is John doing in the wilderness (v. 4)?
  • Who is coming to the wilderness (v. 5)?
  • What did John wear and eat (v. 6)?
  • What was also his message (vv. 7-8)?

5. John is preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Let’s define these words.

  • What does the word baptism mean?
  • What does the word repentance mean?
  • What does the word forgiveness mean?

Focus on the Meaning: The word baptism carried with it the picture of both cleansing and identification. When Gentiles chose to become Jews, they were baptized to be cleansed of all pagan impurity and to identify with the Jews in being part of the Mosaic Covenant. Native Jews were not baptized before this time. Repentance represented changing one’s mind about sin. Repentance was an act of mourning one’s sin because it broke God’s heart. The result of repentance was changing one’s behavior to not do that sin any longer. Jews knew about repentance. But, the normal practice for receiving forgiveness of sins came from the shedding of blood through animal sacrifices (Hebrews 9:22).

6. So, what were the people recognizing in their lives when they responded to John’s call for repentance and, thus, to be baptized?

7. Read Malachi 4:5-6. What did God promise to the people?

8. Read 2 Kings 1:8 and compare what you read with how John is described in Mark 1:6. What message was John conveying to the people? See also Malachi 3:1; 4:5.

9. In Mark 1:7-8, Mark again answers the question, “Who is Jesus?” What does John say about the one coming?

10. Heartbreak to Hope: Why would listening to John’s preaching in the wilderness give hope to the people who came to hear him?

Write a prayer to God in response to what He has shown you in this lesson.

Day Three Study

Ask the Lord Jesus to speak to you through His Word. Tell Him that you are listening.

Read Mark 1:1-13.

1. Discover the Facts: Focus on vv. 9-11. A lot of truth is packed into these three verses.

  • Where was Jesus (v. 9)?
  • What did Jesus see (v. 10)?
  • What did God the Father say to God the Son (v. 11)?

2. Jesus never did sin. Why did He come to be baptized? [Review the “Focus on the Meaning” in Day Two.]

3. Read John 1:32-34. What was one purpose for the Spirit descending on Jesus in a visible “dove” form?

Scriptural Insight: While confirming that there is only one true God, believers have worshiped Jesus Christ and have spoken of Him in terms appropriate only of deity from the earliest days of Christianity (first century A.D.). The Holy Spirit is also known as deity. So, the only conclusion is that the Bible clearly teaches three Divine Persons, each rightly called God, yet all the one and same God. The doctrine of the Trinity (or “Tri-unity,” a man-made label) is then a summary of the teachings of the Bible regarding the nature of God. God is one in essence, three in Person. It is an unexplainable reality, part of the mystery of God. All three persons of the Trinity are present at the baptism of Jesus. You can consider this event as Jesus’s commissioning for ministry. All three persons are united in the mission set forth for Jesus.

4. John 8:29. What does Jesus say about His own goal in life?

5. Did you notice that God the Father told His Son that He was well pleased with Him before Jesus’s ministry even began? What does this reveal about God’s love for His Son for the 30 years before this day?

6. Heartbreak to Hope: Have you had to wait for something for a very long time? Did you think God was being lazy or had forgotten you? Maybe He was preparing the background for answering your prayer as He did during the 30 years before Jesus showed up for all to see. Can you look back now and recognize how God was at work on your behalf or for someone you love?

Write a prayer to God in response to what He has shown you in this lesson.

Day Four Study

Ask the Lord Jesus to speak to you through His Word. Tell Him that you are listening.

Read Mark 1:1-13.

1. According to Mark 1:12-13, what happens next and why?

2. Who helped Jesus (v. 13)?

Historical Insight: Mark mentions Jesus being in the presence of wild animals. Considering his Christian audience in Rome knew of the fights to the death involving humans versus wild animals in the Colosseum, perhaps Mark was showing how Jesus could identify with them in that way, too.

3. What else interests you from Mark 1:1-13?

4. Heartbreak to Hope: Reflect back on this whole lesson, how did someone experiencing heartbreak, pain, or uncertainty find hope, healing and love?

Write a prayer to God in response to what He has shown you in this lesson.

For additional application to this lesson, read the following essay, “God Works in the Background of Life.”]

— — — — —

God Works In The Background Of Life

Have you had to wait for a very long time for God to answer a specific prayer of yours? You know that what you are asking is within His will. It matches up with what is promised in Scripture. But, it’s not happening. Did you think God was being lazy or had forgotten you?

Maybe God has been preparing the background for answering your prayer today or in the future.

That’s what God did for the Jews during the years before Jesus showed up for all to see. We celebrate Christmas beginning with Luke 1 and 2—the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. But, have you ever considered that God started preparing for Christmas hundreds of years before?

As I was working on this Bible Study of the gospel of Mark, I was reminded of the many things God did during the 500 years before Jesus came that not only made Jesus’s ministry more effective but also enhanced the spread of the gospel after the resurrection.

God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of His people for deliverance.

The Synagogue

God promised Israel a Messiah, an anointed one from Him, who would be their deliverer and their king. But, in 586 BC, Israel found herself in exile in Babylon because of her idolatry. The people were cut off from their temple, divested of nationhood and surrounded by pagan religious practices. They couldn’t depend on those travels to Jerusalem for festivals and sacrifices a few times a year to satisfy their spiritual needs. In their places of exile, though, they carried their scriptures with them, especially the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament (Acts 15:21). The Jews met together in community groups for worship and reading of their Scriptures in what we now know as synagogues.

As a result, Judaism became a faith that could be practiced wherever the Torah could be carried. This helped to not only preserve Judaism but also prepared the way for the Christian gospel. The Diaspora (dispersion) of Israel begun in the exile accelerated during the years that followed so that by Jesus’s time Jews literally filled every land.

Jews outside Palestine concentrated their religious life in the study of the Torah and the life of the synagogue. God-fearing Gentiles joined the Jews for the weekly worship times.

As Israel went into captivity, they disseminated the knowledge of the living and the true God. From then on, they walked the highways of the world, carrying a pack, doing business, building synagogues in every place, telling out: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD.” That was their mission. All was preparation for the coming of the Messiah. (Dr. J. Vernon McGee, How God Prepared the World for the First Coming of Christ)

The missionaries of the early church began their Gentile ministries among those dispersed Jews, using the weekly synagogue meetings as the platform for sharing the good news about Jesus.

Through the dispersion of Jews and the development of the synagogue, God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of the people for their Messiah to come to deliver them.

A Common Language

Do you remember Alexander the Great from your world history studies? Not only did he conquer lots of territory from Greece eastward, but this action also spread the Greek language and culture to all those conquered nations.

For the next 200 years, just about everyone learned to speak and write Greek. And, all the ancient documents were translated into Greek including the Old Testament ~200 B.C. This Greek version of the Old Testament scriptures is called “The Septuagint” (from the Latin meaning, “seventy”) because it was prepared by 70 scholars in 70 days. Guess what? Most of those people meeting in synagogues around the Mediterranean Sea were using the Septuagint as their Scriptures.

Alexander took Greek civilization to the ends of the earth, and may I say that he accomplished a purpose: God was disseminating a language that was to become the vehicle of the gospel, the Greek language. (Dr. J. Vernon McGee, How God Prepared the World for the First Coming of Christ)

Paul and other New Testament writers wrote in Greek which could be read everywhere in those countries influenced by the Greek culture.

Through the spread of the Greek empire, God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of His people for deliverance.

Roman Roads And “Peace”

In the century before Jesus was born, Rome conquered Israel and the rest of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. And, they brought “peace” to the whole region, albeit a forced peace. Law and order prevailed. Anyone who rebelled was quickly squashed.

The Romans were into major construction not only of magnificent buildings but also of roads so people could travel from the farthest reaches of the Empire back to mother Rome. This facilitated travel and communication between towns along these roadways. Paul and the other missionaries of the first century utilized these roads for their travel as well as the many shipping options available to them for sea travel.

Through the activity of the Romans, God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of all people for deliverance.

Babies Must Be Born And Grow Up

Thirty years before the Jewish people as a nation finally heard from Him again, God was at work again. The angel Gabriel delivered the message to two people that their sons would be the ones through whom God would answer the prayers of His people for deliverance.

But, before that time, the babies had to be born, experience childhood, and grow up into men prepared to do their work. That took 30+ more years of waiting. Only a few people knew what was going on during this time. And, they didn’t really understand it. But, they did their part in the preparation.

John the Baptist appeared on the scene at the appointed time. Jesus left his carpenter’s shop a short time later and began His full-time ministry of teaching the people about getting ready for the Kingdom of God to come to them and healing them of their sicknesses.

Through normal human birth and development, God was at work in the background to prepare the way for answering the prayers of all people for deliverance.

God Is At Work In The Background For You, Too.

I can look back and see how God was at work in the background preparing the way for answering some of my specific prayers that were within His will. It took time. I had to wait. But, the wait was worth it, and I praise Him for what He did during that time of waiting.

Can you look back now and recognize how God was at work on your behalf or for someone you love? Praise Him for that.

Are you still waiting for God to answer a specific prayer of yours? You know that what you are asking is within His will. It matches up with what is promised in Scripture. But, it’s not happening. Maybe God has been preparing the background for answering your prayer today or in the future. Trust Him.

Reflect and Respond

Related Topics: Gospels, Women's Articles

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