Some big themes in Mark’s Gospel

  • Kingdom

The theme of God’s kingdom is significant to all of the Gospels but particularly stands out in Matthew and Mark. Matthew refers to it as The Kingdom of Heaven, this links to a Jewus reluctance to even speak out God’s name so that other words are used in place of “God” or “YHWH.” Heaven as the place where God rules from therefore serves to represent God himself. Mark, writing for Gentiles is under no such restrictions when speaking of God’s Kingdom.

The Kingdom is described as “at hand” or near in 1:15.  This raises questions about whether or not it has fully arrived. We might think of it in terms of growing authority and influence so that God’s kingdom is both “here” and “near.”  God’s reign is seen in the Gospel because Christ the King is present with his people but his rule is resisted and Satan still has power, therefore the defeat of Satan on the Cross brings in a greater realisation of God’s rule. It is nearer still. The work of the Holy Spirit brings that rule nearer still. However, we live in the now and not yet. Christ is reigning in our hearts but we await the day of consummation when he returns.

The kingdom is united and strong, at war with the enemy not with itself (3:24). It is secret, hidden from worldly eyes but revealed to God’s people (4:11). Chapter 4 is significant as Christ uses parables to teach his disciples truths about this secret kingdom. Like planted seed, it is something that looks small but grows powerful and fruitful through death and resurrection (as seed falls into the ground and dies).

If some of Jesus’ disciples saw his kingdom come in power before their deaths(9:1) then this reminds us that the kingdom’s inauguration is associated with the Gospel and Calvary. 

Entering the kingdom is of first important and we need to be ready to forsake everything, life and limb (9:47) and riches and power for it (10:23-25). It belongs not to the powerful and proud but the weak and humble, those who are like children (10:14-15).

  • Repentance

Although the word features minimally -just at the start in 1:4, this sets up a key theme of the Gospel. A willingness to leave behind wealth and riches, to become like a child and pursue the way of the cross is about choosing repentance.

  • The Son of Man

This is Jesus’s preferred identification of himself (see 2:10; 8:31; 8:38; 9:9; 9:12; 9:31; 10:33; 10:45 etc).  It may be seen as a title that focuses on humility rather than glory and emphasises his humanity. However, the particular significant comes out in 3:26, where Jesus prophesies about the last days. Here we are promised his return and we “will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” This is a reference to Daniel 7:13 where it is “one like a son of man” who receives authority and power from the Ancient of Days. Christ as Son of Man therefore has divine authority.

This helps us to think about how Jesus is fully God and fully man so that in him, humanity is reconciled to God and restored to its creation position with responsibility to fill and subdue God’s World. Of course our mandate now is to do this through spreading the good news and making disciples, not through re-populating the world.

  • The Cross

As mentioned earlier, the whole Gospel is in the shadow of the Cross.  At the crucial turning point at the halfway point we are told three times that Jesus must suffer, die and then rise three days later (8:31; 9:31; 10:34).   Later, Jesus will use the imagery of the Temple to again repeat that he must be killed (destroyed) but rise (rebuild) three days later (Mark 14:58; 15:29). To take up my own cross therefore is to be ready to die to myself and my old life for Christ (8:34).

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