Journey through Mark | Mark 1:12-15 (PART 1B)
Updated: Jul 25
Today, we continue our journey through Mark... If you just started following us feel free to go back and read part 1A of this series. In that post, we lightly covered the historical context in which Mark was develop and who Jesus was to this early Christian community. Our initial question in pursuit is still the same… who am I considering the Gospel story of Mark. Next, we begin by looking at the temptation of Jesus.
According to the Gospel, Jesus was driven by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (1:12). That is, he was driven to the desert which was considered Satan’s territory. There, Jesus spent 40 days battling Satan and being prepared for his ministry. My old testament professor (Ph.D. Daniel Hawk, check out his works on Amazon) thought me that 40 days is just a reference for a very long time. Thereby, this passage is significant to the grand narrative of Mark. In other words, one must become prepared to fulfill one’s purpose in Christ by facing temptations and defeating evil. Learning to win this battle may take us a long time. One source wrote that Jesus was facing the Enemy (Satan) in his own turf (the wilderness). The wilderness for us right now; amid this COVID-19 pandemic, is our homes as we patiently wait to see how God prepares us for whatever opportunities or challenges lie ahead. How are we being prepared to fight the battle against Satan amidst these current chaotic times?
Satan is an obscure and distant figure for most of us living in western contemporary Christianity. We do not hear about this figure too often from our pulpits. In my latest seminary class, I met one of the most adept teachers in this topic. His name is Ph.D. William Payne, check out his works in Amazon as well… he helped me realized how I had totally disregarded this dark figure from my spiritual life. As a contemporary Christian, I belittle this character and his minions in the story. However, awareness of this dark spiritual force is essential, if not central, to believing the Gospel message. For a time, when I was in total denial of the figure of Satan and concepts such as Hell… I notice that as a Christian it was easy and find to continue to practice iniquity if I was certain that God love me and would forgive my transgressions. What I realize recently is that not believing in Satan (this inner dark human force) was leading me further and further from God. Thanks be to God for bringing me back into a sound judgement and may God forgive our western Priest and Elder’s who are doing this harm to Jesus’ flock.
Once Jesus defeated Satan in the wilderness, he went to Galilee to proclaim the Good News of God (1:14). Galilee is the setting for much of the Gospel narratives. It is significant to understand how the social, economic, and religious context of this geographical region impacted the story to grasp the remaining of Mark’s message. Remember, Mark’s audience were new believers. We will not go into the specifics about this geographical location, but we want to emphasize that around 64 A.D. – 70 A.D. Galilee was a city in crisis. According to one source, the Jewish War broke out around 66 A.D., which was over in Galilee by 68 A.D., and after the fall of Jerusalem the city became the center of rabbinic learning. Most of the population were non-Jews forced to convert to Judaism. At the time, much of the population were lower class citizens apart from an upper rich class and a somewhat higher middle class. Sounds familiar?
In sum, living in Galilee must not have been that different than living in our own times. However, the people of Galilee were about to received Good News from Jesus of Nazareth, who came to Galilee announcing that the time was fulfilled, and that the kingdom of God had come near (1:15). How did people enter the new reality of the kingdom of God? They had to believe the Gospel message by turning their lives over to God, which imply a personal repentance from a person’s wrongdoing. Unfortunately, repentance carries with it a negative tone for most modern people today. But it was the biblical term used by Mark to say that new believers were to turn over their lives to the Lordship of Christ. How many of us can say with certainty that we have turn our lives over to God? This is what believing in the gospel meant back then and it is still what it means today!