Day 21      Mark 1 ... Immediate Impact

Although the four Gospels all cover basically the same ground, each one looks at Jesus' life from a unique angle. Matthew and Luke both begin with three chapters of historical background, taking pains to verify Jesus' Old Testament connections. Mark, however, plunges right in to report on Jesus' ministry, covering his baptism and temptation, the calling of the disciples, and a series of miracles in the first chapter alone.

Mark read like a newspaper account, jam packed with action, and with little room left over for parables, speeches, or editorial comments. Thus the book gives an ideal "bird's eye view" of Jesus' life. Its style - simple sentences without complicated transitions or long speeches - makes understanding easier.

After John the Baptist had fanned enthusiasm for Jesus - so much enthusiasm, in fact, that John landed in jail - Jesus openly announced his ministry. He had some surprises in store for the eager audience. For one thing, Jesus did not go to Jerusalem, the natural center of activity for any aspiring leader, but to the small towns in the hill country of Galilee. (He had grown up nearby, in the obscure town of Nazareth, which led some sophisticates to scoff, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?")

In other ways, too, Jesus did not fit the expected image of a prophet. His cousin John personified that severe ascetic image: He lived in a desert, ate insects, an preached a harsh message of judgement. But Jesus lived in the midst of people, dined in their homes, and brought a message of the good news of God.

When Jesus began healing people, however, his reputation swelled overnight. Mark shows gymnasium-size crowds pressing around Jesus so tightly that he had to plan escape routes. News of his miraculous powers spread even when he tried to hush it up. Wherever he went, the crowds followed, buzzing about his remarkable life. "Is he the Holy One of God"? "Is he mad?" "Isn't this the carpenter's boy?" The word was out.

Point to Ponder: Based just on what you read in this chapter, what words would you use to describe Jesus?