The story is told of Shah Abbis who once ruled the land of Persia. The Shah loved his people and often disguised himself so as to mingle among them and understand their lives. On one occasion he visited the home of a peasant. He ate his coarse food, tolerated his good and bad moods, and returned again and again to visit him. Then one day he revealed his identity expecting the man to ask him for a favor. Instead, the peasant gazed at him in wonder. “You left your palace to sit with me in this humble place, to partake of my food, to care whether my heart was glad or sad? On others you may bestow riches, but to me you’ve given the best gift of all – yourself! Pray never take this gift away from me.”
This is the picture Mark paints of Jesus. In our last study, we focused on His humility – how He the Prince voluntarily became a pauper, “so that we through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9) Imagine the impact this had on the 6 million slaves in the Roman Empire! The King of Creation became a Servant taking on humanity to die for our sins. No wonder they turned to Him in droves! Mark was written to the Romans, but not just to slaves. He also hoped to reach their masters. For this reason, he portrayed two additional facts about Jesus.
2) His Miraculous Ministry. What the Romans respected most was power! Therefore, despite its brevity (16 chapters), what do we find more of in Mark than any other gospel? Miracles! In John, there is 1 miracle every 6 pages; in Luke and Matthew, the average is 1 miracle every 2 ½ pages; but in Mark there is a miracle on every page. Why? To picture Jesus as God’s Anointed Servant endowed with all power from on high. To the Romans, this was an oxymoron – a servant with power? But Jesus proved that it is not only possible, but God’s prerequisite for bestowing power on His servants. It also helps to explain the most frequently used word in Mark. 41 times he uses the word “immediately” to picture Jesus as a man of action always on the move serving God and others. The application for us? Get busy, work hard, and wear yourself out – not merely for the sake of being busy – but for the purpose of serving God and others.
3) His Sacrificial Death. Suffering is a major theme in Mark. 4 times Jesus predicts His death in this gospel (e.g., Mark 10:32-34). Even more obvious is the space Mark gives to His suffering – 40% is devoted to the final week of His life. Mark 10:45 is both the key verse and a good outline of the book. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.” Chapters 1-10 focus on His serving; chapters 11-16 focus on the events surrounding His death. All of which reminds us, if our Lord endured suffering, then shouldn’t we expect and accept suffering in our lives as well?
The reason we can accept suffering is because of how Mark’s gospel concludes. Each of the gospel writers ends his story a different way. Matthew ends with the Resurrection and Great Commission as a final argument to convince the Jews that Jesus is their Messiah King. But Mark’s conclusion is also strategic. It says, “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19) How is this a fitting ending? It reminds us that suffering only lasts a short while, then comes glory and honor. Yes, the Prince became a pauper, “so that we through His poverty might become rich.” But He didn’t remain poor. He was exalted to heaven’s throne reminding us that when we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand casting all our cares upon Him, He rewards us without fail in His time. Our suffering, then, is never without purpose and always worthwhile when endured for the glory of God.
Even more inspiring is the last line of Mark’s gospel taking us full circle to where this post began. “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” You and I are never alone. Our King is with us always giving us strength to serve Him and confirming that we are His. May that be your inspiration not only this Christmas season, but in every joy and trial you face in the year to come.
P.S. Don’t miss the video below. You’ll love it! It’s very creative.