Monthly Archives: June 2017

Gospel according to St. Mark

Mantegna’s Mark
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Matthew’s gospel is well known for the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the powerful prophetic portions of Matthew 24-25.

Luke’s gospel is beloved for its parables like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

John’s gospel is a favorite of many for its “I AM” passages and poignant and pointed personal encounters.

That often leave Mark’s gospel out in the cold.

Yet, those who take the time to visit Mark and read through it find it has its own unique way to highlighting the vital message of Jesus.

For instance, take the rocket launch of the beginning of Mark in chapter 1:1-8 …

Mark 1:1-8 (NIV)

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

N.T. Wright put it this way in Mark for Everyone (2004):

You are sound asleep and dreaming, when suddenly the door bursts open and a bright light shines full in your face. A voice, breaking in on your dream world shouts, “Wake up! Get up! You’ll be late!” And without more ado, the speaker splashes your face with cold water to make the point. Time to stop dreaming and face the most important day of your life.


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What is the Fruit? John 15

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John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (NASB)

In the typical small group study, the question will be asked by either the group leader or a participant, “What is the fruit being talked about here?”

There are two likely answers people will come up with:  (1) the fruit of new believers as a result of our testimony and (2) the fruit of a changed life.

So what are some rules to guide interpretation – determining the meaning of a particular portion of the Bible?

One step to consider is how similar words/ideas are used elsewhere in the Bible.

Fruit of a changed life is a fairly easy interpretation to offer since Paul uses the imagery of “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control …”

Sticking with the idea of using Paul’s terminology of fruit we should also look at Colossians 1:3-12 where fruit is used twice.

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit. For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

In this case, the idea of fruit of a changed life could be extended to fruit of good works. However, in the earlier usage in the Colossians passage, the context of the advancement of the gospel points to the fruit of new believers in Jesus Christ.

Another step is to look at the immediate context – things before and after the Bible verse in question.

There are two striking features in the immediate context here.

One is the linking of ideas:
1) abide -> fruit (v. 4)
2) bear fruit -> prove to be my disciples (v. 8)
3) abide in my love -> keep my commandments (v. 10)
4) this is my commandment -> love one another just as I have loved you (v. 12)

As you can see in 1 & 2, abide leads to proving to be my disciples and in 3 & 4 abide in my love leads to loving one another.

And if you go back to John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The other is the “word play” of vv. 2-3:
pruneAs you can see, these three Greek words look/sound similar though they have slightly different meanings. The experience of abiding means the Father prunes us (v. 2). The reality of abiding is that the words of Jesus cleans us (v. 3).

Taking all of these things together would suggest the fruit is a changed life and in particular changed toward loving one another.

What do you think?