Life-Study of Markby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
With this message we begin the Life-study of the Gospel of Mark. Mark is not as profound as the Gospel of John, and it does not contain as many teachings as are found in the Gospel of Matthew. Some readers of the New Testament may think of Mark as the “Galilee” of the four Gospels, and some may wonder what good can come out of Galilee. However, the Lord Jesus came from Galilee.
The Gospel of John is mainly a record of the Lord’s move in Judea and of His profound words spoken there. Mark, on the contrary, is a record mainly of the Lord’s ministry in Galilee. Mark does not record much of the Lord’s move or teaching in Judea.
If we would have a history of the Lord’s life and ministry on earth, we need to learn how to put together the Gospels of John and Mark. When these Gospels are put together, we can see the Lord’s move in the regions of Galilee and Judea. Judea was a highly respected province, and the city of Jerusalem was located there. But the province of Galilee was looked down upon and despised. The Lord’s move in Galilee covered a longer period of time than His move in Judea. We need to see that the record in the Gospel of Mark is a record primarily of the Lord’s move not in Judea but in Galilee.
In the first chapter of the Gospel of John we have a record of profound matters related to Christ’s incarnation. Verses 1 and 14 reveal that in the beginning was the Word, that the Word was with God and was God, and that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. According to John 1:14, the disciples also saw the Lord’s glory, glory as of an only begotten from a father. In the first chapter of his Gospel John goes on to say that the law was given through Moses, but grace and reality came through Jesus Christ (v. 17). In verse 18 John says, “No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Furthermore, John tells us that in the Word was life, and the life was the light of men (v. 4). All these matters are very profound.
In contrast to the profound matters revealed in the Gospel of John, in Mark’s Gospel we see the Lord as the Slave-Savior. In the Gospel of Mark we do not have the God-Savior, as in John, the King-Savior, as in Matthew, or the Man-Savior, as in Luke. The Gospel of Mark presents a particular aspect of Christ, the aspect of the Slave-Savior. In John we have God; in Matthew, the King; in Luke, the Man; and in Mark, the Slave. We would hardly expect to hear excellent, profound, marvelous things about a slave. There is a sense in which it is not easy to speak on the Gospel of Mark.
In the Life-study of James we emphasized the contrast between the writings of Paul and the book of James. The writings of Paul are on a much higher level than those of James. Paul’s writings are on a divine level, on God’s level, and reveal the divine dispensing for the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose. Therefore, in the Epistles of Paul we have a revelation of the divine economy. The book of James is on a much lower level. Whereas Paul’s writings are on a divine level, the book of James is on a human level and emphasizes practical Christian perfection. In his Epistle James deals with matters of godliness and character. The differences between the Epistle of James and the Epistles of Paul are actually very great. How could we compare something on the human level with something on the divine level? How can we compare practical Christian perfection with the divine economy, or compare living ethically with living Christ? There is no comparison.
If we would know the meaning of practical Christian perfection, we need to come to the Epistle of James. Concerning Christian perfection, nothing is better than the book of James. Consider, for example, what James says concerning wisdom: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, forbearing, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, unfeigned” (James 3:17). James also says, “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (v. 18). This teaching certainly is much higher than that of Confucius. Concerning Christian perfection and human ethics, the book of James is excellent. In this regard we all need to respect James. Nevertheless, no matter how excellent James’ writing may be regarding Christian perfection, he remains on the human level, and the human level cannot compare to the divine level.
To a certain extent we may use the contrast of the levels of the writings of Paul and James as an illustration of the contrast between Mark and the other Gospels. How, for instance, can we compare a slave with God? Furthermore, how can we compare a slave with a king? Apparently, the Gospel of Mark is on a much lower level than that of John, Matthew, and Luke. As recorded in John’s Gospel, the Lord says such profound things as “I am the life” (14:6), “I am the light of the world” (8:12), and “I am the resurrection” (11:25). Such words cannot be found in the Gospel of Mark. However, in the Gospel of Mark we have the excellent record of a wonderful Slave. In the Gospel of Mark we have something that cannot be found in John, Matthew, or Luke.
The Lord Jesus is wonderful and all-inclusive. Even His name is called Wonderful (Isa. 9:6). The Lord is wonderful not only in His divinity but also in His humanity. Where do we see a portrait of the humanity of the Lord Jesus? It is correct to say that the Gospel of Luke emphasizes the Lord’s humanity. In his Gospel Luke presents the Lord as a normal man, as a man fully up to standard. With such a man we see human virtue, excellence, and beauty. However, not even all this can compare with the aspect of the Lord’s humanity seen in the Gospel of Mark. In Mark we see a beautiful expression of Christ’s virtues in His humanity. I believe that more of the Lord’s excellent virtues in His humanity are seen in the Gospel of Mark than in the Gospel of Luke.
Only one of the four Gospels—the Gospel of John—is on the Lord’s divinity. The other three Gospels, called the synoptic Gospels, are on the Lord’s humanity. The word “synoptic” indicates that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have the same view, the view of the Lord’s humanity. In these three Gospels we see different aspects of Christ in His humanity: the Lord’s humanity in being the King (Matthew), the Lord’s humanity in being a man who is up to standard (Luke), and the Lord’s humanity in being a Slave (Mark).
Suppose the President of the United States, after completing his term of office, would serve as a janitor. After being President, he would willingly lower himself to become a janitor to serve others. Would this not be excellent? The excellency of such a man in his presidency could not compare with the excellency in his becoming a janitor. I believe that most citizens would appreciate him more in his being a janitor than in his being a President. With him as a President we would not see as much of the beauty of his humanity. But if he would become a janitor to serve others, we would see the beauty, the virtue, in his humanity. How beautiful for a person, after occupying the high office of President of the United States, to become a janitor! I doubt that any of us would feel comfortable in the presence of a President, but we would all feel comfortable with a janitor. How excellent it would be to see a former President working as a janitor, for we would see in him excellent human virtue!
Which kind of person do you prefer—a President or a janitor? I would rather be with a janitor than with a President. If the President were to invite me to spend the night at the White House, I would not feel at home. But if a former President were to become a janitor and invite me into his home for the night, I would feel very comfortable.
I use the illustration of a President becoming a janitor to help us see the position of the Gospel of Mark in relation to the other Gospels. In the Gospel of Matthew we see the Lord Jesus in His kingship, but in the Gospel of Mark we see the Lord in His slavery. Which do you prefer—the Lord as a King or the Lord as a Slave? Do you prefer a King-Jesus or a Slave-Jesus? Naturally, we may be inclined to appreciate the Lord as a King more than as a Slave. But we all need to appreciate the Lord as the Slave-Savior revealed in Mark. If we appreciate the Lord in this way, then we shall understand the value of the book of Mark.
In the Gospel of Mark we have a vivid record of the Lord’s humanity as a Slave. The last chapters of Mark are especially long and detailed. The reason is that Mark’s purpose is to provide a detailed record to show the beauty of the Lord as a Slave in His human virtues.
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