Throughout the centuries people have reckoned with two questions: Who is Jesus and what does it mean to follow him? The focus of Mark’s gospel is setting up those questions and answering them. What we find is that he is our servant king who wants us to discover the way of the Christ.
Author and pastor Jeff Manion guides participants through Mark’s biography of Jesus, revealing what the author’s words meant to his original readers and how they apply to you today. Groups will be encouraged as you listen to Jeff’s teachings and through the accompanying study guide, challenged to study the gospel of Mark during the forty days of this study.
We connected with Jeff to talk about this study in the 40 Days Through the Book series.
Jeff, you’ve titled this study “In the Company of Christ”. Why did you choose that for this title for a study of Mark’s Gospel?
Jeff: From the opening page of Mark, the disciples are always in the picture. Jesus surrounds himself with followers who observe and react to everything he does. So in a very real sense, as you journey through the Gospel of Mark, you’re not only watching Jesus, you’re watching them watch Jesus. My hope is that readers join the disciples to see and hear what these first followers saw and heard.
You mention the importance of exploring the “sequences” of stories in Mark. What do you mean by that and why is it important?
Jeff: At times, there is incredible value in focusing on a single Bible story or even a single verse. But these stories were grouped for a reason, and there is a deeper dimension of understanding that occurs when a series of stories are explored together as a group.
Can you give us a couple examples?
Jeff: One example would be the passion predictions which occur in Mark 8, 9, and 10. Jesus predicts his coming death and resurrection three times in three chapters. In this sequence, Jesus is attempting to communicate what kind of Messiah he has come to be – the suffering servant king. But the disciples can’t warp their brains around this concept. Each death/resurrection prediction is followed by an incident demonstrating that his followers totally miss the point. In Mark 9, they argue over who among them is the greatest, and in chapter 10, James and John request the top places of Honor and authority. Following each of these misunderstandings of Jesus mission, Jesus teaches that the pathway to greatness is the road of humble servanthood. This powerful cadence of Prediction, Misunderstanding, and Training is repeated three times but he reader can totally miss this emphasis if she only focuses on a single story, or regrettably, on a single verse.
Another example is the growing animosity on the part of the religious leaders that unfolds in Mark Chapter 2 and 3. Five separate confrontations are arranged in sequence giving the reader a sense of the growing storm of conflict that is brewing. The five conflicts boil over into murderous rage but this can be lost on the reader when read in isolation. I believe there is a progress and flow in Mark that is only captured when the stories are taken together, side by side, and explored together.
Where do all these stores in Mark lead the reader?
Jeff: In Mark, the Disciples are confronted with two critical questions. Who is Jesus and what does it mean to follow him? These twin questions: Who is He? And What does he want? are critical today both for the maturing believer and also for the doubter who desires to dig deeper into the person and meaning of Jesus.
The study 40 Days In Mark combines a video series and workbook. How do you imagine these being used?
Jeff: The videos and workbook are simply companion tools to the Bible reading program. The goal is to encourage a group to read and talk about what they are seeing in Mark’s gospel. The videos serve as a travel guide, pointing out major themes that will be encounter in their weekly reading. The study guide provide relevant questions to guide personal observation and provide talking points for the group.
Devoting 40 days to discovering Mark’s Gospel can be an eye opening, or even transformative experience.
Jeff Manion is the senior pastor of Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for over thirty years, and is the author of The Land Between and Satisfied. His great joy is digging deeply into Scripture and passionately teaching the story of the Bible in a clear and relevant way. Jeff enjoys running, cycling, and hiking. He and his wife, Chris, have three adult children.
Jeff Manion’s study on the Book of Mark is part of a series called 40 Days Through the Book. Each of the studies in this series, taught by a different pastor or Bible teacher on specific books of the Bible, is designed to help us more actively engage with God’s Word by understanding its background and culture, and applying it in a fresh way to our lives.