Notes from Pastor Dan

Check out this page each week for notes from Pastor Dan about the upcoming Sunday sermon.

January 24

Dear friends,

This Sunday and next presented a preaching dilemma for your pastor! We are working our way through the Gospel of Mark and some weeks it has been difficult to pull out just one or two items upon which to offer up a sermon. The next two Sundays are the most extreme examples of this. Mark chapters 14 and 15 each feature numerous important events and teachings in the life of Jesus. How does one pick just one?

This Sunday, as an example, in Mark 14 we have Jesus being anointed at Bethany, holding the Last Supper, praying in Gethsemane, arrested by the authorities, facing trial and concluding with the denials of Peter. Each one of these topics are worthy of their own study. So, I’ve decided for this week’s message to look at the anointing at Bethany and the Last Supper and see what we can learn from these two events in their relationship to each other. You can be the judge on Sunday if I have found the right connections.

Mark chapter 14 also includes a bit of a mystery passage as well.

Mark 14:51-52 is the end of the account of the arrest of Jesus. It reads:

51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

All four of the Gospels include the account of Jesus’ arrest. It is a key moment in Jesus’ final days. Only Mark, however, includes this account of the young man who escapes the scene. Who was he? Why is he in the story? What is his significance?

Let’s go back to what we know about the Gospel of Mark. We believe it was written by a man who we now refer to as Mark the Evangelist. Mark is also known as John Mark (we think Mark was more of a last name). He shows up a few times in the Bible, mostly in Acts, where he is mentioned as a young companion of Paul. We also believe that Mark was initially a student of Peter, one of the original disciples. Peter is stated in the Bible as having stayed for a time at the home of Mark’s mother after Peter was miraculously broken out of a prison in Acts 12.

Imagine the education that Mark must have received, spending considerable time as a boy and a young man with Peter and later Paul! It is no wonder that Mark eventually wrote down what we believe was the first Gospel to be written. Imagine nights sitting around the campfire listening to Peter or Paul!

We’ve mentioned before that the Gospel of Mark might really better be called the Gospel of Peter, as recorded and written by Mark. As early as the year 185, we have a surviving document where Irenaeus, an early church leader, refers to Mark as the “interpreter of Peter.”

Many believe that Mark was the “young man” referred to in verse 15 above. We know that Mark’s mom, a woman named Mary (and yes, it seems that at least half of the women in the New Testament are named Mary!), was a Jesus follower. Some suggest that on the night when the Temple Guards were heading out to arrest Jesus, perhaps one of the places they went to look for him was at Mary’s home. Or maybe they had gone there a day or two before, looking for him. Was it possible that young Mark wanted to see what all the excitement was about and so followed the Guards and was therefore present at the time of the arrest? If so, he was an eyewitness to the arrest – and had a small bit of detail that likely no one else noticed. After all, most in the crowd would have been focused on what was happening with Jesus. It is unlikely that many would have noticed or cared about the boy / young man who was perhaps manhandled a bit by a Guard for getting too close and then slipped away.

This incident of the likely eyewitness account by Mark, slipped in to his Gospel text, is one of many, many incidental clues that helps us to feel confident that the account we have of Jesus is true. John Mark wasn’t personally there for all of it, but he was a personal witness to some of it. Interesting that his account aligns with the record of the arrest in the other three Gospels. I believe the Holy Spirit gave Mark this experience to reinforce and complement Mark’s ability to write the whole Gospel.

I’m looking forward to our online worship together on Sunday!

To God be the Glory!

Pastor Dan