Not Even Close!

The ecosystem Mark constructs in chapter one of his gospel is . . . well, it’s overwhelming. While chapters weren’t part of original text (they came later), nonetheless, what the Spirit guided Mark to include in the portion of his gospel we refer to as the first chapter is nothing short of amazing. If you wanted to make a powerful initial impression on your audience, Mark certainly accomplishes that. Here’s a quick overview of who and what he populates the just first 20 verses with:

Isaiah and the prophets

John the Baptist


The Holy Spirit




wild animals



kingdom of God

Simon, Andrew, James, and John




unclean spirit







Not surprisingly, the action centers around Jesus. There are messengers, messages, and signs that point to Him (including heaven being “torn open”). He is baptized, tempted by Satan in the wilderness, calls disciples, teaches with authority, demonstrates His authority over spirits and demons, heals people, forbids demons and people to speak about Him, prays, preaches, and heals some more.

Got all that?

A couple of things stand out from this. The first is that Mark writes like a man with his hair on fire. He quickly moves from one scene to another (there are 9 scenes in the first chapter), with no pauses to reflect upon the significance of what has just transpired or transitions of any length. The literary term for this is parataxis. It is when are clauses, sentences, or scenes are placed together like boxcars on a train or pearls on a necklace. Paul does this in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Mark does it in chapter 1 and throughout his gospel. Felix Just tells us that an incredible 410 verses (out of 678) in Mark begin with the Greek word kai (“and”), although this fact is somewhat lost in translation as the syntax of Mark is often changed by translators to smooth it out in English. In a similar vein, Just informs us that euthys (“immediately” or “at once”) occurs 42 times. As with kai, this is obscured by the fact that it is translated by several different words and phrases (check your translation on the words/phrases beginning of 1:10, 12, 20 where euthys is found). All of this shows us how Mark is moving his richly populated narrative along in a staccato like fashion.

As we look at the nine scenes in Mark 1, it’s clear as crystal that there is nothing ordinary about Jesus. In the scene at the synagogue, the people are amazed at how He teaches (as One with authority) and at His power over the unclean spirits (v. 27).If Mark was intended for a Roman audience (and there’s good reason to believe it was), then his emphasis on Jesus’ authority and power would make a big splash with them.

And it should make a big splash with us as well. We too should be amazed. How could we not be—how could anyone not be? Of all the people who have have walked across the stage of human history, there has never been anyone like Jesus.

It’s not even close!



Published by A Taste of Grace with Bruce Green

I grew up the among the cotton fields, red clay and aerospace industry of north Alabama. My wife and I are blessed with three adult children and five grandchildren.

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