St. Mark I. 1-13.
"The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ"
T is important to divide this Gospel clearly into
In teaching the importance of the Church in God's plan for the world, avoid all arrogant talk about our separated brethren. Try to impress the idea of a divinely guided Society of baptized people, who should all be one—that separations are weakening and injuring it, and displeasing Christ. Our Church has been to blame as well as Dissenters. Our duty to ask Christ to help us to bring all together again, so that the sin of separation may cease, and the Church of God be strong and united, as He desires.
The game of word-picturing here suggested, if not overdone, is very interesting to children. If the teacher has any vividness of Imagination, he can hold them spell-bound, and can impart warmth and life and colour to the Bible story, that will make it most interesting to them.
§ 1. How Were the Gospels Written?
Meaning of "Gospel"? How many Gospels? One. How many separate accounts of it? Are all exactly the same? Why not? Illustrate four separate boys telling of an accident. Would they say exactly same things? Each tells from own point of view what struck him most. One notices something that another does not, etc. So different. But their stories in the main are the same. Show gain of four accounts of our Lord's life and work. Like four pictures of Him from different points of view.
Which came first, the Church or the Bible? Which first, the telling or the writing of the Gospel story? Which would come first to-day in China? Of course, the Church comes first. The Lord first founded a Divine Society, and then through that Society gave the Divine Book. Men come first and tell the story of Christianity, and teach and baptize converts. Then after some years they begin to prepare written or printed Bible. Thus in China to-day. Thus also in early days. Gospels did not begin by Evangelist sitting down one day to compose his Gospel straight off, as we write books. The Gospels are just the stories told in their preaching by the apostles and disciples everywhere, and gathered together and written down after several years had passed. Every day St. Peter, St. Matthew, St. John, and other teachers sent by the Church were telling the stories of Christ's life. St. Matthew told it to Jews in Judæa; St. John to Gentiles at Ephesus. So told in different ways. Each told what he knew best, and what was most suited for his hearers. By constantly telling same things they got to tell them well—to leave out what was unimportant—to dwell on what was most powerful for touching men's hearts. Thus the guidance of the Holy Spirit was preparing for the writing of the Gospels.
The Gospel, therefore, was first oral, or spoken. Then
people began to write down the separate stories, lest
they should be forgotten. Probably many accounts. (See
§ 2. Who was St. Mark?
Would like to know something of writer of this Gospel. Look at Acts xii. 12. We hear of Mary, the mother of Mark, who had a house in Jerusalem. She seems to have been a person of some means and influence, whose house was a meeting-place for the early Christians in those dangerous days. Probably the Lord Jesus used to go there. Perhaps Lord's Supper instituted in its upper room. Most probably it was the upper room where the Pentecost miracle took place. So the boy brought up in a Christian home. Knew the chief men of the Church.
read that Paul and Barnabas quarrelled about this young
§ 3. "The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ"
To-day we have the introduction
(a) First is thrown upon the screen—the picture of a wilderness land, with its gloomy rocks and trees, and a rapid river running between the green, reedy banks. There is a crowd of all sorts of people—soldiers, and publicans, and Scribes, and Pharisees—some with anxious looks, some with mocking sneer; and, above them all, a pale, earnest face, and thin, worn form, with a hairy robe and a leathern girdle about his loins. His eyes are flashing sternly; his speech is eager and passionate; he looks like an ancient prophet of God; he makes them think of "Elias, who was to come." And the gay courtiers of Herod, and the rough soldiers of the Empire, and the sneering Pharisees, and the proud Sadducees have to listen to his terrible threats and warnings against sin. He tells all who are sorry for their sins to come down into the river to be baptized, that God may forgive them, and help them to be good. But he says: "I am only a poor humble preacher; I am but preparing for the Great Coming One whom the prophets told you of. He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost." So ends the first picture.
(b) Now shut your eyes again for the next. (Here picture after the same manner the baptism of Jesus; prepare your description carefully beforehand. Watch to see if the interest is kept up; if not, let the game of picturing stop. Otherwise, go rapidly on to the third picture.)
(c) A dreary desert plain, with the wild beasts swarming about it, looking for their prey, yet passing peacefully and lovingly about the feet of their Lord. Make your picture at the close of the forty days of awful struggle, and temptation, and hunger, when He is pale and wearied with the strain; when the devil has departed, and the angels are ministering to Him. Take trouble to bring out the feeling of awe for the infinite purity and majesty of the Lord. John, before whom the greatest quailed, yet felt himself unworthy to loose the thong of His shoe, so wonderfully was he touched by that majesty of goodness—the fierce, wild beasts forgot their fierceness in His loving presence—the great, strong angels of God, who with a touch could destroy Jericho, were bowing at His feet, rejoicing to do Him service, and wondering that He should stoop to this poor life. What means it all? That the King of the strong angels—the Creator of all things—had come down to poor, humble, sinful men and women, to be their brother on earth, to save their souls, to help them to be good. "God so loved the world." (John iii. 16). Thus our Blessed Saviour prepared for His ministry. Next day we shall see Him fully engaged in it.