The Book of Mark - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 3 Lesson 04 - Parables

Teachers Comments
Jul 20 - Jul 26

Key Texts: Mark 1:15; Mark 4:11, 26, 30

Study Focus: Dan. 7:27, Dan. 9:25–27, Mark 1:15, Mark 4:11–32

Introduction: As we study the parables of Jesus in Mark 4, we note an important motif: the kingdom of God. This theme is introduced first in Mark 1:14, 15: “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand’ ” (NASB). What is the significance of the kingdom of God, as presented in Mark? The pursuit of the answer to this question will be the main topic of discussion this week. An understanding of this motif and its significance will help us better understand Jesus’ parables.

Lesson Themes: This week’s study will review the themes of the fulfillment of time and the kingdom of God, in selected sections of the Gospel of Mark. Our study includes two sections, namely:

  1. The kingdom of God’s allusion to the book of Daniel. In this part, we will study a possible context for the expression in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled.”

  2. The kingdom of God in the Gospel of Mark. This section includes a contextual analysis of the expression the kingdom of God, as found in Mark 1 and 4.

Part II: Commentary

The idea of the kingdom of God is made prominent from the start of Mark’s Gospel. Mark 1:15 states, “ ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand’ ” (NASB). Other references related to the kingdom of God include Mark 4:11, 26, 30; Mark 9:1, 47; Mark 10:14, 15, 23, 24, 25; Mark 12:34; and Mark 14:25. Hence, the kingdom of God is a recurrent theme in the Gospel of Mark.

The Kingdom of God’s Allusion to the Book of Daniel

The vision of Daniel 7 explicitly presents the theme of the kingdom of God. The Son of Man, according to Daniel 7:13, 14, receives a kingdom and—different from the earthly kingdoms presented at the beginning of the chapter—it is “one which will not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14, NASB). This heavenly vision is about both the Son of Man and the kingdom. Further, it is connected to the earthly scene in which the “little horn” has dominion upon the earth and particularly over the saints of the Lord, after which time, the Son of Man, comes to the Ancient of Days for the judgment. Daniel 7:26 states, “The court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion” (NKJV). Thus, the persecuting power against the saints will lose its dominion. This scene in Daniel represents a turning point in the history of the plan of salvation, depicting the vindication of God’s people and the end of the sovereignty of the little horn. Then “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” (Dan. 7:27, NKJV).

Let us consider the important implications of these future events. First, the little horn will lose its authority over the saints. Second, the judgment means the vindication of God’s people, the saints. The kingdom of God is not an isolated kingdom, confined to heavenly realms only. The kingdom of God includes the saints; in other words, it is the kingdom of God’s people.

The question is, How does the kingdom of God become real for people, such as Daniel, Mark, and us? Daniel helps us to answer this question by enlightening our understanding concerning a core aspect of the definitive establishment of the kingdom of God. This core aspect is the intervention of Messiah the Prince (Dan. 9:25). Daniel describes that, at the end of the 70-week prophecy, “the Messiah will be cut off” (Dan. 9:26, NASB). “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” (Dan. 9:27, NASB1995). Jesus stopped the Levitical sacrifice because He became the sacrifice. Thus, the people of the kingdom are purchased with the blood of the Messiah (1 Pet. 1:18, 19). Peter also adds another important point in the divine time line when he says of Jesus, “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you” (1 Pet. 1:20. NASB). The expression “[He] has appeared in these last times” gives us an important insight into understanding Mark 1:15, which we will now turn to in our next section.

The Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Mark

Mark 1:14 and 15 states that “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near’ ” (NRSV). These verses provide many important elements for our consideration. First, the essence of Jesus’ preaching was the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is explicitly referred to in Matthew 4:23: “Jesus was going about in all of Galilee, . . . proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (NASB). Second, the content of His proclamation was eschatologically oriented—“the time is fulfilled.” What time is Mark referring to here? It must be the time of the last week of the 70-week prophecy of Daniel 9.

In Mark 1, the author does not explicitly define what the kingdom of God is but instead offers us some valuable insights, in Mark 4 and in the following chapters, into the nature of this kingdom. Also, Mark presents the kingdom of God in a prophetic time frame. Perhaps for that reason, the Gospel of Mark has been identified as “the gospel of the fulfilled time.” (See Merling Alomía, Joel Leiva, Juan Millanao, eds., Mark: The Evangelist of Fulfilled Time [Lima: Ediciones Theologika, 2003].)

How should we understand the expression “the kingdom of God has come near”? The Greek language used by Mark in his Gospel gives us some clues. Mark 1:15, “ ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near,’ ” (NRSV), in the Greek reads: “peplērōtai ho kairos kai ēngiken hē basileia tou theou.” The conjunction kai mostly is recognized as a connector element between two words or clauses, and the common translation is “and” in such cases. However, kai can work as an explicative particle, commonly called epexegetical kai. It means a “word or clause is connected by means of kai with another word or clause, . . [to explain] what goes before it and so.” Therefore, kai could be translated, “that is, namely.” (See Frederick W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 495.)

Thus, if the use of kai in Mark 1:15 is epexegetic, the sentence could be read as “the time is fulfilled; that is, the kingdom of God has come near.”

In other words, the coming of the kingdom of God means the fulfillment of the time spoken of by Daniel. In this case, Jesus Christ personifies the kingdom of God, and such an interpretation is in accordance with the pragmatic point of view of Mark. In Mark 1, the kingdom of God is the kingdom of Jesus Christ, who has come in accordance with the divine prophetic agenda to proclaim the good news about God’s kingdom. Thus, the kingdom of God implies the redemption and restoration of humanity. Jesus was asked by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God would come, and He replied, “For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21, NASB). Paul also seems to support this perspective when he writes, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son . . . so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters” (Gal. 4:4, 5, NASB).

Jesus appeals to His disciples to believe the gospel—the gospel about the kingdom—and to repent. The verb metanoeō, in addition to meaning “repent,” also denotes “to be converted,” and it is “a prerequisite for experiencing the Reign of God.”—Frederick W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 640. Everything concerning Jesus’ proclamation centered on this point. People are invited to believe and accept the gospel of the kingdom. It was a priority in the orientation of His ministry. For instance, Jesus urged His disciples, “ ‘Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may also preach there; for this is why I came_’ ” (Mark 1:38, NASB; _emphasis added).

It is within this context that we should read the parables of Mark 4 and the rest of the book of Mark. That is, we should read them as an illumination of “the mystery of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11, NASB). The Greek noun mystērion implies “the content of that which has not been known before but which has been revealed to an in-group or restricted constituency—‘secret.’ ”—Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), p. 345. The “secrets of the kingdom of heaven” have been disclosed in Jesus’ coming (Matt. 13:11, RSV). Jesus Himself clarifies that there is no mystery in His message: “ ‘Nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light’ ” (Mark 4:22, NASB).

These “secrets” of the kingdom (which are no longer secrets because they have been revealed) are not going to be understood by all people. The gospel, the seed, is scattered over all kinds of soils, but unfortunately, not all soils produce the same results (Mark 4:3–20). Spiritual development in the kingdom of God is similar to the growth process of a plant: “ ‘The soil produces crops by itself; first the stalk, then the head, then the mature grain in the head’ ” (Mark 4:28, NASB). This development also includes the harvest of the fruits: “ ‘Now when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come’ ” (Mark 4:29, NASB). Implicit in this idea is the following notion: before Christ gathers together the people for His kingdom in the final harvest at the end of the time, He first needs to cast the seed—the gospel—upon the soil (Mark 4:26). The kingdom of God seems small at the beginning; its seed looks insignificant. But “ ‘when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants, and forms large branches’ ” (Mark 4:32, NASB).

The fulfillment of the time spoken of by Mark in his Gospel started when the kingdom arrived in the Person of Jesus Christ at His first coming. Christ incarnate is the essence of the gospel—the good news. In every village that would welcome Him, Jesus came to preach about that kingdom. He came to cast that seed upon the soil of every heart. Although small in the beginning, the kingdom shall become great in the end.

Jesus encourages people to receive the kingdom in their present circumstances: “ ‘Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all’ ” (Mark 10:15, NASB). In other words, the Savior encourages the people of His time and ours to live in the kingdom as a present-tense experience. However, Jesus Christ posits the end of time as yet to come: “Truly I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again, until that day when I drink it, new, in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25, NASB). The eschatology of Mark is conscious of the fact that the “end of time” is yet future. However, Mark wants to emphasize the kingdom and its initial stage, or its present experience, during his own time.

Part III: Life Application

Ellen G. White states, “All who became the subjects of Christ’s kingdom, he said, would give evidence of faith and repentance. Kindness, honesty, and fidelity would be seen in their lives. They would minister to the needy, and bring their offerings to God. They would shield the defenseless, and give an example of virtue and compassion. So the followers of Christ will give evidence of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. In the daily life, justice, mercy, and the love of God will be seen. Otherwise they are like the chaff that is given to the fire.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 107.

Ask class members to respond to the following questions with the above quote in mind:

How are you experiencing the kingdom of God now?

What was the reaction of people to Jesus’ first coming?

How do you perceive that people react and respond to the idea of His second coming?

In light of this comparison, ask your class members the following question: How important is the kingdom of God to your personal proclamation of the gospel?