This passage marks a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. He completes His work in Judea and Perea and moves toward Jerusalem, where our Lord will make His triumphant entry and begin Passion Week, culminating in the cross.
In Mark 9:30-37, Jesus’ disciples demonstrate concern over who is the greatest. The issue of rank among the twelve takes on new meaning as we consider the context of the passage.
Mark’s Gospel is one of immediacy. Without the account of John the Baptist’s birth or that of Jesus Christ, Mark moves immediately to Jesus calling the disciples, healing, casting out demons, cleansing the leper, teaching parables, and raising the dead. In Mark, Jesus also feeds the five thousand and walks on water. His ministry created quite a stir. So much so that the Pharisees and teachers of the law came from Jerusalem to investigate—as seen in Mark 7:1–13. This investigation was likely motivated by jealousy, insecurity, and fascination or curiosity.
Relief had finally come. God created Adam and Eve perfectly. But their wicked transgressions brought sin into the world, taking the Lord’s unblemished creation into destruction. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, forced to work a stubborn earth, and forced to give birth in pain. Their son Cain killed his brother, Abel, confirming the wickedness of man’s heart.
Seeing this egregious depravity in humanity, God chose to flood the earth, destroying everything. Yet He kept Noah in the faith, making him blameless among his generation. God instructed this servant to build an ark so a pair of every living creature, male and female, could reside during the deluge.
In Mark 4, Jesus and the disciples are on a boat in the Sea of Galilee when a violent storm arises. Crippled with fear, the disciples wake their sleeping Savior. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach His followers, show His power, and apply mercy.
Incarnation and spiritual life bring unity to Ezekiel 37, Psalm 139, Acts 2, John 15, and John 16. In his description of the Valley of Dry Bones, Ezekiel writes, “And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin” (Ezekiel 37:6). Reading of the physical life coming to dead bones, we are mindful of God’s creation of man. Moses writes in Genesis, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). The connecting concept is God’s work to create flesh and bring life through His breath. Although Adam’s body was brought to life from nothing, and the bones from death, wind brings life and breath into Adam’s lungs and the dead bones.
As Acts 4, Psalm 23, and 1 John interrelate, two predominant themes present themselves. Firstly, there is certain salvation in Jesus Christ, and in fact, only in Jesus Christ. Acts 4:1–12 records that as Peter spoke to the rulers, elders, and scribe, he asserts, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Psalm 23 supports this theme where, in the first three verses, David describes God’s provision, restoration and protection “for his name’s sake.” Although not a clear reference to Jesus Christ, we can derive that God ministers to sinners for the sake of the promised Messiah. Then, in 1 John 3:16–24, we find comfort in seeing that Christ is our Good Shepherd, showing His love for His flock through His death and resurrection.
In Mark 10, Jesus demonstrates how He is the perfect sacrifice for all by humbly obeying God the Father through His death and resurrection.
James, the brother of Jesus, is the author of this book. It is important to remember that James is related to Jesus by Mary, their mother, as Jesus is the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Given that James wrote his book around the year AD 50, we know that Jesus has risen and ascended. Pentecost has taken place and the first Christians, equipped with the Holy Spirit and the ability to speak local tongues, are moving out to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. James is writing to Jewish Christians living in the diaspora, that is, the dispersion of Jews into Gentile nations. His goal is to teach wisdom to these men and women who are amid unbelievers, and perhaps more important, those who belong to pagan religions.
In this weekend’s Gospel reading, we find Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to be His disciples. Mark moves quickly through John the Baptist’s call in the wilderness, his Baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’ temptation. When John baptizes Jesus, Jesus’ Father in heaven endorses His Son with the words, “with You I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) After this, Jesus endures Satan’s temptation in the wilderness, proving Himself to also be the Son of Man: He resists the lure of sin, unlike Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and unlike the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for forty years (an important parallel to the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness). Jesus calls out that the kingdom of God—His kingdom—is at hand. In this context, Jesus initiates His earthly ministry by calling the disciples with whom He will share it.