Book Review: Mark: He Taught Them As One Who Had Authority

I know two posts in one day, shocking but having a toddler who keeps you up at all hours of the day and night gives you time to blog and read books.  The following is my review of R.C. Sproul’s commentary on the book of Mark.
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Mark: He Taught Them As One Who Had Authority, written by R.C. Sproul and published by Reformation Trust Publishing, is part of the St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary Series.  This is the fifth volume in the series, all brilliantly written by Dr. Sproul.  There are many different kinds of commentaries written in different ways and to a variety of different contexts, some are written with the laymen in mind, some with the Bible Student, some with the Pastor.  This commentary seeks to bridge the audience gap between Pastor and laymen.

Unlike many commentaries Mark is not highly technical; it is an adaptation of a series of sermons Dr. Sproul taught to his congregation.  Yet despite not addressing highly technical issues, Mark does address issues in the text if they would be applicable to a pastor preaching to a congregation, or to anyone reading through the Gospel of Mark.  For example, in the treatment of Mark 16:9-18, Dr. Sproul, who holds to a long ending of Mark, magnificently addresses this textual issue without getting into a long discussion on its usage and reliability while keeping the reader transfixed on the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture.  He concludes his three paragraph treatment of this potential issue by writing “In any case, the doctrines that are found in this passage are consistent with what is taught throughout the New Testament. Thus, we can read and study it with confidence and profit.” Dr. Sproul is highly skilled at taking scholarly issues and making them accessible to anyone.  This is what Mark is so easily readable.

Since the audience that Mark is intended for is laymen as well as the Pastor; it can be used for devotional reading and as a aid to pastors looking for practical application on the text.  This dual approach makes Mark one of only a handful of expositional commentaries, which are unabashedly reformed in theology yet have extremely insightful application without getting bogged down in technical discussions of exegesis about the Greek text.

If one was looking for a weakness of this commentary is in its breadth, if you are a Bible student looking for a resource to write a treatment of the text they will want to use another resource.  Also if you are a pastor looking for a resource to preach from the Gospel of Mark this treatment of said Gospel will need to be paired with a commentary which deals with a few more of the technical details of the text.  But if you are a Sunday school teacher, small group leader, etc., or intended to use this commentary for personal devotions, Mark is the prefect resource for your needs.

With all of that said Mark by R.C. Sproul is a wonderful commentary on the Gospel of Mark if one wants to use this commentary as it was meant to be used, which is a wonderful expositional treatment of the text intended to give the reader understanding and insight into Gospel while teaching them how to live a life for Christ that they have been called to.

This book was provided to me free of charge from Reformation Trust Publishing in exchange for an unbiased, honest review.

Mark: A St. Andrews Expositional Commentary
© 2011 by R.C. Sproul
Publisher: Reformation Trust
Page Count: 424 Pages
ISBN-13: 9781567692655

Bible Study: Mark 14:66-15:47

Read Mark 14:66-15:47

1.                  Did you discover something new this time you read the chapter?
2.                  Look at Mark 14:66-72.  What does it mean to disown  someone or something?  Have you ever done this?  Why?  Now Peter is brave enough to follow Jesus to the high priest’s house.  Why do you think he now denies Christ?  Do you think he realized what he was doing?  Why?  How were the three accusations and denials similar?  How were they different?  How do you think Peter felt, especially in the light of Mark 14:31?  Do you think this situation would have been different if Peter had headed Jesus’ command in the garden (Mark 14:38) to watch and pray?  How?  How do you feel toward Peter right now?  When do you find it difficult to admit you are a Christ follower?  What helps you the most to publicly identify with Jesus?  When, if ever have you felt that your failures had made it impossible for Christ ever to use you again?  How does Peter’s account help you?
3.                  Look at Mark 15:1-20.  If you could release any prisoner from jail, at any point in history, whom would you release and why?  What is the charge against Jesus?  Is this a charge that the Romans would take seriously?  How does Pilate discover the truth?  Does he succeed?  Do you think that Pilate is most concerned with justice or with order in this passage?  Why?  Why do you think Jesus again remains silent?  What does this tell you about Jesus?
4.                  Look at Mark 15:21-47.  Have you ever sat with someone who is dying? What was it like?  What do you know about crucifixion?  What king of experience was it for the person?  How is the official charge different from the change of the high priests in Mark 14:53-65?  Why is there this difference?  What do you think was the real reason Jesus’ opponents wanted him crucified?  Is this reason different than the charges against him?  What do you think was the worst aspect of the crucifixion?  Why this aspect?  What causes his separation from the father?  What does this say about your part in the crucifixion?  What does the torn curtain of the temple symbolize in this passage?  Why do you think that only women are mentioned in verses 40-41?  What do these verses say about Jesus’ relationships with women?  What you the say about Jesus’ women followers?  About his other followers?
5.                  Do you have any questions about this chapter?
6.                  How did this chapter in Mark explain the gospel to you?
7.                  What was the most important new concept you learned in the Gospel of Mark?  Why?  How has it changed your relationship with Jesus and how you live for Him?

Has the gospel of Mark challenged you in any way?  In what way?  What was it challenging?


*Much of the work in is not my own but used in collaboration with a few commentaries and Group Study Bible.

Bible Study: Mark 14:27-65

Read Mark 14:27-65

1.                  Did you discover something new this time you read the chapter?
2.                  Look at Mark 14:27-31.  How does Peter see himself in relation to the other disciples?  How do you think this makes the other disciples feel?  Di you think what Jesus’ reply to Peter was appropriate?  In what way?  How are you like Peter in this passage?  What might Jesus say to you about this?  How have you denied Christ?  What do you need to do to be bolder for Christ?
3.                  Look at Mark 14:32-42.  What was the most difficult situation you faced this week?  Who provided you with this most support as you faced this situation?  How?  Why don’t the disciples share Jesus’ sense of urgency?  How does this relate to their statements in this previous passage?  What did Jesus desire most of all?  Yet how did he pray?  Why?  How is Jesus’ emotional tone in verses 33-34?  How would you explain this difference?  What was the most important thing you learned about Jesus from the garden of Gethsemane account?  If, or when, have you faced a “Gethsemane” type situation?  What should determine for whom and what you pray?  How will this account change the way you pray this week?
4.                  Look at Mark 14:43-52.  Who is your best friend?  Why are they your best friend?  How did they become your best friend?  What do you think Judas thought would happen when they arrested Jesus?  Why?  What does this tell you about Judas’ understanding of Jesus’ mission?  Compare this passage with that of Isaiah 53:7-12.  How is this account in Mark the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah?  Why is it so important to Jesus that the mob not see him as a rebel leader?  How might this help to explain the actions of the disciples in verses 47 and 50?  How do you think Jesus and the disciples were able to pick up the pieces of their relationship after this debacle?  What relationships, if any, do you need to repair this week?  How will you being to do this?
5.                  Look at Mark 14:53-65.  When you were younger, who was the one person you were afraid to talk to?    Why did this person frighten you?  Who’s your favorite lawyer or law enforcement officer on TV?  Why?  What sort of evidence do the chief priests initially seek against Jesus?  Why do you think that Jesus, for the most part, remains silent?  On what evidence is the final decision against Jesus based? Why would the chief priests feel that Jesus has committed blasphemy?  How serious would a charge of blasphemy be taken by the roman authorities?  Does this present a problem for Jesus’ opponents?  What does the fact that Peter has followed Jesus tell you about Peter’s character?  What do you notice about Jesus’ conduct during this hearing?  Is this what you would expect of someone in this situation?  What type of situations are best handled silently?  When is it best to speak?  How can you know when to keep silent?  What is one thing that you have learned from this account that you can apply today?

*Much of the work in is not my own but used in collaboration with a few commentaries and Group Study Bible.

Bible Study: Mark 14:1-26

Read Mark 14:1-26

1.                  Is there anything about the chapter you did not understand?
2.                  What is the point of this chapter?
3.                  What does it reveal about whom God is/His attributes?
4.                  Is there a command which I am to obey?  If so, what?
5.                  Is there an example to follow?  If so, what?
6.                  Is there a promise of God to His people?  If so, what?
7.                  Are there specific sins to be avoided?  If so, which?
8.                  How can this passage be applied to my life?
9.                  What are the different narratives (eg. stories), in this chapter?
10.              Look at Mark 14:1-11.  If you had a lot of extra cash to spend on anything, what would you buy?  What is one special gift your remember receiving for a birthday or Christmas?  Why was it special?  What is significant about the time of year in Mark 14?  How might this cause the fear expressed by Jesus’ opponents? Does this passage teach that it is wrong to give to the poor?  Why or why not? Why would it have been wrong in this instance? Do you think these events had any effect on Judas’ decision in Mark 14:10-11?  If so what? 

11.              Look at Mark 14:12-26.  What is one of your favorite places to eat?  What makes this place so special?  What are some happy childhood memories of eating with your family?  How do you think the disciples felt about Jesus’ words in verse 18?  What would this do to the mood of the Passover meal?  Why?  What do you know about the origins of the Passover meal.  Look at Exodus 12 to see the origins.   What new meaning did Jesus give to the Passover bread?  What about he wine?  What vow did He make?  How much do you think the disciples understood when Jesus spoke about his body and his blood?  How do you think the disciples felt as they sang a hymn and moved toward the house of Olives?

*Much of the work in is not my own but used in collaboration with a few commentaries and Group Study Bible.

Bible Study: Mark 12:35-13:27

Read Mark 12:35-13:27

1.                  Did you discover something new this time you read the chapter?
2.                  Look at Mark 12:35-44.  When you were a kids, whom did your parent’s tell you to “watch out for”?   What was the issue behind Jesus’ question in verses 35-37?  How does this question relate to each major question asked by Jesus in Mark 11:27-12:34?  How did the teachers of the law view themselves?  How did their views contrast  with Jesus’ view of leadership (Mark 9:35)?  Listening to Jesus’ words, how would you have felt if you had been a teacher of the Law?  A member of the crowd? 
3.                  Look at Mark 13:1-31.  If you knew that world would end in six months, how would you change your lifestyle?  If you had to leave this earth tomorrow, what would you miss the most?  Why would you think that Jesus used the discussion about the temple to begin his discourse about the end to the age?  What made the temple so significant for the disciples?  What would its destruction symbolize to them?  In this passage, do you think Jesus was talking in the present tense, the future tense, or both?  What significance does this have for the church?  List all the “signs” in this passage?  Which signs apply to the time of the disciples?  Which signs apply to the second coming of Christ? How are these time periods similar?  How are the different?  What is most exciting about Jesus’s second coming?  What makes you the most nervous?  Why?  Does this passage make you want to do anything?  What?
4.                  Look at Mark 13:32-37. How do you protect your stuff when you are away?  If you had unlimited resources, how would you protect your stuff?  Why do you think the Father has kept the day and the hour secret? Why is it so important that only God knows?  Why is the second coming of Jesus so important?  How can you live like Jesus is coming back at any moment?  Does this change how you live?  Why?  How can you live with this in mind?
5.                  Do you have any questions about this chapter?

6.                  How did this chapter in Mark explain the gospel to you?

*Much of the work in is not my own but used in collaboration with a few commentaries and Group Study Bible.

Bible Study Mark 12:12-34

Read Mark 12:12-34

1.                  Did you discover something new this time you read the chapter?
2.                  Look at Mark 12:12-17.  In ten words or less, how do you feel about taxes?  Why must we obey the government if it does not go against God’s Word?  Why was the trap being set particularly dangerous?  What outcome were Jesus’ opponents expecting?  Who were the Herodians?  Why do they and the Pharisees make strange partners?  What did Jesus answer probably do to their partnership?  What belongs to God and what belongs to “Caesar” in your life?  How are your thoughts and actions affected by what belongs to whom?  In light of this scripture passage, what you think ought to be done?
3.                  Look at Mark 12:18-27.  What do you think heaven will be like?  How do the Sadducees demonstrate that they do not know the scripture or the power of God?  What characterizes resurrection life?  How does Exodus 3:6 (quoted in verse 26) demonstrate the fact of the Resurrection? Why do you think about heaven and the Resurrection?  What do your answers indicate about your life?  What would you like to ask Jesus about heaven?  What personal hope does your relationship with Christ hold for you?  Is this hope primarily oriented to the future or to the present?  Why?
4.                  Look at Mark 12:28-34.  Why are these the two greatest commandments?  How do each of the ten commandments relate to these two commandments?  In what three directions are we to extend our love?  How was this teachers attitude different from that of man others whose questions to Jesus are recorded in the Book of Mark?  What dose Jesus’ response to this man teach you about Jesus?  In the three types of love relationships—vertical (with God), horizontal (with neighbors), and internal (with self)—where are you the strongest?  Who is your neighbor (see Luke 10:25-37)?  How can you specially love the Lord and your neighbor better this week?

5.                  Do you have any questions about this chapter?
*Much of the work in is not my own but used in collaboration with a few commentaries and Group Study Bible.

Bible Study: Mark 12:1-12

Read Mark 12:1-12
1st time reading Mark 12 and 13
1.                  Is there anything about the chapter you did not understand?
2.                  What is the point of this chapter?
3.                  What does it reveal about whom God is/His attributes?
4.                  Is there a command which I am to obey?  If so, what?
5.                  Is there an example to follow?  If so, what?
6.                  Is there a promise of God to His people?  If so, what?
7.                  Are there specific sins to be avoided?  If so, which?
8.                  How can this passage be applied to my life?
9.                  Look at Mark 12:1-12.  Now we live in farm country and should know a few families who farm.  If you worked on a farm what do you think you would enjoy the most?  If you had then entrust your farm (or the most important thing you owned) to someone, whom would you choose?  Why?  Why does the vineyard represent?  Who is the owner?  The son?  Who are the tenants?  The servants?  What was Jesus prophesying by telling this story?  How does the Scripture Jesus quotes relate to the parable?  Who were these builders?  Who is the capstone?  What impact did this parable have on its hearers?  How did it answer the question about Jesus’ authority (Mark 11:28)?  When have you felt greatly rejected?  Greatly accepted?  Generally, how do you feel rejected or accepted?  Why?  How do you make Jesus feel welcome in your life each day?  What actions of yours might him feel unwelcome?  Does Jesus seem more like a millstone (weight) or a capstone (one who holds everything together) in your life?  Why?

*Much of the work in is not my own but used in collaboration with a few commentaries and Group Study Bible.

Bible Study: Mark 11:1-11

Read Mark 11:1-11

1.                  Did you discover something new this time you read the chapter?
2.                  Look at Mark 11:1-11.  What do you like best about parades?  If you had been at that parade on Palm Sunday, what would you have been waved or thrown down or given to Jesus as he passed by?  In Jesus’ day, Bethphage was considered the city limit of Jerusalem.  What point was Jesus trying to make by waiting to begin riding the donkey there?  What was the signficangnce of this entry into Jerusalem?  How did it differ from what people probably expected of the Messiah?  What do you find most signifgant about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem?  If you were the point man for the Messiah, what kind of entry would you have planned?  Why?  How would it be different than how Jesus entered?  Why would it be different?
3.                  Look at Mark 11:12-19.  When was the last time you felt like telling someone off?  Why?  In Palestine, there is a preseason fig that comes with the new leaves.  Knowing this, what do you think Jesus was trying to teach his disciples in this passage?  How were the merchants preventing the temple from being a house of prayer?  Why would the presits be afraid of Jesus rapport with the crowds?  What does it mean to have the signs of fruit but not have real fruit?  What do you do about a situation like this in your own life?  What in your life now might prevent you from being a “house of prayer”?  What can you do this week to clear this out of your life?
4.                  Look at Mark 11:20-26.  What is to be the focus of our faith?  What conditions for effective prayer are listed here?  What concept in this story is the most difficult for you to understand?  The most difficult to apply?  How would you describe your own prayer life?  What are your major prayer requests now?  Whom, if anyone, do you need to forgive?  What steps do you need to take to forgive that person?
5.                  Look at Mark 11:27-33.  Who was the greatest authority figure in your life when you were in elementary school?  Why were the leaders concerned about authority?  In their eyes who have legitimate authority?  Where did they think Jesus got his authority?  Why was Jesus a threat to them?  What would have happened if they  had admitted that John’s authority (and therefore Jesus) was of God?  What might Jesus have said to them then?  Who or what is the ultimate authority in your life?  What is one way this authority rules over you?  When you know who or what your authority is, how does it affect your life?  How would God grade your response to authority?  Why?
6.                  Do you have any questions about this chapter?

7.                  How did this chapter in Mark explain the gospel to you?

*Much of the work in is not my own but used in collaboration with a few commentaries and Group Study Bible.

Bible Study: Mark 10:13-52

Read Mark 10:13-52
  1. Did you discover something new this time you read the chapter?
  2. Look at Mark 10:13-16.  What childlike characteristics do you think Jesus was commending here?  What does childlikeness have to do with receiving the kingdom of God?  In what area of your life would you like to be more childlike?  How would this help your relationship with Jesus?  What will you do this week to achieve this?
  3. Look at Mark 10:17-31. What is one of your most valuable possessions?  Why do you value it?  If you inherited a million dollars, what would you do first?  Second?  What is one material thing that brings you the greatest happiness?  How does it do this?  What was the rich young man like?  What did he ask and why?  What lack in his life did this question betray?  What was his assumption about how one gains eternal life?  How did his view differ from Jesus (eg. Mark 10:15)?  What are the two parts of Jesus’ response?  What seemed to be the young man’s assumption about the nature of goodness?  How did Jesus challenge this?  What is the Old Testament answer to the young man’s question?  What did the young man’s response say about where his faith and confidence were really placed?  How does this passage reflect the idea that you have to be rich to be happy?  What demands has Jesus made in your life?  If Jesus said about you, “one thing you lack,” to what would he most likely point?  What gets in the way of your entering the kingdom of God?  How does verse 27 help you?  What is Jesus saying to you in this passage about your use of money?
  4. Look at Mark 10:32-34.  If you knew that you had only a few days to live, how would you spend your time?  Why would going to Jerusalem make the disciples both afraid and astonished?  Why would they be afraid of Jesus’ death?  What does this say about their understanding of Jesus’ mission?  If you had been one of the disciples, what would you have been most difficult for you to accept?  Why?
  5. Look at Mark 10:35-45.  What causes the most conflict in your family?  How do your parents try to solve them?  How do you?  What did you most often ask your dad or mom give you?  What did James and John want?  How appropriate was their request?  What did Jesus answer?  Why were the other disciples indignant?  How did their attitude compare with James and John’s?  How would you have felt if you have been of the ten?  How does Jesus’ view of leadership compare with the world’s view?  How did Jesus model his style of leadership?  What can you learn about leadership from this passage?  When do you find yourself desiring the first chair in God’s orchestra?  How does Jesus model of suffering servant influence your life?  What is one way could be a servant this week? 
  6. Look at Mark 10:46-52.  What new title did Bartimaeus use for Jesus?  How did Jesus respond to this title?  What is the significance of this title?  What character traits Bartimaeus display in this story?  How do these traits work in his healing?  Why do you think Jesus does not tell Bartimaeus to keep silent about his hearing?  What has been the greatest act of God in your life?  Why?  How has it affected your life?
  7. Do you have any questions about this chapter?
*Much of the work in is not my own but used in collaboration with a few commentaries and Group Study Bible.

Bible Study: Mark 10:1-12

Read Mark 10:1-12
  1. Is there anything about the chapter you did not understand?
  2. What is the point of this chapter?
  3. What does it reveal about whom God is/His attributes?
  4. Is there a command which I am to obey?  If so, what?
  5. Is there an example to follow?  If so, what?
  6. Is there a promise of God to His people?  If so, what?
  7. Are there specific sins to be avoided?  If so, which?
  8. How can this passage be applied to my life?
  9. What are the different narratives (eg. stories), in this chapter?
  10. Look at Mark 10:1-12.  I know you guys are not ready to be married, yet this passage here deals with something that affects us.  Over half of the people you will ever meet have had their lives utterly changed by divorce.  Since it this is so prevalent in our American culture it is important for us to see what Jesus teaches about marriage and divorce.  With that in mind, again even though you are not married, what do you think the secret to a happy and lifelong marriage is?  (Maybe look at your parents’ marriage or that of your aunts and uncles, or even grandparents).  Why do you think the Pharisees asked the question about divorce?  What was the Pharisees view of divorce?  What is God’s intention for marriage?  What is the result of divorce?  What new element did Jesus bring to the question of divorce?  What is the difference between love in contemporary culture and love Jesus style?  Why is divorce so detrimental?  How can divorce be overcome?  Does marriage need to be dependent upon God?  

*Much of the work in is not my own but used in collaboration with a few commentaries and Group Study Bible.