Malcolm Hedding's commentary on Mark's Gospel captures the fast moving pace of Jesus's ministry in the Galilee before He ascended to Jerusalem for His final and fateful celebration of the Passover. Jesus is truly about His Father's business as He calls His Disciples, proclaims the good news of the Gospel to the poor, heals the sick and casts out demons and embarks on a preaching circuit designed to reach the region with the message of God's love.
Most important of all is the fact that Hedding demonstrates how Jesus's teaching and deliverance ministry is relevant to every Christian today. This is not just a commentary that gives background information and the meaning of words in the original language; no it is a devotional study of the life of Christ, as we know it, thus enriching the reader and encouraging him or her to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus.
If ever a book is a must read it is this one by Malcolm Hedding. In it he gives an in-depth, concise and clear understanding of Mark's Gospel for meditation on Jesus's ministry, which will inspire the reader.
Eira Goldsworthy is an author, artist and illustrator working freelance for many international publishing houses.
Anyone who knows Malcolm Hedding knows that he loves the Bible and the Gospel message is the foundation of his work as a biblical expositor. Furthermore, Hedding's many years spent in Israel have enriched his grasp of the Evangelist Mark's historical record. For these reasons and many more, Understanding Mark's Gospel is a treasure.
Lela Gilbert is the author of Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner. She is an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute and an international journalist.
Preparation and Beginning of our Lord's Ministry
"Behold, I send my Messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You."
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make His paths straight. (Mark 1:2-3)
Mark's Gospel opens by introducing us to the Herald who is called forth by God to "prepare the way of the Lord." This reminds us that even the Son of God needed a ministry of preparation to go before Him. The people of the Lord had to be made ready. Herein lies a great spiritual lesson: before Jesus can come into our hearts and lives, the Holy Spirit has to accomplish a work of preparation by the faithfulness of those who are willing to share God's good news with us (Romans 10:13-15). It also begs the question, "Having been saved are we willing to be heralds of God's love. "
So here in this passage, we are introduced to a willing herald in the person of John the Baptist. John the Baptist came as the last representative of the old order, with the express purpose of introducing the key personality of the new. And thus as we look at this man, we see the marks of a true herald of the Lord Jesus Christ. We should note the following: a true herald has a particular identification, in that his message has chiefly to do with Jesus Christ the Son of God. In other words, John's work was to proclaim the coming of God in the flesh! Only one who proclaims this message is to be identified as a true man of God (Romans 1:1–7). Moreover, it is important to note that the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn't merely confined to the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord but actually begins with the coming of John. This serves to remind us that everything to do with Jesus is good news.
Also, a true herald has a certain confirmation. The basis of John's ministry was not some "charismatic sign or vision," but rather the boundaries and limitations of the word of God. John's ministry had biblical credentials, thus reminding us that God's work done God's way will always enjoy God's blessing. To do things contrary to God's word is to invite disaster and failure, and many "would-be preachers" have traveled this road. In short, a true herald of Jesus will have a biblical basis for all that he does.
Finally, a true herald of the Gospel will have a place of proclamation. For John, it was in the wilderness-the most unlikely place to begin a ministry and a work for God. The fact that multitudes went out to hear him preach is proof that the work was of God and God alone. John didn't seek the people-the people sought him. The lesson is simple: if a person says he has a ministry, then put him in the "wilderness" to prove it! A God-given ministry that attracts people will have at its heart a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins-in other words, a ministry of wounding and healing (Acts 17:30–31). Preaching that doesn't wound will never heal, and we hear very little "wounding preaching" from pulpits nowadays. John teaches us that we must never be afraid to use the two-edged sword of the word of God (Luke 3:7–9).
John was also a man of dedication. We know this because of four things about him. Firstly, he was clothed with camel's hair and a leather belt, and he ate locust fruit and wild honey from the locust tree (Matthew 3:4). Everything about John pointed away from himself. He was not a self-projecting preacher and wanted to point his congregation to God in Christ. Can we say the same of ourselves? So much of Christianity today is flashy and self-promoting, and yet it lacks the power of God. Secondly, John was sacrificial. The camel hair that a prophet wore was usually worn in such a way that the bristles were turned inward, thus rubbing up against the body continually. In John, therefore, we have a picture of one given to self-denial. Now this does not mean that we have to be as John was. His calling was unique in context and style. But it does mean that we have to learn the principle of being sacrificial. To stand in a place of anointing, we have to give up legitimate things and pursue God with all our hearts. There is no shortcut to this, and so, if we would hold the prophet's staff of power and authority, we must first be willing to wear his raiment of sacrifice and denial.
Thirdly, John was a man of humility. He enjoyed great success and no doubt great public acclaim; after all, all of Judea and beyond went out to hear him preach (Matthew 3:5). Nevertheless, he revealed the great quality of humility that is the guardian and protector of a man of God's ministry. Throw humility to the wind, and it won't be long until we ourselves are thrown to the wind like chaff! John was just a "voice crying in the wilderness." He was merely called to be a mouthpiece through which the Lord Himself could speak to His people. Our calling is no different, but how often do we forget it? In the end, there is no great man of God; only-"behold, the Lamb of God" (John 1:29).
Fourthly, John was a man of dependence. He knew that the great spiritual work that had to be done could only be done by Christ. "I indeed baptize you with water; but . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 3:16). At best, we can only speak-God must confirm the word spoken and build His Church (Mark 16:20, Acts 4:29–30, Acts 14:3, Hebrews 2:4). We dare not do anything without the power of the Holy Spirit upon us (Acts 1:8). John was a faithful and true herald of Jesus in that He prepared the way of the Lord for His coming and knew when to decrease so that Jesus could increase (John 3:30). There are very few heralds like this around today. The servant of God must know when to come but more importantly when to go! God is still looking for heralds of this caliber.
Malcolm Hedding is an ordained Minister of the Assemblies of God of Southern Africa. Through the years he has served as a church planter in South Africa, as an international speaker in many Christian forums, as the Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, as a commentator on Middle Eastern issues and as an author. Malcolm presently serves on the ministry team of World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and he continues to hold positions of authority within the structures of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
As an author Malcolm has published a number of books the most recent of which has being, "Understanding Revelation." Many of his books have been published worldwide and in different languages. This volume is a devotional exposition of Mark's Gospel; meaning that, while it is faithful to the text, it extrapolates lessons from it that can be used in sermons, small groups and bible studies. It is this component that makes this exposition compelling and helpful to the reader.