Today we start reading the Gospel of Mark. It is generally accepted that Mark’s Gospel was the first to be written. It is probable that he is the Mark referred to four times in Acts, called John Mark in Acts 12:12. He starts his Gospel by telling us of John the Baptist and how he fulfilled the prophecies in Isaiah and Malachi of a “messenger … who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (verses 2,3).

Mark’s Gospel is the shortest; he gets straight to the point, “The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel” (verse 15). The king of the kingdom was here, and if they had accepted him, the kingdom would have become a reality; but it was not to be – at least not yet. It is reasonable to think his Gospel was written and circulated before Jerusalem fell 40 years later.

In His foresight of human reactions, God’s plan of salvation would extend to the Gentiles and all nations (Romans 9 to 11), which shows that at the end, the Jews would discover Jesus was their Messiah, and they would “be grafted back into their own olive tree”. Today’s chapter shows that their leaders spoke in a way that was designed to extol their own self-importance, and as a result it was unconvincing. How few teachers of the Gospel get to the heart of the message; many preach little more than the second commandment – “love your neighbour as yourself”.

Jesus performed miracles; these attracted masses of people to listen, and as a result “they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority!’” (verse 27). The chapter ends by telling us there was so much talk about him “that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter”.

But when Jesus began to teach in detail, many lost interest; they had loved the loaves and the fishes and seeing the miracles, but John’s Gospel tells us “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (6:66). But Jesus had said (verse 63) “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life”.

These words have been preserved for us; this is the “new teaching with authority” – and those who read and absorb what they read will not turn back.