Gospel of Mark – Theological Use of Location

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In Mark and in the other synoptic Gospels, a large portion of Jesus’ ministry is spent in Galilee. The Galilean section of Mark spans 1:14-8:27 ending at the hinge of the Gospel with Peter’s confession and the journey toward the end (Jerusalem and the events that will unfold there). This is significantly different from John’s Gospel which places Jesus in Jerusalem over and over again to fulfill various Feast days with significant theological overtones. This difference in location between the synoptics and John has underlying theological reasons. The synoptics, Mark in particular, are probably trying to show a fulfillment of Isaiah 8:23 (or 9:1 depending on your translation). “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-” which is written just prior to the famous passage,

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.”
Isaiah 9:6-7

Many believe first century Jews thought this passage taught the “end times” would start in the north (Galilee) [See McKnight Dictionary of the Gospels, 253] and so Mark is pointing out this connection.

Luke also has a Galilean ministry but he fine tunes it even more and bridges Luke with Acts with the key being in Acts 1:8 –But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We have the order: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Blomberg (Jesus and the Gospels, 143) believes this mirrors the locations in Acts and is the inverse of the locations in Luke:

Gospel of Luke:
A – The birth of Jesus in the context of the Roman world
B – Jesus’ ministry in Galilee
C – Jesus’ ministry in Samaria and Judea
D – Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem
Resurrection & Ascension links Luke/Acts
Acts of the Apostles:
D’ – Operation of the apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem
C’ – Operation of the apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit in Judea and Samaria
B’ – Operation of the apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Gentile world
A’ – Operation of the apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit all the way to Rome

It is not an exact match but it warrants consideration.

Mark shows us many parallels with the Exodus experience by his use of location. One of the reasons Mark does that is because he is highlighting the theme of liberation. Similar to how God was present with his people in the Exodus we find Jesus in the wilderness, on the sea, and on the mountain top as he is initiating people into a new promised land (the kingdom of God – notice his first preaching in Mark 1:15). These three types of location are mentioned repeatedly in Mark to more fully define who Jesus is based on their understanding of their previous nation-building experience in the Exodus. Jesus walks on the water, he goes up the mountain to be transfigured, and he seeks out wilderness places for time with God and his disciples. More of these will be pointed out as we work through the Gospel of Mark here at K.L.

For some great information on Mark’s use of location see Mark as Story by Rhodes, Dewey, and Michie (Thanks to Frank for reminding me of that book!).

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