The Gospel According to Mark

Mark 2 Key Terms

Kingdom of God - Wine - Fasting - Sabbath |=> Mark 2

As reflected by the (synoptic) Gospel writers, the kingdom of God is in many ways the heart of Christ's message and mission. Matthew, whose audience was comprised mainly of Jews, used the phrase "kingdom of heaven." Mark and Luke, who wrote mainly to Gentiles (non-Jews), spoke of the "kingdom of God." The two phrases are synonymous. [ref]

The "kingdom of God" can be defined as "the sovereignty of God under which people place themselves by accepting the message of Jesus in faith and undergoing a spiritual rebirth." [ref] The kingdom of God began with Jesus and will be finally and fully established over all the earth when Christ returns. In the meantime, as the subjects of God's kingdom, Christians are charged with living as soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3) and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) for Christ.

The kingdom of God has already begun but has not yet been fully established. Keeping this fact in mind will help us avoid one of two unhealthy extremes: "A one-sided emphasis on the 'already now,' which emphasizes miracles, healing, victory over sin, and gifts God has given his church, and ignores the 'not yet' may lead to an optimistic triumphalism that will result in disillusionment. . . . On the other hand, a one-sided emphasis on the not yet may lead to defeatism and despair in the life and a neglect of the joy and victory over sin and death in the Spirit's having already come." [ref]

"All wine mentioned in the Bible is fermented grape juice with an alcohol content. No non-fermented drink was called wine." [ref] Wine was often used to purify drinking water, the ratio of water to wine being as high as 20 to 1 but averaging 3 to 1. [ref] It was stored in animal skins sewn shut and in clay jars. 

Wine was associated with feasting and celebration, and in fact the Hebrew words for "banquet" and "drinking" are related. [ref] Wine and winemaking were used to picture both God's blessings and God's wrath. At wedding celebrations, which typically lasted a week, the wine flowed freely.

"Fasting in the Bible generally means going without all food and drink for a period, and not merely refraining from certain foods." [ref] Although only one national day of fasting was commanded for Israel (the Day of Atonement), four others were added following Israel's return from Babylonian exile. [ref] 

Far from joy-filled celebration, fasting is usually a time of sorrow and/or remorse which "involves prayer, grief, penance, seeking guidance and piety." [ref] It "is practiced during the course of repentance of sins as a symbol of humility and as a means of seeking the mercy of the Lord." [ref]

The word "sabbath" comes from the Hebrew word for "rest." [ref] The book of Genesis recounts how, following his work of creation, God rested on the seventh day. Thus the sabbath was given extreme significance as a part of the created order of things. Later God himself commanded Israel to set aside the seventh day for purposes of rest and worship. Death was the penalty for violating the sabbath. As Jesus later pointed out, the sabbath was created for humankind and not vice versa. This is highlighted in the OT by the fact that even servants were commanded to rest on the sabbath. [ref] 

Main themes associated with the sabbath include: 

  1. resting or the ceasing of work
  2. remembering or commemorating
  3. holiness
  4. obedience to the law
  5. worship
  6. avoiding profaning the sabbath [ref] (paraphrased)