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Bible Commentaries

Derickson's Notes on Selected BooksDerickson on Selected Books

- Mark

by Stanley L. Derickson

The Gospel of Mark

Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D.

Copyright 2008

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God’s work and I don’t want anyone to profit from it in a material way.

This will be a lengthy introduction due to the need of some background material that will set the stage for our study in the book of Mark.


Genesis 19:1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they [into] the wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come [to] the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. 3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and [how] I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. 5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth [is] mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These [are] the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

We all understand that the Lord leads all believers via the Holy Spirit, but just how the Holy Spirit leads different people has always been of interest to me.

Example: When we returned to Salem, OR we had a couple we knew from our previous life here over for an evening. In the process of talking with Jim I mentioned that I had written my theology. His near immediate response was well we have to get Stan Derickson on the Web!

We need to get your theology out there in cyberspace so people can use it. In my mind I was saying, "Ya, right!" I put the thought out of my mind.

A few weeks later my son began bugging me about getting email. I didn’t have any idea what email was. Finally I started messing around with the Internet. At first I joined a couple of bulletin boards in Salem. The first message I posted was that I had a systematic theology on floppy disk if anyone was interested. The very next day I was contacted by a man in south Salemwanting the theology. I mailed him a copy and forgot about the incident. About a week later the man called and was thrilled with what he was reading and wanted to know if he could share it with friends.

I told the man it was fine and I began to realize the possibilities of the Internet. I began seeking information about how I could get on the net with the theology and in a few years the Lord has brought visitors from over 100 different countries to the website. Many people have downloaded the information and have passed it on to other believers.

The work has also been included in two commercial CDROM collections of Christian books and several Internet sites are using the work as part of their Bible institute curriculum.

Now finally I will get to my point. How did God use the Holy Spirit to move me to get involved with this ministry, by the simple statement of a friend about me being on the web. A simple comment in passing turned into a much larger reality for God.

I don’t equate my ministry on the web with the gospel of Mark, but I have wondered just what prompted Mark to sit down with the limited writing tools he had at his disposal to record his thoughts of the Lord. What in Mark’s life did the Holy Spirit use to bring him to write the gospel?

Think I will ask him one day :-)

This introduction is designed to prepare us for a study of the book of Mark.

Let me give you a quick overview of things up to the time of Mark.

Adam and Eve were created and told to multiply and care for the garden. We all know the story - they took care of things didn’t they?

Abraham was chosen to create a people for God. God told him to accept Him and that He would be his God - result was the nation of Israel.

Israel ended up in Egypt in bondage, and Moses was called to bring them out into the land that God was going to give them.

After conquering the land the children of Israel became rather self-satisfied and wanted to be just like everyone else in the world - everyone around them had a king so they wanted a king. Saul was installed as the first king, followed by David, Solomon and a line of good/bad kings that brought Israel into idolatry in a big way. The book of Ezekiel tells us that in his time the idols were in the temple of God in Jerusalem.

God’s disgust led to the defeat and exile of much of Israel and the time of the prophets. The prophets were constantly calling Israel to repent, to return to God, to leave their sin. They also spoke often of the coming King and His glorious kingdom with its new temple. Even after manyof the people returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple there was a looking forward to this King and His temple described in Ezekiel.

They entered into the period between the Testaments and still no king. All through the time between the testaments they still awaited their King, their promised kingdom and all that was to come with it.

During this time many things were going on politically. Finally civil war broke out in the area of Israel and Rome entered to make the peace. Pompey set up some puppets to rule the area and as the New Testament opens we have King Herod over the Jews.

The Jews are under Roman rule, with no future in sight. They still have no king, they have not seen the promised restoration, and they haven’t seen the glorious kingdom of the prophets, OH WOE IS ME - WHAT ARE WE TO DO?

The situation in the corner coffee shop finds the Jews wanting their freedom from Roman rule they want to rule themselves, they want their king, they want His temple, and they want the peace all the prophets had spoken of. (Ezekiel 39:25-29; Isaiah 52:1-15; Zechariah 8:1-23; Ezekiel 40:1-49; Ezekiel 41:1-26; Ezekiel 42:1-20; Zechariah 14:1-21; Isaiah 2:1-22 and many others).


ENTER stage right Jesus of Nazareth. Mark 1:14-15 "14 Now after that John was put in prison Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."

What is the gospel? Good news. What kingdom is spoken of here? Some would have us believe that it is some spiritual kingdom within us, others suggest that it is simply God’s rule over all mankind from far off heaven. In the context of the Bible it can only mean the literal kingdom of the King Jesus Christ on earth - that which the prophets spoke of.

What is the kingdom of God in light of the Jewish background, in light of the Jewish situation and in light of the Jewish belief? THE KINGDOM OF THE OLD TESTAMENT PROMISED!

Christ came offering the kingdom of the Old Testament to the Jews - only problem is that they rejected Him as King and as a result rejected His kingdom.

Let us backtrack for a moment or two. Why was man created? Some would suggest that we were created for fellowship with God - God was lonely and in need of company. Humm - God needing anything is kind of foreign to His character and needing man is even more foreign to His character.

Isaiah 43:7 mentions "I have created him for my glory; I have formed him; yea I have made him." Adam and Eve were created to glorify God, not themselves!Thus one might wonder, what was God’s main overall program concerning man? Was man created so that God could provide salvation for him? No, man was created to be a subject in God’s kingdom. Adam needed no salvation at creation, only after the fall was salvation involved.

Psalms 29:3-10 : " The voice of the LORD [is] upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD [is] upon many waters. 4 The voice of the LORD [is] powerful; the voice of the LORD [is] full of majesty. 5 The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn. 7 The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire. 8 The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of [his] glory. 10 The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King for ever."

Psalms 10:16 : "The LORD [is] King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land." He is King!

1 Chronicles 29:11-12 : " Thine, O LORD, [is] the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all [that is] in the heaven and in the earth [is thine]; thine [is] the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honour [come] of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand [is] power and might; and in thine hand [it is] to make great, and to give strength unto all."

God is King over His kingdom whether we like it or not - He is King over all that is! Satan in his pride, ignorance and audacity decided to oppose God’s kingdom (Isaiah 14:12-14) but even he had no chance of usurping the mighty King.

God has always ruled over man in one way or another. He was over Adam, over Noah, over Abraham, over Moses, over Joshua as He is over us now, as He will be over us in eternity future. He is King over His Kingdom. Salvation is a side product of man’s sin, not God’s overall program.

Mark wrote around 62-68 AD according to many but others feel that it is one of the earliest books written - the first gospel. He was writing to the Roman audience and depicts Christ as the obedient servant. Since he depicts a servant there is no need to spend time on the linage - no servant at the time was into his/her roots most likely. He must have had the clear leading of the Spirit else why would he have set down to write. At any rate he was writing to encourage Roman Christians to know their Lord and how He served all He met while on earth. The political situation was not good either in this period

The word Mark uses often is "straightway" The term is used nineteen times in Mark - more than the other three gospels combined.

The verse that sums up his line of thought in the book is 10.45 "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."He arranged his material chronologically for his reader and is most practical in his outlook and teaching. Some of the harmonies (books that place the gospels side by side in chronological order) use Mark as their outline.

He writes amid the events following the burning of Rome which was blamed on the Christians (according to many historians)

Mark would have been ministering in the last of Nero’s reign and the beginning of Vespasian’s. The destruction of Jerusalem was in 70 A.D. so you can see that it was a time of turmoil to say the least.

John Mark was the nephew of Barnabas Colossians 4:10; Son of Mary Acts 12:12; and spiritual son to Peter 1 Peter 5:13.

Gill mentions the following in his introduction to the gospel: "This is the title of the book, the subject of which is the Gospel; a joyful account of the ministry, miracles, actions, and sufferings of Christ: the writer of it was not one of the twelve apostles, but an evangelist; the same with John Mark, or John, whose surname was Mark: John was his Hebrew name, and Mark his Gentile name, #Acts 12:12; Acts 12:25, and was Barnabas’s sister’s son, #Colossians 4:10, his mother’s name was Mary, #Acts 12:12. The Apostle Peter calls him his son, #1 Peter 5:13, if he is the same; and he is thought to have wrote his Gospel from him {a}, and by his order, and which was afterwards examined and approved by him {b} it is said to have been wrote originally in Latin, or in the Roman tongue: so say the Arabic and Persic versions at the beginning of it, and the Syriac version says the same at the end: but of this there is no evidence, any more, nor so much, as of Matthew’s writing his Gospel in Hebrew. The old Latin copy of this, is a version from the Greek; it is most likely that it was originally written in Greek, as the rest of the New Testament.

{a} Papias apud Euseb. Hist. l. 3. c. 39. Tertull. adv. Marcion. l. 4. c. 5. {b} Hieron. Catalog. Script. Eccles. p. 91. sect. 18. "

There seems to have been a shift in thinking on the date of the book since I was in college. The normal thought years ago was that Mark was one of the earlier books if not the first book written. The thinking was that since it is of a simple style and in chronological order that it was meant as a report of what Mark had seen and heard of the Lord.

Let’s look at the text.

KJV: Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; [ASV, NKJV are the same. Darby: Mark 1:1 Beginning of the glad tidings of Jesus Christ, Son of God; Youngs:

Mark 1:1 A beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God. NIV: The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of god.]

“The beginning" "The" doesn’t really belong - this phrase may have been a title to introduce the section on the Baptist or to the entire book itself. (From the NetBible: "The most likely option is that the statement as a whole is an allusion to Genesis 1:1 and that Mark is saying that with the "good news" of the coming of Christ, God is commencing a ’new beginning.’")This is of interest to me in that John also goes back to a beginning in his opening statement, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

Luke gets in his lick for beginning as well. "1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed."

Matthew, if you will remember, also goes back to the beginning in the "generation" or geneology of Christ.

Why the tie to the beginning by the gospel writer? They realized the close relationship between the Old Testament and what they had been living through. They knew that the good news was based in the Old Testament.

The beginning is a term which is normally translated beginning, but can denote the leader or magistrate of an area. It can also relate to the corner of a sail - that which is first might do well. The root of the word means something of value. This may be a double meaning in Marks mind - it is the beginning, of something of great value - knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Gospel means good tidings. The Net Bible mentions, "By the time Mark wrote, the word gospel had become a technical term referring to the preaching about Jesus Christ and God’s saving power accomplished through him for all who believe (cf. Romans 1:16)."

Jesus means "Jehovah is salvation" and is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Joshua.

Christ is the Greek term Christos and means anointed.

God = theos [Some manuscripts do not include "Son of God"]

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God

In short Mark has laid out the most important truth he knew - information about the Savior of his miserable soul, Jesus Christ.

It is good news, it is news about the man Jesus, the anointed of the Lord.


It is usually accepted that Mark is the author and few dispute this. His name means little hammer or hammer depending on where the name came from. (Pulpit Commentary states "supposed to be derived from the Latin "marcus," a hammer; not "marcellus," a little hammer")He is listed in Colossians 4:10 as "Marcus, sisters’ son to Barnabas," (Barnabas’s nephew). Some feel that he was one of the 70, but others think not. Peter calls him his son (1 Peter 5:13) thus most likely, according to some, Peter had been the one to lead him to the Lord. However, there is indication that he was a follower of the Lord before the crucifixion.

In Mark 14:49 ff we see as Jesus is being arrested, "I was daily with you in the temple teaching and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled. 50 And they all forsook him, and fled. 51 And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about [his] naked [body]; and the young men laid hold on him: 52 And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked." Some commentators feel the "young man" is not identified by Mark due to the fact that he was writing about himself. Who else would have taken note of such a one in this situation of arrest and everyone fleeing?

Matthew covers the same incident simply by saying "Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled." The other two gospels make no mention of this occurrence thus indicating what has been stated.

Jerome mentions that the people of Rome asked Mark to write the account and then when finished Peter gave his blessing to the work. Whether this is true or not we do not know, but Jerome may have had documentation that we do not have.

The following information will give you some further indication of the author and his background. It is from Bible.org on the Internet. If you would like to study further this is only a portion of the information found there.

(c)1996 David Malick, http://www.bible.org. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author’s consent. Everything between the dashes will be quoted from Mr. Malick.


1. John-Mark is mentioned elsewhere in the biblical material:

a. He was a Jewish Christian whose mother, Mary, owned a home in Jerusalem where the early church met (Acts 12:12)

b. He was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10)

c. He was added to Paul and Barnabas’ party when they visited Jerusalem for the famine relief (Acts 12:25)

d. He went with Barnabas and Saul (Paul) on the first missionary journey, but turned back to Jerusalem when they went inland to Asia at Perga in Pamphylia (Acts 13:5; Acts 13:13)

e. On the second missionary journey Barnabas wanted to take John-Mark along, but Paulrefused because of his earlier defection, so Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus where he probably encouraged him (Acts 15:36-41)

f. Paul was later reconciled with Mark:

1) Mark was with Paul during his imprisonment in Rome and served as his delegate in Asia Minor (Philemon 1:24; Colossians 4:10)

2) Paul instructed Timothy to send Mark to Rome to be with him during his final imprisonment because he was useful to him for service (2 Timothy 4:11)

g. When 1 Peter was written, Mark was with Peter in Rome and regarded as Peter’s spiritual son (1 Peter 5:13)

2. It is unlikely that the early church would have assigned the authorship of a Gospel to a person of secondary, and even "questionable" history as John Mark since he was neither an apostle, nor a person of prominence in the early church.


Malick also presents a long list of Church fathers that held to the authorship of Mark.

RECIPIENTS: Again it is generally accepted that Mark was aiming his work at the Gentile folks and by assumption we might suggest specifically the Gentiles in Rome where the book seems to have been written. I doubt that he had a wider audience in mind other than those he was specifically writing to. This is much like Paul’s epistles which were read in their own time by only a few churches.

Malick suggests this as well. "The church fathers (see above under "Author") affirm that Mark’s Gospel was written in Rome for Gentile, Roman Christians."

Some think that Luke may have gathered some of his information from Mark. This would have required an early writing of Mark.

DATE: 60 A.D. or earlier. Constable states 64-67 based on a comment in an extra-Biblical writing called the Anti-Marcionite Prologue which indicates Mark wrote after Peter and Paul were both dead. Again evidence from the Word would be nice rather than tradition. In the same section he mentions other information that indicates that Mark wrote just prior to Peter’s death.

If other Gospel writers used Mark as a resource it would have had to have been early, but again we have little information on that either.

Constable rejects the priority of Mark and opts for the priority of Matthew which would require his later dates for Mark.

LOCATION OF WRITING: Rome or at least Italy is suggested by tradition. The book seemsaimed toward Gentiles so this would be quite appropriate.

PURPOSE: To present Christ as the perfect servant to the Gentile readers.

Some suggest that Peter may have had a lot to do with the writing or at least had made his mind known that he was in favor of the book being written. It is not evident that this was the case, but may have been. It is further suggested that Mark gleaned the information that he set down from Peter. Again evidence would be good. For Mark to have gained all his information from Peter would assume that Mark had no knowledge of the Lord nor His ministry. Again we do not have evidence for that either.


The book is basic and down to the nitty gritty of Christ’s character, though Christ is seen as telling people not to publicize who He is to others. It is a quick overview of the Lord’s life in three main areas of His public ministry.

The book seems to cover three distinct areas of the Lord’s public life.

The ministry around Galilee (Chapters 1 - 8)

The Journey to Jerusalem (Chapters 8 -10)

The ministry around Jerusalem (Chapters 11-16)

There is a simplicity to the book in construction and grammar according to the commentators. His content leans toward the actions/miracles of the Lord rather than His words.

There is a study that I did years ago relating to the creatures of Ezekiel and Revelation. You might find it of interest. It also relates to the flags displayed by the tribes immediately around the tabernacle in the wilderness. I find the similarities striking between the Old Testament and the New.


Matthew Jews King Lion

Mark Romans Servant Ox

Luke Greeks Perfect man Man

John Hebrew Christians Son of God Eagle

The above listing is what I have read of and heard of for years, however the Pulpit Commentary takes a different order, but does relate the four to the Ezekiel and Revelation passages but misses the connection with the standards of the tribes. (The Pulpit Commentary states: "THE four living creatures mentioned in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:10), and which reappear in a modified form in the Apocalypse of St. John (John 4:7) [author note, this should be Revelation 4:7], are interpretedby very many Christian writers to signify the fourfold Gospel, the four faces representing the four evangelists. The face of a man is supposed to denote St. Matthew, who describes the actions of our Lord more especially as to his human nature. The face of an eagle is understood to indicate St. John, who soars at once into the highest heavens, and commences his Gospel with that magnificent declaration, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then the face of an ox symbolizes St. Luke, who commences his narrative with the priesthood of Zacharias. While, lastly, the face of a lion represents St. Mark, because he opens his Gospel with the trumpet voice, like the roaring of a lion, the loud call of the Baptist to repentance. These four carried the chariot of the gospel throughout the world, and subdued the nations to the obedience of Christ, the mighty Conqueror.")

The idea of Matthew relating to the King or lion is based on the strong emphasis upon the kingdom offered and later the kingdom postponed. Relating the others as seen by the Pulpit Commentary seem a little pressed. It seems to be that different people have different ideas and interpretations, though the Pulpit Commentary’s take on this is the first time I personally have seen this arrangement/interpretation.

Both A.T. Robertson and B.W.Johnson in their harmonies show Matthew and Mark to run basically sequentially and parallel. The switch in Christ’s ministry from Kingdom to non kingdom found in Matthew 13:10 relates to Mark 4:10. Since Mark is writing to the Gentiles, the kingdom/non kingdom shift is not seen. He is picturing Christ as one that you need to deal with on a personal basis. It is a practical down to earth look at the Lord and probably the fact that He is a Savior of all people, from Caesar to servant class.


1. Let us consider further the purpose of Mark writing his book. Assuming it was for Roman Gentiles in Rome, what was the purpose? Was it to Roman Christians? Probably not, for anyone wanting to know what Mark knew could ask him. Indeed they could have set up seminars for him to go into great detail of his knowledge of Christ.

It would seem more probable that Mark wanted to write something that would touch lost Gentiles with the Good News of Christ. It would seem more appropriate to look at the book as a work aimed at presenting Christ in such a way that a lost person could see who He was and what He did for them.

Something to consider as you study the book. The Life Application Bible opens their study of Mark with the following: "When you experience the excitement of a big event, you naturally want to tell someone. Telling the story can bring back that original thrill as you relive the experience. Reading Mark’s first words, you can sense his excitement. Picture yourself in the crowd as Jesus heals and teaches. Imagine yourself as one of the disciples. Respond to his words of love and encouragement. And remember that Jesus came for us who live today as well as for those who lived 2,000 years ago."

2. Luke seems to portray an excitement about his Lord and Savior. He wants others to know ofhis experience with the Lord, both spiritual, and physically while Christ was on earth. Just how excited are you about the Lord that died on the cross for you? Are you excited about telling others about Him? Have you written a book about what you have seen in your life via Christ?

It might be good if some of us were to sit down and write such accounts. The account might not make it to the best seller list, but someone in your family might pick it up and read it and meet your Lord through your words.

Often in families there is little left of the spiritual nature of the parent. This is sad, especially after the parent has died and an offspring meets the Lord - they then wonder if mom and dad knew the Lord. All too often this is the case.

Take time to make some notes and give some personal testimony. Stick it in a file somewhere someone will find it and who knows how great a witness you might be, or how comforting your words will be to one of your children.

We are not a communicative society in America. We often allow our parents go to the grave without knowing them as a person, as an individual or as someone to be honored and respected. We are too busy with life to worry about such details.

Ten years after my parents were gone I started wondering about them and their life. I knew little about them, their friends, and their hopes and dreams that went unfulfilled.

Please take time to begin writing some things down for your kids and grandkids. Nope, they won’t care about it now so don’t bother giving it to them, just put it away where they will find it and enjoy the fact that you have left them a great legacy when it is most meaningful to them.

No, you will not be a Mark and you will not be read worldwide, but you will be appreciated by those that matter to you.

There is a real sense also that many pastors should be writing. I have encouraged more than one to begin writing their studies down, but have not seen any response. Many pastors spend hours and hours working over their messages, yet they do not share them further than their own congregation.

Their research could be of great value to others if they would only set it down in a decent readable form and put it on the Internet.

What a resource if dozens of men would put their research on the web for others to look through for ideas and to save them time in doing their own research.

It is suspected that many do not because they either do not want to "share" with others, or possibly that they might one day get paid for their work.

The thought of being paid for what God reveals to you from the Word always seemed ratherstrange personally. If God gave you the education, if God revealed things from study, and if God is already supporting you through your church, why would one want further pay for God’s work?

But then this thinking is not natural to our society.

I have seen Bible Software companies that started out as freebie companies turn ultimately to the "charge for" side of business. This is their choice, however these companies once spoke of the other side of the coin as their belief and principle of operation. Not sure what changed their position.

All of my material has always been free and always will be in my own mind. Recently a publisher requested a copy of my theology for consideration, but one of their points was that if they were to publish the theology it would have to be removed from the Internet. Not going to happen.

Imagine if the apostles had all as individuals decided that they were going to keep their writing private until they could get it published. Not a realistic thought, but what if?

The Charismatic movement is full of people claiming their writing and their music is directly revealed from God. Not that I believe that claim, but what if it were - how could you take something that was revealed from God and sell it to others. Rather like the Bible publishers that want to get the Good News out to the lost, but only if they can get $39.95 per copy.

Where have our values come from in this day Christian? Why must we commercialize the Good news of the Gospel? Why are we selling Christ to the lost? This may be one reason why they aren’t buying our message!

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