Mark is one of the lesser known figures in the New Testament. Known also as John Mark, it is likely that the early church used his mother’s house (Acts 12:12) as a base.
He was also cousin to Barnabas, one of the first missionaries. He had travelled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:4), but returned to Jerusalem before completing the trip (Acts 13:13), and would later go with Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15:37-39).
It is thought that Mark is the first of the Gospels to be written and that Matthew and Luke are aware of the Gospel and use part of it within their Gospels. Mark’s Gospel owes much to the Apostle Peter’s memories and insights. Mark met Peter in Rome in the early 60s AD, if not before and was with Peter around AD65 (1 Peter 5:13). Indeed Peter calls him ‘my son’ indicating that he had known him for some time.
Mark begins the Gospel with mention of John the Baptist as herald to Jesus. He says nothing of his birth, which is included in Matthew and Luke.
Mark wrote to mostly Gentile Christians living in Rome, and was probably living in Rome when he completed it. Mark explains Jewish customs (7:2–4; 15:42), translates Aramaic words (3:17; 5:41; 7:11,34; 15:22,34) and seems to have a special interest in persecution and martyrdom (8:34–38; 13:9–13). These would be subjects of particular interest to Roman Christians who faced various levels of persecution, which became fierce around AD64 when Nero blamed Christians for the fire in Rome. Indeed Mark may have written the Gospel just before or just after Peter’s execution around 65-67AD.
Mark begins his story with the words: ‘The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ The word for ‘gospel’ that Mark uses more simply means ‘Good News’.
Mark writes so that all the people of the world will discover the good news of Jesus Christ. Mark's Gospel describes in detail who Jesus is and what He did on the earth. He wants us to see that Jesus is the one whom God sent into the world to save it (10:45). Its concern for the Gentiles suggests a concern that Christians in Rome might understand more about Jesus.
The reason Mark wrote when he did is not known for sure, but it seems probable that Peter’s execution was a spur to write a life of Jesus as many became aware that the eye witness apostles would one day died out.
Why Read it?
The Gospel is by far the shortest, and could be read in just two hours.
Each of the Gospels paints a particular portrait of Jesus. In Mark, Jesus is seen especially as the ‘servant’. His whole life was lived in service of His people, and He is the model for true disciples today.
Mark is the Gospel of action showing Jesus’ activity as a preacher and healer. His power is evident. He defeated demons (1:21-28); healed sickness (1:29-45); forgave sin (2:1-12); controlled nature (4:35-41) and overcame death (5:35-43).
Jesus is not just seen as a servant but as a suffering servant. One of the key verses is 10:45 ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’.
Many see Peter’s words in 8:29, ‘You are the Christ!’ as a turning point in the Gospel. Peter is beginning to grasp the identity of Jesus as Israel’s true king, but did not understand how that could be true and He could still suffer and die.
There are times when we too fail to grasp God’s Word, when it says things that seem to be contradictory. It’s worth living with truth for a while, and accepting that one day we may understand, as Peter eventually did.
One third of Mark focuses on the last week of Jesus’ life leading to His crucifixion and resurrection. The Gospel tells us that following Christ may mean following Him into suffering.
|3:13-6:6||Jesus and his team in ministry|
|8:27-10:45||Jesus serving mankind|
|10:46-13:37||Jesus confronts his opponents|
|14:1-15:47||The trial and death of Jesus|
|16:1-8||The Resurrection of Jesus|