Like the other three Gospels, Mark is anonymous. However, from the first century the commonly held view has been that the author is John Mark of Jerusalem, and that his Gospel reflects Peter’s account of Jesus’ ministry.

Four Gospels
Lukes introduction
Birth of John the Baptist foretold
An angel prepares Mary
Mary visits Elizabeth
Birth of John the Baptist
Genealogies of Jesus
Birth of Jesus
Shepherds visit the stable
Temple ceremonies in Jerusalem
Simeon and Anna
Herod and the Magi
Return to Nazareth
Jesus twelve years old
The eternal Word
Preaching of John the Baptist
Baptism of Jesus
Temptation of Jesus
The first disciples
Marriage feast in Cana
Cleansing the temple
Jesus and Nicodemus
John the Baptists work complete
Jesus in Samaria
Changing situations
Son of an official healed
The synagogue at Nazareth
Call of Peter, Andrew, James and John
Man with an evil spirit healed
Many sick people healed
Jesus cleanses a leper
Jesus heals a paralyzed man
Call of Matthew
Why Jesus disciples did not fast
Picking corn on the Sabbath
Man with a withered hand
Jesus chooses the twelve apostles
Citizens of the kingdom
Christs people in the world
A right attitude to the law
Legal obedience is not enough
Giving, praying and fasting
Concern about material things
Judging others
Prayers of request
The two ways
Healing at Bethesda and its outcome
Witnesses to Jesus
Centurions servant; widows son
Messengers from John the Baptist
The judgment and mercy of God
In the house of Simon the Pharisee
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
Jesus and his family
The sower
Wheat and weeds; mustard seed; yeast
Hidden treasure; pearl; fishing net
Jesus calms the storm
Demon power overcome at Gadara
Jairus daughter and a woman healed
Jesus heals the blind and the dumb
Jesus rejected at Nazareth
The twelve sent out
Concern about safety and security
Death of John the Baptist
Feeding the five thousand
Jesus walks on the sea
The bread of life
Words of eternal life
Teaching about cleansing
In Tyre and Sidon
Ministry in the Decapolis
Beware of Pharisees and Sadducees
Peters confession of the Messiah
Test of true discipleship
The transfiguration
Healing of an uncontrollable boy
Payment of the temple tax
Lessons in humility
Lessons in forgiveness
Rejected in Samaria
The cost of being a disciple
The mission of the seventy
Who is my neighbour?
Jesus in the house of Mary and Martha

Mark came from a prominent family in the early Jerusalem church. His parents were wealthy enough to own a large house and employ servants (Acts 12:12-13) and at least one of his close relatives, Barnabas, was a reasonably prosperous landowner (Acts 4:36-37; Col. 4:10). The traditional belief is that Mark’s family home was the place where Jesus held the last supper and where the disciples met in the early days of the church (Luke 22:11-13; Acts 1:13).

Mark’s service in the gospel

Perhaps the first reference to Mark is in the story of the young man who followed Jesus and his friends to the Garden of Gethsemane but fled when opponents tried to seize him. This story appears only in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 14:51-52). According to a common practice, an author might include a reference to himself but not use his own name directly (cf. John 13:23; 2 Cor 12:2).

Because the early church leaders met in Mark’s family home, Mark would have known Peter and other early Christian leaders (Acts 12:12-14). Paul and Barnabas were impressed with him sufficiently to take him with them from Jerusalem to Antioch in Syria, and then to Cyprus and Asia Minor on a missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:1-5).

After only a short time, Mark left Paul and Barnabas and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Paul thought this showed a weakness in Mark and refused to take him on his next missionary journey. When Paul and Barnabas quarrelled about the matter and separated, Barnabas took Mark on a return mission to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41).

The Bible records nothing of Mark’s activities during the next ten years or so. Other early records, however, provide evidence that he spent some time with Peter evangelizing the northern regions of Asia Minor. He became so closely associated with Peter that Peter referred to him as his son (1 Peter 5:13). Later the two visited Rome, where Peter helped the church by his teaching on the life and ministry of Jesus. When Peter left Rome, Mark stayed behind, and in response to the needs of the local Christians he wrote down the story of Jesus as they had heard it from Peter. The result was Mark’s Gospel. (For further reference to Mark’s ministry in Rome see earlier section ‘The Writing of the Gospels’.)

Paul visited Rome while Mark was there, and recommended him as one who could be of help to young Christians (Col. 4:10). A few years later, when Paul was awaiting execution, he called for Mark to be with him in his final days (2 Tim 4:11).


Features of Mark’s Gospel

In Mark’s Gospel there are many features that reflect the interests and character of Peter. Apart from events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, most of Jesus’ ministry recorded in Mark was centred in Galilee, where Peter’s home town of Capernaum seems to have been Jesus’ base. In fact, his real base may have been Peter’s own house (Mark 1:21,29; 2:1; 9:33).

The account in Mark shows the characteristic haste of Peter, as it rushes on from one story to the next. The language is usually more clearcut than in the parallels of the other Gospels, reported statements are more direct and details are more vivid. This is particularly so in describing Jesus’ actions and emotions (Mark 1:41; 3:5; 4:38; 6:6; 10:14,16,21,32). The genuineness of Peter is seen in that his mistakes are more openly reported than in the other Gospels (Mark 9:5-6; 14:66-72), whereas incidents that might bring him praise are omitted (cf. Matt 14:29; 16:17).

As the story of Jesus was set in Palestine, the Gentiles in Rome needed certain details explained.

Consequently, Mark translated Hebrew or Aramaic expressions (Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:11,34; 15:22,34) and

explained Jewish beliefs and practices (Mark 7:3-4; 12:18,42; 14:12; 15:42).

Persecution of Christians

During the decade of the sixties, the government intensified its persecution of Christians, particularly after Nero blamed Christians for the great fire of Rome in AD 64. Just before this, Peter had written a letter from Rome (which he code-named Babylon; 1 Peter 5:13) to Christians in northern Asia Minor to warn them that, although they were already being persecuted, worse was to come. He gave them encouragement to face their trials positively and to look forward to a victorious future (1 Peter 1:6; 2:20- 23; 3:14-17; 4:12-16). Not long after this he himself was executed by Rome (2 Peter 1:14; cf. John 21:18-


Mark’s Gospel, like 1 Peter, was written at the beginning of this time of increasing persecution. It reminded the Roman Christians (from Peter’s own experience of the life and teaching of Jesus) that they would need strength and patience to endure misunderstandings, false accusations, persecution and possibly betrayal (Mark 3:21,30; 4:17; 8:34-38; 10:30; 13:9,13; 14:41,71-72; 15:15,19,32).

Mark’s view of Jesus

The Gospel of Mark records more action than the other Gospels, but less of Jesus’ teaching. Its basic teaching purpose, as the opening verse indicates, is to show that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:1).

According to Mark, the entire ministry of Jesus showed that he was a divine person in human form, the Messiah who came from God.

At the baptism of Jesus, the starting point of his public ministry, God’s declaration concerning Jesus showed what this unique ministry would involve. That declaration combined Old Testament quotations relating to the Davidic Messiah and the Servant of the Lord, showing that Jesus’ way to kingly glory was to be that of the suffering servant (Mark 1:11; cf. Ps 2:7; Isa 42:1). Jesus was the heavenly Son of man to whom God promised a worldwide and everlasting kingdom, but he would receive that kingdom only by way of crucifixion (Mark 8:29-31,38; 10:45; 14:62; cf. Dan 7:13-14). (For the meaning of ‘Son of man’ and ‘Son of God’ see ‘Jesus and the Kingdom’ below.)

As might be expected, the death of Jesus is the climax of Mark’s Gospel, but Mark draws attention to the confession of Jesus that brought about that death. Mark alone records that when the Sanhedrin asked Jesus if he was the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus replied openly, ‘I am’. Jesus then expanded his answer to show that he was both messianic Son of God and heavenly Son of man, and he was on the way to his kingly and heavenly glory (Mark 14:61-64).

Throughout his Gospel, Mark reinforces this essential truth that Jesus was the Son of God. Demons knew that Jesus was the Son of God (Mark 3:11; 5:7), Jesus’ disciples recognized it (Mark 8:29), and the Father confirmed it at his transfiguration (Mark 9:7). Jesus declared it plainly to his disciples and to his enemies (Mark 13:32; 14:61-62), and even a Roman centurion at the cross was forced to admit it (Mark 15:39).


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