The Gospel of Mark

Some interesting aspects of Mark:

Length: Sixteen chapters

Author: Historically, this gospel is attributed to John Mark, a coworker of Peter and a travelling companion of Paul (see Acts 12:12, 15:37).

Date: Most scholars agree that this gospel was written sometime around the Jewish War with Rome, perhaps between the years of 66-70 CE. All scholars agree that this is the earliest of all four of our gospel accounts.

“Mark” is the shortest of our four canonical gospels. In fact, it is in this writing that the word “gospel” (Greek=Euangellion) is first used (Mark 1:1).

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark’s gospel does not contain any record of Jesus’ parents, lineage nor his birth. Instead Mark begins with Jesus as a grown man, with his baptism by John at the Jordan River, followed by a brief account of his temptation in the wilderness, then and moves right away into his ministry in Galilee.

Mark structures his writing around three scenes: Jesus’ baptism, transfiguration, and crucifixion. Some scholars refer to Mark as an extended Passion story (account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion), with a brief prologue and epilogue.

Mark tells the story of Jesus’ life with unusual urgency and a fast pace. He uses the Greek word for “immediately” (at once, then) forty times in sixteen chapters. While the first three years of Jesus ministry are covered in 10 chapters, the final six chapters slow the pace and cover the final week of Jesus’ life.

Mark’s writing style is vivid and concrete, with a concern for detail.

Mark’s gospel emphasizes Jesus deeds over his words. The impression of Jesus as a miracle worker is felt more strongly here than anywhere else in the Bible. Mark’s gospel is imbued with a motif of secrecy. Jesus describes his teaching as the “secret kingdom of God” (4:11). Whenever Jesus heals someone, he commands them to “say nothing to anyone”. When demons identify him as the “Holy One of God”, Jesus orders them to “not make him known”. When Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, he orders his disciples to not tell anyone about him (8:30). But in the end, Jesus does commission his disciples to proclaim him to all the nations.

Mark’s gospel highlights the flaws and failures of Jesus’ disciples more than any other gospel. Perhaps Mark’s point was that, even with all their failings (including not completely understanding who Jesus really is), Jesus calls these disciples, teaches them, forgives them, empowers them, and sends them out for mission into the world. So it is with all of us! The power of the gospel is based upon Jesus, and in particular his very real suffering, death and resurrection. Mark makes it clear that we are to proclaim Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah!