Summary: We are called out to the wilderness, back to our relationship with Jesus before all the distractions of the world came upon us. Starts with a concise understanding of authorship and biblical authority.
I am just the voice of one who is greater than this; after me comes the one more powerful than I, one whose sandals I am unfit to untie…I answered to the One who gave this message to me, the voice still resonates in my soul; The voice still rattles my bones – “Prepare the way, make straight paths for him, you will baptize with water, He will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I am just the voice of one who is greater than this; but I am still a sacred voice, and I will not be dismissed.
Jonah cries against the city of Nineveh warning of imminent destruction. Isaiah cries out against the sin of Israel, Jeremiah against the sin of Judah, both warning of imminent destruction. John cries out against our own sin, and then unlike Jonah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, John shows us the solution to our sin, he introduces us to the person of Jesus Christ.
So begins the Gospel of Mark. John the Baptist comes and goes making a brief appearance at the beginning of Mark, but his brief appearance, and lower status should not lead us to dismiss his ministry. John the Baptist sets the stage for the rest of the gospel: John calls the people out into the wilderness, he calls us out of our civilized lives with all its distractions and urgencies to the wilderness where we can see what we really need in our lives – the almighty God.
The Gospel of Mark is the earliest scroll that takes the words of the Apostle’s about Jesus’ life and places them into written form. Before the Gospel of Mark people had testimonies from eye witnesses about Jesus, and they had the Old Testament Scriptures to refer to about prophecies concerning Jesus, but they had no written document. So Mark sets out to create a book that congregations can have with accurate information about the ministry of Jesus here on earth.
The author of the Gospel of Mark is seen by scholars to be a man named John Mark. He was a Jewish Christian whose mother Mary owned a house in the city of Jerusalem where people from the original Christian community met. So the person of John Mark can be traced back to the very first group of people who gave their lives over to Jesus Christ. John Mark was surrounded by people who were there when everything started. John Mark probably knew most people of significance from the gospels or knew people who knew the people of significance in the gospels. He is a man who is immersed in the testimony of Jesus Christ. His mother’s house was the house that the apostle Peter went to after his release from prison in Acts 12:12. Can you imagine being a young person at home with your mom and the Apostle Peter drops by your house first, the very first thing, to let your family know everything is ok? How cool it that? What does that tell you about the importance of John Mark’s family in the early Christian community? John Mark has a solid family behind him; John Mark is no stranger, no outsider to the happenings of early Christianity or to the testimony of Jesus Christ.
John Mark also spent a significant amount of time with the Apostles Paul and Peter. Paul at first views John Mark as irresponsible, which he probably was, and refuses to take him along on a second mission trip, we see this in Acts chapter 15. Paul was later reconciled to John Mark, and they become very close as they do extensive work together. John Mark was with Paul during his imprisonment in Rome. We see how close they have become as we see Paul instructing Timothy to bring Mark to Rome while he is in Prison because Paul saw him as so indispensable.
When Peter was writing his letter of 1 Peter, John Mark was in Rome with Peter, no doubt helping in any way he could. In fact, John Mark was so close to the apostle Peter, that Peter refers to him as his son in 1 Peter 5:13. If that is not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. Further, we see that John Mark was the cousin of Barnabas, Col. 4:10 “My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.” We have before us a gospel from a man who was very much, in the thick of things, this is the real stuff.
The earliest reference concerning the Gospel of Mark is from around the year 140 from Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis. The bishop cites the testimony of an elder, saying: “Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatever he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord….” The testimony is not presented as Papias’s opinion, but as the word of an earlier authority. Then, from about the year 175, Irenaeus writes on the Gospels: “And after the death of these (the apostles) Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing the things preached by Peter.” Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria also concur with this around the year 200. In fact when Peter’s preaching from Acts is compared to sections of Mark there is a striking parallelism and the voice of Peter can be seen by comparing some passages. For though Mark was not with the Lord Jesus in his lifetime, he hears and records the testimony of one of the closest disciples to Jesus – Peter. It appears that the content of the Gospel of Mark is derived from the apostle Peter and placed into literary form by Mark. What that means is this: The Gospel of Mark is the testimony of the Apostle Peter about the person of Jesus Christ, who was, by the way, one of the closest people to our Lord Jesus. Awesome.