Summary: In a world held captive by an evil enemy, Jesus Christ comes rushing in like a super hero to do battle with evil and rescue us from the tyrant of sin. In this introduction to the gospel of Mark we learn who is behind the stories and some amazing things ab
How significant are our teen years? Can events that take place between 13 and 19 impact us for our entire lives? Surely. Take John Mark, for instance. As a young man he witnessed the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The Last Supper may have taken place at his home. Some speculate that he was the young man in Chapter 14 who ran away naked from the arrest of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mark’s mom, Mary, was a believer. He also had influence from his cousin Barnabas.
All these events and people swirling around this young undoubtedly had a huge impact. It’s quite possible that the Apostle Peter actually led Mark to the Lord has he calls him “my son” in 1 Peter 5:13. In A.D. 44 Peter was in prison and the church prayed for his release. When the Spirit miraculously set him free, Peter went to Mark’s house. Through Barnabas, Mark accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (A.D. 50). That one didn’t end up too well. John Mark apparently fled and went back home so Paul and Barnabas actually split up when Barnabas wanted to take his young cousin on the next journey (A.D. 51).
The good news is that John Mark matured and was actually called to help Paul later on in life (Col 4:10-11, 2 Tim 4:11). Throughout he maintained a close relationship to Peter and so became the apostle’s writer for his gospel. Mark is definitely the author of this gospel, as attested to as early as 110 A.D. by Papias:
Mark, who was the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately all that he remembered, whether of sayings or doings of Christ, but not in order. For he was neither a hearer nor a companion of the Lord; but afterwards, as I have said, he accompanied Peter, who adapted his instruction as necessity required, not as though he were making a compilation of the Lord's oracles. So then Mark made no mistake when he wrote down thus some things as he remembered them, for he concentrated on this alone — not to omit anything that he had heard, nor to include any false statement among them. (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History III , p. 39)
Mark is what I would call the Reader’s Digest of the gospels. It is the shortest, and concentrates on Jesus’ actions rather than His words. If the gospels were TV shows, Mark would be in the action-adventure genre. The accounts are short, and to the point. Mark wants us to see Jesus as a man of action—one that we need to heed and follow. It was likely the first gospel (55 – 65 A.D.) and Matthew and Luke used it as source material. Mark wrote it from Rome, based on Peter’s verbal stories. In fact, he is probably writing to a Roman Christian audience. He quotes few Old Testament Scriptures, has no account of Jesus’ birth (important for those Jews looking for the coming of the Messiah), and has to explain a lot of Jewish customs and translate Aramaic words into Greek. He’s writing to Gentile Christians who are in the midst of suffering persecution—giving them hope and certainty of their redeemer.
Also, when you read Mark, hear Peter speaking. Peter told these stories orally and then Mark wrote them down: Jesus, the Ultimate Action Hero. So the two aspects of Jesus’ initial ministry we see today are: 1) The hero commissioned, and 2) The hero tested.
I love how Mark opens the book: “The beginning of the gospel.” Gospel means “good news” and the good news for mankind began when Jesus came on the scene. But the even better news is that the good news never ends. Mark’s book may end, but Jesus will never stop rescuing us. He also tells us two important things right off. 1) that this is about Jesus the Messiah—the promised Savior, and 2) that this Christ (it means “anointed one”) is also not just some ordinary person but the Son of God. Many heroes have come on the human scene, but only One was anointed with the Spirit and as God’s only Son, given the job of actually saving humanity. No big introductions, no Christmas story, no Jesus as a little boy, no heavy theological statements like “the Word became flesh.” It’s like the hero flies into the scene fully adult and ready to do battle against the enemy.
2 – 3
Every action hero needs someone to call on them and introduce them. Superman had Lois Lane, Batman had Commissioner Gordon, and Jesus has his cousin John. Mark does it by quoting one of the few (fewer than 15) Old Testament passages contained in the gospel. It’s from Isaiah 40:3 – 4. I love the bookend of this passage. Isaiah says in verse 1 “Comfort, comfort my people … announce to her that her time of servitude is over, her iniquity has been pardoned” and verse 5 “And the glory of the Lord will appear and all humanity will see it together.”