Gospel of Mark Background

On March 15th, Community Grace Church will begin a journey through Mark's fast paced Gospel.  I am excited to see how the Word of Christ will continue to transform us as we behold the glory of our Lord.  To better understand this Gospel, here is a brief background. 

First, what is a Gospel?  In Greek literature we read of "evangels" who would herald the good news (Gospel) that the war had been won and a new king was ascending the throne.  The followers of Jesus adopted this word as the best way to describe the person and work of Jesus Christ.  They were proclaiming history that had radical implications for those who put their faith in King Jesus.  As Tim Keller says, "the gospel is news about what God has already done for you, rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God."  He adds, "the gospel is all about historic events, and thus it has public character.  But if Jesus is not risen from the dead, Christianity does not "work".  The gospel is that Jesus died and rose for us."

Second, what sets this Gospel apart from the other three Gospels in Scripture? This book is marked by its brevity. It also "maintains a vigorous tempo" (Edwards) as seen in its frequent use of words such as "immediately" and "again".  The author seems to be focused on the actions of Jesus, highlighting how he is the suffering Son of God.  This tempo is meant to call his disciples into a similar action of following in Jesus' footsteps.

Third, who wrote this book?  Around 130 AD, Papias wrote, "Mark became Peter's interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord."  This concurs with 1 Peter 5:13 where we read that Mark was in Rome with Peter.  Also, the perspectives in which the stories are told suggest that Peter is Mark's source.  Peter was definitely a man of action and we see vivid details added to the stories when Peter is present and absent when he is not.  So who was Mark?  He was also known as John Mark, the son of a woman named Mary, in whose house the early church met in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). Mark is with Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:4).  However, he quit this journey (Acts 13:3) and  caused a division between Paul and Barnabas as they considered Mark for the second journey.  After this,  there seems to be reconciliation between Paul and Mark (Col. 4:10; Philemon 24) to the point where Paul desires Mark by his side at the point of death (1 Timothy 4:11).  

Fourth, when did Mark write this?  All evidence seems to suggest that this book was written in the 50's or 60's of the first century.  Probably around 65 AD, sometime after the maytrydom of Peter and during the persecution of Nero.  A close reading of the Gospel, seems to suggest that Mark was writing to Roman Christians who were undergoing persecution and therefore needed to grasp that Jesus was God's Son who also suffered.  In turn, believers are to actively follow Jesus even if this means into the arena with wild beasts (Mark 1:13).  

Finally, the book is easily divided into two sections. The first eight chapters seek to answer 'Who Jesus is?' and the last eight chapters focus on 'What he came to do?'  All this with the intent of calling Jesus' disciples to action.

It is my prayer that we will gaze upon this Jesus as we journey through Mark's Gospel and in our gazing we will be transformed into disciples who look more and more like Jesus.  

For further personal study consider reading:

1.  Keller, Tim (2013). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God. Riverbed Books.

2. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark. Eerdmans; Apollos.

3. Aiken, Daniel L. (2014). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). Holman.