General observations about Mark’s gospel record:
- Mark evidently was not an eyewitness follower of Jesus
- Many scholars hold the view that he is one-in-the-same “John-Mark” John being a Hebrew name, Mark a Latin name, noted 10 times in the NT: Acts, Col, Tim, et al.
- Mark frequently accompanied Peter, hearing his teaching
- Mark wrote an accurate account of Peter’s teaching
- Mark’s organization was not always chronological
- Mark can be considered “Peter’s interpreter”, explaining the apostles’ message to a wider audience than only those who heard the accounts firsthand
- Mark’s account is reliable (1.) to the point that many scholars refer to the Markan priority, that as the first gospel record, and his account served other writers in their gospel records.
- Mark was well versed in Israel’s geography, especially Jerusalem (Mark 5:1; 6:53; 8:10; 11:1; 13:3) (2.) knew Aramaic, and had knowledge of Jewish customs.
- In the spread of the gospel, Mark was with Paul and Baranabas, in fact Mark is Barnabas’ cousin (Col. 4:10), and for reasons unknown, Mark left and returned to Jerusalem. Paul views this as a desertion(Acts 15) and refused to takeMark on their 2nd missionary journey which results in Barnabas parting company with Paul and joining Mark. After a time, we do not have specifics, Paul seems reconciled with Mark as we read of his service in 2 Tim. 4:11
“Mark, the shortest and simplest of the four Gospels, gives a crisp and fast-moving account of the life of Christ. With few comments, Mark lets the narrative speak for itself as if tellsthe story of the Servant who is constantly on the move preaching, healing, teaching, and finally dying for sinful men. A ministry disciples, and finally culminates on the cross.There the Servant who “‘did not come to be served,’” makes the supreme sacrifice of servanthood by giving “‘His life a ransom for many’” (10:45). And that pattern of selfless service becomes the model for those who follow in the Servant’s steps.” (3.)
Features & Characteristics of Mark
- Emphasis on Jesus’ works.
Mark frequently notes that Jesus went here or there and taught, but doesn’t record the teaching discourse The focus is on His works over His words.
- 18 miracles, 4 parables, 1 discourse
- Mark’s style is vivid, underscoring the eyewitness nature of Peter’s accounts. Mark is an action-packed gospel.
- In the Greek NT we read a verbal tense known as the historical present, which we do not use in the English language. Mark uses this tense over 150 times; it lends a vivid, descriptive, movement- and action-packed kind of writing. Example: he uses the word “immediately” 51 times.
- Mark writes with brevity and candor. Mark’s vocabulary is unique in 80 words, compared to Luke’s vocabulary which includes ~250 unique terms. He’s speaking to the average person in his very action-packed story. Though brief, he’s also very candid. Ex. Mark 3:21.
Cranfield writes, “The evidence points to Mark’s being not a creative literary artist but an extremely honest and conscientious compiler.”
Dr. David Lowery compares Mark’s writing more of an “oral” record than a “written ministry” not unlike D.L. Moody whose command of English was lacking yet his grammatical deficiencies “never significantly hindered him in communicating the gospel with great effectiveness. (4.)
- Mark is more of an action-thriller account of the gospel and his language isn’t as erudite as Luke or John’s gospels.Almost 40% of the narrative covers the final 8 days of the Passion Week from the Triumphal Entry to Christ’s resurrection.
- Christ’s preferred self-references: Son of Man (14x), Son of God (x3), Son of David (3x)
- Kingdom of God
- Peter’s great confession, Mark 8:27-29: You are the Christ.
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31
No doubt, due to Mark’s emphasis on the last 8 days of Christ’s life, The Nelson Study Bible notes:
“Mark’s Gospel has been called a Passion story with a long introduction.”
John Grassmick’s take:
Mark’s purpose was basically pastoral. The Christians in Rome had already heard and believed the good news of God’s saving power (Rom. 1:8) but they needed to hear it again with a new emphasis to catch afresh its implications for their lives in a dissolute and often hostile environment. They needed to understand the nature of discipleship—what it meant to follow Jesus—in light of who Jesus is and what He had done and would keep doing for them. (5.)
I’m struck, this could be said of us today. Our beloved country is not without comparison to Rome in many ways.
Discipleship is not subject to political or social pressures. The timeless nature of the gospel makes it exempt from excuse. The present critical importance of discipleship never falls out of theological fashion.
The constant cadence is: come back, come back, come back to the gospel.
- Immediately (Mark 1:10-2:12) When Christ did something, it occurred immediately.
- Authority, Mark 2:10
- Call to sinners (Mark 2:17)
There can be no doubt in His purpose, His offer, His message is calling sinners to salvation.
- Emphasis on hearing and listening (Mark 4:23-24)
What are you and I hearing? What are we listening to? What we listen to affects who we are.
- He wondered at people’s unbelief (Mark 6:1-7, Mark 9: 21-24)
A better word than “wondered” might be “disturbed.”
Why is it so hard for some to believe in Christ?
- References to the suffering servant.
It’s part of the story that we don’t understand, but He had to suffer to go to glory.
There are three responses to Jesus in the gospel of Mark:
They come as critics, as curious, or are compelled.
Each group comes with a pre-set agenda.
Pose the question to yourself: Why do you come to Jesus?
I hope you come because you’re compelled.
The theology of the suffering servant tells us that when we suffer, we can come to Christ, who has known the ultimate suffering, and ask for His help to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
He may not fix the presenting problem, but He will fix the real problem: that as sinners in need of a savior, we cannot be saved on our own.
- Grassmick notes from Bible Knowledge Commentary, (cf. Eusebius Ecclesiastical History3. 39. 15).1)
- John D. Grassmick, “Mark,”in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 95
- Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 318.
- Tom Constable’s Notes on Mark, cp. Constable’s notes, p. 6
- Grassmick, 101.