What is in Mark?
Mark is the forty-first book in the Bible, and the second of the four Gospels that tells of Jesus’s life. At about age 30, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, gathered 12 disciples, and began His three-year ministry. During this time, He taught in a way that amazed and confounded many who questioned and listened to Him. He performed many miracles, including walking on water, feeding thousands of people with a few fish and a few loaves of bread, and even healing the terminally ill and raising the dead. Equally radically, Jesus taught that rejecting Him was the same as rejecting God. He also began to prophesize His own death, which included crucifixion and a betrayal by one of his own, but then His resurrection in three days.
This proved true, for the Jewish leaders in that day presided over a Jewish faith that had become intensely legalistic, with countless specific rules to follow. When Jesus started exposing God’s true intent by commanding the things He commanded, advocating breaking some of the excess rules which had no real root in scripture, the Pharisees and Sadducees became quite angry at him, but could not find any charge on which to bring Him before the courts. Judas, one of Jesus’s disciples, accepted money from them in exchange for helping the Jewish leaders capture Jesus in the dead of night. Jesus was arrested, and was brought forth before the Jewish elders, who condemned him for blasphemy. Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion, and died. Despite this, on the third day after Jesus’s death, the heavy stone in front of the tomb was removed, and Jesus’s body had vanished, which is where some early manuscripts of Mark end. Others include a few additional verses, where a resurrected Jesus appears to His disciples and tells them to proclaim the gospel in all the nations.
Who wrote it?
While the gospel is technically anonymous, the early church declares Mark to be written by John Mark, who heard of Jesus from Peter, who traveled around with Jesus as one of the twelve disciples. Also, the passages including Peter in the book of Mark are more detailed.
When was it written?
The dating of Mark’s gospel is a bit roundabout. The book of Acts, which is written by Luke and continues after the gospels, ends in 62 A.D., and scholars think the book was written around then. The gospel of Luke was written before that, earlier in the 60s. THEN, since Mark commonly held to be a source for the gospel of Luke, that puts Mark even earlier, in the later 50’s. A mid-60s date for Mark is also possible, but less likely.
When does it take place?
Unlike Matthew, which looks at Jesus’s entire life, Mark begins with Jesus’s baptism, and then his three-year ministry before His death and resurrection. Jesus died in around 30 A.D.
Why was it written?
The value of the gospel of Mark should be quite self-explanatory. It provides one of the accounts of Jesus’s life, and thus forms the backbone of Christianity where Jesus Christ was sent by God to atone for the sins of man. A record of Jesus’s teachings and life is indispensable to Christians in much the same way the Jewish law and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was indispensable to Jews.
Who is in Mark?
The gospel of Mark focus primarily on Jesus and His interactions with other people, including His 12 disciples, the people he taught and performed miracles for, the Roman authorities at whose hands He died, and many others. Jesus spoke to an incredible amount of people during his ministry, so a comprehensive list would likely be impossible.
All the gospels cover Jesus’s life, so how is Mark different from the other three gospels?
While all the gospels cover Jesus’s life, they differ in the events and teachings that they choose to emphasize. Mark drops Jesus’s early life altogether and picks up at His baptism – in fact, the last half of Mark’s gospel deals with Jesus’s last week alone. This gospel has 20 accounts of Jesus’s miracles, which averages more than one per chapter. Finally, Mark describes Jesus as one who came to serve others and to suffer for our sins on the cross.
How does Mark apply to me today?
Maybe an easier question would be how it DOESN’T apply! The word ‘gospel’ means good news, and the coming of Jesus is certainly good news for all of us! God sent Jesus to help clarify His teachings, and to die to atone for our sins. Besides that, there are a bunch of specific teachings in the gospels that Christians can directly benefit from.
As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
For the gospels in particular, I recommend taking the time to actually read them through. The Gospels are some of the least difficult books to read in the Bible, and there is no possible way I can adequately describe everything that happens in them in one reasonably-sized article (or four!).
Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0