Before we begin, I would like to include a video here by the Bible Project. on the gospel of Mark. The Bible Project is a non-profit animation studio that makes short videos about the bible. They are very helpful videos to use as you begin a new book of the bible, and I often use them in my personal study. Let’s watch their Mark video, here.
The gospel of Mark is technically anonymous, but we attribute the gospel to John Mark.
John Mark was a Jewish Christian-convert who was living in Jerusalem after the death of Jesus.
His mother, Mary, hosted a Christian house church in her home, and his Uncle Barnabas was a well-known missionary. Barnabas traveled as a missionary with the Apostle Paul, and John Mark traveled with them to Asia. For reasons unknown to us, John Mark returned to Jerusalem early and abandoned Paul and Barnabas during their missionary journey. Later, John Mark wanted to go on another missionary journey with his uncle and Paul, but Paul so strongly disagreed with his going that Paul continued travelling alone to Asia at Perga in Pamphylia while Barnabas and John Mark sailed on to another place. John Mark was later discipled by Peter, and often John Mark’s accounts of Jesus Christ are told with such vividness that you’d believe John Mark was actually present for most of the events he writes about. However, John Mark is not believed to have been present for most of Jesus ministry, and we attribute the imagery and eyewitness-style summaries of Mark’s gospel to the time that John Mark spent with Peter. Although John Mark clearly made mistakes early during his missionary travels; we know John Mark grew into a faithful follower of Christ. The apostle Peter, in his letter 1 Peter, refers to John Mark as his son while the apostle Paul at the end of his ministry in Rome calls John Mark “very useful to his ministry” even after his early mishaps.
When did Mark write his gospel?
John Mark wrote his gospel roughly 55-70 AD. It is likely that this gospel was the first historical account of Jesus life that was circulated among the early churches. Mark wrote his gospel during a severe time of persecution for the Jerusalem church under the reign of Nero. Jesus miraculous healings, authority over demons, and power provide readers with hope during the terrifying reign of Nero. Mark also concludes his gospel with women witnessing the resurrection, but they were terrified to go and tell about the resurrection. This initial fear by the women would have resonated deeply with Christians during this time because they often faced great personal risk if their true identity as a Christ-follower was found out.
Who did Mark write his gospel for?
John Mark was a brilliant story teller, and his work made an indelible impression on non-Jewish readers of the early church. John Mark explains historical locations, uses Roman time rather than Hebrew time in his gospel, clarifies Jewish traditions and customs, and translates Aramaic words so that Greek and Roman readers could understand. John Mark was clearly concerned about the Non-Jewish readers who would read his account of Jesus life and ministry, and he takes great pains to make his gospel intelligible to them. This is perhaps why modern readers find Mark’s gospel so helpful today; it was written to people like us.
Why is Mark’s gospel important now?
Mark introduces Jesus Christ as a King who is announcing and establishing the Kingdom of God. The announcement of the Kingdom of God was a fulfillment of many promises and prophecies in the Old Testament, but many Jewish people of Jesus day rejected him. Jesus embraced his role as the promised messiah of the Kingdom of God both by his authority but also by sacrificing his very life on the cross for the lasting establishment of God’s rule and reign over the Earth.
How should we read Mark?
If you are not a Christian, then this study is certainly for you. I challenge you to commit to reading one chapter of Mark each week and to complete the study guide after each chapter reading. Do not be afraid to ask questions and honestly interact with the text. Are there parts of the story you don’t understand? Comment on the post for further explanation. Are there parts of the story you don’t like? Comment and let’s dialogue about it.
If you are a Christian, you have likely already read Mark’s gospel. If this is you, I challenge you to read this book as if it were your very first experience with scripture ever. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you fresh eyes to see his words, fresh ears to hear the word, and a fresh heart to be open to learning about Mark’s gospel. I invite you to read one chapter of Mark each week for the next 16 weeks, and I would like you to complete the study guides at the end of each reading. Take your time and meditate on these texts.
A note on this Study:
I am not a biblical expert, and I have not studied the original texts of Mark’s gospel in their original language. I would remind you that John Mark was not a biblical scholar, and he wrote an entire gospel account that we are still studying today! The twelve men who committed three years of their life to follow Jesus were not scholars. They were fisherman. Ordinary, common folk with no special gifts in academia. Our western culture focuses on achieving academic knowledge. We are required to know what our teachers know. We master the content of a particular field of study. We yearn for the letters after our last name to prove we are intelligent and accomplished; however, this was not the way the Jewish culture worked. When a person would go to study under a Rabbi (a Jewish expert in the first five books of Israel’s law.) the apprentice didn’t just want to know what the teacher knew. The apprentice followed the rabbi to know what the teacher knows, and to do what the Rabbi does, and to be who the Rabbi is. The Jewish culture was not a knowledge-based culture as ours is today. (i am in no way trying to undermine the value of an education, but I do want to emphasize that our western culture’s approach to learning is quite different from the early church’s culture.)
The goal of this Mark study is not just to teach you important facts about scripture (though certainly I aim to do that.) The purpose of this Mark study is for you take a close look into the life of Jesus Christ, and then ask yourself if you believe he is the Messiah, the Son of God, the promised King of the Kingdom of God. If you conclude at the end of this study that Jesus is, as I have, then I invite you to follow Jesus.
Not just to know about him, but to know him.