The Gospel of Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus and ends with His resurrection. There is no part of it that does not directly concern with His ministry. The Gospel of Mark is a story of action. There is an emphasis on what Jesus did as opposed to what Jesus taught. Jesus heals and restores the sick and the lame. He raises the dead and causes the blind to see. Leprosy is cured and demons are driven from the oppressed. Nature itself submits to His will. The winds and the waves of the sea respond to His command and Jesus walks upon the water as though it was dry land.
The Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the gospels and the shortest. It is likely that Mark, who was an assistant of the Apostle Peter, wrote it. As such, it reflects the memories and the teachings of Peter. That is not to say that Peter’s role is overemphasized. Peter’s faults are displayed fully. The central role in this writing is always firmly Jesus Christ. Everything is about where Jesus went and what Jesus did.
The Gospel of Mark represents the beginning of the third phase of the spread of the gospel. The first phase was Jesus and the original eleven apostles. The second phase was the missionaries and their letters. This phase began the rapid spread of the church and was dominated by the work of Paul. The third phase was the writings that came as the original eleven and their immediate associates began to pass away. People wanted to record their teachings and their memories about the life of Jesus. The gospel had spread to new cultures and new peoples. There was a need to explain Jewish culture to people who had only rarely encountered it in the past. So Mark was the beginning of this great third phase in the history of the church.
So Mark explains the life of Christ to a largely Gentile audience. He interprets phrases that are said and explains teachings. Mark describes the geography when necessary and at other times completely ignores some details that he considers unimportant. He quickly passes from incident to incident and hits the essential elements to each moment. He does not pause long over events that do not directly influence the main plot of the story of Jesus’ life.
And the main plot to this story is simple. It falls into two stages. The first portion of the Gospel of Mark tells about the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. Jesus is baptized and then he begins to gather disciples. He goes from synagogue to synagogue and proclaims the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand. He heals the sick and casts out demons. In fact, one miracle after another progresses from the simple healing to the raising of the dead. In this phase of the ministry of Jesus, He becomes more and more popular with the people until the multitudes become burdensome and unmanageable.
Then Jesus turns toward Jerusalem. He declares Himself to be the Messiah to the disciples and from that moment onward He begins to turn His face toward the Holy City. Eventually He arrives in Jerusalem before the Feast of the Passover. There He is greeted to an entry of triumph and adulation. He drives the venders and merchants from the Temple and incurs the wrath of the chief priest and the scribes. Different groups question him. Eventually He is arrested. There is a rushed trial in the middle of the night. Jesus is sentenced to die and crucified.
This gospel, as do all of the gospels, culminates with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection was the principle teaching of the early church. It was the one teaching that set Christianity apart from other religions. They claimed that Christ was the true Son sent from the Father because Christ alone had been raised from the dead. They had seen Him and touched Him and eaten meals with Him after His death. Up to seventy people had seen Him ascend into the heavens. This was no mass delusion. This was a phenomenon that could only be explained by the intervention of God into the daily affairs of men.
God had come to us – in the manifestation of His own Son. To use the words of John, the Word had been made flesh. The Gospel of Mark is a powerful witness to His life, His death and His resurrection. It is powerful because it is brief and clear. It uses simple language and powerful ideas. The Gospel of Mark is not great literature, but it is great scripture. It tells a clear story of the divine person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus comes to life in its words as a man who walked the hills of Galilee, lived as one of its people, and eventually died on a Roman cross. But, unlike others, He rose again on the third day and ascended into a place of honor and power at God’s right hand.
The Gospel of Mark is the story of this one, unique individual. It is the story of why we should place our faith and our trust in this Jesus of Nazareth.
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