The book of Mark is an intriguing book. It gives very little detail in areas where one would think that more would be helpful while in others it gives many details when one might consider it not necessary. Mark seems to write with a sense of urgency. He writes as though he must record the minimum amount of information. One must wonder if he wrote with the goal of getting the message of the life of Christ out and into the church as swiftly as possible. This is not the case though.
As the reader will surely know, the Holy Spirit guided the writing of John Mark and caused him to write exactly what he needed to. The Holy Spirit knew that the purpose of the Gospel of Mark would be one with a direct purpose. A purpose that would tell its readers of a man who dared to claim to be God. A man who could make that claim and not sin in saying so. A man who could make the sick healthy. A man who could make the lame leap, the dumb speak, and the dead to live again. A man who could tame the elements. Something that man cannot to this day do. Who is this man, this carpenter from Nazareth? Ironically, He asked this same question to His followers. May the reader read and be blessed on this feeble attempt to explain this magnificent story of the greatest man to ever live.
The characteristics of Mark
Mark was written by John Marcus, an interpreter to Peter. He wrote everything he remembered that Peter had told him. He was well known in his association with Peter because some nobody would not have been accepted by the church. Mark is a unique book because its contents focus on immediate action. This swiftness was because the Romans, the audience the book was written to, were a people of action. They just wanted the facts. Mark does not even include the virgin birth account as Matthew and Luke do. Romans wanted to see power and authority and this is exactly what Mark gave them. This authority that he stressed was over demons, disease, and death. These miracles in Mark have more detail than the other Gospels. Invariably the people are amazed at the works and words of Christ. This amazement stems from His authority.
Mark is unique in that he, more than the other writers, stresses Jesus’ favorite title for Himself; that being Son of Man. That is not the only title, however, that Mark dwells on. No, Mark writes his Gospel in almost two parts with each culminating in resounding statements by mankind. This shall be looked at later. There are many other characteristics that separate Mark from the other Gospels, but this author must move on.
Authority over demons, death, and disease
Mark wrote down specific events from Christ’s word and work so that it would be an aid to the Roman believers who were suffering persecution just as their Savior did. The book begins immediately with John the Baptist preaching and preparing the way of as prophesied in Isaiah with the ministry of Christ following immediately afterwards. One of the things that Mark stresses are the names of Christ. Jesus means the Lord of salvation. It was His human name. Christ means Messiah and King. Son of God refers to His divine relationship with the Father that is equal in essence and possessing the very nature of God. Son of Man refers to His humility and His returning in judgment as prophesied in Daniel 7. All these names of Christ show His authority. This is what the Romans wanted to see. What gives Jesus His authority and why does He have it? This is what they wanted to know. Mark proves His authority through the writing of miracles proving His control over three things that only God has authority over: demons, death, and disease.
The first of Jesus’ recorded miracles is when He visits Capernaum. This city would be a home-base of sorts for Christ in His ministry. In this city was a demoniac who had come across Jesus’ path as He was leaving the synagogue. The demon tries to gain the upper hand on Christ by calling Him out by name, which was a tactic designed to show the exorcist that the demon was more powerful than the exorcist. This strategy does not work on the Son of God. Jesus then immediately heals the mother-in-law of Peter, cleanses a leper, and healing a multitude of people. In this first chapter alone Christ has cast out a demon, healed the sick, and healed a leper over a disease that almost certainly results in death.
Another key point that Mark tries to stress is Christ’s dominion over the law. Christ has authority over the Sabbathian laws and sin, bringing to a boil a heated series of confrontations with the religious leaders of Israel. Christ heals a paralytic man from sin and then from his disease. Christ always sought after healing the spiritual first and then the physical if the people would simply believe. It would appear that Christ would trump the teachers of the law in this confrontation, but this would not be the last of their meetings. They seemingly follow Christ and His disciples from location to location in an attempt to catch Him or His disciples in false teaching. Christ gets to the point very beautifully when He confronts them in the temple after healing a man with a withered hand. He tells them what the true purpose of the Sabbath was and that it was a supplement to man, not man to it. His teaching was dripping with authority and the scribes and elders simply could not match it. As with all of Jesus’ teaching, it either saved, or condemned those who heard His message. The religious leaders instantly sought to kill their Messiah. God’s children could learn much from the suffering of Christ. When believers do right and are persecuted for it, often by those who claim the name of Christ, do they crumble under the minor pressure? Or do they fight the good fight? Christ was called Satan by the people who should have known Him best. He was rejected by His own family. He lived homelessly and relied on the providence of God to carry Him and His disciples through the day.
What typifies this portion of the book is how Mark stresses the deity of Christ. Christ does this primarily through His servant’s heart. He goes to the people. He wants the people to come to Him. He touches people, embraces them, and heals them. Only the hand that holds the world can perform these wonders.
From here Mark reaches a pivotal point in his Gospel. Jesus now begins to teach in parables whose understanding is given only to those who will follow Him. The religious leaders are not granted mercy and understanding and are rejected by Christ. Just as these parables show who Christ’s enemies are they reveal who His children are.
It seems that a key theme to all of Christ’s parables is that the Gospel is controversial. The parables conceal truth that He reveals to His people. From here, Mark continues to show Christ’s deity through another series of miracles. These include calming the storm, cleansing another demoniac who had many demons inside him, cleansing a woman from perpetual uncleanness, raising a young girl from the dead, commissioning the twelve so that they could do miraculous things themselves, feeding over 5,000 people with meager means twice, walking on water, healing the Syrophoenician’s daughter, a deaf man, and many other things could not be contained in all the books in the world. All the while Jesus is refuting the Pharisees and religious leaders every step of the way who only grow more rage-filled at this carpenter.
This brings the book to a drastic shift. Christ will now explain about His passion week, and tell the disciples all that they need to know as He mentors them through what will be an arduous time of life in the name of Christ.
Discipling the disciples
Mark wrote down what Peter had now understood to be a teaching on how to survive and be joyous through persecutions and certain death. Mark also records in this section the beautiful confession of that Jesus is the Christ by Peter. This is one of the two key confessions made in the Gospel of Christ. Whenever a statement like this is made, there is a shift not only in this book, but also in the lives of the people who make this confession. Christ now wanted to help bolster their faith and teach them all that He could about His death and resurrection. Christ presents them with the drastic commitment that following Christ entails and how it is to the end. A half-hearted attempt at life is simply not good enough when it comes to service to the King of kings. This is why Jesus took the three who were closest to Him to witness His transfiguration. This event was a sign to the disciples that they would later communicate to their brethren that Christ was the King of Israel and their faith should not waver. Christ would not leave them derelict.
Mark takes special interest to record the healing of another demoniac to show that healing comes through the power of faith in prayer.
Christ’s preaching on His death is always connected to discipleship. Jesus would communicate His death to the disciples but they could still not understand. Christ spends this time leading up to His passion week dealing with many different things that would create tension in the church and still do today. Christ spent a great deal of time dealing with the false ideals of the disciples who wanted to the big man on campus when the kingdom came, what real servanthood is like.
All the sections of Mark lead up to this final one where Christ proves that He is the Son of God through His death and resurrection.
The Son of God
Mark now shifts focus once again as he records the passion narrative and the atoning work of Christ. The contrasting points of view in the love of Christ and the rejection by the religious leaders are what truly capture this portion of the narrative. Christ continues to teach in parables through the cursing of the fig tree, vineyard workers, the parable of the steward. He also faces various attacks from the religious leaders who are still attempting to prove that He is a sham of a man and is no better than them and their law. Christ continues to sweep away their attacks with brilliant questions and not only asks a question that defeats their questions, but also proves the complete fallacy in their beliefs. Only the God-man could do such a thing. The Pharisees and teachers of the law now shift to full-fledged premeditated murder of Christ. Mark writes carefully and records the word and work of Christ as the days lead up to His ransom for sin.
Christ shared communion with His disciples during the last supper and gave them orders concerning how they were to remember Him and taught them one last time before His crucifixion. Christ then prays in the garden and with His disciples who cannot even stay awake during His hour of plight. Christ is betrayed, arrested, tried before a farcical court, tried before Pilate, and rejected by the people. He is beaten at an unbelievable level. The people choose a murderous zealot to be released over Him and ask that His blood be on them and their children.
As Christ hung on the cross and breathed out His last, crying out that His work was completed, a nameless centurion walked by the cross with his face gazing on the corpse of Christ. With full affirmation he claimed as Peter did that this man was the Son of God assuredly.
It is this that is the purpose of the book. So that people may know that Christ is the Son of God, and that He has died for all mankind. But He is no longer dead. The resurrection is historical proof empirically recorded for the skeptics that corroborate that Jesus truly was the Son of the Most High God because death could not hold Him. After the resurrection, Mark ceases to write as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells him to cease. The word and work of Christ is sent out to all mankind and man can revel in His word and work. Amen.
Jesus of Nazareth is arguably the most disputed person in the history of man. His word and work have been recorded in several accounts that historically reliable and accurate. The purpose of this work, however, is very simple. The Gospel of Mark is designed to teach us exactly who Christ is as a servant, as deity, as Messiah, healer, teacher, cleanser, Savior, Son of God, and Son of Man. In Him can we live, dwell, and die in sheer joy. Oh, that the scales would fall from the eyes of man that they may declare that Christ is Lord. Oh, that we would do the same in our illumination. Let the believers who testify of His name say, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
Lord, haste the day when we see burning satellites, and your kingdom descending from heaven. Amen.
This is intended to be an overview of the book of Mark. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s purpose is to give you some introductory material. I hope you enjoy it.
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