The Gospel of Mark is a rapid-fire account of the life of Jesus Christ. Unlike other gospels, Mark’s literary style is compact, vivid, and action oriented. The author uses the term “immediately” over 41 times to propel the reader forward with a sense of urgency. Many key stories (such as Jesus’ birth) are completely skipped over or given a brief nod before moving towards Mark’s central theme.
Mark’s Gospel has often been overlooked and underappreciated due to its brevity and overlapping content. In fact, over 90% of the Book of Mark is found in the other gospels. But like a pool of clear water, this book’s depth can be deceiving. The Book of Mark is not a light version of the gospels; it has a powerful and unique message for us today.
The opening sentence reveals the purpose of the Book of Mark: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark 1:1. A “gospel” is a unique type of literature where the author is proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. It includes accurate historic information and faithfully retells the words of Jesus, and yet there is a greater purpose than simply recounting past events. Mark wants you to see Jesus as the authoritative and all-powerful Messiah who chose to come as a suffering servant. This picture of Jesus then becomes a model for all who would follow Him.
The gospel is written anonymously, though tradition strongly associates it with John Mark. Mark was neither an apostle nor one of the 12 original disciples. He was a cousin of Barnabas and is frequently mentioned throughout the New Testament as one who served and supported the ministry. Church history asserts that Mark was an aid and translator for the apostle Peter who provided the eyewitness accounts which make up Mark’s work. Much of the scholarship today regards the Gospel of Mark as the first written gospel.
There are two authors of the Book of Mark: a human author, and the Holy Spirit. John Mark’s initial audience is likely the Christians in Rome who, around 65 AD, were facing growing persecution under the reign of Emperor Nero. The picture of Jesus as a suffering servant would no doubt have been a powerful model for believers in Rome. The Holy Spirit intends this book to be for all believers. There is a call for each and every one of us to follow Christ in a conflicted world.