Everyone likes to hear a good story. Few people can re-tell life accounts in interesting and convicting ways. When you read the gospel of Mark, the Holy Spirit grabs our attention from the start and does not turn us loose until the end. Like the rest of Scripture, the Gospel of Mark is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). When the Bible uses the term inspired, it does not mean inspiring like Shakespeare or Hemingway, it means God guided and God breathed. The things Mark records about the life of Jesus should inspire us because Mark records the very words of God (2 Pet. 1:20-21). I know what you’re thinking, if Matthew already records the life of Jesus why do we need to have another person to write the same things? Shouldn’t one account be good enough (we never say this about Rocky movies)? Mark tells the life of Jesus from a different perspective than Matthew or any of the other gospel writers and is worth of attention.
Mark writes to show his readers that Jesus is the Son of God and that he is the servant of the Lord (Mk. 1:1; 10:44-45). Mark blends both ideas together to get readers to appreciate the fact that one can be viewed highly by God only through being a servant. Mark is writing to those with a Roman background, so he explains a lot of Jewish customs and does not quote the Old Testament much (only once, in Mark 1:2-3). Mark does not mention the childhood of Jesus or any genealogy. Instead, Mark rushes into the ministry and work of Jesus in the lives of others. During the time that Mark wrote, the Romans were dominating and oppressing Christians. Mark wants Christians to see that true might and power is shown through humble submission and servitude; not through dominating others with physical strength. In our world where the strongest, fastest, and prettiest are often praised, we could learn from Mark’s Gospel that highlights the humble servant, the Son of God.
There are several recurring themes in the book of Mark. Mark uses the word meaning immediately, or its equivalent, over forty times (See Mk. 1:12; 2:8; 5:30; 7:35). Mark wants to show that Jesus was a man of action, and that things happened quickly in his life. Mark devotes more proportionate space to the miracles of Jesus than the other Gospels. Mark mentions eighteen miracles of Jesus, two of which are unique to his account (7:31-37; 8:22-26). Mark highlights the humanity of Jesus in vivid detail. Mark often describes Jesus as hungry, sighing, tired, or compassionate. The themes that run throughout Mark are relevant to today’s culture. In a time when busyness is equated with success, we learn that the Son of God used his time to serve others. We need to reject the world’s offer to burn ourselves out in worldly pursuits and give God the leftovers. Also, when reading Mark’s Gospel take note of the fact that while Jesus is divine, he also shares in our humanity and recognizes our physical weakness and limitations.
The main characters in the gospel of Mark are the disciples of Jesus. Mark does not fail to show their mistakes and even their attempts to criticize Jesus (Mk. 4:38; 5:31). Jesus is the central figure of the book, as Mark catalogs his ministry and the service he provided to others. The Pharisees and Sadducees are primary characters also. The other main characters, though not always named specifically, are the people Jesus helped and healed. Mark wants readers to learn and appreciate that Jesus came to help people. We need to read this book with the understanding that God sent Jesus to save the world, but he is interested in us as individuals as well.
Some of the key verses that stand out in the book of Mark are:
- The announcement of Jesus as God’s Son (Mk. 1:1)
- The surprise of Jesus at unbelief (Mk. 6:6)
- The necessity of faith (Mk. 11:22)
- The exaltation of servant-hood (Mk. 10:44-45)
- Jesus heard by the common people (Mk. 12:37)
- The centurion’s acknowledgement of Jesus as God’s Son (Mk. 15:39)
- The command to share the news and how to respond to it (Mk. 16:15-16)
The Message of Mark
The more we know about a person, the more we can appreciate their contributions to the world. Mark is mentioned throughout the New Testament (Acts 12:12; Col. 4:10). At one point, Mark leaves a mission trip and goes back home (Acts 13:13), later he returns and is rejected (Acts 15:36-41). Towards the end of the New Testament he is mentioned as a close friend of Peter and a helper of Paul (2 Tim. 4:11; 1 Pet. 5:13). Mark teaches us that servants sometimes fail and mess up, but you do not have to quit. We learn from Mark’s life that failure is not final, and those who stumble may not be far from God’s kingdom (Mk. 12:34). Mark shows that second chances are possible and we can be used to the glory of God. Mark writes about the servant that Jesus was, and he had evidently followed in his footsteps. The way up is down in Christianity, and when we are humbled, God will exalt us (Jas. 4:10). Mark introduces Jesus as the Son of God who is never too busy to help us, and not too high to come down and relate to us. Mark portrays Jesus as a son and servant, and if we would ever be sons and daughters of God, we must first be servants.