The foundation is the most important part of a building project. Since it is the first construction phase, it will determine the rest of the building project. If the foundation is amiss, the whole project will suffer.
We can learn a lot about the future building from the foundation. As I begin to preach a series through the Gospel According to Mark, I learned a lot by way of introduction. I hope this will help you understand this Gospel a little better.
Mark is the first Gospel, the shortest Gospel, and the most exciting Gospel. It has been called ‘The most important book in the world’ by William Barclay.
Two features you need to know to better understand this gospel?
Mark is the Gospel that emphasizes Jesus as the Suffering Servant.
Mark wrote to Gentile Christians, especially Romans. His has the fewest quotes & allusions to the Old Testament of all gospels. He interprets Aramaic words in the gospel and explains some of the geography of the Holy Land. He uses the Roman, rather than Jewish, method of reckoning time is used.
Mark was probably writing to Gentile Christians facing martyrdom in Rome. Rome was the largest city in the world, with a population of approximately one million. After Nero married Poppaea in 62 AD, he killed his own mother, his chief advisers Seneca & Burrus, and many others to seize their money. His thirst for fame in arts and sports started the chariot races, combat between gladiators, and prisoners thrown to wild beasts. In 64 AD fire destroyed part of Rome – probably set by Nero to make room for a new palace. He blamed Christians and killed them wholesale. Covered in animal skins and torn to pieces by dogs. Fastened to crosses and set on fire as torches at night for the city. Subjected daily to Nero’s threats and face possible persecution and death. Christians were driven into catacombs. Both Paul and Peter were executed by Nero in about AD 67 or 68.
Following this time Mark wrote the Gospel. Its purpose was to encourage the Gentile church in Rome. He wanted them to see Christ as the Suffering Servant.
Jesus seems busy – quickly moving from one event to another. One of the key words is immediately, occurring more than 40 times. The Gospel of Mark emphasizes the deeds of Jesus more than the words of Jesus. It pictures Christ in action. There is a minimum of discourse and a maximum of deed. 2/3 of all verses begin with the word ‘and.’ No genealogy. No birth narrative. Only 2 of His long discussions. Mark has 18 miracles, more than any other Gospel, in spite of being shortest.
The key verse is Mark 10:45 and makes a great outline of the book. 1. Son of Man ministering – to serve (chapters 1-10). 2. Son of Man giving His life as a ransom for many – to sacrifice (chapters 11-16).
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Mark is the Gospel of an eyewitness of Jesus – Simon Peter.
Nowhere is the name of the author given in any Gospel. However, most believe Mark is John Mark in Acts 12:12. Since Mark’s house is referred as ‘house of Mary’ it would appear his father was dead. ‘Many gathered together’ and ‘servants’ indicates a large house & wealthy family. It appears Peter had visited Mary’s house before since the servant recognized his voice. This house may have been the room Jesus held the ‘Last Supper.’ If so, Mark may have been the boy in Mark 14:50-52 in the Garden (no other gospel mentions it). In addition, many believe Mark is the ‘rich young ruler’ in Mark 10:17 who wanted to inherit eternal life. His gospel is the only one who mentions that Jesus looked on him with love.
Peter may have been the person who led Mark to Christ since he calls him ‘my son’ (1 Peter 5:13. And in 2 Peter 1:13-15 Peter is aware of his imminent death and may have been taking steps to make sure his brethren would be able to remember what he taught so had Mark write down his remembrances of Jesus. It is likely that Mark’s source of information for this Gospel was the eyewitness account of Peter. Some think of Mark as ‘The Gospel According to Peter.’
Mark’s Gospel contains some things about Peter that are not found in other gospels: 1:36; 11:21; 13:3; 16:7. Other events that put him in a good view were omitted in Mark’s account- walk on water (Matthew 14:28-31), capture of fish to pay tax (Matt. 17:24-27), mission with John to prepare for Passover (Luke 22:7-13), trip to employ tomb with John (John 20:2-10). His sins and weaknesses are recorded, but the praise he received (Matt. 16:17) is omitted. Mark gives vivid detail. All 4 gospels tell the story of feeding 5,000, But Mark is the one who says it was ‘green’ grass and the people sat in rows. The verbs used in Mark are ‘historic present.’ You feel you are there as it is happening. As if an eyewitness is telling you what his memory is watching.
Mark (John Mark), away from Peter, is an interesting story. He went to Antioch with Barnabas & Paul (Acts 12:25). and traveled with them on their first missionary journey. For some unknown reason, he left them in Perga when they were in trouble (Acts 13:13). Mark was considered a quitter andPaul rejected him on the 2nd trip and caused the split between Paul and Barnabas. The rift was healed because Paul asked for Mark when he was in prison (2 Tim. 4:9-11). Just as Mark went from useless to useful, Christ’s disciples make a similar progression. One purpose of Mark may be to show that as disciples follow Jesus, they must lead and serve others, even if they face suffering and rejection. When a disciple fails, God’s grace is present to pick him up and press him on. Like Mark, Peter also knew what it was like to be a failure in following Jesus after having denied Him 3 times. He too was restored in the end. Peter & Mark – one a denier, the other a dropout. What an encouragement they were to Christians undergoing severe persecution and ready to quit.