Though Mark was not one of the original disciples of Christ, he was the son of Mary, a woman of wealth and position in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), a companion of Peterdb04 (1 Pet. 5:13), and the cousin of Barnabasdb05 (Col. 4:10). These associations, especially his association with Peter who was evidently Mark’s source of information, gave apostolic authority to Mark’s Gospel. Since Peter spoke of him as “Mark, my son,” (1 Pet. 5:13), Peter may have been the one who led Mark to Christ.
In addition, he was also a close associate of Pauldb06. Ryrie writesdb07:
He had the rare privilege of accompanying Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey but failed to stay with them through the entire trip. Because of this, Paul refused to take him on the second journey, so he went with Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15:38-40). About a dozen years later he was again with Paul (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24), and just before Paul’s execution he was sent for by the apostle (2 Tim. 4:11). His biography proves that one failure in life does not mean the end of usefulness.fn17
DATE: A.D. 50S OR 60S
The dating of Mark is somewhat difficult, though many scholars believe this Gospel was the first of the four Gospels. Unless one rejects the element of predictive prophecy, 13:2 clearly shows that Mark was written before A.D. 70 and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Ryrie points out:
In fact, if Acts must be dated about A.D. 61, and if Luke, the companion volume, preceded it, then Mark must be even earlier, since Luke apparently used Mark in writing his gospel. This points to a date in the 50s for Mark. However, many scholars believe that Mark was not written until after Peter died; i.e., after 67 but before 70.fn18
THEME AND PURPOSE:
The theme of Mark is
This thrust is brought in 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.” A careful reading of Mark shows how the two themes of this verse, service and sacrifice, are unfolded by Mark. Mark is addressed primarily to the Roman or Gentile reader.
As a result, the genealogy of Jesus is omitted along with the Sermon on the Mount and the condemnations by the religious leaders receive less attention. Also, since Mark presents Jesus as the Worker, the Servant of the Lord, the book focuses on the activity of Christ as a faithful Servant effectively going about His work.
This focus seems evident by Mark’s style as seen in his use of the Greek euqus, “immediately, at once,” or “then, so then,” which occurs some 42 times in this Gospel. Its meaning varies from the sense of immediacy as in 1:10, to that of logical order (“in due course, then”; cf. 1:21 [“when”]; 11:3 [“shortly”]).fn19 Another illustration of this active focus is Mark’s prominent use of the historic present to describe a past event, which was evidently done for vividness.
Servant, Servant of the Lord.
8:34-37. Then Jesus called the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it. What advantage is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? What can a person give in exchange for his soul?”
10:43-45. “But it is not this way among you. But whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
forms a key chapter in Mark, much like chapter 12 in Matthew, because here there is a change in both the content and course of the ministry of Jesus.
- The pivotal event that brings about the change is the confession of Peter, “You are the Christ (the Messiah)” (8:29).
This is followed immediately by a warning that they should tell no one, the revelation of His death, the call to discipleship, and the transfiguration.
That faith-inspired response triggers a new phase in both the content and the course of Jesus’ ministry. Until this point He has sought to validate His claims as Messiah. But now He begins to fortify His men for His forthcoming suffering and death at the hands of the religious leaders.
Jesus’ steps begin to take Him daily closer to Jerusalem—the place where the Perfect Servant will demonstrate the full extent of His servanthood.fn20
CHRIST AS SEEN IN MARK:
Of course, Mark’s contribution especially centers on presenting the Savior as the Sacrificing Servant who gives His life obediently for the ransom of many. The focus is clearly on His ministry to the physical and spiritual needs of others always putting them before His own needs. This emphasis on the Savior’s servant activity is seen in the following:
Only eighteen out of Christ’s seventy parables are found in Mark—some of these are only one sentence in length—but he lists over half of Christ’s thirty-five miracles, the highest proportion in the Gospels.fn21
With the theme of the book being that of Christ the Servant. The key verse, 10:45, provides the key for two natural divisions of the Gospel:
We can divide this into five simple sections:
- I. The Preparation of the Servant for Service (1:1-13)
- II. The Preaching of the Servant in Galilee (1:14-9:50)
- III. The Preaching of the Servant in Perea (10:1-52)
- IV. The Passion of the Servant in Jerusalem (11:1-15:47)
- V. The Prosperity of the Servant in Resurrection (16:1-20)