The Gospel of Mark was the first of the four Gospels to be written, somewhere around 65 A.D. It is also the shortest Gospel. It is estimated that the average reader could read Mark in one and a half hours— which makes it great for summer reading!
Mark is unique for the stories of Jesus that he did not include. Jesus’ birth, the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, Zacchaeus, Mary and Martha— none of these stories are included in the Gospel of Mark.
Instead, Mark delivers a fast-paced retelling of Jesus’ adult life, beginning with John the Baptist (prepare the way!) and ending in Jesus’ crucifixion. I studied Mark in seminary and one word stood out to me: immediately. When you read this Gospel, you’ll notice that Mark uses this term over and over again— 42 times, in fact! Like I said, it’s fast-paced.
Mark understood that Jesus’ story was going to change the world, so he wasted no words in telling the story. There’s an urgency to Mark’s Gospel.
Do you feel this same urgency when sharing about Jesus?
Who was Mark?
Mark was not one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Instead, Mark traveled on some of the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas as described in the Book of Acts.
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
It is a bit confusing that Mark also went by the name John. To make matters worse, sometimes he is simply called John Mark. Even so, these names refer to the same Mark who wrote this Gospel. And we can learn a lot about Mark based on a reading of Acts.
Mark was a young Christian who grew up in Jerusalem. His mother hosted meetings of the early church in her home. Mark would have had an opportunity as a child to meet Jesus’ original disciples.
When Mark grew older (probably a young adult), he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Unfortunately, the stress of the journey proved too much for Mark, and he returned home before it was complete. This annoyed Paul so much that he didn’t allow Mark to come on the second missionary journey. This precipitated Barnabas and Paul splitting up, with Mark accompanying Barnabas on his next missionary journey.
In addition, 1 Peter tells us that Mark traveled with Peter (one of Jesus’ 12 disciples) when Peter visited Rome. It is likely that Mark wrote down what he learned about Jesus from Paul and Peter, thus creating the Gospel of Mark.
Here’s what we know so far— Luke investigated the claims of Jesus and wrote down what he believed to be the truth of the matter. Mark traveled with Paul and Peter and wrote down what he learned from them about Jesus.
Next week, we will explore the Gospel of Matthew.
See you on Sunday!