Introduction to Mark’s Gospel
“Mark’s gospel looks back, it looks around, and it looks forward. It is about what God did through Jesus of Nazareth, continues to do (or still desires to do) among those who follow Jesus, and will yet do until Jesus comes again.”1
Mark Fast Facts
- The first word of the gospel, “beginning,” opens the gospel just as the Hebrew Scriptures do: “In the beginning, God created…” (Gen 1:1). Mark announces a new beginning.
- The desert (Mark 1:4; 12-13) is a place associated with hardship and danger (Deut. 8:2; 1 Kings 19:4) but also a place of intimacy with God (Exodus 3:18; Hosea 2:14).
- As we begin Mark 2, conflict erupts almost immediately. Mark 2:1-3:6 is often called the conflict section of Mark.
- In Mark 2:17, the focus is not on the sinners’ need to change but on Jesus’ offer of forgiveness.
- Note the sarcastic Jesus in Mark 2:25, the Pharisees would have known their Scripture well- the divide between Jesus and the Pharisees is in how they use Scripture.
Introduction to Mark’s Gospel
- Mark’s gospel is anonymously written.
- First theory is that that Mark wrote based on information that he gained by hearing the Peter preach and teach. Further to this theory is that Mark was trained by Peter to narrate the stories of Jesus.
- The second theory is that Mark’s main source was the gospel of Matthew. However, some scholars believe that the Gospel of Matthew was written after Mark, which would discount this theory. Most who hold to this theory, argue that Matthew and Luke both used Mark as a source for writing their gospels. (Who copied who?)
- Early church traditions claim that the author of Mark wrote the gospel in Rome. As we read through the text, we will find that there are some allusions to Mark’s readers suffering persecution. While there isn’t really any reason to doubt that it was written in Rome, there isn’t much to gain from that either. It is, however, important to remember as you read the text that it is likely the first audience of the text was suffering in persecution.
Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God was obviously important to Jesus, given the amount of time he spent talking about it. It is also a phrase that Christians tend to throw around. What does the kingdom of God actually mean? Is it heaven? Is it here? Through Mark, we find that the Jesus’ references to the kingdom of God are about the power of God in our current lives in order to establish the reign of God. But that leaves us with the question, when?
There are three main views of when God establishes the kingdom.
- Some people have insisted that Jesus expected God’s kingdom to arrive immediately. But that Jesus himself viewed his role as a preparer, not a bringer.
- Others have thought that Jesus saw his coming to earth and his ministry as the equivalent to the arrival of the kingdom of God.
- Still others have adopted an ‘already/not yet’ view of the kingdom. The kingdom of God begins with Jesus’ arrival, but does not envelope the kingdom of God it its fullness. Through Jesus’ arrival, the kingdom of God has begun, but we still wait upon a God’s reign to fully come.
Mark holds to the third view (Mark 1:15). In Mark’s gospel, the kingdom of God is already coming throughout the life of Jesus. There are glimpses of hope and promise of what is to come.
Sin & Sickness
In the miracle of the healing of the paralytic (Mark 2:1-12), sin and sickness are closely related. Was the man paralyzed because he was sinful? Is sickness related to sin? Many people have and still do believe so.
We suffer in a fallen world because we are a fallen people. In some parts of Scripture incidents of sickness are directly related to sin and sometimes the suffering is viewed as divine judgement. However, Scripture denies that ALL suffering is directly related to a SPECIFIC sin. (see the book of Job; John 9:1-3; Luke 13:1-4). In Mark 2:1-10, there is no firm connection between the paralytic and his sin. The issues of sin and forgiveness are not usually raised when Jesus performs a miracle.
Questions for Reflection
- What has struck you as you begin to read the book of Mark?
- Where have you seen the “Kingdom of God?” What does it mean to you?
- What are your views on the relationship between sin and sickness?
- What other questions do you have about the text?
1Geddert, Mark, 15.
These additional notes on the Gospel of Mark are taken from the Believers Church Bible Commentary written by Timothy J. Geddert.
Geddert, Timothy J. Believers Church Bible Commentary: Mark. Herald Press: Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 2001.