Lesson 1- Introduction to Mark
The Gospel of Mark is considered by scholars to have been written before the other three gospels, perhaps as early as 55-65 AD. The gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke are known as the ‘Synoptic’ gospels since all three share a large amount of common material which most believe originated in Mark.
We call it the ‘Gospel of Mark’ but there is actually no internal reference to the author. In fact the writer starts out by calling it “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” However, early Christian writers like Papias (140 AD) have named John Mark as the writer. John Mark is the same man who traveled briefly with Paul & Barnabas, and caused a parting of their ways. Later, Paul would write approvingly of Mark.
According to early Christian historians, John Mark later became an associate of the Apostle Peter, and traveled extensively with him. It was during this time that the gospel was written, probably in Rome. Some also refer to this gospel as being ‘Peter’s Gospel,’ since Peter was the primary source for the work (See: Papias, 140 AD and Irenaeus, 175 AD).
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes the ministry and works of Jesus. It is the supernatural ‘action’ Gospel. While Mark does record Jesus preaching in parables in chapter 4 about the Kingdom of God, and in chapter 13 about the ‘End of the Age.’ There is no extensive teaching component like we find in Matthew or Luke. In this gospel, Jesus demonstrates that the ‘Kingdom of God’ is near by healing, casting out demons, controlling nature, feeding thousands, & raising people from the dead.
Read the entire Gospel of Mark through at one time if possible, or take two or three days. Note along the way, all of the so-called ‘supernatural’ events that are recorded. The Gospel of Mark keys in on the deeds, actions, & ministry of Jesus Christ & his disciples. In the Gospel of Mark we can get a real idea of what it might have been like being with Jesus experiencing incredible events one after another. Stuff you don’t see everyday.
An Overview of Mark
The ‘Supernatural’ in The Gospel of Mark
Nearly half of the 45 verses in Mark- Chapter One, are connected with some kind of ‘supernatural’ event.
Why is this important you ask? Critics of the New Testament have long held that the Gospels were written long after the events, by second generation Christians who embellished the scriptures with ‘supernatural’ events in order to make Jesus look more important. Yet, the Gospel of Mark is recognized by scholars–conservative, liberal, & secular alike-to be the earliest Gospel, written well within the lifetime of those who were there, and it actually emphasizes those very ‘supernatural’ deeds & actions.
For example, the following are things that you don’t see every day (what those of us in the western world would refer to as ‘supernatural’)–from just chapter one in Mark alone:
Verses 7-8: -Prophetic declaration
Verses 10-11: -Open Heaven
-Spirit descending as a dove
-Voice from Heaven
Verses 12-13: -Spirit sent/inspired
-Personally tempted by Satan himself
-Wild animals didn’t harm him
-Angels attended to him
Verse 15: Prophetic statement
Verse 16: “Come follow me…”, invitation accepted–they actually leave their work!
Verses 23-25: Evil spirit expelled
Verses 29-31: Peter’s mother-in-law healed
Verses 32-34: Healed many & cast out demons
Verse 39: Preaching & driving out demons
Verses 40-45: Leper healed
These are events that those of us, in the secular ‘modern’ world, would consider exceptional. However, in the life and ministry of Jesus & his Apostles, our exceptions were their norm. Our world view is markedly different from those in the first century.
Those of us who have read these verses many times, & heard about them in Sunday School as children, really have a hard time engaging the text. Stop and think for a second; if you were actually there, how would you react? Probably far different than you did when you read about it.
These events were real, and they really did happen to real people! Think about it. If a stranger came to your office tomorrow and said to you- “Come follow me…” -would you go? The fact that Peter, Andrew, James, & John-all left their jobs behind immediately-demonstrates that something extraordinary was going on. If someone in the local mall started healing every sick or disabled person he saw, what would happen? Would anybody listen to what he had to say?
Jesus proclaimed everywhere he went (verse 15):
“The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News!”
What did that declaration mean to those who heard it in the first century? The Jewish people at the time were hoping for the Messiah to come & kick out the Romans. The OT prophets foretold of a time at the end of history, when the Kingdom of God would be established, and there would be no more sickness, hunger, poverty, or death.
When Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, & miraculously fed thousands; he was demonstrating tangibly who he was & is–when you are near Jesus–”The Kingdom of God is near”. Even today, when you are a friend of Jesus, the hope & the reality of the Kingdom, and rule of God is near.
We plan on beginning each lesson with a notation of the ‘supernatural’ events and acts in each chapter followed by the ‘notes and commentary’ on the verses.
-Read Mark chapter One for next week’s lesson.