Mark is the second gospel, written by John Mark. He was not one of the twelve disciples. It is the shortest of the four gospels and he was perhaps the youngest writer of the four gospels and it may well have been the earliest gospel that was written.
If we want to benefit from reading and studying any book, we should ask ourselves these five questions that we all would have learned in school – who, what, where, when and why?
- Who? Who wrote the book and who are the main characters? The author is John Mark. There is only one person who bears the name of Mark, that is John whose surname is Mark (Acts 12:25). We read about Mark for the first time in Acts, and not in any of the gospels. Main characters – the Lord Jesus Christ, the twelve disciples, the Jews and the Romans. Mark was a witness to the events when the Lord Jesus was on earth. In chapter 14:51 when the Lord was arrested, he describes himself as a young man and does not bring to the attention of the readers that he is Mark because simply he wants the readers to see the Lord Jesus as not only the perfect Servant but the Son of God.
- What? What is the book about, and what do we learn? It is about the Lord Jesus Christ in His character as the Servant, but Mark clearly tells us that the Servant is the Son of God (Mark 1:1).
- Where? Where was this book written and where did the events take place? No reference as to where it was written, but the events took place in Israel.
- When? When was it written and when did the events take place? Mark is probably the earliest gospel written, between 55 and 70 AD, but the events took place between around 1AD to 32-33 AD. This means that there is more than 20 years after the Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension that this book was written.
- Why? Why was it written? This is usually the most difficult question to answer. It was written to show us the servant character of Christ and for us to be more like Him in this character toward each other and those outside.
Firstly, it is good to have an idea about Mark, the writer of this gospel. He was a young man who went along with Barnabas and Saul in their first journey in Acts 13 but for whatever reason he returned to Jerusalem and did not continue with them. In Acts 15 when Barnabas sought to take Mark back with him and Paul, the apostle Paul decided that it was not wise to take someone who had left them previously (Acts 15:37-39). Therefore, at this point Mark was known as the servant who was not profitable. The reason that Barnabas was upset is because Mark was his nephew and Barnabas wanted to encourage Mark in the mission (Colossians 4:10 mentions Mark related to Barnabas). However, later in Paul’s writings, in Philemon 24 Mark is mentioned as a fellow-worker and in 2 Timothy 4:11, one of Paul’s last epistles, he mentions Mark as being profitable to him for the ministry. What caused the change in Mark? It is possible that when he went back to Jerusalem he met Peter. He was in a house where they were praying for Peter previously in Acts 12, so he knew of Peter. In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter refers to Mark as his son. The extent of their relationship is unknown, but Peter may have been the one to speak with Mark and refresh his soul with the things that the Lord Jesus did and taught. Perhaps it was then that the Holy Spirit led Mark to write about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Perfect Servant.
There is a Sunday School song that we sometimes sing with the children about the four gospels, and when it comes to Mark, it goes like this:
Peter told young Mark his friend – In Mark 16:7 the young man told the women who went to the tomb to tell the disciples and Peter. This is the only gospel that “and Peter” is mentioned in this event.
How He loved them to the end. He gave Himself for them.
How He made the cripple strong – Chapter 2:5-10 the paralytic man healed.
How He broke the power of wrong – forgiving sins (chapter 2:5-10) and His death broke the power of wrong.
Blind men He made to see – Bartimaeus (he is mentioned by name in Mark 10:46-52).
Son of Man in majesty – the transfiguration (chapter 9:1-9). His resurrection and ascension – sat at the right hand of God (chapter 1619) also proves He is the Son of Man in majesty.
Dying He made us free – chapter 10:45.
Christ the Lord eternally – sat at the right hand of God after he ascended. Answering to the Pharisees that Christ is David’s Lord (chapter 12:35-37).
Although we often state that Mark is the gospel of Jesus Christ as the perfect Servant of God, the beginning and end of the gospel also emphasises that He is the Son of God – Mark begins with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (chapter 1:1) and ends with the risen Lord seated at the right hand of God (chapter 16:19).
A key word in Mark is “immediately” which is mentioned at least 41 times. There is a sense of urgency. The events in Mark are in chronological (date) order.
One other thing worthy to mention is that at least 28 Old Testament references are in the gospel of Mark. In Malachi 3:1 there is the messenger, and Mark 1 answers to Malachi’s words about the messenger.
Christ the Servant – Isaiah 40:3; Zechariah 3:8 God declaring that Christ is His Servant, not just an ordinary person as a servant, but the Servant, the Branch. Mark must have looked back at the servant character of Christ and looked at himself that he was unfit for service, but God in His grace, and through the leading of the Holy Spirit, Mark was able to write about the Perfect Servant who is the Son of God at the same time.
There are several testimonies about Christ as the Son of God:
- Chapter 1:11 at His baptism, God declared that He is His well-beloved Son
- Chapter 1:23-24 unclean spirit testifies that He is the Son of God
- Chapter 2:5-10 He has the power to forgive sins – only God can, and He is God
- Chapter 2:27-28 He is Lord of the Sabbath (God)
- Chapter 4:39-41 calmed the wind and waves – again only God can do this
- Chapter 6:48-50 tells His disciples ‘it is I’. This is the word “I AM” that God used in Exodus 3 to Moses.
- Chapter 5 the demon-possessed man testified that He is the Son of God
- Chapter 9:1-7 the transfiguration, God again declaring that Christ is His Son
- Chapter 14:61-64 the high priest asking Him if He is the Son of the blessed
- Chapter 15:39 the Roman centurion testified that He is the Son of God
- Chapter 16:19 sat at the right hand of God
We see that his disciples, enemies, demons, Romans, and God Himself testifying that Christ is the Son of God.
A simple division of the gospel:
The key verse is in chapter 10:45, the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
- Chapter 1:1-13 the Servant – who He is and how He came
- Chapter 1:14 to chapter 10 – the Servant’s work; not to be served but to serve
- Chapter 11 to 13 – Jerusalem, rejection, still serving
- Chapter 14 to 15 – giving His life a ransom for many
- Chapter 16 – the Servant risen, ascended and exalted
There is an article by Arno Gaebelin on www.biblecentre.org where I borrowed this division of the gospel of Mark. A final word on the order of the four gospels – Revelation 4:7 speaks of four living creatures each having face of a lion (Matthew; lion of the tribe of Judah), ox (Mark. The ox speaks of servitude), man (Luke. The Son of Man) and eagle (John, the Son of God). These appear in order as we have it in the order of the four gospels.
One thought on “Outline of the Gospel of Mark”
Good stuff. Thank you Phil.