Keys to Understanding the Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Mark is the second gospel listed in the New Testament, coming right after Matthew. It is commonly accepted by scholars, however, that Mark was the first gospel written. Both Matthew and Luke rely heavily on Mark for their own books. The Gospel of Mark is clearly a primary source for Matthew and Luke. Each of the gospels appear to be aimed at a particular group of people, possibly even a particular Christian community. Mark's story of Jesus was likely written for the Christians in the city of Rome.
There are several different ways that one can approach the study of Mark.
1. Discipleship. The theme of discipleship is one that is central to Mark. While discipleship is an important theme in each of the four gospels, it is an especially important idea for Mark. The interactions that Jesus had with His disciples throughout the book show Him working to train them and develop them so that they could continue His ministry after He was gone. What is fascinating is the fact that the disciples continue to struggle with understanding who Jesus really was up until the very end. An excellent study idea is to examine the interactions that Jesus had with His disciples In Mark.
2. A Study of the Author. A second way that Mark can be studied is by a close examination of the author. Each of the gospels are untitled in their original Greek manuscripts. Scholars rely on internal evidence in the manuscript, Church History, tradition, and the writings of the Church Fathers to determine authorship. The tradition and evidence is strong that John Mark was the author of this gospel.
The story of John Mark in the rest of the New Testament is fascinating. He is mentioned several times in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s letters, and even one of Peter’s letters. When all of this evidence is examined together, a fascinating story begins to emerge of a man who benefited from being around several key Christian leaders. Most scholars believe that Mark’s gospel is a compilation of the Apostle Peter’s sermons and reminisces of his time with Jesus.
3. A Study of the Miracles. A last way of studying Mark would be to study the miracles and supernatural incidents that Mark records. Mark lists more of Jesus’ miracles than the other gospel writers. It is clear that Mark is writing to an audience that would benefit from and appreciate these stories. Each miracle is presented to convey a different aspect of God’s power and nature.
The first supernatural experience that Mark describes is the vision that Jesus has at His baptism. Jesus experiences a supernatural encounter with God in which He hears an audible voice speak, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” (Mark 1:11) There are similar accounts in the other gospels but a question one could explore is, “Why and how does Mark present this story differently?”
For further study in the Gospel of Mark, please see my book Miracles in Mark. It is a detailed study of each of the miracles and supernatural phenomenons that Mark records.
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