Matthew may be the first gospel we encounter when we open the New Testament, but it was not the first gospel written. That honor goes to the Book of Mark which scholars generally agree on as being written around 65 A.D., forty years after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. While the above paragraph may have some literary license, it is based upon fact. We do know from Scripture that Mark’s mother was named Mary (Acts 12:12) and that Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first mission trip (Acts 12:25) probably acting as secretary. We also know that when Paul’s entourage arrived at Perga and Paul determined to head inland, Mark abandoned the trip and went home (Acts 13:13). There is no explanation given as to why he did this, but it came back to haunt him when a second missionary trip was in the works. Barnabas proposed they give Mark a second chance. Paul was adamant that he not come. In the end, the two leaders parted ways (Acts 15:37-40). Barnabas went in one direction and brought Mark along, while Paul picked up a new partner (Silas) and went in another. Mark disappears from the story after that, but eventually shows up again in a way only God could have planned. Read Col. 4:10; Phile. 1:24; and 2 Tim. 4:11 to find out!
The significance of Mark’s gospel is hard for us to grasp in a technological society that virtually has an exhaustive amount of information at our fingertips. But what if you only had one piece of note paper to last you the entire month? What things would you write on it? What would be important to you? At some point during the early days of the church it became necessary to document what scholars call the “Christ Event”. When the church began, people who had heard Jesus teach, the disciples who’d witnessed His death and resurrection, and those who’d been healed by Jesus were able to repeat their eye-witness accounts to the growing amount of believers. But as persecution arose, many of those “first generation” believers were martyred. In order to preserve those first-hand accounts, the gospels came to be. Mark being the first to bring these oral accounts to the written word had excellent resources in Peter and Paul. And Mark gets right to the heart of the matter- just WHO is Jesus and why should we believe in Him?
Mark’s introduction reveals his intentions. Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) and He is the Son of God. Every word penned after that offers proof of the validity of these statements. As the Messiah, Jesus fulfills Scripture (Mk. 15:22-28) as do the events of His life (Mk. 1:2-11; 11:1-10). As the Son of God, Jesus exhibits all the attributes of God (Mk. 2:1-2; 4:35-41; 5:21-43) and has a unique relationship to the Heavenly Father (Mk. 1:10-11; 8:27-29). While the bulk of Mark’s Gospels contains stories and lessons on discipleship and what it means to follow Jesus, Mark’s primary goal is to emphasize why the cost of discipleship is worth it: Jesus IS the Messiah, the Son of God. Have you considered this as you travel the road of faith? Do you know WHO you are following and why? The final verses of Mark leave you with this thought. Will you boldly proclaim Him as His disciple, or will you be afraid (Mk. 16:1-8*)?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 8/30/2015
*Many translations include vv. 9-20 in brackets. No one knows for certain if these passages were in Mark’s original. They only appear in one of the oldest Bible texts we have. They don’t disagree with the other Gospels, but it should be noted that they MAY HAVE been added later to soften the fact that v. 8 leaves us with the image of some very cowardly behavior by the disciples.