GOSPEL OF MARK - INTRODUCTION
INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL OF MARK
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
October 4, 2022
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
The Book of Acts ended abruptly leaving us with many questions. However, the letters of Peter and Paul as well as the Gospel of Mark fill in some of the blanks for us.
As I begin the study of Mark, I can now understand why the Holy Spirit is leading me in this direction.
We cannot separate the writing of Mark’s Gospel from 1 and 2nd Peter.
That its author was John Mark is attested by such second-century church writers as Papias, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, etc.
John Mark lived in Jerusalem with Mary his mother during the early church period, his home being an early Christian meeting-place (Acts 12:12).
Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Later on, he served with Barnabas in Cyprus, and later still he was at Rome with Peter and with Paul (Col. 4:10; Philemon 24:2; 2 Tim. 4:11.
1 Peter 5:13: "The church in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so, does Mark my son."
Babylon is used by Peter as a code-word for Rome.
Peter addressed his first epistle to the Christians in Rome. Thus, Peter tells his brethren of “the fiery trial” (1 Peter 4:12) which was “to try” them, alluding to the extension of the Neronian persecution. Mark was with Peter when this letter was written.
The Second Epistle of Peter was written soon after the first, and was addressed to the same Churches, and was written from Rome. The author now contemplated the near approach of death, so that the advice he here gives may be regarded as his dying instructions, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle even as our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me. Moreover, I will endeavor that you may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance (2 Peter 1: 13-15).
Paul wrote from prison before his death, 2 Timothy 4:11: Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. Legend has it that before Paul’s execution, Peter spoke these words to him, “Go in peace, Preacher of good tidings, and guide of the salvation of the just.”
John Mark would have arrived in Rome before the death of Paul. Some historians think Peter was crucified one year later, others on the same day. I have taught it from the viewpoint they were both crucified on the same day. I don’t have the Word of the Lord on that.
That it was while Mark was at Rome that he wrote this gospel is attested by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius and Jerome. Evidence of this can be concluded from the Gospel itself in the considerable number of Latin terms which Mark uses.
This further validates that Mark’s Gospel was written primarily for Christians in Rome. It is clear it was written for gentiles. This is indicated by the way in which Jewish customs and terms are carefully explained.
There is no evidence of Mark’s having been an eye-witness of most of the events in Jesus’ life which he describes in this gospel. There is the story that the “young man” mentioned in 14: 51-52 is the author’s anonymous allusion to himself. I like that story and preached it in years’ past.
It is now held almost universally that Mark’s was the earliest Gospel, and that it was used as a source for the writing of the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke. Augustine, on the contrary, regarded Mark as having produced his gospel by abridging the more extended record of Matthew. That Mark’s main source for the writing of his Gospel was the preaching and instruction of the Apostle Peter is attested by Papias, Justin, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, (all of the second century).
Hieron: “Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, being sent from Rome by brethren, wrote a concise gospel.”
Tertulliam: “Mark, the interpreter of Peter, delivered in writing the things which had been preached by Peter.”
Also, the prominence of Peter in the story, including allusions to him which none but himself would probably have recalled. Peter is present in almost all the scenes. In 1 Peter 5:1, Peter implies that he witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion,
1 Peter 5:1: "The elders which are among you exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed."
Peter was one of the very few who were present. The inclusion of such details suggests that the descriptions in question originated by an eye-witness.
Peter’s martyrdom by crucifixion was prophesied by Jesus. John 21: 18-19: "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God…"
There are early Church writers who affirm that this occurred at Rome, in connection with the Neronian persecution of the Church. Whether Mark’s gospel was written before or after Peter’s death is of different opinions even by the first century church fathers. It seems obvious to me that since Peter dictated the story to Mark, he wrote it down at the time of dictation, or as Peter was preaching. They do all agree it was written in the sixth decade of the first century.
Mark’s Gospel is to the point, and full of action; a feature which would appeal to the practically minded Romans for whom, it was primarily written. The proportion of it which is devoted to recording Jesus’ deeds, rather than His words, is greater in Mark’s gospel than in the others. Eighteen miracles are related, as against only four full-scale parables. An unusually large number of Jesus exorcizing of demons is emphasized.
The thesis of this gospel is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Mark 1:1: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
As the story unfolds, Mark shows Jesus to have been proclaimed “Son of God” by His heavenly Father.
Mark 1:11: Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Mark 9:7: "A cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “this is My beloved Son. hear Him.”
By demons who possessed supernatural knowledge:
Mark 3:11: "The unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God."
Mark 5:7: "He cried out with a loud voice and said, “what have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most-High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me."
By Jesus Himself: Mark 12:6-9: "Therefore. still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, “they will respect my son.” But those vine dressers said among themselves, “this is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”
The story’s climax is that of a man of Roman nationality making this proclamation:
15:39: "When the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, 'truly this Man was the Son of God!'"
In Christian tradition, the four Evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the authors of the four gospels. They are called evangelists, a word meaning “people who proclaim good news.”
The evangelists are likened the symbols which originate from the four “living creatures’ that draw the throne-chariot of God.
These are images of Christ in His glory: The first living creature was a lion symbolizing His effectual working, His leadership, and royal power; the second was like an ox, signifying His sacrificial and priestly order; but the third had the face of a man, an evident description of His advent as a human being; the fourth was like a flying eagle,” pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering with His wings over the church. Therefore, all four gospels are in accord with these things, among which Christ Jesus is seated.
1. Matthew, a man because the gospel highlights Jesus’ entry into this world, first by presenting His family lineage---“A family record of Jesus Christ, Son of David, son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1) ---and His incarnation and birth: “now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” (Mt.1:18). “This then,” according to Irenaeus, “is the gospel of His humanity; for which reason it is, too, that the character of a humble and meek man is kept through the whole gospel.” “The face of a man suggests human compassion and understanding for our fellowmen. This is the ability to enter others’ joys and sorrows as though they were our own. (Rom. 12:15). (K.V.)
2. Mark, a winged lion, references the Prophet Isaiah when he begins his gospel: “Here begins the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” In Isaiah, the prophet. it is written: “I send my messenger before you to prepare your way” a herald’s voice in the desert, crying, “Make ready the way of the Lord, clear Him a straight path.” “The voice in the desert crying” reminds one of a lion’s roar, and the prophetic spirit descending to earth reminds one of a “winged message.” The lion also signified royalty, an appropriate symbol of the Son of God.
3. Luke, the winged ox. The face of an OX suggests patient and enduring service. Even in weariness and painfulness (11 Cor. 11:27). An OX works when he is called upon to do so, whether he feels like it or not. Oxen were used in temple sacrifices. When the Ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem, an ox and a fatling were sacrificed every six steps (2 Sam. 6). Luke begins his gospel with the announcement of the birth of John the Baptizer to his father, the priest Zechariah, who was offering sacrifice in the Temple (Lk.1). Luke also includes the parable of the Prodigal son, in which the fatted calf is slaughtered, not only to celebrate the younger son’s return, but also to foreshadow the joy we must have in receiving reconciliation through our most merciful Savior who as Priest offered Himself in sacrifice to forgive our sins. Therefore, the winged ox reminds us of the priestly character of our Lord and His sacrifice for our redemption.
4. John, the rising eagle. The EAGLE is the Book of John, Jesus as the Son of God, it is the color blue which is the color of the Spirit and its function is to take us into Glory. The face of an EAGLE suggests living on a high spiritual plane above the things of the earth (Isa. 40:31). The same wind which causes other birds to seek shelter lifts the eagle to higher situations. We become animated by persecution, trials, and challengers. We learn to take the wind of adversity and fly higher.
“It requires all four gospels to reveal Him who is altogether lovely. (Song 5:16). The four beasts of Rev. 4-5 reveal the Corporate, many-membered Christ. In our Lord we see first of all the MAN in his first 30 years. (Jn. 1:1-4; Phil. 2:1-11). Then we see the LION as he goes forth in His ministry. (Acts 10:38) Next, as the Ox, He laid down His life as our only sacrifice for sins. Finally, He ascended up in glorification as the EAGLE, far above all principality and power” (Eph. 1:202-3) (Bill Britton).
According to church history, John Mark died April 25, 68 A.D in Alexandria, Egypt. He started a church there. This would have been a year or less from time of Peter and Paul’s execution. History records that his body was dragged by a horse until he died then his body was burned. Christians gathered up his bones and ashes and decently interred them. In 828 A.D., his remains were stolen from Alexandria, then taken to Venice by two Venetian merchants with the help of two Greek monks.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Church Ministries
www.eastgateministries.com Scripture from N.K.J.V.
I entered into the labors of F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary, Stephen F. Short; and Wikipedia; Matthew Henry; Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of those who I entered into their labors.