Date. Probably written about A. D. 60, and before Matthew.
The Author. He was not an apostle and was variously designated as follows; (1) John, whose surname was Mark, Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37; (2) John only, Acts 13:5. 13; (3) Mark only, Acts 15:39; (4) always Mark after this, Col. 4:10, Philemon 24, 2 Tim. 4:11, 1 Pet. 5:13. He was a son of Mary, a woman of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). Her home was the gathering place of the disciples, whither Peter went after he was delivered from prison. On this or some other visit Mark may have been converted through the preaching of Peter, and this may have been the cause of Peter calling him “his son” (1 Pet. 5:13), which doubtless means son in the ministry. He returns with Paul and Barnabas from Jerusalem to Antioch (Acts 12:25), and accompanies them, as minister (Acts 13:5) on the first great missionary journey as far as Perga (Acts 13:13). There he left them and returned home. On the second missionary tour Paul declined to take him and separated from Barnabas, Mark’s cousin (Col. 4:10), who chose Mark for his companion (Acts 15:37-39). Ten years later he seems to be with Paul in his imprisonment at Rome and was certainly counted a fellow worker by Paul (Col. 4:10, Philemon 24). Paul found him useful and asked Timothy to bring him to him in his last imprisonment (2 Tim. 4:11). He was with Peter when he wrote his first epistle (1 Peter 5:13).
What he knew of the work of Jesus directly we do not know, probably not much. The early Christian writers universally say that he was the interpreter of Peter and that he based his gospel upon information gained from him.
Characteristics and Purpose.
1. It Is a Gospel of Vividness and Details. He shows the effect of awe and wonder produced upon those present by the works and teaching of Jesus. He tells the details of the actions of Jesus and his disciples and the multitudes. Jesus “looks around,” “sat down,” “went before”. He is grieved, hungry, angry, indignant, wonders, sleeps, rests and is moved with pity. The cock crows twice: “it is the hour”, “a great while before day,” or “eventide,” “there are two thousand swine”, the disciples and Jesus are on the sea, on Olivet, or in the court yard or in the porch. Everything is portrayed in detail.
2. It Is a Gospel of Activity and Energy. There is no story of his infancy, but he starts with “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”. He portrays the active career of Jesus on earth. He, however, lays emphasis upon the works rather than the words of Jesus. Few discourses of any length and only four of the fifteen parables of Matthew are given and those in the briefest form, while eighteen of the miracles are given in rapid review. The rapid succession is indicated by one Greek word, translated by the seven words “immediately”, “anon”, “forthwith”, “by and by”, “as soon as”, “shortly”, and “straightway”, which occur forty-one times in this gospel. The last meaning, straightway, is truest to the Greek idea and may be called Mark’s characteristic word. It indicates how with the speed of a racer he rushed along and thereby furnishes us a breathless narrative which Farrar says makes us “feel like the apostles who, among the press of the people coming and going, were twice made to say they ‘had no leisure so much as to eat’.” It moves as the scenes of a moving picture show.
3. It Is a Gospel of Power Over Devils. Here as in no other gospel the devils are made subject to Jesus. They recognize him as the “Son of God” and acknowledge their subordination to him by pleading with him as to what shall be done with them (5:7, 12).
4. It Is a Gospel of Wonder. Everywhere Jesus is a man of wonder that strikes awe and terror and causes to wonder those who see and hear him. Some of these may be studied, especially in the Greek, in 1:27; 2:13; 4:41; 5:28 6:50; 51; 7:37. As Archbishop Thompson puts it, “The wonder-working Son of God sweeps over his Kingdom swiftly and meteor- like” and thus strikes awe into the hearts of the on-lookers. He is “a man heroic and mysterious, who inspires not only a passionate devotion but also amazement and adoration”.
5. It Is a Gospel for the Romans. The Romans were men of great power, mighty workers who left behind them great accomplishments for the blessing of humanity. So that Mark would especially appeal to them by recording of Jesus his mighty deeds. He lets them see one who has power to still the storm, to control disease and death, and even power to control the unseen world of spirits. The Roman, who found deity in a Caesar as head of a mighty Kingdom, would bow to one who had shown himself King in every realm and whose kingdom was both omnipotent and everlasting, both visible and unseen, both temporal and spiritual.
Then, too, the Roman cared nothing for Jewish Scripture or prophecy and so he omits all reference to the Jewish law, the word law not being found in the entire book. He only once or twice refers in any way to the Jewish scriptures. He omits the genealogy of Jesus which could have no value to a Roman. Then, too, he explains all doubtful Jewish words, such as “Boanerges” (3:17), “Tabitha cumi” (5:41), “corban” (7:11), “alba” (15:36). He reduced Jewish money to Roman currency (12:42). He explains Jewish customs as not being understood by them. (See 7:3; 13:3; 14:12; 15:42).
And once more by the use of terms familiar to him such as centurion, contend, etc. “Mark showed the Roman a man who was a man indeed”. He showed them manhood crowned with glory and power; Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God; a man but a Man Divine and sinless, among sinful and suffering men. Him, the God-man, no humiliation could degrade, no death defeat. Not even on the cross could he seem less than the King, the Hero, the only Son. And as he gazed on such a picture how could any Roman refrain from exclaiming with the awe-struck Centurion, “Truly this was the Son of God”.
Subject. Jesus the Almighty King.
I. The Almighty King is Exhibited as the Son of God, 1:1-13.
1. In the baptism and teaching of John, 1-8.
2. In the baptism of Jesus, 9-11.
3. In the temptation, 12-13.
II. The Almighty King at Work in Galilee, 1:14-9 end.
1. Begins his work, 1:14 end.
2. Reveals his Kingdom, Chs. 2-5.
3. Meets opposition, 6:1-8:26.
4. Prepares his disciples for the end, 8:27-9 end.
III. The Almighty King Prepares for Death 10:1-14:31.
1. He goes to Jerusalem, 10:1-11:11.
2. In Jerusalem and vicinity, 11:12-14:31.
IV. The Almighty King Suffers at the Hands of His Enemies. 14:32- 15:46.
1. Agony of Gethsemane, 14:32-42.
2. Arrest, 14:43-52.
3. Jewish trial and denial of Peter, 14:53 end.
4. Trial before Pilate. 15:1-15.
5. The Crucifixion. 15:16-41.
6. The Burial, 15:42 end.
V. The Almighty King Triumphs Over His Enemies, Ch.16.
1. The resurrection, 1-8.
2. The appearances, 9-18.
3. The ascension, 19-20.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Sections peculiar to Mark, (a) Growth of the seed, 4:26-29. (b) Jesus’ compassion on the multitudes, 7:32-37. (c) The blind men healed gradually, 8;22-26. (d) Details about the ass, etc., 11:1-14. (e) Concerning watching, 13:33-37. (f) Details concerning Christ’s appearances. 16:6-11. (2) The spiritual condition of those affected by Jesus’ miracles. Keeping in mind their condition before and after the miracle: (a) Were they saved as well as well as healed? (b) Did they or their friends exercise faith, or did Jesus act voluntarily without any expression of faith? (3) What did Jesus do in performing the miracle? (a) Did he use the touch? (b) Was he touched? (c) Did he simply give command, etc? (4) From the following scriptures 2:35; 1:45; 3:7-12; 6:6; 6:21-32; 6:46; 7:34-25; 8:27; 9:2; 11:11; 11:19; 14:1-12, make a list of the different places to which Jesus retired and in connection with each indicate (in writing): (a) Was it before or after a victory or conflict? (b) Was it in preparation for or rest after the performance of a great work? (c) Indicate in each case whether he went alone or was accompanied and, if accompanied, by whom? (e) In each case also tell what Jesus did during the period of retirement. Did he pray, teach, perform miracles or what? (5) List the phrases “Son of man” and “Kingdom of God” and point out the appropriateness and meaning of each. (6) List all references to demons and to demon possessed people and study their nature, the nature of their work, their power, wisdom, etc. (7) The facts concerning the death of Jesus. 14:1-15:14. List them.