The Gospel of Mark is referred to as the memoirs of the Apostle Peter. It is suggested to be the earliest Gospel written one, around AD 50 to the Gentiles in Rome. The book’s theme is on the deeds of Jesus versus His teachings.
I once heard about someone who got to the end of this book and ask where’s the good news what with reading about all this suffering? Mark is a passion narrative building up to the cross. Jesus was crucified by a conspiracy of mankind so never should it be thought that the Jews as Jesus killer (Isaiah 53:3-6).
Part of Jesus’s story is the motif of necessary suffering in our salvation. That is the kind of messiah that came, a suffering servant, not a conquering political king. Not many Christians go through that same kind of persecution, but all will personally go through a form of refining that is necessary as we grow closer (in our discipleship) to a holy God. Sometimes that means stepping into situations that make us uncomfortable like cleaning up and caring for someone who is ill, working in community kitchens for the homeless, etc.
Mark’s gospel includes exorcisms. After the trails of Jesus’s in the desert where he defeated Satan (Mark 1:12-13), God’s son is revealed in this book continually going after evil spirits in seven passages (1:23-24, 3:20-30, 5:1-20, 7:24-30, 8:33, 9:14-29, 16:17-19).
The shortest Gospel written, Mark is thought to have been written later in his life while living in Italy. It is thought his writings were drawn from the preaching’s of Peter’s eyewitness account recounted at the end of his ministry in Rome. In Mark 13:24-29, he quotes Jesus’s teachings about His return after the resurrection. This section, called the Olivet discourse is referred as the little apocalypse, the end times told by Jesus.
Mark (also known as John Mark) uses the word immediately twelve times in this book, earning its reference as the gospel of immediacy. The audience, Romans, were people of action rather than thought. In his rapid-fire way, he tells the actions of Jesus. Mark was much younger than the other Gospel writers, probably a teen when the Lord was in Jerusalem. His mother was a follower of Jesus Christ (Acts 12:12).
Mark 9:2-4 tells when Jesus invited the closest of disciples, Peter, John, and James as witnesses, to come along with Him up to the mountaintop. There they saw Jesus’s meeting with the Old Testament leaders Moses and Elijah, miraculous transfigured together. I also see this as a testimony to God keeping His word to Moses to enter the promised land of Canaan. It was fulfilled in this transfiguration.
I resonate with Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” This is the book’s overall theme of Jesus serving others. According to philosopher and Christian apologist Douglas Groothius what ties value to a person is the principle of servanthood, “We value what we freely serve.”
Counter to the advice from my pastor who said (I think tongue in cheek?) not to share this publicly. I have a personal interpretation, some would call it trajectory hermeneutics, about Peter’s denial of Jesus during the trial before He went to the cross. I wonder if Peter did it because he saw it as a command from Jesus when Christ told him he was going to do it. In Mark 14:30, Jesus foretold Peter that he would deny Christ (following His arrest), stating Peter would disown Him by the time the rooster crowed three times the next morning. During the actual event, while Jesus was taken through the courtyard by the guards during his trial, Jesus turned to look at Peter after the predicted denial happened. Peter made eye contact with Jesus, then, in remorse, turned away and cried bitterly. This is known as the repentance of Peter. It is a stark contrast to Judas who was not remorseful enough to repent over his betrayal to Jesus and instead killed himself. Along with Jesus’s foretelling of Peter’s denial, He told His disciples they all would fall away. The others initially (except for John) scattered to distance themselves from Jesus and the crucifixion. My outlier premise is Peter’s denial was because Jesus told him to do it. I do not think Peter wanted to deny Him, based on his subsequent remorse and shame. But by him doing so, it was a turning point in Peter’s life that Jesus knew he must go through. Also, it probably saved Peter from persecution at that moment when he made the denial. Jesus telling Peter about his denial, as I see it, was more to test his obedience. Peter is known for his spontaneity, saying and doing what he wanted to do. My view is not a traditional (nor acceptable) one about Peter’s denial, however, what I draw from this is that Jesus asks us to do things when we don’t want to, to ensure our growth. In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus said Satan demanded to have Peter so he might sift him, but that Jesus was praying and his faith would not fail. Peter wept bitterly afterward and repented. Judas, on the other hand, didn’t repent and hung himself.
In her book, The Listener by Taylor Caldwell (one of many historical fictions she wrote about the apostles) reminds who and why Jesus came to earth. Published in 1960, the book tells a story about fifteen people from various backgrounds and situations. Each person goes into this specific public building to talk with someone called “the Listener.” A spoiler alert: each scenario unfolds and they realize the empathic listener experienced the same human dilemma and emotion as each person related along. as the son of God.
I personify God in the process of developing my ongoing relationship with Him which some would challenge. At the risk of this making him sound unloving, I do not lose sight that He is God and as God isn’t prone to emotions or feelings as I understand them. He is God the one who is sovereign, majestic, spiritual, unchanging, good, orderly, all knowing, all powerful, just, has an immensity outside of this world, is Holy, self-existing, eternal, transitive yet immanent. There is nothing He cannot do. Attributes of the kind of God I want to worship. I recognize who He is, except that I will never completely grasp his magnitude and humbly draw near to Him. Barth was talking about the Godhead of the Trinity. When I pray to God, I have grouped the father, son and holy spirit together in their unity and Jesus makes it easy to be as personable in my prayers as He was personable to all believers. My recollection of the stories about the closest thing I will get to a theophany (chapters on Exodus and Daniel) is an example of the difference.
For a while, I had extra copies of this book on hand to give to others, hoping the recipient would get this perspective of who Jesus was, of how we aren’t going through anything he hasn’t already experienced. It’s about how He was the Son of God and mortal man.