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 or actions of Jesus versus His teachings.
I once heard from someone who got to the end of this book and asked “Where’s the good news?” because this passion narrative is about a suffering servant, not a conquering political king, with Mark’s account up to the cross. Jesus was crucified by a conspiracy of mankind not by the notion that the Jesus killer was the Jews (Isaiah 53:3-6).
Part of Jesus’s narrative is the motif of necessary suffering in our salvation. Not many Christians go through that same kind of persecution described here, but all will personally go through a form of refinement necessary for spiritual growth. Sometimes that means stepping into uncomfortable situations as simple as cleaning up and caring for someone who is ill, working in community kitchens for the homeless, etc. A key verse is to love Jesus with all your heart, understanding, strength and to love your neighbor (12:33).
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 found 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. His writings were drawn from Peter’s eyewitness accounts 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 also referred to as the little apocalypse, the end times told by Jesus.
Mark (a.k.a. John Mark) uses the word immediately twelve times in this book, a 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 Moses and Elijah, of a bygone era who miraculous transfigured together. I see this as a fulfillment of a promise by God to Moses, keeping His word to Moses about entering the promised land of Canaan.
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 the following 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. Indulgence is begged of the reader to my idiosyncrasy without the benefit of knowing the original grammatical syntax of the verse as I suggest this notion. I speculate though that Peter denied Jesus because he interpreted what Jesus said as a command (the prophetic statement of what Peter was going to do). In Mark 14:30, Jesus foretold Peter that he would deny Christ (following His arrest) three times, stating the apostle would disown Him when the rooster had crowed 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 the repentance of Peter. It is a stark contrast to Judas who was not remorseful enough to repent of 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 made the denials because Jesus didn’t just predict it but was actually telling 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 obedience to Christ 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. Peter’s spontaneity, saying and doing what he wanted to do is legendary. My view here 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, unlike Judas.
In her book, The Listener by Taylor Caldwell (one of many biblical historical fictions she wrote) 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.” Spoiler alert: as each scenario unfolds and the person realizes the empathic listener experienced the same human dilemma and emotion as was related.
I personify God in the process of my development of the ongoing relationship with Him which can be challenging when you consider He is also a transient God, not human. 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. These are attributes of the kind of powerful God I want to worship. Karl Barth talks about the Godhead of the Trinity. When I pray, I have grouped the father, son and holy spirit together in their unity and Jesus eases the way to be personable in my prayers as He is personable to all believers.
These defining qualities of God are helpful in understanding who he is but the author of the contemporary language Bible The Message Eugene Peterson says, “We do not know God by defining him but by being loved by him and loving in return.”
For a while, I had extra copies of The Listener on hand to give to others, hoping the recipient would get this perspective of the empathetic atonement of Jesus, 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.