Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Introducing Mark's Gospel

Today we begin reading the second book of the New Testament - the Gospel According to Mark. Although this gospel follows Matthew in the canonical arrangement of the books of the New Testament, most scholars agree that Mark is the earliest gospel, most likely written in mid 60's A.D. Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not contain many of the teachings of Jesus, such as the Sermon on the Mount; nor does Mark include the birth narrative of Jesus and post-resurrection appearances.

However, as the earliest gospel, Mark gives us a glimpse into the the life and witness of the church in its formative stage of development. Whereas Matthew gives us a portrait of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, the New Moses who has come to liberate God's people from the bondage of sin, Mark portrays Jesus in much more human terms. Jesus is portrayed as the "Suffering Servant," the one who has come to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. The passion narrative describing the suffering and death of Jesus consumes a large percentage of Mark's gospel.

The other major theme of Mark's gospel is that of discipleship. Just as Jesus came to serve, the true disciple is one who gives his life in the service of others. More than the other gospels, the gospel of Mark emphasizes that the fullness of the kingdom of God is yet to come. Consequently, as Jesus' followers, we are called to faithfulness and perseverance during this "in between time," the time between the resurrection of Jesus and the consumation of the kingdom of God.

In the history of biblical interpretation, the gospel of Mark has often been overlooked and looked down upon as simplistic and crude in its literary style. However, upon further examination and reflection, we find that Mark gives us the most fully human picture of Jesus. Although Mark certainly emphasizes Jesus' divine nature as "Son of God," he nevertheless vividly portrays the self-sacrificial love that Jesus exemplifiied by his life and, most importantly, his death.


  1. Looking forward to reading Mark with the insight to look for "most fully human picture of Jesus". I wasn't so sure I'd care for the AM and PM/ New and Old Testaments reading per day. Now that we are in THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR for a while I see the benefits -- among them looking forward to New Testament readings as a help through some very trying Old Testament books. Numbers here we come! Thank you Mark for being there.

  2. FRIDAY 18 Feb -- THE END OF LEVITICUS -- 26, 27 -- is this the Lawyer Handbook 101? I'm hanging in there but need some caffeine.

  3. YES...we are done with Leviticus. I hope we have not lost too many readers!

  4. Friday 18 Feb -- Mark 2:28 I understand but does it fully explain verse 27 or is there deeper philosophical/Biblical meaning?

  5. I think what Jesus is trying to say is that the Sabbath was given as a gift to humanity as a time for spiritual and physical refreshment, thus "the sabbath was made for mankind." To say the opposite ("mankind was made for the Sabbath") is to say that we are confined by and dominated by the legal restrictiveness of the Sabbath. In others words, man was created AND THEN the Sabbath was given as a gift to man. It is NOT the case that the Sabbath was created and then man created to be subject to the Sabbath.