Introduction to the Gospel of Mark
and Study of Mark 1-3
October 13th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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The Gospel of Mark is the second book in the New Testament, but it is generally assumed to have been the first one to be written, probably sometime between 60-70 A.D. It is the shortest of the four Gospels, but is full of action and events from Jesus' ministry and teaching - recorded in chronological order.

The first book of the New Testament, Matthew, had been written for a Jewish audience, as such it had many references to the Prophets and the Law (what we now call the Old Testament). By contrast, Mark's intended audience was the Christians in Rome who were not familiar with Jewish traditions but were beginning to suffer persecution and lived far away from the land of Israel. But these people did understand the many aspects of Roman culture - including the horrifying concept of Crucifixion. Mark's Gospel uses stories of Jesus' life to encourage these Christians to persevere and continue to share the Gospel in the face of persecution with the knowledge that Jesus has provided everlasting life with his sacrifice.

Another distinction of Mark's account is that he emphasizes the actions of Jesus more so than the words of Jesus, often providing very detailed accounts of events. In the Introduction to Mark in the New American Bible, the editors note that Mark writes in a "vivid style" with an "almost breathless narrative(1)." Mark was not one of the twelve Disciples, but had been a travelling companion of the Disciple Peter after the Resurrection, as described in the book of Acts. He is mentioned numerous times in Acts and the Letters of the New Testament, sometimes referred to as John Mark. For instance, we will be reading later that Christians assembled in his mother’s house (at Jerusalem) (Acts 12:12). We will also learn that Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10) and accompanied Barnabas and Paul on a missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:3; 15:36–39). He also is noted in letters from Paul (2 Tm 4:11; Phlm 24) and Peter (1 Pt 5:13)(2).

Given these experiences, Mark had the opportunity to hear Peter's first-hand accounts, and perhaps had heard these stories on many occasions during their journeys through the provinces of the Roman Empire. In fact, one source indicates that "The early church fathers agreed that Mark's Gospel reproduces the preaching of Peter. Peter's personality can be found on almost every page... (3)"

You may notice that Mark's written account overlaps with a significant portion of Matthew, but provides an added detailed perspective, presumably form the view of Peter. The Gospel of Mark also offers a refresher on key topics, and introduces some additional content not found in Matthew. We will divide the book into eight days of study as shown below:

    Ministry of Jesus

    Mark 1-3 (Jesus Draws a Crowd) - October 13th
    Mark 4-5 (Who is This Man?) - October 14th
    Mark 6-7 (No Challenge Too Great) - October 15th
    Mark 8-9 (Who Is the Greatest?) - October 16th

    The Hour is Coming

    Mark 10-11 (Final Trip to Jerusalem) - October 17th
    Mark 12-13 (Keep Watch For the Hour Is Coming) - October 18th
    Mark 14 (Preparation for the Sacrifice) - October 19th


    Mark 15-16 (Resurrection of the One Who Came to Heal) - October 20th

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Barclay, William, The Gospel of Mark, revised edition, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975

  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)

  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993

  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)

  • Minear, Paul S., The Layman’s Bible Commentary, John Knox Press, Richmond, VA, 1966

  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970

  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

  • “Sermon Library,” Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT

Mark 1-3 (Jesus Draws a Crowd)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

- Mark 1:28 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

Mark begins his Gospel with brief descriptions of the ministry of John the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus, the calling of the disciples, and the start of Jesus’ healing ministry in Capernaum and Galilee. In chapters 2-3, Mark describes the continuation of the ministry of Jesus. His reputation spread quickly and he begans to draw large crowds:

    Jesus went off with his disciples to the sea to get away. But a huge crowd from Galilee trailed after them—also from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, across the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon—swarms of people who had heard the reports and had come to see for themselves. He told his disciples to get a boat ready so he wouldn’t be trampled by the crowd. He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him.

    - Mark 3:7-10 (MSG)

Jesus also attracted attention from the leaders of the day who were outraged by his actions and tried to discredit him. Mark records the conflict regarding the activities on the Sabbath that Jesus had endorsed, specifically the picking of grain by the disciples and the healing of a lame man by Jesus. Jesus’ authority is challenged so he schools his audience on the topic of authority and later issues a warning of the consequences of their actions:

    “Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.” He gave this warning because they were accusing him of being in league with Evil.

    - Mark 3:28-30 (MSG)

The chapter concludes with Jesus declaring that his followers are now his family – not his mother and brothers.

Reflection and Application

Unlike Matthew, Mark does not describe the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem or the birth of Jesus. Instead he begins with a quote from Isaiah that prophesized the work of John Baptist:

    “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, a voice of one calling in the desert."

    -Mark 1:2-3, Isaiah 40:3 (NIV)

God revealed his plans to Isaiah and made good on his promise to deliver the Messiah. We may hear a promise from God, but we may not know the timing. We must trust that he will fulfill that promise and understand that his timing is not the same as our timing.

Even though Jesus represented the fulfillment of the scripture, the Pharisees and others did not see who he was. They were so spellbound by their own laws for the Sabbath and other activities that they could not recognize the fulfillment of the law right in front of them. By contrast, the twelve disciples were working men who immediately responded to Jesus’ call. Two of them left their father in the fishing boat to finish the day’s work without them. Another abandoned his corrupt tax collecting career to become a follower of Christ and an author of a Gospel (Levi, also known as Matthew).

How often do we see the glory of God’s action right in front of us but not recognize it because we are caught up with our work or stuck in our own framework of how we think the world operates? We need to keep our hearts open to his way and allow ourselves to be welcomed into his family.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. John the Baptist is reported to have eaten locusts and wild honey. What is the strangest thing that you ever ate?
    2. Mark says that Jesus was driven into the desert where he was tempted by Satan and faced wild beasts. In what ways have you experienced a spiritual desert of temptation and danger?
    3. What parts of your life are you willing to leave behind in response to Jesus’ call for you?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, we know you fulfill your promise in your time, help us to trust patiently.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    People who are physically paralyzed


    (1) The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970, Introduction to the Gospel According to Mark
    (2) IBID
    (3) Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Mark 4-5 (Who is this Man?)

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