In today’s episode, I would like to give you an introduction to the gospel of Mark. As you know, there are four gospels in the New Testament. Every gospel unveils a beautiful portrait of our Lord before us. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus Christ appears as a servant of God. A servant who is completely obedient to his master. A servant who is not concerned about himself, but about the things of who sent him to this world. A servant who is not mindful about his own likes and dislikes, but who is always mindful about the likes and dislikes of his master.
In today’s culture, we don’t like to hear words like ‘servant’ and ‘master’. Our modern society has intoxicated us with a sense of individualism that says, ‘I am the master of my own soul’, ‘If there is a God, he too must serve me. Otherwise, I have no use of God in my life’. ‘Well, I wanted to become this, but God did not give me that, so I have no use for God any more’. A new movie released this weekend titled Thor: Love and Thunder. The movie is about a God killer called Gorr. Gorr, the God Butcher is on a hunt to kill gods. He has a daughter named Love. They struggle in a barren desert. They pray to their god, Rapu. But Rapu did not heed to their prayers. Love dies leaving Gorr heart-broken. Gorr then takes god-killing necrosword and confronts Rapu. Rapu is not amused by Gorr. He dismisses his plight and tries to strangle him. Gorr takes his god-killing sword and kills Rapu with it, and vows to kill all gods.
This movie offers us a glimpse into Norse mythology that dominated Scandinavia before its Christianization. It shows us how paganism works. You pray to a god with a request. If that god does not heed your request, you kill that god. When God called Abraham and told him, ‘Abraham, offer your son Isaac to me’, Abraham, suppressing all his pain, went on to obey God’s commandment. Abraham did not take a sword to kill God.
In the movie Ten Commandments, God asks Moses to leave everything in Egypt and follow him. Moses becomes a servant to God and to his people. One day God tried to kill Moses’ son for not getting circumcision (Exodus 4:24-26). Moses did not take a sword to kill God. He rushed to do what God demanded from him. From Ten Commandments to Thor, wehave come a long way. Our thinking radically changed. We are not like Abraham, who unconditionally became a servant of God. We are not like Moses, who unconditionally became a servant of God. We’ve become more like Gorr in Thor. If God does not fulfill our desires, we are ready to wield our necrosword and kill God from our lives. No wonder atheism is increasing in our society. Sadly, this pagan thinking also invaded into Christian churches. We have people who say, ‘I can no longer serve God because God did not fulfill my desire’; ‘I stopped believing in God after my spouse left me’; ‘I stopped believing in Jesus after I lost my job’; ‘I stopped believing in Jesus after the death of my child’. The list is endless.
But, the Gospel of Mark presents a servant who unconditionally follows to do the will of his master. This is not an employer-employee relationship. If your employer stops paying your salary, you can say, ‘I can no longer work for you anymore’. Many people look at God as their employer. Since God is not paying me my dues, I will leave him. But God did not call us to be his employees. He called us to be his slaves. The closest analogy I can think of is a Commander and a soldier. Imagine you are in the Airforce working as a pilot. Your commander called you and said, ‘Go and bomb this place’. How would you respond? Are you going to ask, ‘Is this mission safe?’ ‘Am I coming back safely?’ ‘If I don’t survive this mission, what about my wife? what about my children?’ Those are legitimate questions. But you are not allowed to ask them. You must follow the orders of your commander unconditionally. There is not much talking here. There is a lot of action here. Less talk and more work. That is the Gospel of Mark. The servant of God is in full action.
We see Jesus Christ as the perfect servant of God, the perfect soldier of God. He would not second guess the mission God gave him. Now, let us take a look at the author of this gospel. The first century Christians wrote that John Mark wrote this gospel. Who is this John Mark or simply Mark? He is mentioned in several places in the New Testament. In Colossians 4:10, Apostle Paul talks about him. In Acts 15:39, Barnabas talks about him. In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter talks about him.
Papias was a Greek Apostolic Father. He was the Bishop of Hierapolis, which is modern Pamukkale in Turkey. His life was between 60 AD to 130 AD. According to Papias, this Gospel was written by Mark, who was a follower of Apostle Peter. Irenaeus was a Greek bishop. His life was between 130 AD to 202 AD. Irenaeus was a friend of Polycarp, who was a follower of Apostle John. According to Irenaeus, this Gospel was written by Mark after the death of Apostle Peter. That must be after 67 AD. Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria lived between 150 to 215 AD. According to Clement, this gospel was written by Mark while Peter was in Rome. That means, this gospel was most likely written between 50 to 70 AD.
Modern Biblical scholars believe that Gospel writers borrowed their material from a document called ‘Q’. Q means Quelle or Source. This ‘Q’ hypothesis is a modern invention. People who don’t believe in God, who don’t believe in the Holy Spirit, who don’t believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, made this hypothesis. Their aim was to show that the Bible was just a human book. Recently, I was in Princeton, New Jersey. One morning I was taking a walk to see the house of famous scientist, Albert Einstein. A few blocks from Einstein’s house, I came across Princeton Theological Seminary. Once upon a time, it was a great seminary. It believed and taught the divine inspiration of the Bible. How is it today? Its ‘scholars’ no longer believe in the divine inspiration of the Gospels. It has been producing the likes of Bart Ehrman, who reject the view that Gospels are the eyewitness account of close followers of Jesus. Individuals like Bart Ehrman invented this ‘Q’ hypothesis. But there is no historical evidence for Q. There is no documentary evidence for Q in Biblical manuscripts. No early church leader ever talked about it. It is a complete human invention born out of unbelieving minds with a PhD at the end of their names.
If we look at the historical writings of first century church leaders, if we look at the chronology of early church developments, if we look at the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament, we can confidently say that Mark wrote this gospel. Read Acts chapter 12, verse 12. It says, ‘Peter went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying’.
Peter was in prison. God sent an angel to release him. Peter came out and went straight to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, the writer of this Gospel. In the early church, Christians were gathering in the homes of individual believers. So, Mark’s home in Jerusalem was the first church of Christian religion. Having lived in Jerusalem, Mark possibly witnessed the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ at least in its final years. We can be sure that he met all the apostles when they gathered in his home. His mother would have introduced the leading figures of the church to Mark,
‘Mark, my boy, come over here and meet uncle Matthew,
…meet uncle John,
…meet uncle Paul,
….meet uncle Luke’
Yes, Mark must have even met uncle Paul and uncle Luke. Just look at the chronology of events. Mark accompanied Apostle Paul in his first missionary journey, which started around 45 AD. That was within 15 years after the life of Christ. So, Mark knew Apostle Paul very early in his life. He was listening to Paul’s sermons on how he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. He might have met Luke, a close associate of Apostle Paul. So, based on Acts chapter 12, verse 12, we can reasonably be certain that all four gospel writers met each other in the house of Mark. They discussed their experiences with Lord Jesus Christ. They discussed his teachings, his works, his miracles, his death, burial and resurrection.
They wrote their gospels from their own perspectives. That is why we see many differences in the gospels. We should call them ‘differences’ not ‘discrepancies’ or ‘contradictions’. Saying that ‘the gospel writers copied each other or borrowed their material from Q’ is not right.
Then, we should look at the intended readers of the Gospel of Mark. This Gospel was written for Gentiles. The Gospel of Matthew was written for the Jews. In that Gospel, we read about Jewish patriarchs, the genealogies of Jesus, the Jewish festivals, the Jewish customs and traditions, and the Jewish prophets. In the Gospel of Mark, the emphasis is not based on the Jewishness of Jesus. Mark was preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles across the Roman Empire. The Apostles were preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to Rome and beyond.
Apostle Paul started his first missionary journey with Barnabas. Who was this Barnabas? He was a close relative of Mark. Paul and Barnabas took Mark as their assistant in their first crusade. (Acts 12:25). They were preaching the gospel and Mark was helping them (Acts 13:5). Then for some unknown reason, Mark left them and went back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Apostle Paul was not impressed. He was disappointed by Mark.
After five years, Paul and Barnabas planned their second missionary journey. They wanted to take a helper with them. ‘Who should we take with us?’Barnabas said, ‘Let us take Mark. He is my family’. But Paul said, ‘No. Barnabas, you forgot how he left us unexpectedly and went back to Jerusalem? Let us not take him’. Barnabas said, ‘we must take Mark’. Paul said, ‘No, we are not taking him with us’. They had a long argument (Acts 15:37-40). which sadly resulted in their separation. The Bible does not whitewash even the apostles. Even the apostles had bitter quarrels. The Bible informs the truth. That is the beauty of the Bible. The great apostles had a bitter argument and went in separate ways.
Suddenly everyone was talking about Mark. ‘You know Paul and Barnabas separated. They are no longer working together. And the reason is Mark’. Mark became notorious for being a slacker and a quitter. But if we read the rest of the New Testament, we understand that Mark did not stay in that condition. Apostle Peter reached out to Mark and made him his follower. Mark became a spiritual son to Peter (1 Peter 5:13).
We can imagine Peter saying to Mark: ‘Mark, not long ago, I denied Jesus three times the night he was arrested. Yet, the Lord has not abandoned me. He is the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). If one sheep is lost, he will leave ninety-nine in the open country and will go after the lost sheep until he finds it. Mark, the good shepherd will restore you’. Those words encouraged Mark. He was restored to the Path. His faith was rekindled.
How was his later condition?
Let us read Colossians 4:10
Here, Apostle Paul says, ‘My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him’
My fellow prisoner Mark. If he comes to you, welcome him. Once upon a time, Paul said, ‘Let us not take Mark with us. He is not reliable. He is not trustworthy’. Now he says, ‘If Mark comes to you, welcome him. He is reliable. He is trustworthy’. So, Mark regained the trust of Apostle Paul.
We can learn from these things. We might become notorious as unreliable and untrustworthy. People might say, ‘She may not last that long. She quits easily. She cannot be trusted with any responsibility’. ‘You know, he leaves and walks away’. But God does not want us to stay in that condition. He wants us to grow in faith. He wants us to refine our character.
He wants us to work hard to regain the trust of the brethren. That is what Mark did. He regained the trust of the Apostles. Then they gave him a great responsibility, ‘Mark, you should write a gospel for the New Testament. And what a tremendous responsibility that was! A gospel of Christ for the countless masses of the world.
As they spent time together, Apostle Peter gave a lot of information to Mark. He described all the experiences he had with Lord Jesus Christ. As Papias of Hierapolis said, Mark wrote eyewitness testimony of Peter in his gospel. So, we can also call this gospel, ‘Gospel according to Peter’.
Then, why was this gospel written?
First of all, the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to write this gospel for the people of the world in all ages. Then there was also an immediate reason. In 64 AD, a fire began in Rome that destroyed a major part of that great city. This is called the Great Fire of Rome. According to historian Tacitus, Emperor Nero blamed this catastrophe on the Christian community in the city. The Roman Empire’s first persecution against the Christians started. Mark was writing to comfort these Christians who were going through this persecution. ‘Look at Jesus, the servant of God from heaven. Learn how He endured persecution to accomplish the will of God’.
So, on one hand, Mark was presenting the gospel of Christ to the lost. On the other hand, he was comforting the Christians who were going through Roman persecution.
Then, Where does this Gospel end? Mark chapter 16: verses 9 -20. Why is this passage of scripture omitted in some Bibles? This question perplexes many people. It is true some early manuscripts do not contain this passage. Some scholars say it was part of the original gospel but was lost in the transmission. Some critical scholars say it was not part of the original gospel but was added later. I believe it was part of the original gospel but was lost in the copying process. No matter what view you take, you do not lose any information. You can learn the truths written in this passage from other gospels or the Book of Acts. So, no truth is lost by this controversial passage of scripture.
Finally, the most important thing to talk about is, how do we see our blessed Savior in the Gospel of Mark? As you know, each gospel presents Christ in a unique way. In the Gospel of Matthew, He is the King; In the Gospel of Luke, He is the Son of Man; In the Gospel of John, He is the God Incarnate. Here in the Gospel of Mark, He is the Servant. A Servant of God from heaven.
The key verse of this gospel is 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’
Even the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve and to sacrifice his life to redeem us from sin, death and hell. Throughout this Gospel, we see Jesus going around serving people. A man was suffering with an unclean spirit. Jesus went to serve him. He cast out the demon and gave him a clean spirit. (Mark 1:24-26)
Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering with sickness. She had a fever and could not get up from her bed. Jesus went to serve her. He took her by the hand and lifted her up. (1:31)
There was a man suffering from leprosy. He knelt before Jesus and appealed to him, ‘If you want to, you can make me clean’The servant of God was filled with compassion, placed his hand on the leper and healed him. (1:40-45)
There was a paralytic. Four people carried him to Jesus. They found it impossible to go through the crowd around Jesus. So, what did they do? They removed the tiles from the roof over Jesus’s head and let down the paralytic’s bed through the opening. Jesus was there to serve that paralytic man. He looks at him and says, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven’
That is the uniqueness of this servant. He is able to forgive our sins. He is the only servant of God with the authority to forgive our sins. ‘My son, your sins are forgiven. Get up, pick up your bed and go home’
The paralytic man sprang to his feet, picked up his bed and walked off before all of them. Everyone was amazed and said, ‘We have never seen anything like this before’. Yes, you have never seen anything like this before. Because this is the servant of God who can forgive our sins, who can touch us with his power, who can raise us from our disability, who can destroy the power of death and the demonic world over our lives. Mark records more miracles of Jesus than other gospel writers.
There was a woman suffering from a hemorrhagic disorder for over 12 years. She went to many physicians. She spent a lot of money on treatments. But no one was able to cure her disease. She was depressed and dejected. Lord Jesus went to serve her, to heal her and to restore her health. The servant of God was raising people from dead, he was feeding the hungry, casting the demons and preaching the gospel to the lost.
In chapter 7, we see Jesus preaching the gospel in Tyre and Sidon. A woman came to Jesus. She pleaded with Jesus, ‘Lord, my daughter is possessed by an evil spirit. Please heal her’. Jesus went to serve that girl.
He cast out the demon from her. He was serving even Gentiles. So, this servant of God served both Jews and Gentiles.
In every miracle, Lord Jesus appears to us as the servant of God. He was not using his divine power for himself. He was using it to serve others. He was using it to minister those who need it most.
What a great servant of God! We see him spending every morning in prayer and supplication. We see him being mocked and ridiculed by the unbelievers.
Recently, we heard about coach Joe Kenney. After every game he would do a silent, 15-second prayer. That offended the school authorities. The Bremerton School District threatened him. ‘You must stop your public prayers after the games’. You take a Pride flag and run around the stadium. People say, this guy is awesome. You mock God or Jesus or Bible after a game. People say, this guy is wonderful. But if you pray for a few moments, they say, ‘We are offended by this man’s prayers. This is unconstitutional. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?’ But coach Kenney fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which rightly defended his right to pray in the public.
Satan hates prayer more than anything else. Satan trembles whenever he sees a Christian on his or her knees. He does everything in his power to discourage a Christian from praying. That is what he did to the servant of God in the gospel of Mark. Jesus was praying every day and doing the will of God in everything he did. He was on a mission to accomplish the will of his master.
In this gospel, we find the word, ‘immediately’41 times.
Immediately Jesus said this
Immediately Jesus did this
Immediately Jesus went there
Immediately Jesus questioned
Immediately Jesus healed
the servant of God was not wasting his time anywhere with anybody on any day on anything that is not in the plan of God. He was completely consumed by the works of his master. That is why this Gospel is called the ‘Gospel of immediacy’. You should take the immediacy of the gospel seriously. You should not say, ‘I will think about Jesus in the future’, ‘I will worry about my soul and salvation some other day’ ‘I will worry about hell and hell – may be in the future’. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to you. Today is the day of salvation. Lord Jesus made the gospel ‘a gospel of immediacy’ because it is the most important news you must listen and obey. The Gospel of Mark also presents the uniqueness of this servant of God.
In chapter 9, we see Lord Jesus Christ with Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. Amazingly, Elijah and Moses were seen talking with Jesus. We talk about time travel in science fiction. We can only imagine time travel. But for God that is real. Elijah and Moses traveled across time and space to talk to Jesus Christ on this mountain. Apostle Peter was amazed and said, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’. Then a cloud appeared and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him’.
This servant is not like any other servant of God. He was not like Moses or Elijah or Joshua or David. He was the Son of God, He was the beloved Son of God, He was not just a human being, He was not just a servant
He was God in human flesh. This gospel shows us a Divine Servant. Jesus was frequently called ‘the Son of man’. Read Daniel chapter 7, verse 13. There we see the son of man coming from heaven as a divine being. So, the title ‘the son of man’ reflects the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ while affirming his humanity. Jesus proclaimed his divinity in this gospel. Turn to Mark chapter 12, verse 37. Jesus posed a very profound question to his critics. If Christ was David’s son, why did David call him the ‘Lord’?
Jesus Christ is the Son of David and also the Lord of David
As a human being, Jesus is the Son of David
As God, He is the Lord of David
So, the Gospel of Mark presents a servant who is both God and man in the same person.
This Gospel also shows the the final mission of the servant. Chapter 10, verses 33 to 34 Jesus said,
We are now going up to Jerusalem.
As you can see, the Son of Man will
be betrayed into the power of the chief
priests and scribes.
They are going to
condemn him to death and hand him
over to pagans who will jeer at him and
spit at him and flog him and kill him.
But after three days he will rise again
Here, the servant of God is talking about his final mission in this world. He will go to Jerusalem, will be tried, condemned, crucified, killed, and buried. After three days, He will rise from the grave. He served us to the point of sacrificing his very life for us. Apostle Paul said that we should look at this servant and learn important lessons for our own lives. He wrote in Philippians chapter 2, 5-8
‘Let this mind be in you, which was
also in Christ Jesus, who being
in the form of God, thought it not
robbery to be equal with God.
But made himself of no reputation,
and took upon him the form of a servant,
and was made in the likeness of men.
And being found in fashion as a man,
he humbled himself, and became obedient
unto death, even the death of the cross’
That is the message of the Gospel of Mark in a nutshell. Jesus Christ, who had always been God by nature did not stay in heaven as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privileges and prerogatives of divinity. He became a servant. He became a human being. He sacrificed himself to the point of death, like a common criminal on the cross.
Many years ago, I saw the famous 1972 Vietnam napalm attack photo. On June 8, 1972, South Vietnamese planes dropped a napalm bomb on a small village in South Vietnam. The fires of the bomb gave third degee burns to this little girl living in that village. The photo shows her at nine years of age running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back.
What is she doing today as a 59 year-old woman? She is helping people in Ukraine who are bombarded by Russian bombs. She could understand their pain firsthand because she was attacked as a little girl. Jesus, as the servant of God, can understand every pain, every disappointment, every anxiety, every persecution, every rejection because He experienced them firsthand when he was in this world.
Now, this servant is exalted to his original place in heaven. Let us bow down before him, worship him and honor him as our savior, Lord and God. May these truths bless your life!