Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mark, Overview

Godsway 66, Book 41 - Mark  

Mark is the second gospel in the New Testament.  Like Matthew, it tells the story of -- and the meaning of -- the life of Jesus Christ.  Compared to Matthew, though, it seems like a shorter biography.  It also can seem redundant -- almost all of the events of Jesus' life in Mark have been told in Matthew.  (By the way, the reverse is actually more likely.  While Matthew is printed in our New Testament first, Mark was almost certainly written first.  And it seems clear that Matthew relied heavily on Mark's gospel.)

However, Mark has a unique way of approaching the story of Jesus.  In fact, it seems that Mark tries -- more than the other gospels -- to present Jesus' life in a way that will encourage people outside of the church to learn more about him and, hopefully, eventually follow him.  Part of this is stylistic -- the gospel of Mark is the ancient equivalent of an action movie -- it moves quickly and crisply from one action scene to the next, never letting the (listening) audience catch a breath.  In Mark, Jesus is always on the move.  In fact, Mark connects most of these stories together with a Greek conjunction that can be translated, "and immediately."  Also, Mark even "cross-cuts" between stories, telling them simultaneously, which also (like in an action movie) makes Jesus' life more gripping.

Mark's other evangelistic approach is thematic.  Here, Mark encourages people to repeatedly ask a key question: "Who is Jesus?"  Throughout, many answers are offered, which people are encouraged to consider for themselves -- a miracle worker, a prophet, Elijah reborn.  Ultimately, Mark offers his answer at key moments in Jesus' life -- Jesus is the Son of God, that is, the messiah.

The key proof of Jesus' identity is his crucifixion and resurrection.  So almost half of Mark's gospel tells of Jesus' final days.  However, even Mark understands that this can be difficult to comprehend, much less celebrate, for people new to faith.  How can the suffering and death of a man be good?  How is resurrection possible?  This may be why Mark ends his gospel with shock and fear, rather than the celebrations that end the other New Testament gospels.