Mark – Introduction and 1:1



1.      If you like action, you will like the Gospel of Mark.  Mark is the shortest and fastest moving of the four Gospels.  There is a word Mark uses over and over again in the 16 chapters of this Gospel.  It is the word euthys which, in the NASB, is usually translated immediately.  More than 40 times that word appears in Mark as he moves in rapid fire fashion from one event to another in the life of Jesus.  Note the 8 uses of this word in the first chapter (vv. 10, 12, 18, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30)

2.      Mark is the first of the four gospels to be written.  Most New Testament scholars place the date of Mark sometimes in the mid-60’s of the 1st century, 25-30 years after the Ascension of Jesus.  The primary evidence that Mark was written before the other gospels is the extensive use of Mark by both Matthew and Luke.  Matthew incorporates about 90 % of Mark in his Gospel, and Luke more than 40 %.   More than 600 of Mark’s 661 verses are found in Matthew and Luke combined.  There is little question that Mark was a primary source for both Matthew and Luke.

3.      Like all of the Gospels, the author’s name does not appear in the text.  The title was added by a later scribe.  However, there is strong evidence that to support the view that this Gospel was written by the New Testament character known as John (Hebrew name) Mark (Roman name). 

John Mark lived in Jerusalem with his mother Mary (Acts 12:12), who was a leader in the Jerusalem church. Some scholars think he was the young man who fled in the garden when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51–52), but this is only conjecture. John Mark accompanied his cousin Barnabas (Col. 4:10) and Paul on their “famine ministry” (Acts 11:27–30) and their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5), but left them at Perga and returned home (Acts 13:13). This later caused a division between Barnabas and Paul and led to Barnabas taking Mark under his wing (Acts 15:36–41). However, before he died, Paul acknowledged Mark’s ministry and spoke highly of him (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11). Peter called Mark “my son” (1 Peter 5:13), which may indicate that it was Peter who brought John Mark to faith in Christ. Tradition calls Mark “the interpreter of Peter,” which suggests that the Gospel of Mark is Peter’s report of the words and deeds of Jesus. (See 2 Peter 1:15.)[1] Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis (about a.d. 130), wrote Interpretation of the Lord’s Sayings, which is quoted by Eusebius (a.d. 275–339) in his Ecclesiastical History 3:39:15. He asserts that Mark was Peter’s interpreter who recorded accurately, but not chronologically, Peter’s memories of Jesus. Apparently Mark took and adapted Peter’s sermons and organized them into a Gospel presentation. Papias claims to have received this information from “the elder,” which could refer to the Apostle John.[2]

4.      Mark’s Gospel has several unique characteristics. 

                                      i.      First, it emphasizes Jesus’ actions more than His teaching. Mark recorded 18 of Jesus’ miracles but only four of His parables (4:2-20, 26-29, 30-32; 12:1-9) and one major discourse (13:3-37). Repeatedly Mark wrote that Jesus taught without recording His teaching (1:21, 39; 2:2, 13; 6:2, 6, 34; 10:1; 12:35). Most of the teaching he did include came out of Jesus’ controversies with the Jewish religious leaders (2:8-11, 19-22, 25-28; 3:23-30; 7:6-23; 10:2-12; 12:10-11, 13-40). 

                                    ii.      Second, Mark’s writing style is vivid, forceful, and descriptive, reflecting an eyewitness source such as Peter (cf., e.g., 2:4; 4:37-38; 5:2-5; 6:39; 7:33; 8:23-24; 14:54). His use of Greek is nonliterary, close to the everyday speech of that time with a recognizable Semitic flavoring. His use of Greek tenses, especially the “historical present” tense (used over 150 times), simple sentences linked by “and,” frequent use of “immediately” (euthys; cf. comments on 1:10), and the use of forceful words (e.g., lit., “impelled,” 1:12) lend vividness to his narrative. 

                                  iii.      Third, Mark portrayed his subjects with unusual candor. He emphasized the responses of Jesus’ hearers with various expressions of amazement (cf. comments on 1:22, 27; 2:12; 5:20; 9:15). He related the concern of Jesus’ family over His mental health (cf. 3:21, 31-35). He candidly and repeatedly drew attention to the disciples’ lack of understanding and failures (cf. 4:13; 6:52; 8:17, 21; 9:10, 32; 10:26). He also highlighted Jesus’ emotions such as His compassion (1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 10:16), His anger and displeasure (1:43; 3:5; 8:33; 10:14), and His sighs of distress and sorrow (7:34; 8:12; 14:33-34). 

                                   iv.      Fourth, Mark’s Gospel is dominated by Jesus’ movement toward the Cross and the Resurrection. From Mark 8:31 onward Jesus and His disciples were “on the way” (cf. 9:33; 10:32) from Caesarea Philippi in the north through Galilee to Jerusalem in the south. The rest of the narrative (36%) was devoted to events of the Passion Week—the eight days from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11) to His resurrection (16:1-8).[3]

5.      Recipients and theme:  Gospels are a unique literary form.  They are not strictly biographies, merely recording in chronological order the works and/or words of Jesus.  The Gospel writers took freedom to arrange the works and words of Jesus to paint a particular portrait of him.  For example:

                                      i.      Matthew, a Jew, wrote with Jewish people in mind.  Thus he opened his Gospel with a detailed genealogy of Jesus to demonstrate to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah from the line of David.

                                    ii.      Luke, a Gentile, wrote with Gentile people in mind.  He emphasized the humanity of Jesus.  He devoted the early chapters of his Gospel to a detailed birth narrative, stressing that Jesus was born a flesh and blood person.

                                  iii.      John, who wrote the last of the four Gospels, offered a theological interpretation of the Christ event.  His desire was to demonstrate the Jesus is the eternal God and that salvation is found only in Him.  Thus, he begins his Gospel with a statement about the eternal nature of Jesus.

                                   iv.      Mark wrote for the Romans, and his theme is Jesus Christ the Servant. If we had to pick a “key verse” in this Gospel, it would be Mark 10:45—“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”[4]  I Peter 5:13 indicates that Mark was with Peter in Rome and early church tradition strongly supports the idea that Mark recorded the teaching of Peter for the Christians in Rome.  The Christians in Rome had heard the Gospel but they needed instruction on the implications of the Gospel for daily living.  Specifically, they needed to be reminded of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  Time and time again in his Gospel Mark points them toward that.

6.      Outline

I.      The Title (1:1)

II.     Introduction: The Preparation for Jesus’ Public Ministry (1:2-13)

A.     Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist (1:2-8)

B.     Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist (1:9-11)

C.     Jesus’ temptation by Satan (1:12-13)

III.    Jesus’ Early Galilean Ministry (1:14-3:6)

A.     Introductory summary: Jesus’ message (1:14-15)

B.     Jesus’ call of four fishermen (1:16-20)

C.     Jesus’ authority over demons and disease (1:21-45)

D.     Jesus’ controversies with Jewish religious leaders in Galilee (2:1-3:5)

E.     Conclusion: Jesus’ rejection by the Pharisees (3:6)

IV.   Jesus’ Later Galilean Ministry (3:7-6:6a)

A.     Introductory summary: Jesus’ activity around the Sea of Galilee (3:7-12)

B.     Jesus’ appointment of the Twelve (3:13-19)

C.     The Beelzebub accusation and Jesus’ identity of His true family (3:20-35)

D.     Jesus’ parables depicting the character of God’s kingdom (4:1-34)

E.     Jesus’ miracles demonstrating His sovereign power (4:35-5:43)

F.      Conclusion: Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth (6:1-6a)

V.     Jesus’ Ministry in and beyond Galilee (6:6b-8:30)

A.     Introductory summary: Jesus’ teaching tour of Galilee (6:6b)

B.     Jesus’ sending forth of the Twelve and John the Baptist’s death (6:7-31)

C.     Jesus’ self-disclosure to the Twelve in word and deed (6:32-8:26)

D.     Conclusion: Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ (8:27-30)

VI.   Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem (8:31-10:52)

A.     The first Passion prediction unit (8:31-9:29)

B.     The second Passion prediction unit (9:30-10:31)

C.     The third Passion prediction unit (10:32-45)

D.     Conclusion: The faith of blind Bartimaeus (10:46-52)

VII.  Jesus’ Ministry in and around Jerusalem (11:1-13:37)

B.     Jesus’ prophetic signs of God’s judgment on Israel (11:12-26)

C.     Jesus’ controversy with the Jewish religious leaders in the temple courts (11:27-12:44)

D.     Jesus’ prophetic Olivet Discourse to His disciples (chap. 13)

VIII. Jesus’ Suffering and Death in Jerusalem (chaps. 14-15)

A.     Jesus’ betrayal, the Passover meal, and His disciples’ desertion (14:1-52)

B.     Jesus’ trials, crucifixion, and burial (14:53-15:47)

IX.   Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead near Jerusalem (16:1-8)

A.     The women’s arrival at the tomb (16:1-5)

B.     The angel’s announcement (16:6-7)

C.     The women’s response to the news of Jesus’ resurrection (16:8)

X.     Disputed Epilogue (16:9-20)

A.     Three of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances (16:9-14)

B.     Jesus’ commission to His followers (16:15-18)[5]


Title (1:1) – One writer points out that the Gospel is not a discussion or a debate; it is an announcement!  And that is how Mark begins his Gospel—with an announcement.  Verse 1 is actually not a complete sentence for there is no verb.  It is a proclamation, an exclamation.  Here is the subject of Mark’s book.

“The beginning…” – This is not referring to the same beginning of Genesis 1:1 (the beginning of the creation process) or the beginning of John 1:1 (before the beginning began!).  Nor is it referring to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  The verses that follow make it clear that Mark equates the beginning of the gospel with the ministry of John the Baptist as prophesied in the Old Testament.

“…of the gospel…” – The word is euangelion which is a compound word simply meaning “good message or reports.”  Gospel is one of those words rarely heard outside a religious context.  That’s ironic because originally used by the Greeks euangelion did not have a religious connotation.  Early in Greek history euangelion meant the reward which was given to one bringing good news.  No doubt you've seen on television those advertisements about the Publisher's House Sweepstakes Prize Patrol.  That's the people who show up at someone's home to announce to them they have won a lot of money.  If someone showed up at your front door and informed you the good news that you had won a million dollars and you gave that person a large gift, in the original sense of the word that gift would be a gospel--a reward to one bringing good news.  However, by the time Jesus was born the word euangelion had evolved to mean not the reward for announcing good news, but the good news itself.  In this sense, following the illustration of the Prize Patrol, the announcement that you had won the money would be a gospel. 


      That's how the word was understood in the 1st century.  However, Mark was writing to Christians, and for Christians this word had a special meaning.  It was sort of a code word or synonym meaning the entire Christ event.  When they heard or read the word gospel, they immediately thought of an entire series of events.  The gospel included--

--God's promise to send a Savior to the world...

--The birth of Jesus as God's anointed one...

--The earthly ministry of Jesus of doing good and overcoming evil powers...

--The death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world

--The resurrection of Jesus from the dead...

--The ascension of Jesus into heaven...

--The presence of Jesus in the lives of believers through the Holy Spirit...

--The coming return of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords...

      That is the euangelion and “…it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).  It is not a proposition to be debated.  It is not a doctrine to be defended.  It is good news to be proclaimed. 

“…of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” – While each of these names are used to describe Jesus in the other Gospels, only Mark uses them in this precise order. 

“of Jesus” - Usually in first century Judaism the father named the child. In this case the heavenly Father, through an angel, named the child. Jewish names often carried symbolic meaning; this one was no exception.  Jesus is a combination of two Hebrew nouns: (1) YHWH and (2) salvation. The significance is captured in Matt. 1:21. Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua. He proved to be the new Moses, the new Joshua, and the new High Priest. 

“Christ” - This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew term “Messiah,” which means “an anointed one.” In the OT God’s anointing of leaders (i.e. prophets, priests, and kings) symbolized His calling and equipping for an assigned task.[6]

“Son of God” - The title “Son of God” points to Jesus’ unique relationship to God. He is a Man (Jesus)—and God’s “Special Agent” (Messiah)—but He is also fully divine. [7]  He intends to show us in Jesus the ideal man, committed, active, and vigorous. And he intends to show that Jesus was the Son of God: God here in the flesh. This key theme is emphasized over and over in Mark’s brief Gospel (cf. 1:11; 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 12:6; 13:32; 14:36, 61; 15:39).[8]


·         Christianity is rooted in an historical event – the Christ event—the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  There is no Gospel apart from Him.  Whenever we begin to minimize the historical events of Christianity we are in danger of losing our spiritual moorings.  If we reduce Christianity to a philosophy or a set for rules to be followed, we undermine the life-changing power of the Gospel.  The focus must always be on Jesus and what He did in history.

·         God has entrusted the Gospel to us!  It is a sacred duty to preserve it and share it with our world.  While the Gospel is “…the power of God for salvation…” it must be known to do its transforming work.  It is “…the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”  (Romans 1:16)  And, as Romans 10:14 puts it, “…how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?”  We will give an account of our stewardship of the Gospel God has entrusted to us.






[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the New Testament (104). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[2] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (4). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[3] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). Vol. 2: The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (99–100). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Mt 28:16). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[5] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). Vol. 2: The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (102). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (9). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[7] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mk 1:1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] Richards, L. O. (1991). The Bible readers companion (electronic ed.) (633). Wheaton: Victor Books.