Encounter Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Believe to be the first of the Gospels written, Mark is action oriented and the shortest of the four accounts of Jesus. By reading a chapter a week (plus one on Ash Wednesday), together we’ll reach the resurrection story on Easter.
Click here for a bookmark listing the chapters each week.
Try reading in a newer translation, to help notice the particulars. You can download the Common English Bible study Bible here.
The Gospel of Mark is action oriented. You may want to read it like you would a novel.
Mark’s audience would have included many non-readers who would have listened to others read aloud. Max McLean, who memorized the gospel, performs it here. Each video is a chapter of Mark.
Scholars believe that Mark is the first gospel, probably written in the 60s. It’s likely that Matthew and Luke had copies of Mark, as they include large sections, word-for-word.
This is a time of great upheavel, with Jewish revolts against Rome. It’s likely at this time that Paul is imprisoned in Rome.
Mark opens with Ἀρχὴ (archē), which means “the beginning”. His echo of Genesis 1:1 gives a sense of continuity and faithfulness of God. The same God who created everything is now at work again. God has not given up on creation, even though it seems chaos.
This beginning is good news, gospel. The word gospel often referred to a message about victory. A Roman soldier would send messengers throughout the kingdom with gospels about victory. In scripture, we see this when a messenger appears to David with good news about his son Absalom’s defeat (verse here). Throughout Mark’s book, we see Jesus confronting and victorious over destructive powerful forces.
Mark is the action gospel. Jesus travels, heals, confronts, but rarely gives lengthy teachings. The author uses the word “immediately” repeatedly. In English, we try not to use a word frequently, especially within a sentence. Sometimes translators will leave out the word or translate it as straightway, at once, by and by. The word is in chapter 1 twelve times!
This use of action and immediately is important to the earliest readers. Jesus did not rest in his conflict with evil. They can trust God to continue to be at work.
When Jesus speaks, it is often about the Kingdom of God and how it grows. Mark knew his church family, living through conflict, needed these reminders of that God’s Kingdom that has come near.
As you read Mark, you may notice Jesus saying not to share his identity. Scholars call this the “messianic secret”. We the reader know Jesus’ identity from the first words. This is good news about Jesus Christ the Son of God.
But pay attention, and you’ll see a pattern to who recognizes Jesus after this opening pairing creation language with the identity of Jesus. Next, otherworldly forces like demons say that they know who Jesus is. When Jesus stills the storm at sea, the disciples, the Israelites closest to Jesus, ask who is this that calms the waters. At a pivotal moment (Mark 8:27), Jesus asks his disciples who they say that he is. When Peter says, “you are the Christ”, Jesus orders him to keep the secret. At his trial, a priest asks Jesus directly whether he is the Messiah (Mark 14:60). The last to recognize Jesus’ identity is a Roman officer, who declares, “truly this man was God’s son” (Mark 15:39). It’s a pattern of recognition from heavenly beings to disciples to all of Israel to a Gentile soldier. The secret is revealed from heaven to those closest to Jesus, to Israel, to all the world.
Although Mark doesn’t share long sermons, there’s much to be found in the words of Jesus he records. Jesus begins his ministry saying,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15).
We will use this as a key for reading Mark, asking with each scripture:
- How is God’s time fulfilled in this story?
- How does the story show the kingdom of God coming near?
- Who repents (turns in a new direction) or grows in faith? How do they experience good news?