Gospel of Mark (Chapter 1 – 16) – Be Diligent
The Purpose of Mark Gospel
1. Opening Sentence
Mark declares his intention of writing what he calls a “gospel”, an account of the good news about Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.
- Mark 1:1 – The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Tradition and early church historians knew the Gospel of Mark to be written in Rome, for the benefit of the Roman Christians. However, whether it was written before or after Peter’s death remains uncertain. Peter died under Nero’s persecution, and Nero himself died in A.D. 68. So Peter must have been martyred before A.D. 68.
Most conservative Bible scholars date the writing of the Gospel of Mark between A.D. 65 and 68. The Gospel of Mark was written during the period when the church was facing Neronian persecution.
When the city of Rome burnt down in A.D. 64, the Romans believed that their emperor, Nero, had set the city on fire, probably because of his incredible lust to build. In order to build more, he had to destroy what already existed.
The Romans were totally devastated. Their culture went down with the city. The people were homeless and hopeless. Many had been killed. Their bitter resentment was severe that Nero realized that he had to redirect the hostility.
The emperor’s chosen scapegoat was the Christians, who were already hated because they were associated with Jews, and because they were seen as being hostile to the Roman culture. Nero spread the word quickly that the Christians had set the fires. As a result, a vicious persecution against Christians began.
Mark wrote the gospel under such circumstances, and in the very city where persecution against Christians was strongest.
2. Historical Background
This was also the period when the time of the Apostles was coming to an end. As the apostles and associates faced the prospects of martyrdom or were already martyred, the church in Rome desired an authoritative account of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ to be written down, so as to preserve the apostolic tradition – that which constitutes the body of the apostles’ teaching.
The Gospel of Mark was thus written with the primary purpose of wanting to preserve this apostolic tradition.
Mark was the writer for Peter, and he penned down accurately what he remembered hearing from Peter so that the Roman church would have a continuation of the preaching that Peter gave concerning Jesus Christ.
In short, Mark reproduced Peter’s preaching. The Gospel of Mark is a reflection of apostolic preaching and the apostolic testimony as the lives of the Apostles were coming to an end. Hence, with the primary purpose of preserving the apostolic tradition for the church, Mark supplied information and recorded this narrative on the life of Jesus Christ.
3. Two Purposes
Hence, the purpose of the Gospel of Mark would be no different from the purpose of the apostles in preaching the gospel:
i. The Gospel of Mark was written with the purpose to preserve the apostolic tradition, and this led to two resulting outcomes. For the Christians facing persecution at that time, they can be encouraged to follow Jesus in the midst of their suffering and also to give testimony of their faith, to proclaim and pass on the Gospel.
i. For non-Christians, the thrust of the Gospel of Mark is to challenge, convince and convict them to believe in and follow Jesus. Mark’s gospel may not have been read by non-Christians widely (remember that the printing press was not invented yet, and books were not in wide circulation). However, the message of the Gospel of Mark, having been learnt and committed to memory by Christians, would then have been shared with non-believers.
Mark 1:1 is the title of the book – note that this statement announces the good new of Jesus as (i) Christ or Messiah, and (ii) the Son of God.
Mark 1:2-13 is the Prologue of the book, which introduces the Lord Jesus Christ. He is portrayed in this section as the one to which the forerunner, John the Baptist, was pointing. At his baptism, He was publicly declared by God, no less, to be God’s beloved Son. He then proved His deity by His defeat of Satan at His temptation.
Mark 1:14 to 15:41 constitutes the main body of Mark’s gospel narrative. It comprises two parts – the Galilean ministry in the first half, and the Jerusalem ministry in the second half. In the Galilean ministry, the Lord Jesus performed many miracles, and was wildly popular amongst the people. In the Jerusalem ministry, the Lord’s popularity waned, having been decisively rejected by the people as the King of Israel.
It is also instructive to note that in the first half, in the Galilean ministry, the focus was on demonstrating that Jesus was the Christ, or the Messiah of Israel. In the second half, in His Jerusalem ministry, the emphasis is on Jesus as the Son of God. So, in a neat way, the main body of Mark’s gospel systematically proves his title statement, that this was the gospel of Jesus, who is both Christ (or Messiah) and Son of God.
Also, it is good to note that in Jesus’ Jerusalem ministry, the record there is only of Jesus’ ministry in the last week of His life. A good half of the Gospel of Mark is dedicated to the last week of the Lord’s life (8:31 – 15:41).
Mark 15:42 to the end is the Epilogue in the Book of Mark, detailing events of Jesus’ resurrection.