The gospel of Mark is the second in our Bibles and in most ancient manuscripts.  This gospel presents the view of Christ as the suffering Servant, even as Matthew was written to Jews and presented Him as Israel’s King.  The servant is meek and lowly and despised by men, and this gospel more than any other focuses on men rejecting Christ and the misunderstandings and outright refusal to believe which often was the response of those who heard Him.  Christ’s humanity is emphasized here second only to the book of Luke, and his emotions, the emotions of One Who came to serve, are often given special notice in the book.

References to Christ as Lord in the book are almost non-existent.  This makes perfect sense, as the book is focusing on Christ as a Servant, and it makes little sense to call the Servant “Master.”  The narrator of the book only uses “Lord” to refer to Jesus Christ twice in the whole book, and both times are after His resurrection, when it was proven once and for all that the suffering Servant was also indeed the Lord of all.

The book is commonly thought to be the oldest of the gospels, but I do not agree with this, reserving that place for the book of John.  The statement in Mark 16:20 (“they went out and preached everywhere”) closely mirrors that of Colossians 1:23 (“was preached to every creature under heaven”), and so probably indicates that these two books were written at about the same time.  This would place the book in about 62 or 63 AD.

In some ways Mark is more difficult than the others gospels to pin down regarding its intended audience. It could be that it was written with Gentile proselytes to the Jewish religion in mind. Many of these proselytes were mere servants in the temple or the synagogues, and accordingly would have been interested in Christ as the suffering Servant. Stuart Allen suggests, however, that it may have been written with a Roman audience in mind. He cites the fact that it is a gospel of action, and Romans were a people of action. They were the empire builders, and some of their construction work, such as roads and aqueducts, still stand today as a testament to their genius. He also claims that there are more Roman words used in this gospel than in the others. We know that some Romans, like Cornelius, came to the faith in the Acts period, and even many in Caesar’s household became saints through Paul’s influence while he was a prisoner in Rome, according to his testimony in Philippians 4:22. If this book was written about this time, it could have such an audience in mind.

Though the book does not mention its author internally, and the Greek titles given these books are not always reliable, it has traditionally been attributed to Mark, and until someone brings forth evidence against this idea we have no reason to question it. Mark was the nephew of Barnabas, John Mark.  He is first mentioned in Acts 12:12, where a gathering of believers praying for the release of Peter from prison was gathered together at the house of his mother.  Barnabas and Saul brought him back to Antioch with them (Acts 12:25,) and they took him with them as they began their ministry (Acts 13:5.)  He departed from them in Perga, however, and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13.)  When Paul and Barnabas were to begin their second mission for the Lord, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them again, but Paul refused since he had left them before.  They disagreed so strongly on this that they split company, Barnabas taking Mark with him and Paul choosing Silas as a new partner.  (Acts 15:37-39)  Much later, however, Paul requested that Timothy bring Mark with him when he came to him so that he could see him, “for he is useful to me for ministry.”  (II Timothy 4:11)  It would appear that Paul and Mark had patched up their relationship.  Perhaps Paul’s stark refusal to allow him another chance made Mark realize that his heart wasn’t as it should be, and he heeded Paul’s rebuke and turned his life more fully over to the Lord as he ought to have.  If so, he may have returned to Paul later and admitted his past mistakes.  At any rate, this book was written before II Timothy, and so it seems quite clear that the Lord was using Mark in a very special way years before Paul mentioned to Timothy that he had become a useful minister.

Barnabas was one of the two men who was chosen as a possibility for a replacement for Judas, because he “went in and out among us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”  (Acts 1:21-22)  Of course, Barnabas was not chosen (vs. 26,) but we know from this passage that he was with the Lord Jesus throughout most of His ministry.  Therefore, it could be that Mark’s uncle Barnabas was a primary source of information for Mark in writing this gospel.

It is interesting that the first time we hear of Mark, it is in connection with Peter in Acts 12. Some have suggested that Peter may have been a primary source for Mark. Stuart Allen argued for this, claiming that we see more of Peter in this than in any other gospel. I am not certain that I find this myself, but it does make sense that Peter could have been a source for Mark. Some ancient witnesses attest to this, claiming that Peter did dictate this gospel, though the accuracy of their statements is not easy to confirm. Of course, the ultimate responsibility for the words written here belongs to God, Who called them to Mark’s mind as He saw fit.

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