The Four Gospels - 4. The Gospel of Mark
B Jones, Tycroes
4. THE GOSPEL OF MARK
There are numerous references to John Mark, the author of this Gospel, in the New Testament (see Acts 12. 12, 25; 13. 5, 13; 15. 37-39> Philem. 23-24; Col. 4. 10; 2 Tim. 4. 11; 1 Pet. 5. 13). Consider each reference and ponder its lesson.
Mark’s Gospel presents Christ as the lowly Servant and the redeeming. Worker. Notice that it is Mark, the once unfaithful servant, who depicts so vividly the faithful Servant. Eleven times Christ is found alone here; in fact the narrative is punctuated by His many withdrawals from the crowds (see for example 1. 35; 1. 45; 3. 7-13). This Gospel often directs attention to the hands of Christ. How sweet it is to every believer to know that he is safely held in that same blessed hand, ‘neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand’, John 10. 28. Only once before the Cross does Mark refer to Christ as Lord, 5. 19, and here it is the Lord Himself who tells Legion to ‘Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee’. The closing words of Mark characterize the whole Gospel, ‘the Lord working with them’, 16. 20. This is the only Gospel that informs us that our Lord was a carpenter, 6. 3, and He is never owned as King here except in derision. Mark is different from Matthew in that he follows a chronological order.
Note how the Gospel begins and ends:
|The Servant sent.||The Servant seated.|
|The Gospel presented.||The Gospel preached.|
|The disciples called to Him.||The disciples sent from Him.|
|The Gospel made known to Israel.||The Gospel made known to the world.|
|The setting sun.||The rising sun.|
The contents of the book may be summarised as follows:
- The Servant and His service, 1-5.
- The Servant and His struggle, 6-9.
- The Servant and His sufferings, 10-16.
Note how the four Gospels should affect the reader:
- Matthew brings us to our knees.
- Luke brings us to sit in His presence.
- John brings us to fall before Him.
- Mark causes us to go forward in His service.
Mark’s Gospel opens in a manner entirely different from the others. In Matthew, Luke and John there is a lengthy introduction, but in Mark it is otherwise. Whilst Christ’s public ministry does not open until the end of chapter four in Matthew, Mark briefly refers to John the Baptist and his testimony, Christ’s baptism and temptation and then we read, ‘Jesus came into Galilee, preaching . . .’, 1. 14. Mark at once introduces Christ actually serving. He is the only one who tells us that ‘the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness’, 1. 12. The perfect Servant never rushes into service nor forces a closed door. He waits for the constraint of the Spirit of God. Again, Mark, is the only writer who notices that Christ was ‘with the wild beasts’ in His temptation, 1. 13. We might observe in passing that
- Satan acknowledges our Lord’s supremacy involuntarily.
- The wild beasts acknowledge our Lord’s supremacy instinctively.
- The angels acknowledge our Lord’s supremacy instantly.
The opening verse of Mark’s Gospel also is very significant. ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’. Thus has the Holy Spirit carefully guarded Christ’s divine glory in the very Gospel where His lowliness as Servant is set forth.
Words that are here found frequently are ‘forthwith’, ‘straightway’, ‘immediately’, ‘anon’ and ‘as soon as’ all of which are derived from the same root word. There are over 40 references in all. They emphatically express the promptitude of Christ's service. There was no holding back, no reluctance, no slackness with Him but a blessed immediateness characterized all His work. Study the many references and notice, for example, that there are seven miraculous cures in the context of which this word is found.
Mark is dominated by doing and not by teaching as is Matthew. There are 18 miracles recorded here and two of them are peculiar to Mark (see 7. 31-37; 8. 22-26).
Notice briefly the
manner in which Christ served
in this Gospel, taking heed if we would serve God acceptably.
1. He served without making a showy display, 1. 36-38. Christ had wrought some mighty works, His fame had gone abroad. People thronged around Him. What was His response? ‘Let us go’. How unlike many of us today. When we are well received, when we become the centre of attraction, our desire is to stay. A good reception is well pleasing to the flesh. But God’s perfect Servant never courted popularity. He never advertised Himself. Instead of remaining where He was to receive the applause of the fickle crowd He said, ‘Let us go’.
2. He served with great tenderness, 10. 13. When the disciples rebuked those who had brought the children to Him, He took them in His arms and blessed them. There was neither mechanical indifference nor superior aloofness with the perfect Servant. A blessed tenderness permeated His service.
3. He continued to serve despite encountering great opposition from the Scribes and Pharisees.
4. He served with much self-sacrifice, 6. 31. He had no leisure even to eat but was ever about His Father’s business.
5. He served in an orderly manner, 6. 7. He sent His servants out two by two. When feeding the multitude He commanded that all should sit down in companies. He never served in a slip-shod manner.
6. His service was preceded by prayer, 1. 35. We find that ‘rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed’. Subsequently He said ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also’, v. 38. This is the secret of power in preaching.
Chapter 10. 45 fittingly summarises the message of the book. It is in Mark particularly that we observe Christ as the Son of Man who
- ‘came not to be ministered unto, but to minister’, chs. 1-14,
- ‘and to give his life a ransom for many’, chs. 15-16.
Thus we are directed to BEHOLD MY SERVANT!
To be followed by ‘The Gospel of Luke’.