Notes on Session 3 – Introduction to the Gospel of Mark

Introduction to the Gospel of Mark  (Thurs 5th November 2020)

Content:

  1. Background: What, Who, When, Where, Why?
  2. Themes in the Gospel of Mark:
  • Suffering
  • The Kingdom of God
  • Theme of Urgency
  • The “Messianic Secret”
  • Discipleship
  1. Miracles Stories in Mark’s Gospel

 

  1. Background

What?

  • A passion narrative with a long introduction.
  • 16 chapters total
  • 6 chapters dedicated to the last week of Jesus Passion, death and resurrection

Who?    

Not a companion of Jesus!

Tradition has it that it may have been a companion and interpreter for Peter (Bishop named Papias quotes a document which identifies Mark as the author of the Gospel)

Mark’s name also comes up in Acts of the Apostles (12:12)

“When Peter realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many people had gathered together and were praying”.

Also in Acts (13:13) Mark (or John Mark) accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but left them for some unexplained reason. Later Barnabas and Paul had an argument over (John) Mark, with Barnabas leaving with Mark as his companion (Acts 15:36-40)

When?

No recorded date! Scholars date it to between 66 – 70AD

Its the earliest gospel written – Mark invented the literary form which we call “gospel”

(Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians was written approx. 50 AD – just as a comparison)

Where?

Not known for sure but thought to be Rome. (More recent scholarship suggests the Roman Province of Syria)

It’s definitely a community of Christians from both Jewish and Gentile background.

Gentile element may have been predominant as Mark takes care to explain Jewish customs. At the same time he wants to retain the special position of Israel in the history of salvation.

Why? 

The faith and life of his community were of real concern to Mark. He wrote for a Christian community facing difficulties and suffering

If written in Rome:

64 AD Great Fire of Rome – Nero blamed Christians and had them tortured and executed (Tacitus – Annals). Death of Peter approx. 64 AD. Death of Paul approx. 67 AD. Christians in Rome would have been in shock after these events

If Written in Syria –

First Jewish-Roman War 66-73AD  (The Great Revolt). Started in Judea, Spread to Jerusalem. Resulted in the taking of Jerusalem, Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. Jewish rebel leaders scattered or sold into slavery

Syria may have taken in refugees. Christian community in either Rome or Syria would have had huge experiences of suffering. Some may have recanted.

Mark wrote his Gospel to encourage and instruct Christ’s suffering and dying followers in his community.

 

  1. Themes in Mark’s Gospel

Suffering

  • Both Messiah-ship and Discipleship involve suffering
  • The call to discipleship is a call to imitate Jesus even in his suffering and death
  • Emphasises that the Way to victory, both for Jesus and those who follow him, was the way of the Cross (8:34)
  • Mark is very aware of who Jesus is – The Risen Lord “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God..”
  • He is writing about Jesus the Christ, who suffered, died and was raised from the dead. Shows who he is by his deeds – healing and miracle stories

The Kingdom of God

  • The Good News
  • After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:14-15:
  • “This is what the kingdom of God is like…(Some References)” Mark 4:26, 4:30, 9:1, 9:47, 10:14, 10:15, 10:23-25, 12:34, 14:25, 15:43

 

Theme of urgency

Apparent throughout his gospel by his mentioning the word ‘immediately’ forty-two times, eleven of which are mentioned in the first chapter alone.

  • Mark 1:30 they immediately told Jesus about her.
  • Mark 1:42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.
  • Mark 2:8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking
  • Mark 5:29 Immediately her bleeding stopped
  • Mark 5:42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around
  • Mark 6:27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head.
  • Mark 6:45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat
  • Mark 6:50 Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
  • Mark 9:20 When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion.
  • Mark 9:24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, I do believe; help my unbelief!”
  • Mark 10:52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight
  • Mark 14:72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time

 

The Messianic Secret

  • Refers to Jesus commands to various people to say nothing to others about his healing/miracles
  • Concealment of his identity.
  • Why? Found predominantly in Mark. Don’t know why…….
  • Suggestions?

Expectation of warrior-like Messiah – which Jesus was not. He didn’t want to draw the attention of the foreign powers to himself too quickly.

A second possible reason is that Jesus needed time to redefine the common notion of the Messiah. Jesus, therefore, had to spend some time reshaping the idea of the Messiah in order that his suffering and death would not be too high a hurdle for believers to overcome.

Discipleship

  • Mark knew his community was in great need of a deeper knowledge of Christ. But were fearful of suffering
  • Through the Gospel Mark tries to impart fresh hope and direction to his deeply troubled church
  • In the Gospel the weaknesses of the disciples are not hidden and they get it wrong so often!
  • They misunderstand Jesus, frustrate him, miss some obvious points of his message and abandon him during his Passion!
  • Mark is trying to show what discipleship is and is not.
  • Chapter 8 especially– who do YOU say I am? Question for us all to answer individually. We have also been called by Jesus and must respond to the invitation
  • Weaknesses of the Disciples are our weaknesses
  • Reminder that even when we fail him, he remains true to us.

 

 

  1. Miracles Stories in Mark’s Gospel

There are basically three types of miracle stories in Mark: exorcisms, nature miracles and healings.

  • The first miracle (1:23-27) is a superb example of exorcism. For Mark, the meaning is clear. Jesus’ ability to exorcise demons is a main element of His teaching.

 

  • Nature miracles – The calming of the stormy sea (4:35-41), the duplicate miraculous feedings of the crowds (6:34-44; 8:1-9), and Jesus’ walking on the water (6:45-52) are examples of Jesus’ manifestation of powers beyond the normal.. For Mark, these are further indications of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son.

 

  • Healings include the woman with the 12-year hemorrhaging, (5:25-34) healing of the mute boy possessed by a demon (9:14-27).

 

ALL show the power of God in Jesus – God’s Son.