Who’s That Guy Mark?
The following is a brief outline of the story that Mark shares. Its outline is constructed in literary structure of Prologue, Acts, Scenes, and Epilogue. As we suggested previously, we have kept the chapter and verse range as markers so that you can read the text in any translation that you wish. However, when you see the text rendered in The Story Begins section, which is in the next section, you will notice that the chapter and verse markings are missing. Hopefully, you will get a sense and feel for the text without the intrusion of those markings.
The Story Begins: 1.1-13
First Act: Presentation of Jesus: 1.14-8.30
Scene 1. The Authority of Jesus: 1.14-45
Scene 2. Mounting Opposition: 2.1-3-6
Scene 3. Counter Opposition: 3.7-35
Scene 4. Stories about God’s Rule: 4.1-34
Scene 5. More Stories about God’s Rule: 4.35-5.43
Scene 6. Show and Tell: 6.1-56
Scene 7. From Darkness to Light: 7.1-8-30
Second Act: Passion Predictions:
I Am Going to Jerusalem to Die: 8.31-10.52
Scene 1. Passion Predictions 1:8.31-9.29
Scene 2. Passion Predictions 2:9.30-10.31
Scene 3. Passion Predictions 3:10-32-52
Third Act: Passion of Jesus 14.1-15.47
Scene 1. Questions! Questions! Questions!: 11.1-12.44
Scene 2. When Is the End? 13.1-37
Scene 3. It Is Finished: 14.1-15.47
The Story Continues: 16.1-8
It was late in the afternoon when I passed by the home of a congregant of the church I was serving. He was standing in his front yard watering his plants. I parked my car and walked up to his fence where he was standing. We chatted for a few moments and I finally said, “I would like to ask you to forgive me for the encounter that we had in church after choir practice a few weeks ago. I’m sorry, I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
He looked at me for a few moments and then said, “I will never forgive you,” He turned and walked into his house. That was the last time I ever saw him.
Does it take two to reconcile? Yes, but when you take a step toward the one that has been offended and they don’t respond, there is nothing that you can do but wait for another opportunity. In the story above, that opportunity never presented itself.
Reconciliation is not something new, it has been around for years and we will look at some biblical characters in the section below to see how they worked out their need to be reconciled.
Observing Mark’s Story
The Gospel of Mark is an evangelistic tract used during the first century. The telling of the story of Jesus by Mark resembles the sermons of Peter, which are recorded in the biblical book of Acts. Mark has often been called the Gospel According to Peter. His stories are swift-flowing and written in an action-packed fashion. Jesus strides across the chapters with a singleness of purpose and a magnetic appeal to others. The stories in Mark are presented so that the first-century Roman citizen might investigate the claim that Jesus had come into the world to bring salvation. The Roman culture loved power, so Mark presents Jesus as a powerful man doing powerful acts. Rome’s culture was also rich with a history of war, so Mark uses a war motif to present Jesus’ ministry of words and works where the war between Jesus and Satan is played out on the battlefield of the earth. Jesus is presented as a powerful man empowered to bring the rule of Satan to an end. Mark suggests that Jesus was so powerful that he masterminded his own death by goading the religious establishment so that they would seek to kill him. For the Roman citizen, the concept of buying slaves was common. Mark uses this background to demonstrate that the death of Jesus was like buying slaves and setting those slaves free (10.35-45: note the last sentence in that paragraph). All of Mark’s stories are in some way connected to revealing to the Roman audience that would hear them read to them that Jesus acted out his ministry moving from place to place in an action-packed pace.
Like every tract, the content of Mark calls for a response to the facts it presents. The Gospel of Mark is a great book to give to those who are searching for the real meaning of life. A generation who has grown up with action-packed dramas and on-the-spot news stories on TV is bound to be drawn into the story of Jesus that Mark presents.
In addition, there is a pastoral concern in Mark for the converted Romans. Chapter 13 is one example. Mark shows how Jesus brings hope in the middle of suffering.
The Gospel of Mark is an example of the literary structure called chiastic, i.e., stories that are told in a circular fashion where the opening stories are mirrored by ending stories. While Mark is often presented as a Gospel written by a second language Greek person with inferior Greek as compared to the Gospel of Luke, the book shows a remarkable ability to gather and fashion the stories in a chiastic structure as the following outline demonstrates.
The Story Begins: 1.1-13
These introductory materials summarize the ministry of John the Baptist and the coming ministry of Jesus as the beginning of the Gospel.
First Act. Presentation of Jesus: 1.14-8.30
Mark tells the beginning stories about the healing and teaching ministry of Jesus and his contention with religious leaders along with some parables of the kingdom.
Second Act. Passion Predictions: 8.31-10.52
Mark presents the three predictions about the passion of Jesus. This section is framed by two stories about healing blind men and tells the story about the revelation of who Jesus is that was given to Peter.
Third Act. Passion of Jesus 14.1-15.47
Mark tells the ending stories about the Last Supper with Jesus, his arrest, trials, crucifixion, death, and burial.
The Story Continues: 16.1-8
This concluding material of the women finding the tomb of Jesus empty presents the Resurrection of Jesus as the start of the new beginning for humankind. New Testament specialists believe that the Mark 16.9-20 material, which appears at the end of Mark was not part of the manuscript of Mark and was added later. It has also been observed that if this is true, then there was a continued interest in some of the charismatic gifts at this point in time.
Interpreting Mark’s Story. Mark: A Portrait
The writer of Mark’s Gospel is not mentioned by name in the book. The early church ascribes it to Mark, who is called John Mark in Acts (Acts 12, 15). He was the cousin of Barnabas, a prominent leader in the first-century church (Col. 4). As the first Gospel written, Mark is the oldest account of the life of Jesus that we possess. It was written to the Romans about thirty years after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. That would make its writing sometime in the ‘60s for those of you who might be keeping tabs.
The concept of roots provides for us the idea of the stability to stand firm, to not be shaken with every wind of doctrine that passes our way, whether it is a slight breeze or the force of a hurricane. It’s never too late to become rooted and grounded in life. You can be rooted in your faith by knowing, understanding, and practicing this gospel story presented in Scripture. You can be rooted in your family. You can be rooted in your marriage. You can provide the needed roots for your children to grow strong and firm. The Roots TV miniseries from 1977 demonstrated the substance of roots..
Mark’s roots come from his mother. She was a prominent woman in the newly formed church in Jerusalem. She provided Mark the arena in which he first met Jesus when he was about seventeen years old. The so-called Last Supper was held in her home. It was from that home that Mark followed Jesus and the disciples to the garden (Mark 14). The prayer meeting for Peter’s release from jail was held at her home (Acts 12). Mark’s mom provided him the roots from which eventually the Gospel of Mark could take shape and be presented and through which thousands of men and women have come to know the story of Jesus and received comfort and hope in troubled times. Mark stood on his mom’s shoulders. Likewise, we all stand on someone’s shoulders. Stop and reflect for a moment on whose shoulders you stand.
It is believed that Peter was the spiritual father of Mark (1 Pet. 5). He may have been responsible for bringing Mark to faith in Jesus. Even though Mark had the roots and association, he still had to make a life decision to follow Jesus. According to Papias (an early Church Father, AD 70-155), Mark became Peter’s interpreter, writing down the teaching of Peter after his martyrdom in Rome. You can see the outline of Mark’s Gospel in Peter’s sermon as recorded by Luke in Acts 10.36-41.
According to Luke, Mark was a servant of the word, a peer with Barnabas and Paul (Acts 13.5: helper; cp. Luke 1.2: servant, these two English words are the same original word). In his story, he is seen as a quitter and a defector. Right in the middle of the first church planting mission, he quit the traveling team and returned home. When Paul and Barnabas began their second journey, Barney wanted to take Mark with him, but Paul said No! Paul saw him as a deserter (Acts 15). The choices made around Mark caused Paul and Barnabas to separate from each other. In this action, Barnabas demonstrated the heart of God to forgive. God is a God of new beginnings, not of second chances. He is not interested in where we have come from, which we often like to think about. He is only interested in where he is taking us.
About two decades from the split of Paul and Barnabas over Mark, we discover that Mark and Paul have reconciled. In Colossians 4, Mark has returned to be with Paul. In Philemon, Paul writes to ask Philemon to take his returned slave Onesimus and treat him not as a slave but as a brother (Philemon). He was asking his friend Philemon to forgive Onesimus and begin a new relationship with him. At the conclusion of his book to Philemon, Paul demonstrates that he is not asking Philemon to do anything different in his relationship with Onesimus than Paul had done with Mark. Still later, as he wrote to Timothy (2 Tim. 4), Paul told Tim that Mark was helpful…in the ministry. Sometimes when friendships break, reconciliation never happens. That is not God’s heart. Petty differences are ridiculous in the work of the ministry in light of the eternal damage they cause in the lives of believers and nonbelievers.
After this split between Paul and Barnabas, Mark was forgiven by Barnabas instantly and taken with him to minister in Cyprus. Paul, on the other hand, waited many years before he was reconciled with Mark. The story of Mark is a model of how God works in our own lives to forgive and bring us into relationship with him. God never reminds us of what we were or what we did even though we often dwell on those actions. He only points us to what he has made us to be and do in his service. The central thought is that we should make it a point to be reconciled with all those with whom we are presently holding stuff against. In light of Jesus dying as God’s gift to us to bring reconciliation, is there anything worth holding on to that is not forgivable and reconcilable? The point of God’s act of reconciliation is that no person needs to stay unreconciled. Each person can be released by God and us to begin again.
Living into Mark’s Story
It is always important to begin living in the Story of God as we learn it. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to help you meditate on and begin living some or all of the following.
- How is the power of Jesus still available to convert and change the life of my community of faith and my own personal my life?
- How can I provide a better root system for my children, grandchildren, etc.?
- What one thing can I do to improve my relationship with a specific person this week?
- With whom do I need to be reconciled? (Suggestion: Don’t put it off, pick a time and place and just do it!)
- How is God’s rule active in my life?
- Read Mark 1.1-13.
Easy to Understand
Tom Wright. Mark for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone [Paperback] Advanced
Ben Witherington III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary.
William L. Lane. The Gospel according to Mark: The English Text With Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)