The title of this Gospel is not part of the original text. However, the Gospel of Mark is so called because the early church believed that this Gospel was written by John Mark, a traveling companion of Paul and related to Peter. If that is true, then John Mark would have been a young boy when he first met Jesus, and much of his Gospel may have been based upon stories he heard from his Uncle Peter. I hope to say more about this when we come to an examination of the end of this Gospel. In any case, Mark’s is a fast-paced narrative, full of action and intrigue. One almost gets the sense in reading this Gospel that the author barely had time to write down these events because there were still so many exciting things happening in the early church. Thus, one of Mark’s favorite words is “immediately”.
Unlike Matthew and Luke, whose infancy narratives we so often read at Christmas, Mark does not begin with any such narrative about the early life of Jesus. Rather, Mark begins with Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. The entire Gospel is designed to make us face, rather forcefully, this question about Jesus: “Who then is this?” (Mark 4:41)
Here is a brief outline of the structure of this Gospel based upon Donald English’s commentary in the Bible Speaks Today series published by InterVarsity Press:
- The beginning of the Gospel (1:1-13)
- The ministry of Jesus opens up (1:14-3:6)
- The words and deeds of Jesus in Galilee (3:7-6:13)
- Missionary outreach beyond Galilee in spite of the disciples’ limitations (6:14-8:26)
- Going to Jerusalem (8:27-10:52)
- Jesus enters Jerusalem (11:17-13:37)
- Jesus’ passion and resurrection (14:1-16:8)
You may listen to some sermons I have preached on Mark, and on Matthew, here: http://willvaus.com/messages.