Mark is widely considered to be the earliest of the Gospels. Mark was not a disciple of Jesus during Jesus’ ministry or even an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry. He accompanied the Apostle Peter and listened to Peter’s preaching. He based his Gospel on the eyewitness account and spoken ministry of Peter. Some think of Mark as “The Gospel according to Peter.”
When Bible translators go to a people who have never had the Scriptures in their own language, they usually begin by translating the Gospel of Mark. Mark is the most translated book in all the world. One reason is because it is the shortest Gospel; but the other reason is because this Gospel was written for people unfamiliar with first century Judaism. Mark wrote it for the Romans.
Jesus comes through in Mark’s Gospel as a Man of action; his emphasis on what Jesus did vs. what He said is evidenced by the fact that he records nineteen miracles but only four parables. Mark’s style is rapid, energetic and concise. One of the key words in the Gospel is immediately, occurring more than 40 times in Mark.
Mark had a theological as well as a pastoral purpose in writing. It was to stress the true humanity of the Son of God. He stressed the human reactions and emotions of Jesus. While John stressed the deity of Christ, Mark showed that He was the human servant of God who suffered as no other person has suffered.
Matthew presents Jesus in the purple and gold of royalty. Mark portrays Him in the brown and green of a servant who has come to do His Father’s will. Mark repeatedly stressed Jesus’ complete obedience to His Father’s will.
Mark’s purpose was not just to give his readers a biographical or historical account of Jesus’ life. He had a more practical purpose. Christians were then suffering persecution in Rome, and in various other places throughout the empire, especially after Nero began to persecute Christians in A.D. 65. He wanted to encourage and enable his Roman readers to endure suffering and persecution for their faith effectively. To do this, he recorded much about Jesus’ sufferings. About one third of this Gospel deals with the passion of Jesus. This emphasis would have ministered to those original readers who were undergoing persecution for their faith.
In this gospel we have the wonderful story of God’s Perfect Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the story of the One who laid aside the outward display of His glory in heaven and assumed the role of a Servant on earth. It is the matchless story of One who “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).