Book Review: “Mark” by John Mark (we think)
The book of Mark is the second of the four Gospels. However, the book of Matthew was probably written very close to it, if not before it. Most scholars agree that the book of Mark was written by John Mark around 67AD. Before Mark, these stories were passed on by word of mouth. The stories from Mark were delivered to him, orally, from Peter. The setting of the book takes place almost entirely in Galilee and Jerusalem. The original audience was the church in Rome. The original readers were Greek speaking and they were Gentiles (not Jewish). The titles of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are not part of the original manuscripts and were not given these titles until around the 2nd century.
The book starts with 1:1 “This is the Good News (or Gospel) about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God”. Mark drives this point home in just about every chapter. Jesus is not just a man or a prophet but he is the one and only Son of God or Son of Man. Jesus declares it, the demons he casts out declare it, God declares it, and the people crucifying him declare it.
The first 12 chapters of Mark kind of set the stage for his death and give readers instructions for how to get into heaven. There are many many miracles performed showing that he is who he says he is. Feeding the thousands (twice), casting out demons into pigs, bringing the dead girl back to life, healing the blind, etc. The message of all of the miracles is if you have 100% belief in Jesus then absolutely anything is possible. All of these acts help Jesus’ name grow but they also bring him under a lot of scrutiny from the leaders and the high priest of the time. In general, though, the people loved Jesus and celebrated him and followed him wherever he went. Jesus frequently hints at, and then begins to flat-out say, that he has come to fulfill what has been written about him and that he must die in order to wash away the sins of man.
Jesus does a lot of his teaching through parables and sometimes he doesn’t clearly explain himself, but instead, kind of leaves it up to the audience to understand. Sometimes, these parables are only explained in private to his disciples. Most of them are teachings about taking up your own personal cross and following Jesus. He teaches that everyone must turn from their selfish ways to follow Jesus. He told the rich man to sell all his goods and he called Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave their father instantly and come with him. Regardless of how painful it might be, you are to proclaim Jesus wherever you go without being ashamed and to follow his teachings. The reward for this is ever lasting life and entrance into the Kingdom of God.
Chapter 13 definitely gets a little deep and I’m not going to even pretend like I followed it. Jesus talks about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and signs to look for. The destruction of Jerusalem didn’t begin until 70AD so it is pretty crazy to think about Jesus predicting these things when at the time, that was a pretty ridiculous thought. In Chapter 13, he also goes into teaching of his second coming (I think). He talks about how the stars will fall, the sun and moon will blacken and he will come down on a cloud and that no one will have any idea when that time will be.
The rest of Mark Chapter 14-16 goes into describing Jesus’s “passion”, or his death. There is a description of the final supper where Jesus is anointed with oil and breaks bread and serves wine saying this is my body and my blood. He says all of his disciples will abandon him in the coming days and he will be betrayed by one of them. Jesus is portrayed as a normal man who is very troubled that he must die. The book tells how he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his own disciples, and given over to armed men. Jesus had an official trial but they couldn’t find anything to prosecute him on so they had to settle for blasphemy as he proclaimed he was king of the Jews. Jesus is then whipped, flogged, punched and spit on before being hung up on the cross where he dies in a short time. After his death, he is wrapped in a white cloth and put in a tomb which is then covered with a stone. 3 days later, 3 women (Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome) come back to the tomb with spices to help cover up the smell. When they get there, they see the tomb is open and an angel is inside telling them that Jesus has risen.
There is actually some dispute about whether this is where the book of Mark ends because the transcript that the book of Mark was originally written on ended with Mark 16:8 but most versions of Mark go to 16:16. The final 8 verses weren’t written by John Mark. One theory is that the end of the original transcript simply had been damaged or torn in some way and the general idea of the last 8 verses was written down by someone else who knew the stories well. Anyway, the final 8 verses tell of Jesus’ disciples seeing Jesus and being told to go out and preach that whoever believes in him and is baptized shall have eternal life in heaven.
While not everything is 100% clear and there is certainly plenty of room for interpretation on some of the details, the overall message of the book is extremely clear. Jesus is the Son of God and he came here to teach about what it means to be a Christian and how one earns life in heaven. More importantly, he came to die for our sins. The book of Mark really covers the basis of what it means to be a Christian.