Today we start the Gospel of Mark. Mark is the Latin (roman) version of the name John, so sometimes you might see this Mark referred to as “John Mark”.
Mark first appears in scripture on Paul’s 1st missionary journey. However, after that trip he stops traveling with Paul and becomes the interpreter (and probably secretary) to Peter. Thus, Mark’s Gospel is a record of Peter’s teaching. It is not clear whether the Gospel was written before or after Peter died in A.D. 67. However, it is clear that it was written before the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. That puts the writing of the Gospel between A.D. 65 and 70.
Initially, two things are particularly interesting about Mark’s Gospel.
First, is Peter’s notable absence from the narrative. Peter is mentioned over 150 times in the New Testament, yet we will see he is hardly mentioned at all in Mark. What is the reason for this absence?
If we think back to the Gospel of Matthew we can recall that Peter was constantly speaking up, boldly professing his faith and always ready to jump into action. Jesus spends a lot of time with Peter constantly trying to calm him down, to get him to think before speaking and acting. Jesus is always trying to replace Peter’s impulsive way of thinking and acting with God’s way. Mark shows us that Peter learned these lessons well! Peter has taken himself out of the story and shifted the focus to Christ. We see that Mark, in relating the Gospel as he learned it from Peter, doesn’t mention Peter b/c Peter, having learned the lessons of humility from Jesus, didn’t focus on himself.
Second, Mark is the shortest Gospel. This is probably because it was written for Romans. It skips over a lot of the Jewish back story and proofs of fulfillment of the Old Testament because those things don’t interest gentile Roman citizens. Roman soldiers deliver some of the most prominent lines. It is also the fastest moving Gospel with Jesus “immediately” going here or there or “immediately” doing this or that. (The word “immediately” is used approximately 40 times). It is also the most “action packed” with Jesus always healing someone or casting out demons. All this is meant to contrast the narrative with the Roman’s stories about their pagan gods. Mark is showing the Romans that Jesus is a man of action who surpasses the pagan gods because his actions are of this world and not mythological stories.