The key to Mark’s gospel is to be found by asking the question for whom was the gospel written? If the answer is to inform the second generation Christians about Jesus the man, and His attitudes to the issues of daily living, then suddenly the gospel opens up.
Let me explain. Mark is the shortest gospel and the earliest overall report of the life of Jesus. It is vivid and full of eyewitness realism and written in a kind of chatty historic present tense.
Mark was written for people who had experienced Christ as Lord and Messiah.
They prayed to Him, they trusted in Him, they were alive in Him and so there were many practical questions they had to ask: such as:
Do Christians have to become Jews first?
What ought our attitude to be towards the laws and traditions in the synagogue and the temple?
What was the approach of Jesus to evil spirits?
To the problems of disease?
To the foreigners and the Roman state?
Had Christians still to keep the law of Moses?
How did Jesus regard Himself and His mission and His impending death?
What did He teach and how did He teach it?
These and many other things were questions which Mark set out to answer by drawing on the eye-witness accounts of Simon Peter with whom Mark worked for many years.
The simple outline of Mark’s gospel starts off with the setting for his ministry, that is half of the first chapter.
Then there is the second section; A big chunk under the heading of the Secret Messiah, which is mostly His ministry in Galilee and that goes from half-way through chapter 1 to half-way through chapter 8.
In this section Mark gives the most vivid examples of Jesus the teacher, the exorcist, the healer and gives examples of His controversies with legalistic Judaism and His teaching methods.
The third great section, which goes from the middle of chapter 8 to the end of chapter 10, is the secret of the Suffering Messiah and it begins with the great turning point of Jesus’ ministry which is the same turning point recog¬nised by Matthew and Luke also. That is when the apostles recognised that He genuinely is the Messiah, the Son of God, and from that time on Jesus begins to tell them what kind of Messiah He is, namely, a suffer¬ing, dying Messiah and not some political whiz kid.
The last section of Mark, chapter 11 to the end of the book, is the supreme sacrifice of the Messiah and this is the Messiah in Jerusalem, the story of the passion, the death and resurrection of our Lord.
The gospels are top-heavy. They do not attempt to give a day to day diary of Jesus.They give instances of His life and teaching but hurry on quickly to His Messianic challenge by deed and word in the last week of His life, leading up to the most awesome events which have ever taken place on this planet – the torturing to death of the only sinless man who ever lived and His mighty resurrection from the dead.
Read through St Mark in one sitting, so that its overall effect speaks to you.