The Human Author (Chapter 1 Verse 1)
The first mention we have of the author, Mark, is in the book of Acts, he is the son of the woman Mary (Acts 12.12). It was to her house Peter went after the angel released him from prison (Act 12:7-12). The last we hear of Mark is when he wrote this, his version of the good news while in Rome, in close association with Peter again. His ministerial career always seems to have been in an assistant’s capacity. With Paul and Barnabas (Acts 11.29-30), then on their first missionary tour (Acts 13.5). When it came to the second missionary journey Paul and Barnabas disagreed sharply with regards to Mark’s usefulness. Paul’s concern was due to Mark’s display of inconstancy at Pamphylia, he seemed to lack determination, courage, enthusiasm, or if you like, hang-on-in-there-ness (Acts 15.36-41). It’s not unusual to see this attitude in Christian service today. How the Church needs people who are dependable, who will hang-on-in-there despite the discouragements and setbacks. It’s amazing how much work we can achieve if only we’re determined to plod on in the Lord’s work come what may. Maybe it was because of a proneness to discouragement that left Mark an assistant all through his Christian life?
He appears again on the scene during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. Paul in writing his letters mentions Mark in his greetings (Colossians 4.10, Philemon v24). There had obviously been a reconciliation between the two men by this time. Is it not a tragedy when Christians fall out, and sometimes it seems they are determined they will never speak to one another again? We need to take the Lord’s words seriously (Matthew 6.14-15), he means what he says. A working relationship was developed and maintained to the end of Paul’s life. We find Paul asking Timothy to join him, and he requests that the useful Mark should come too (2Timothy 4.11). Is it not so important for us all to keep up with people and not just give up on them? Even though they make mistakes and fail in their lives? Perhaps with some encouragement or even a gentle shove, it would help a fellow Christian in the Church to find their place of usefulness, of restoration to God’s service. One failure doesn’t mean the end. I mean we wouldn’t want folk to give up on us, would we? Every member of the Church is bought and loved at infinite cost by the Lord. And each has a useful role, a place, from the least to the greatest, the public to the more private gifts, the ministry of the word to the cup of tea given in Jesus’ name (1Corinthians 12.1ff, Matthew 25.37-40).
The Divine Author (Chapter 1 Verse 1)
The close association Mark had, not only with Peter but with the Lord too, makes him the suitable author of this Gospel. And of course, these witnesses had the promise of the Holy Spirit’s help (John 14.26; 16.14). In all our handling of Scripture, we must never lose sight of the Divine authorship, guidance and control (2Timothy 3.16). It’s because the Person of the Holy Spirit is behind Holy Scripture we can have supreme confidence in every single word. It is God’s word, the voice of the Spirit. Mark’s Gospel was written for us Gentile readers and is probably the simplest of all four. His theme is the glad news of salvation, presented in a fast-moving and exciting way. But like the rest of Scripture, it is produced ultimately to create faith, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20.31), “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10.17). The word of God must always be handled thus, or else we read it or listen to without any profit at all (Hebrews 2.1-4; 4.1-2). How are we to read the Scriptures? “The Holy Scriptures are to be read with a high and respectful estimation of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial and prayer” (Westminster Larger Catechism Q & A:157).
The opening phrase (v1) must surely be considered as a title, the essence of salvation truth, the glad news. That’s what the word gospel means. But of course it is only good news to those who have seen themselves as God sees them, who have looked into the mirror of God’s word, who have seen that they are sinful, miserable, wretched creatures (Psalm 51.5; Jeremiah 17.9; Isaiah 64.6), who are in need of the good news of God’s forgiveness (Isaiah 1.18; 1John 1.8-10). For such, there is good news indeed. For it is about Jesus, the personal Saviour (Matthew 1.21), whom Mark records for us. That beautiful, that dynamic life, free from the blight of sin, full of compassion and mercy, showing the likeness and the glory and the kindness of God to us (2Corinthians 4.6; Hebrews 1.1-3). Mark does not finish there, he adds, “God’s Son.” The eternal, co-equal, essential Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. This Saviour, whom Mark draws our attention to, is nothing less than the Son of God, perfect and adequate in every way, able to start and finish the job he came do (Hebrews 7.25; Philippians 1.6). Trust him with all your heart.
(©️James R Hamilton, May 2018)