The most important thing to remember about the Gospel according to St. Mark is that it’s the fast-paced action-packed account of King Jesus conquering the evil in our world.
History: Context & Background
St. Mark, known through the book of Acts as John Mark, knew St. Paul and his other companions, but did not remain with them long. He ended up ministering with St. Peter, and is mentioned again by him in his first epistle (1 Peter 5:13). Thus, Mark’s Gospel book is generally considered to be primarily based on the eyewitness account of Peter, which is supported within the book by the increased level of detail around events involving Peter, yet humbly leaving out special statements of praise toward Peter that Matthew and Luke report. Like the Gospel according to St. Matthew, this book was likely written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD.
Literature: Style & Structure
Compared to the other Gospel books, Mark has both the shortest and most active account of the life of Jesus. Where Matthew’s account consistently alternates between Jesus’ ministry and Jesus’ teachings, Mark’s account focuses much more heavily on Jesus’ ministry, and gradually includes some of his teachings in the second half. As a result, the chronological sequence is clearer in Mark.
One of the key features of this book that results from its focus on action instead of teaching is that Mark’s Gospel strongly emphasizes the authority of Jesus. Combined with the clearer chronological sequence, the book can be outlined as a story progression:
1:1-15 Introducing Jesus’ Authority
1:16-8:26 Demonstration of Jesus’ Authority
8:27-10:52 Teaching of Jesus’ Authority
11-15 Testing Jesus’ Authority
16 Proving Jesus’ Authority
Theology: Themes & Insights
Each of the four Gospel books has its own version of the Great Commission. Mark’s book, appropriately, has an action-focused commission: “Go into all the world and preach to every creature.” This command fits the style of the book perfectly – just as it focuses on the actions of Jesus followed up with his preaching, so it calls us to get out into the world and speak of what we know God to have done in Christ. Additionally, considering the fact that St. Mark had spent some time traveling with St. Paul, it makes sense that he would have written a more short and succinct (and therefore more portable and easily memorized) Gospel account for traveling evangelists and missionaries.