The Gospel According to Saint Mark

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 39–52


Who Was Mark?

From Acts 12:12 we learn that Mark’s full name was John Mark. Although Mark was not an Apostle, he served as a missionary companion to Paul (see Acts 12:25). He also served with the Apostle Peter, probably at Rome (see 1 Peter 5:13). Mark learned the information he wrote in his gospel mainly from Peter (see Bible Dictionary, “Mark,” p. 728).

Who Was Mark Writing To?

Unlike Matthew, Mark makes very little reference to Old Testament ideas and scriptures. He is also more careful to explain Jewish language and customs (see Mark 5:41; 7:2–4, 34). For these reasons, and because Mark’s missionary journeys put him in contact with many Gentiles, or non-Jews, his gospel seems to be written mainly to the Gentiles.

The Fast-Paced Gospel

Without saying anything about Jesus’ parents or birth, “The Testimony of St. Mark” (see the JST footnote on the title) begins with Jesus’ baptism, when He was approximately thirty years old. In that first chapter we also read about the ministry of John the Baptist, Satan’s tempting of Jesus, the calling of some of the Apostles, three specific miracles, and other great miracles.

This fast pace continues throughout this shortest of the four Gospels. The words straightway and immediately occur over forty times in the sixteen chapters of Mark and add to the pace and action. The Gospel of Mark shows Jesus as a person of action and power and contains more accounts of miracles than any of the other Gospels. But in addition to the divine and powerful side of Jesus, this Gospel shows Jesus’ human side. Mark mentioned more times than any other Gospel writer that Jesus took time to be alone and to rest (see Mark 4:38; 6:31; 7:24; 8:13).

Only in Mark

About ninety percent of the verses in Mark appear in one or more of the other gospels. There are, however, a few things found only in Mark. These include the following:

  • A parable of sowing and harvest (see Mark 4:26–29)

  • A reference to Jesus as a carpenter (see Mark 6:3)

  • The two-stage healing of a man (see Mark 8:22–26)

  • A young disciple who ran away from the soldiers at the time Jesus was arrested (see Mark 14:50–52; the young man may have been Mark, himself)

You may want to keep a place in your notebook where you record new impressions you receive about the Savior as you read Mark’s testimony of Him.

Joseph and Jesus doing carpentry