The opening line of the Gospel of Mark leaves the reader no doubt that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, even though Jesus himself tries to keep his identity a secret. Mark’s narrative focuses on what Jesus did rather than what he said. This Gospel emphasizes the healing of the sick, lame and blind who come to Jesus seeking healing in overwhelming numbers, driving out demons, conflict with the religious authorities who fear losing their power and plot to kill him, and teaching the often recalcitrant disciples who initially follow without reservation but eventually betray him and flee. Jesus teaches as one with authority, casts out demons as God’s powerful Son, and tries to keep those who learn his identity as the Messiah quiet until “his time had come.” The Gospel of Mark is the oldest Gospel, believed to have been written to a Gentile audience in 60-70 AD, before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Revised Common Lectionary sets aside April 25th as the Commemoration of Mark the Evangelist, but just who is this man credited with writing the second Gospel? Neither he nor Luke is identified as being one of the Twelve Disciples; however, it is commonly believed that Mark was a friend of Peter and as one of the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus (Luke 10). Peter refers to someone he calls “My son Mark” in 1 Peter 5:13. It is believed from this that Mark was the interpreter of Peter and wrote down the stories of Jesus as relayed to him by the Apostle Peter as he listed to Peter preach and teach about Jesus after the Ascension. It is believed that in the account of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mark was present. “All of them deserted him and fled. A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.” (Mark 14:50-51, NRSV) It is likely that Mark is describing himself in this incident, as this tidbit of information is not worth mentioning on its own.
Sometimes known as John Mark, he is mentioned in various places throughout the New Testament. He is a kinsman to Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) and accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their trip from Antioch back to Jerusalem (Acts 12:25) and subsequently went with them on their second missionary journey (Acts 13:5). He and his mother were prominent members of the early church and their home was a frequent meeting place in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). Paul mentions him again in his letter to the Colossians and his second letter to Timothy. Tradition holds that later in his life, Mark becomes the Bishop of Alexandria and is eventually martyred for his faith, although there is record of this in Scripture.
What can we take away from the life and writings of Mark? Mark fulfilled in his life what every Christian is called to do: proclaim to all people the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.
O God, we thank you for the life and witness of Mark, who boldly proclaimed Your Holy Precious Son, Jesus, as the Messiah. May his proclamation of the Good News provide us the knowledge, strength and courage give us insight in your heart so that we too may boldly proclaim your glory. Amen
In Jesus' Name,