- Day 8. Matthew 23-25
- Day 9. Matthew 26-28
- Day 10. Mark 1-3
- Day 11. Mark 4-6
- Day 12. Mark 7-9
- Day 13. Mark 10-12
- Day 14. Mark 13-16
We are now on our second week of the Summer Reading Program and I hope the ample devotional reading has been both a challenge but also a massive encouragement for you all! Let us continue to keep each other accountable by reminding each other to do our scriptural readings for the day.
Now personally, I’ve read through the entire New Testament a few times already, and one of the most pressing questions I’ve always asked myself whenever I flick through the first few pages of Mark’s gospel is this:
“Is there any point in reading Mark’s gospel?” “Surely, Matthew’s gospel covers extensive content of the life of Jesus that is missing in Mark’s gospel, so why read it?” “Perhaps I can skip the book of Mark, so that I can spend more time reading portions of Scripture I’m less familiar with.”
I wonder whether you ever feel the same? If so, then, why should we read Mark’s gospel?
I think there are a number of significant considerations about the authorship and literary structure of Mark’s gospel that may assist us in seeing this gospel’s prime contribution to the biblical canon:
(1) The book of Mark is traditionally known to be authored by the apostle Peter’s attendant, John Mark. He was Barnabas’ cousin (Col 4:10) and accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys (Acts 13:5). Though Mark was neither a direct disciple of Jesus nor a primary eyewitness, the early church fathers unanimously agreed on his commitment to documenting Peter’s words accurately in order to present a detailed recount of Jesus’ life and ministry . This ought to spur our confidence in Mark’s writings with the conscious understanding that Mark’s gospel is an authentic presentation of the account of Jesus’s life, where his purpose, mission, and ministry can be known with utmost clarity.
(2) Most biblical scholars say that Mark was most likely the first gospel written out of the four. Some have also taken the view that the other gospel writers (such as Matthew and Luke) borrowed much of their written material for their gospel accounts directly from John Mark, demonstrating his gospel’s credibility in detailing the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for the early Christian church and also for the following future generations of believers to come.
(3) The book of Mark is classified as one of the Synoptic Gospels alongside Matthew and Luke, due to the strong parallelism across those three gospels in terms of its content, sequencing, and literary features. Yet despite their similarities, it doesn’t take long to notice that Mark’s gospel doesn’t seem to include other content found in its gospel counterparts. How are we to make sense of this? Should these discrepancies invite doubt into our minds?
We don’t have to see these differences in such a pessimistic way: one substantial reason for these differences is because the gospel authors each have written their accounts of Jesus’ life based on their own perspectives. This means that an author may choose to include a different set of facts in his recounting of the events to place discrete emphasis on various messianic themes in the hopes of communicating to their readers a particular message. This naturally leads to our next question – what is Mark trying to communicate to his readers in his gospel account?
(4) We see even through the very first chapter of Mark’s gospel that the author’s primary purpose of his account is to present Jesus as the Messiah and the King who will usher in the new kingdom and he calls people to respond to his command to submission through repentance and faith (Mk 1:15). Those who truly follow him will receive the eternal inheritance of the kingdom and their relationship with God is restored. However, ongoing fellowship with God marks a new beginning for followers of Christ. Mark carefully portrays authentic Christ-like discipleship through Christ’s teaching of denying one’s life and bearing the cost of the cross through faithful obedience to his teaching (Mk 8:34).
Christian discipleship is costly. When Jesus calls you to deny yourself, it means we are no longer in charge over our own lives anymore. We are called to endure opposition, suffering, shame and even death. Are you prepared to be a devoted follower of Christ who can face the kinds of rejection Christ the King himself faced?
- What are some themes and characteristics of Mark’s gospel that makes it distinct from Matthew (and the rest of the gospels)?
- How does Mark present Jesus to be?
- What are some of Jesus’s teaching in Mark’s gospel that you still struggle to grasp?
- What does following Jesus look like for you in particular?
Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you that you have not just given us one gospel account, but many gospel accounts to see the multifaceted beauty of your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who has come to establish his firm rule on earth as King over all creation. Lord, we ask that you will work within our hearts to respond positively to the King’s message of repentance and to bring utter surrender of our lives to his kingship, entrusting him for our salvation. Father, lastly, help us and grow us to become true disciples who are willing to follow your Son wherever he decides to appoint us to go, even if it means calling us to walk the trail towards suffering and death for the cause of the kingdom. Amen
 Papias, “Fragments of Papias,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 154–155.