GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 1
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|It’s important as we study any book of the Bible to understand the background of the book. So this message looks at the date Mark was written, the purpose of the book, the author, and key themes found in this Gospel.|
A Journey with the Messiah
The title of the message this morning is—this is going to be kind of an overview of the book of Mark—and the title is “A Journey with the Messiah.” A pastor tells the story of a church trip on its way to the Grand Canyon. And as his bus left the sanctuary it traveled over to the Grand Canyon. Many of the people did not open the shades of the window to notice the surroundings. They missed the Rockies and the mountains of Colorado; they missed the wheat fields of Kansas because they were intent on getting to their destination. In fact because they did that, they were bickering over little things on the bus ride, like who had the best seat on the bus or why is so-and-so taking so long in the bathroom. And when they got there they were excited to get to the destination, but notice this: they missed the journey.
You know, I often think that in church we can get like that. We’re so focused on going to Heaven to be with the Lord Jesus Christ that we miss the journey along the way. And I just want to challenge you this morning, don’t miss this journey through the book of Mark. In fact, I want to make a guarantee to you as a church this morning that if you stay with us for the year of 2010, I’m going to make a promise to you. I promise you that at the end of this year you’re going to be closer to the Lord Jesus Christ than you were today. In addition to that, I’m going to promise you that you will understand the life of Christ better than you do today. You’re going to understand the mission of the Messiah better. You’re going to understand the geography of the land better; and so, my plea to you as a church is this: stick with us for a year.
Let me give you a background of Mark. I think it’s important as we study any book of the Bible to understand the background of the book. And let me just share with you the background of Mark. Here’s the first question: Who was Mark writing to? Mark was actually writing to the Romans. In fact, when we study the book of Mark you realize that he’s writing to people who are not Jewish. They didn’t understand the Jewish customs, and so he takes time to explain them. They didn’t understand Hebrew words, and so many of the times he will explain the meaning of those words. Mark very rarely quotes from the Old Testament. There’s no genealogy in the book of Mark. In fact, you’ll notice it’s written to an audience who wasn’t or weren’t raised Jewish.
Well, the question is: When was it written? You know, there’s a different belief as to when it was written. I’m going to suggest to you it was definitely written before 70 AD; it was written after 50 AD; somewhere between 50 and 70. Some people believe that Mark, or most people believe Mark, was the first of all the Gospels and that the other writers, Matthew and Luke, relied on Mark to write their own versions of the account of Christ. And so let’s look at the analogy. If Luke wrote the book of Acts, and he did, that was probably written around 65 AD. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke before Acts, and so it was written a little earlier. And if Mark preceded both, then Mark was probably written around the middle of the 54 to 55 AD.
Now what does that tell us? Listen; Mark wrote his Gospel about 20 years after the death of Christ. In an oral society, that’s pretty amazing to think that this Gospel takes us back all the way to within 20 years of the death of Christ. Now, when you look at Mark, normally you think it’s a short Gospel because it is, right? Because it is short—in length. But don’t miss this: Mark is short in length because he omits some of the stories or the accounts that the others put in. In fact, when you look at Mark, he’s actually the longest narrative of many of the stories. Mark gives us the most insight, whereas Matthew gives us the shortest account of the Bible. And so we’re going to learn a lot about a few incidences in the life of Christ. That’s the “background” of the book.
Let me tell you the “purpose” of the book. Mark actually wrote this Gospel to prove that Jesus Christ was the Suffering Servant of God. In addition to that, Mark is trying to tell us back then and today that not only was Jesus a Man of Word, but He was a Man of Deed. Jesus in essence talked the talk; not only did He speak it but He did it. The key word in the [book], actually, the word “immediately”. In fact, when you notice in the Gospel the word immediately, it’s used 45 times. Mark is called the action gospel; Mark is always on the move. He’s always going from one story to the next. In fact, don’t miss this, 12 out of the 16 chapters begin with the word “and. Did you know that? “And this,” “and that.” And that was separated later, but coincidentally. Think about it: it’s separated and starts with the word and.
Now Mark’s unique because Mark omits a lot of interesting things in the life of Christ. In fact, there’s no record of the virgin birth in all of Mark. There’s no record of the Wise Men visiting Jesus as a child. There’s no record of the Sermon on the Mount. I mean, the entire sermon is left out. There’s no connection to the Old Testament prophets; there’s no explanation of the divine titles of Christ; all these things are left out. Mark very rarely talks about the Kingdom of Heaven coming to earth. And so it’s a unique Gospel.
Here’s another question: What is the key verse in Mark? Does anyone know? The key verse in all of the Gospel of Mark, Mark 10:45: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served; but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” Another interesting statistic about Mark is: Mark uses the word gospel more than any other Gospel writer in the Gospels. Six out of the 15 times the word “gospel” or “good news” is used is used in Mark; not in Matthew, not in Luke, not in John. Six of the 15 times it’s used in Mark.
In order to understand Mark, here’s the key: We have to understand the geography of the land. And so at Brainerd Baptist Church as we make this journey through Mark you’ll notice we’ll have pictures and maps of Israel posted around the church. And we’re going to allow you to journey and plot the journey every week. So when you come in, you’ll see these maps and they’ll be plotted along as to where Mark is telling about Jesus, the life of Christ.
Here’s the third thing: What are the themes of the Book? We noticed the background of the book; we noticed, secondly, the purpose of the book; what are the themes of the book? The major overriding theme of Mark is discipleship. In fact, if you notice as we study Mark, Jesus is always with the disciples. The first half of the book is divided up where Jesus is teaching and building the disciples. The second half of the book is about testing and sending the disciples out. And so the book is separated into two sections. It’s going to be an incredible book. And what’s neat about Mark is it’s all centered around the geography of the land. And so if you stick with us this year, you will study the geography of the land. That’s the theme of the book.
Here’s the next question: What is the plan for the Book? Imagine as a staff and as a pastor, I’m trying to pray through, how do you tackle a book of the Bible? What we wanted to do is this. We’ve always had a thought, let’s change the dynamic of Sunday morning for you, because normally this is what you have grown up with. You come in to church on Sunday, you sit passively in the pew, you hear a pastor preach a message, and you leave normally the same as you walked in. And so what we wanted to do is create an engaging, interactive time where the church is learning with the pastor. And so in a way to do that, this is what we’re going to do. As a church, we’re going to memorize scripture. That’s right! We’re going to memorize scripture. And so next week in your insert in the bulletin, we’re going to give you verses that as a whole the church is going to memorize. The first week is going to be the training; the second week is going to be the pop test; so you have two weeks every week to learn scripture. Now here’s the neat thing, Church, at the end of 2010, if you stick with us, you’ll learn over 25 different scriptures.
And so next week, I’m going to give you ESV techniques, or the McArthur Study Bible to study with. I’m going to give you the names of commentaries to study with that I’m studying with. I’m going to give you—for those who really want to go deep, the super spiritual scholars—we’re going to give you key word books that you can actually study and labor and look up words and watch what’s going to happen. Now you’re not going to come in passively not knowing what I’m preaching every week. Get this: you’re going to come prepared…your heart, your mind, your body; you’re going to be prepared.
In addition to that, that’s not all—sounds like I’m doing an infomercial, “In addition to that, for the first 50 attendants…”—okay, here we go. In addition to that, what you’re going to get is this: Every week our pastoral team is going to look to the week ahead and what we’re going to do is meet together and give you interactive questions for next week’s sermon. Now what that means is, I’m going to tell you in essence where I’m going, but I’m going to give you an opportunity to do the leg work. And so next week, you notice in your handout, you have the questions for next week’s message. And so you come prepared and in the sermon I will answer the questions. I believe if we as a church do this we’re going to enter into a level of study that not many people get to do. Not because I’m the pastor, or no offense against the church, just because I’m not seeing this in church today. I want to encourage you to stick with us.
But I really believe in order to really entice your attention, I’m going to tell you about the guy who wrote the book. Because right now you’re saying, “Robby, Mark? What’s so exciting about Mark?” Let me share you about the Gospel writer Mark. And that’s the “man behind the book,” or the author of the book. You know, unfortunately, Jesus did not write an autobiography. There’s no recorded letter from Jesus Christ. There’s no book that we have in our possession that He wrote. God, through His divine wisdom, used four different men to record the teaching and the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what’s amazing—I don’t know if you’re really as amazed as I am, and you should be at this—different men, John, Matthew, Mark and Luke, in different time periods, different geographical regions, different backgrounds, different mindset, different culture they were raised in, all came together with the Lord and wrote the same account of the same man. Pretty amazing!
And so the question is, how did that happen? This is how it happened. God through the divine wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the instrument of the Holy Spirit used these men to record the account of Christ. The same way He did in the Old Testament, He did that in the New Testament. And so what we have in our hands is an exact recording of the life of Christ in Mark. And so it’s interesting that as we study this we’re going to learn about Christ.
And so let me back up and tell you about Jesus as we buffer into the life of Mark. Jesus Christ came to the world. He lived for about 30 years, 33 years, and He died on a cross for the sins of the world. He was raised from the dead, He ascended into Heaven. Before He ascended into Heaven, He gathered His disciples up, about 120 of them, and He spoke these words. He said, Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Now I told you a couple of weeks ago, that fourfold plan, if you take that and place it on top of the book of Acts, that’s the book of Acts. They started in Jerusalem, they went to Judea, they went to Samaria, and then it ends with them going to the ends of the earth. Now, we see in Acts 2 the Holy Spirit comes upon Peter. Ten days later he gets up in front of all those people and he preaches a message where 3,000 people were added to the Kingdom by the divine power of the Holy Spirit. And then all of a sudden the gospel from that point on advances, all the way, chapter 4, chapter 6, chapter 8, all the way to chapter 12. And then we pick up the story in Acts 12.
If you have your Bible turn there with me. Acts 12 is actually the first instance where we meet Mark. John Mark is his name. Now let me just give you a side note. Commentators believe that Mark could have actually been a disciple of Jesus Christ from one text of scripture. Now the majority of them don’t believe that Mark was with Jesus. Mark was not a disciple of the Lord; he was not an apostle; many commentators believe he was not with Christ. But there is one instance in Mark; go back to Mark 14. Let me show you this real quickly.
Verse 51. This story has always puzzled me, and as I read this I realized this could actually be Mark. And the reason some people think it’s Mark is because he didn’t put the name of the man who fled. He just leaves him anonymous. “And a young man followed him with nothing but a linen cloth about his body and they seized him but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” Some people think that could be Mark, but we don’t know for sure. But we do know, Acts 12, for sure that it’s Mark.
Let me kind of set the story up. Peter was persecuted and brought into prison by Herod. He’s chained with two soldiers and he’s in prison. Look at verse 7 of chapter 12: “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Dress yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real [probably thought it was a dream or a vision]. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along on the street, and immediately the angel left him.”
Here’s the story: Peter’s in prison, the angel nudges him, “Wake up put on your clothes, get dressed, we’re leaving.” Peter says the shackles fell off his wrist, the gate opened up, they secretly, mysteriously walked past the guards and they’re out. The gate opens up and they’re free. And of all the places, of all the houses that Peter could have picked to go to after being released from prison, he picks the house of Mary.
Now, why is that important? You have to understand who Peter was. Peter had been preaching at this time for about 14 years. This is probably AD 44. He was a powerful preacher; he preached all over that area. Everyone knew Peter. And so of all the houses that he could have chosen, look whose house he goes to in 12:12: “When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” So John Mark’s mother’s house was a safe haven. It was probably a place of refuge for the disciples, and not only that, the disciples were already there praying and so they called a prayer meeting: Peter’s in prison; let’s come together and pray for his release.
Watch what happens, verse 13: “And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing by the gate.” So Peter knocks, “Hey it’s me, I’m free.” Rhoda answers the door. She gets so excited she forgets to open the door and she runs back and she says, “Hey! Peter’s here!” Notice what the prayer group says, I love this. Verse 15: “You are out of your mind.” I mean, what kind of faith is that? “Let’s call a prayer meeting and let’s pray for Peter to be released,” and then he’s released and they say, “You’re out of your mind. That’s not Peter.” I mean, think of the faith in that.
But he’s released. And so they bring him in, they get excited about Peter and they praise the Lord. Look at 12:25. Go forward, and then we break from Peter. In essence that’s probably the last time of the significance of the ministry of Peter and from that point on it’s all about Paul. Notice how it begins. Verse 25: “And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.”
Now, this is the deal. Of all the people that they could have picked to have traveled around on this journey, they choose who? Mark. John Mark. Now the question is this: Who is John Mark? We don’t know. You see, the only evidence of Mark’s existence is the fact that we know his name. He’s got two names: John, and he’s known as Mark. We don’t know anything about him. Listen to what John McArthur says about Mark, “Was he a preacher? No. Was he a pastor? No. Was he an evangelist? No. Was he an apostle? No. Was he a prophet? No. Was he a leader? No. He was none of these things. John Mark was really a non-descript guy.” So why did Paul, super apostle, and Barnabas choose this man?
Hold your place there and go to the right to Colossians 4. Colossians 4 gives us an insight into who this man is. Look at verse 10: “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark” the what? Mark the what? “Cousin of Barnabas.” And so this is Barnabas’ cousin. And so he probably goes to Paul and says, “Hey listen, man, this is my younger cousin [we think]. He’s young in the faith but he’s faithful and he can assist us in ministry and he can be a supporter for us. Let’s bring him and give him the opportunity to travel with us around.” And they did that. Pretty amazing.
Acts 13 gives us more insight into Mark by the omission of his name. Look at verse 1: “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers [key words: Who were the prophets and teachers?], Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Where’s Mark? He’s not on the list. So we know once again Mark was not a prophet or a teacher. But here it is. Here’s Mark, verse 5. So they set out on a journey; “When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John Mark [to what?] to assist them.”
Pretty amazing. John Mark was an assistant. He was a supporter of ministry. He was the faithful guy who showed up and basically said, “What do you need me to do, I’m here?” I’ll set up chairs, I’ll turn the lights on. I’m here. Do you want me to carry the bags? I’m the assistant.” How many know that it’s important to have assistants in ministry? Many of you are supporters in ministry. You might not have the limelight, but you’re supporters. And thank God for supporters of ministry because we need them.
Now, something pretty disturbing happens though. And we don’t know what happens, but from verse 5 to verse 13 something disturbing happens. Look at verse 13, something sad happens. They’re on this journey and “Paul and his companions set out sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John Mark left them.” There it is. John Mark deserted them in the language of the New Testament and returned to Jerusalem. He couldn’t go back to Antioch because they just left Antioch and if he shows up in Antioch they’re going to realize he left Paul and Barnabas. And so he left.
Now we don’t know what happened here. Maybe he was scared, maybe he was a coward, maybe the pressure of being on the road was too much for him, but we don’t know. But we do know that the leaving of the ministry had impacted Paul so much that in chapter 15 we see what happens. We don’t know what happens between now and this point, but I want to show you what happens in 15:36. Mark comes back and they decide to go out on another missionary journey. And Barnabas vouches for his cousin and he wants to bring him. Look at verse 36: “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we have proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take him with them the one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.”
Verse 39: “And there arose a sharp [there it is—sharp] disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed to Cyprus, Paul took Silas and they departed.” What had happened—and we don’t know—was that it impacted Paul so much that he didn’t want him on the journey with him anymore. How many people do we turn away from mission trips around here? Not many, right? Mark had done something that had stayed in the mind of Paul many years later, that he did not even want to go on a journey with him; and it caused the disagreement. “But Paul, you don’t understand. This is my cousin. I want to bring him, let’s give him another chance.” And Paul said, “No. We’re not going to bring that guy.” “Yeah, but, Paul, you don’t understand, we all make mistakes.” “No! I’m not going to bring that deserter with us. He deserted us in ministry and I’m not going to go with him!”
Pretty powerful. Think about it. How many times in ministry have we had disagreements with other people over family members, right? The disagreement was so sharp that Paul said, “We’re going to go this way and, Barnabas, you go that way.” And that’s what happened. For two years Barnabas and Mark disappear. We don’t know what happens to them. Barnabas comes back on the scene, but then Mark disappears for the next eight years. We don’t know what happens for a total of 10 years.
And then Mark shows back up. Keep in mind when Mark leaves Paul he’s a deserter, he’s a coward. To Paul in essence he’s a traitor; he left him in the middle of a mission. And then he shows back up. Colossians 4:10. Paul is in prison; he’s in a Roman prison. It’s the first time he’s in prison, and as he’s sitting in the prison writing letters, he writes Philippians, he writes Ephesians, he writes Colossians, and he writes Philemon from prison. And of all the people in prison to have with him, notice who’s in prison with Paul. Colossians 4:10: “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him).”
The question is, did Mark stay with Paul to the end of his life? And the answer is yes. What is the last book that Paul wrote? Do you know it? You should know it. Second Timothy. Go to 2 Timothy. Paul in this section contrasts the deserters from the faithful. And notice who’s in the list, verse 9: “Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. But get Mark and bring him to me, for he is useful for ministry.”
I want to submit to you just another side bar: that the sharp disagreement that happened between Paul was in the divine providence of God to send Mark to Peter to listen to every word, to hear every sermon, to understand every story that he would take and write down the very words of Peter which were actually the very words of Christ. And he would construct the Gospel of Mark by spending time with Peter. Pretty amazing, right?
Now we know that because at the end of Peter’s writing Peter actually refers to Mark in chapter 5, get this, as a “son.” He said, “Mark is my dear son” in verse 13. Now we know this from early church fathers. Polycarp was a student of John. He had a student named Papias. Papias wrote these words about Peter, about Mark being the author. Mark was an interpreter of Peter and he wrote with exactness. He didn’t miss a word. He copied down from Peter, who heard it from Christ, and he didn’t miss a word. Irenaeus believed that Mark was the writer in 200 A.D., Justin in 150, Origin in 250, Clement in 300, Eusebius in 362—all say John Mark is the writer of the gospel of Mark.
One quote from Eusebius: “So great a light of religion has shown upon the minds of the hearers of Peter, that they were not satisfied with the single hearing or with the unwritten teaching of the divine proclamation; but they urged Mark, a follower of Peter, to lead them a writing of the record of the teaching transmitted to them orally.” Eusebius said the people loved the stories of Christ so much that they wanted it written down, and they urged Mark to take on the task. The deserter is now the writer of the gospel. What an honor. See, not just to be a follower of the great apostle Paul—that would have been enough—but Mark got to travel with the apostle Peter. What an honor. What a privilege.
I think we can resonate with Mark this morning because we’re like Mark sometimes, right? Many of us fail in our devotion to the Lord. Amen? We have momentary lapses of failure in our life and devotion to Christ. Isn’t it amazing that God would take a man who deserted his friends in ministry and use him to take on the monumental task of writing His Word? I want you to commit this year, friends, don’t miss this, the journey is as important as the destination. It’s important to get through the Gospel of Mark, but don’t miss the journey along the way. And I just want to encourage you. If you stay with us this year, we believe your life is going to be changed just like the life of Mark was changed. You may not write the next gospel, inspired text, but don’t miss this. Your life will be a living gospel for people to read.