Dear Sisters and Brothers,
For the last couple months, I have sent out these letters, jumping from one theme to the next and from one book of the Bible to another. I will continue to write these daily letters but for the next few weeks, I will be starting with a text rather than a theme. My intention is to work through the Gospel of Mark, as I had intended to do with a Bible study that we began in March, but had to discontinue. So, on Friday I will begin with the first part of chapter one of Mark and continue each day until we finish the whole book. It should take about four to five weeks.
Here is a little introduction:
Mark is an excellent place to begin study of the Bible for many reasons. So, it would be appropriate to share with folks who know nothing of the Bible.
Here are the reasons why:
1. It is the shortest and earliest of the four gospels written. [The gospels are the biographies of Jesus that start the New Testament.] We can tell that Matthew and Luke were probably written later because they are each quote Mark word for word in many places, but then add stories and teachings of Jesus that Mark is missing. They also correct some of Mark’s word choices and mistakes about geography and they change the order of events. Mark is a very basic story of Jesus that begins on the day of his baptism and ends on Easter morning. To go from Matthew to Mark would be a bit of a let-down, but starting with Mark helps you get down the basics in a very simple and straightforward narrative. The Gospel of John, which is placed after Matthew, Mark, and Luke, also tells the story of Jesus, but has little or none of Mark’s original text. We believe it was written later because of some of its content, but we don’t need to go into that now.
2. Many people believe that the Gospel of Mark was so brief, because it was meant to be read aloud in one sitting of a little more than two hours. It was used as an evangelism tool to share the Gospel with Jews and Greeks in the early years of the church. Along with synagogues, many cities had amphitheaters where anyone was allowed to speak their thoughts or beliefs to the general public. It was in these places and private homes where the gospel was probably read aloud on many occasions.
3. There are no original copies of Mark, but the book does not include the author’s name in the text. Early church tradition says that the book was written down by a man named John Mark who was a scribe for Simon Peter. It is not known if Peter dictated the book or if it was written down by John Mark after hearing Peter speak many times. So, in effect, it is the account of Jesus Christ, by Peter himself. In a wonderful way, this is supported by the fact that many of the stories don’t paint Peter in the greatest light. In the descriptions of Peter’s mistakes, enthusiasm and failures, we hear the story from the point of view of a humble man who knows not to make himself the hero of his own story. This is another good reason to start with Mark.
4. Finally, though Mark is a simple and fast-paced telling of the life of Jesus, it is very readable and even shows signs of artistic genius. Also, it was written down in a way to be shared easily. Instead of being written in the language that Jesus and the disciples spoke, it was written in Greek, a language that was spoken by many people in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It was written to share with the world. In a few key places, Mark shares the local language that Jesus spoke, but mostly it is written in the language that allowed it to travel freely across borders. Of course, we will be reading it in English.
So, tomorrow, Friday, we begin with John the Baptist at the Jordan River. Please feel free to ask questions of me anywhere along the way. Or you can just enjoy the story and learn a little bit more of how it all fits together.