by Jennifer McCaman
We live in a word-saturated world. We don’t have to look far to find opinions; they find us. Glance through a blog, read a wall-post, scroll through your tweets, or flip through a textbook, and you’ll hear hundreds of voices clamoring to persuade you. Friends, professors, authors, coworkers, and the media argue controversial issues. Don’t misunderstand; communication is great —we’re wired for it. But something powerful happens when we replace talk with action, debating with doing, and speaking with serving.
The Gospel According to Mark — Omitting Jesus’ birth and reporting relatively few of His teachings, this Gospel —most likely written by John Mark — emphasizes Jesus’ deeds as One who actively served the needs of people.
And … Action!
More than any other Gospel, the Book of Mark emphasizes action over knowledge; it shows us the ministry of Christ. Epitomizing concision, Mark crams the most description into the fewest sentences. For example, the temptation of Jesus takes Matthew a total of 23 verses to describe, while Mark tackles it in two. Mark also records the fewest spoken words of Jesus, yet more than half of His miracles reveal a Messiah doing as well as teaching the things of God. It’s the Simon Cowell of the Gospels, if you will, rarely speaking, but packing an in-your-face punch with every phrase.
The Time Is Now
Though officially written anonymously, scholars attribute this Gospel to Mark —a friend of disciples Peter and James. As the first Gospel to be written, Mark wouldn’t have been able to use the other three for inspiration. Every story had to come from personal conversations with disciples. Opening with Jesus’ baptism, we quickly notice a difference. Mark omits any mention of Jesus’ birth or pre-ministry life. From the first few words, he hits the ground running into Jesus’ adult ministry. A sense of urgency continues to permeate the pages of Mark. Interestingly, the word “immediately” is used 40 times, creating a hurried, almost frantic tone.
We might understand Mark’s pressing tone by examining his audience. Scholars assert that Mark’s readers were primarily Gentile believers living in Rome during the reign of Nero, a Roman emperor who slaughtered thousands of Christians. Many early believers, including Mark, also thought the second coming of Christ was around the corner. Both factors would have contributed to the driving urgency felt throughout the Gospel.
Just as Mark provides a visual illustration of Christ, so we are to be walking visuals for a lost world.
The Visual Gospel
Mark is also a visual Gospel, showing us the life of Christ as clearly as a movie. Many of us can hear something taught a thousand times, but unless we see it lived out, it won’t sink in. Mark shows us the Son of God doing the work of God. We watch Jesus calm the storm, cast out demons, nurture children, heal the blind, and walk on water. We watch how He interacts with His disciples and how He reacts to interruptions and the crowds of people who followed Him everywhere. It’s almost like a how-to manual for living the Christian life. Of course, Mark also includes Jesus’ teachings, usually sandwiched between miracles.
Modern skeptics see Jesus as a great teacher and prophet, like Muhammad or Buddah, but refuse to acknowledge Him as the Son of God. Maybe you’ve encountered professors or fellow students who agree with some of Jesus’ teachings, but still think He was a normal, flawed man. Society as a whole typically doesn’t mind talking about Jesus as long as you don’t claim that He’s the only way to God. Mark eviscerates these delusions. Jesus didn’t just say good things, He lived supernaturally, healing and performing miracles beyond the scope of any normal man. Unquestionably, Mark emphasizes the total deity of God.
More Than Words
Post? Tweet? Text? Talk? Mark challenges us to add another dimension to our message. Our actions really do pack the most punch. How we live validates what we say we believe about God. Do we compromise when it gets hard? Do we see the hurting people who sit around us in class? Mark teaches us that Jesus lived what He taught 100 percent. In essence, He didn’t just say “listen to Me,” but “watch Me.”
Just as Mark provides a visual illustration of Christ, so we are to be walking visuals for a lost world. We are to show them, as well as tell them, what it looks like to live completely hidden in Christ. We do this through our interactions with people in class, at work, and in the dorm. The world watches how we handle stress, struggles, and tough times as well as the good times.
We also model Christ by taking our eyes off ourselves and genuinely investing in other people. We’re not perfect, but we get to demonstrate the freedom and forgiveness we’ve experienced because we know the only true God. When we combine the truth of God’s Word with the power of His actions, the world will desperately want to know why we’re different.
Jennifer McCaman is a freelance writer from Smyrna, Tenn. Her favorite winter activity is drinking hot chocolate by a fireplace. A lover of words, she has been challenged by Mark to act more than she speaks.
5 Life Lessons from Mark
- Notice people. Mark 5:24-34 tells the story of a sick woman who interrupts Jesus by touching His robe. Jesus notices her and stops to meet her need.
- Embrace Ordinary. Whether they feared the storm or rebuked little children, Mark highlights the humanness of the disciples. Jesus loves using ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
- Get alone. Mark 1:35 tells us that Jesus went off by Himself to pray. We need a continual relationship with God to speak and act like Christ.
- Look beyond the surface. Jesus forgave sins (Mark 2:5). More than physical healing, people need spiritual healing. We must look beyond people’s external needs (money, relationships, addictions) to their spiritual disease — it keeps them disconnected from God.
- Be determined. Mark shares several stories of Jesus commanding demons to flee. Nothing in the world, seen or unseen can succeed against Christ. This encourages our ministry in Christ, even when we face great struggles.