Though it comes second in the New Testament, the Gospel of Mark is considered the earliest Gospel account. It was most likely written 20 to 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection by John Mark, a scribe and coworker of the apostles Peter and Paul.

Mark is the shortest Gospel, but while the other three Gospels contain a great deal of Jesus’ sermons and conversations, Mark focuses more on the actions of Jesus, albeit in great detail, and the story moves at a much quicker pace.

The design of the story is much like a drama or play; it can be divided into three major acts or sections, and these three acts are based on different people’s perceptions of who Jesus is.

The first section of Mark (chapters 1-8) takes place in Galilee, the region of Israel where Jesus grew up and did much of His ministry.

In these chapters, Jesus’ ministry hits the ground running. The story begins with Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of his earthly ministry, which centered on this truth: “‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news’” (Mark 1:15).

Throughout the early chapters, Jesus receives mixed reviews. Some see what Jesus is doing and follow Him. Others question who He is and the origin of His power and authority. Still others reject Him entirely.

Jesus shows the people that He is the Messiah who is bringing forth the Kingdom of God, but it’s not in ways the people expect.

And in Mark 8:31-10:45, the second section of the book, a shift begins to take place.

In these passages, Jesus is traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem, where He knows He will die. He begins to reveal to His disciples that His death is the reason He came—that in order to become King, He must lay down His life. He is a King who rules by serving.

Mark 10:45 says, “‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

Act three (chapters 11-16) shows the reader just how Jesus proves Himself to be the Messiah. The final chapters focus on Jesus’ last week before His death.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem as a humble King, riding a donkey, then confronts the corruption of the religious leaders. He celebrates the Passover with His disciples before being arrested, tried, mocked, beaten and crucified. In His death, Jesus overcomes the sins of the world.

But the story of Jesus always ends with an empty tomb.

In Mark’s account, some of the women who followed Jesus came to His tomb to perform burial rites, only to discover that “‘He has risen! He is not here’” (Mark 16:6).

THEMES

Jesus, the servant King: Throughout Mark, Jesus presents Himself as the Messiah King. But rather than be a king who rules with an iron fist, Jesus laid down His life so that He could be the King of God’s Kingdom, which He invites all people into, if they believe He is the Messiah and follow Him.

KEY PASSAGES

Mark 1:2-15

Mark 10:13-52

HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?

Mark’s Gospel holds no punches. It gets right to the heart of Jesus’ Good News: The Messiah has come.

But Mark’s Gospel also challenges people to lay down their expectations of who they think Jesus should be and look closely at who Jesus claims to be Himself.

Jesus is the powerful, mighty King of kings who conquered sin and death not with force, splendor, fame or influence, but with humility, compassion, love and sacrifice. He invites us to follow Him, to find hope and healing in Him and then to use the unexpected means of humility, compassion, love and sacrifice to join Him in inviting others to follow Him, too.

Ultimately, the Gospel of Mark raises the question, “Do you really believe Jesus is your King?”