During the initial sixteen weeks of 2017 at Little Flatrock, we will be studying one chapter per week as we march our way through the gospel of Mark. Last week my sister was visiting and asked me a simple question after attending worship on New Year’s Day: “Why the Book of Mark?” After explaining my reasoning to her, it became evident that this clarification might be beneficial for others.
To begin with, it is important to note the reason for more than one gospel account. The four opening books of the New Testament were ALL written because they were intended to grasp the attention of four different targets areas within the population. Matthew was directed at the Jewish-Thinking mind; Mark was written for an audience that represented those within the Roman Empire; Luke was focusing on the philosophically-inclined; and John was more general in its approach, therefore it is known as the universal gospel.
A brief example of each thought-process would include the following: Matthew has more Old Testament quotations than the remaining gospels. The reasoning would be that the hearers, Jews, would be encouraged in their beliefs because of their obvious connections to those scriptures. Mark is the shortest account of Jesus’ life and is also chock-full of action-packed adventure. This would grab the attention of the cut-and-dried and sometimes explosive lifestyle of the military-bent conquerors from Rome. Luke has the highest reading-level and includes several areas of scientific expertise. The reader of these words (Philosophers, Gnostics etc…) would be drawn to the author’s, Luke the Physician’s, sophisticated methodology and his desire to share thought-provoking details. John was different from the above synoptic (meaning similar) gospels with its usage of a more general and personal approach told by the Apostle John.
The description of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness will give us some clues to their writing styles, as all three of the synoptic gospels record this event. To begin with, Matthew and Luke utilize, 11 and 13 verses respectively, much more detail for their audiences than the Romans would have thought necessary, as the book of Mark describes the events with only two verses. In addition, Matthew quotes an additional OT passage while Luke adds, regarding the Devil, “…he left him until an opportune time.” This was just the kind of detail and mystery that would have captivated his audience. Mark, on the other hand, did not spend any words upon these scriptures, but did mention “the wild animals,” certainly of interest to this masculine-minded military mind-set, which were completely omitted by his counterparts.
So, why Mark? The country in which we abide seems to be more similar to this type of a “Think Tank.” We are increasingly creating a shorter attention span that demands more action and less detail (although Facebook seems to sometimes border on aspects of itemization that resemble voyeurism). If we are to, as Mark states, “Go into all the world,” we must capitalize on the target-group that God has provided within our grasp. So, let us march through Mark.