The story of John Mark scattered through a handful of verses in the New Testament is actually a beautiful picture of failure and restoration. In this brief biographical sketch I outline his story using five pictures, drawn from the New Testament evidence. Mark story shows us how God can use even the unassuming and unimpressive individuals for his purposes.  Lets take a moment to look at five pictures of Mark.

1. A Church kid.

  • John Mark's (John being his Jewish name and Mark his Roman one) family was part of the early church in Jerusalem.
  • The early church gathered in his mother Mary's house to pray for Peter when he was in prison. “he [Peter] went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.” (Acts 12:12)
  • Barnabas was his cousin (Colossians 4:10).
  • Mark likely knew the gospel from an early age. He experienced a house shake with prayer, He heard first hand about an angelic jailbreak and saw men value the message over their own lives. I can only imagine what his vacation bible school was like.

2. A Gifted Helper

  • Early in his life John was gifted in helps. Mark was describes by Luke as a “helper” or “assistant” (13:5)
  • Mark was clearly known for exercising his spiritual gift of helps.
  • Paul wrote, 'Mark… useful to me for ministry (2 Tim. 4:11). The word ministry (diakonia) stresses not the office but the service rendered. 
  • Mark had demonstrated his practical usefulness, so Paul felt that Mark was just the man he now needed with him in Rome. 
  • When Paul wrote 2 Timothy, Mark was likely middle aged at that point and he was happy to playing second fiddle. He had learned to be more concerned about Jesus getting glory than him making a name fore himself. Maybe why he did not clam authorship of his Gospel.
  • By his humble service, Mark is modeling of Biblical greatness. The one who is the greatest is the one who is the servant. A theme that is very prevalent in the gospel that bears his name.

3. A Failed Missionary

  • Luke reports that John Mark accompanied Barnabas and Saul back to Antioch after the two had brought famine relief to Jerusalem (Acts 12:25).
  • Mark then accompanied the two on their first missionary journey (13:5), but then left them suddenly and returned to Jerusalem (13:13).
  • Apparently the challenges and dangers of missionary work had become too great for Mark. Due to this Paul seemed to consider him a problematic quitter.
  • When the Paul and Barnabas discussed returning to visit the churches started on their first journey, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark again, but Paul refused because of the previous desertion. (Acts 15:36-38, Context in Acts 13:4-5, 13.)
  • Luke described it as a “sharp disagreement” the two eventually parted ways, with Barnabas taking Mark with him to Cyprus (15:36–39).
  • Church tradition loosely clams he remained in Cyprus and was discipled by Barnabas before helping to plant a church in Alexandrea. After a few years he returned to Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment.
  • Mark went from being a problematic quitter to becoming a polarizing figure. Consider the guilt and shame Mark felt with knowing he was the reason for such a sharp disagreement. Such a complication would compound anyones’ sense of failure.
  • For all of us, as for Mark there are times when we fail and need a Barnabas in our life to hang in there with us, because God does not give up on us.

4. A Tested and True Minister

  • The later Pauline letters suggest that the two eventually reconciled. Mark is with Paul in his first imprisonment in Rome. “You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.” (Philemon 24) In Col 4:10, Paul sends the Colossian church greetings from Mark and says, also mentions similar greetings from Mark and other associates of Paul.
  • Paul, in his second imprisonment near the end of his life, wrote to Timothy, “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11). This letter, written approximately twenty years after the dispute between Paul and Barnabas over Mark, indicating that in the intervening years, Mark had become critical to Paul’s ministry.
  • Mark story teaches us that Failure does not define us, but how we handle failure will defines us.
  • Mark would make it back to Rome and sit under the teaching of Peter, likely becoming Peter’s interpreter in His ministry at Rome.

5. A great storyteller.

  • Anyone who’s actual life has a redemption arc like Mark is someone who will naturally understands story. So we can see God's providence behind Mark's journey.
  • An example of his skill can be seen throughout the gospel He wrote. 
  • Mark weaves interesting facts into the Gospel stories to hold interest as well as more theological purposes (like highlighting Jesus emotions in a narrative that teach Jesus divinity to give a balanced christology).
  • Another example is His ability to take two apparent unrelated stories and sandwich them together to make a theological truth stand out.
  • Mark was a natural storyteller able to make key theological points through narrative construction.
  • Sometime while Mark was with Peter in Rome, or shortly after Peter's death, Mark wrote the gospel that bears his name. God used both Peter's eye witness testimony and Mark's storytelling ability to write the story of His Son. The Gospel of Mark is Peter’s testimony yet in John Mark’s voice (writing style). It was Peter's preaching but Mark's pen that makes us the gospel of Mark.

In the final analysis,  Two observations highlight God at work in Mark's life to make him into a Gospel author. First, God was at work making Mark's life experience gospel shaped. God's providential hand is evident from his youth. Mark was a church kid. He had seen the power and suffering that the gospel demands. Yet he was a church kid who couldn't cut it when things got real. God was not caught off guard by Mark's departure. Like a good Father, God had made provision for his failure and discipleship for his immaturity. Through the rest of Mark's journey God taught him the value of weakness and the honor of service. He was a man touched by personal failure but not destroyed by it. A man who learned early that kings and ordinary men alike, have a cross to carry in following Jesus. A man who worked diligently in obscurity and found helping others fulfilling and fruitful for God's mission. In the end, his journey was providentially overseen by God to shape selfless-gospel-service into the reflexes of his character.

Second, God was at work making Mark's life gospel saturated. We see this in God's educational provision in the people around him. Mark's mama likely taught him the gospel from an early age. Also Mark, the natural storyteller, was trained by the best. Just let this sink in, Mark was taught theology by Paul, discipled to maturity by Barnabas and got his PHD in ‘JESUS’ from Peter. Now that is a resume! 

Mark's life was overseen by God to make him into the kind of man that could shape without distortion and organize without ego, the witness of another. God transformed him into a humble pen to write another man's story. His mark on history was never about himself, but that kind sounds like something Mark would do, because that's the kind of man God made Mark to be.

John Mark (as His mama would say) was one of the most pivotal figures in the New Testament era yet Mark was never the man upfront in the spotlight. John Mark did the thankless task but without his willingness the New Testament would be very different. In writing the first gospel he defined the genre and inspired others to do the same. Without him we might not have a Gospel of Matthew or a Gospel of Luke. We definitely would not have them in the form we have today. Mark's exploits may have been forgotten but his pen was touched by God and His words will never pass away.




      In Academic discussion about the gospel of Mark much ink is spilt over Mark’s supposed geographical ignorance. While many scarf a case can be made for the reliability of mark and explanation given mark’s geographic descriptions. Among scholars the most frequently cited is 7:31, “And having departed from the regions of Tyre, he again came to the Sea of Galilee by way of Sidon and through the middle of the Decapolis.”

      If one draws a line from Tyre to Sidon to the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis, this involves a strange journey indeed. It would look something like the last spaghetti noodle on a plate. A comparable trip (in direction, not distance) would be to travel from Portland to Denver via Seattle and the Great Plains. Such a trip envisions leaving Tyre and proceeding 22 miles north to Sidon, then southeast from Sidon to the Decapolis, and then northwest to the Sea of Galilee.

      A similar alleged error in geography is found in Mark 11:1. Here the journey from Jericho (10:46–52) to Jerusalem, Bethphage, and Bethany, if understood as occurring in that order, would be strange indeed, for if one proceeds from Jericho, the order of progression is Bethany (the eastern side of the Mount of Olives), Bethphage (the summit of the Mount of Olives), and Jerusalem (west of the Mount of Olives).

      Some suggest, the order in both these instances, however, reflects not an ignorance of Palestinian or Judean geography, but rather Mark's desire to list the ultimate goal of the journey from Tyre (i.e., the Sea of Galilee) and Jericho (i.e., Jerusalem) first and the intervening places next (Sidon and the Decapolis; Bethpage, Bethany; see 7:31 and 11:1).

      Some scholars have suggested, Bethphage is probably mentioned before Bethany because it is closer to Jerusalem and may reflect the order of the journey from Jerusalem through Bethphage to Bethany in 11:11. Other Scholars argues that the ancient road from Jericho to Jerusalem passed through Bethphage before Bethany.

      Another supposed geographical error in Mark is found in 10:1. Here again, however, we have the place of departure mentioned first (“there,” i.e., Capernaum [9:33]), the ultimate goal second (“the regions of Judea”), and the intervening route last (“across the Jordan”). See 10:1. Consequently, these alleged geographical errors found in the Second Gospel are not evidence of Mark's ignorance of Palestinian geography but rather reflect various critics' misunderstanding of the Markan style used to describe such journeys.

      Note: Much of the content for this post was adapted from Robert H. Stein, Mark in Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament, Eds. Robert Yarbrough and Robert Stein, (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2008) 6-7


      Mark teaches his readers about discipleship in two ways. First way is by recounting Jesus's general teaching on the subject. Including Mark’s choice of examples that illustrate discipleship for his readers. He retells different accounts in which Jesus invites various individuals to follow him and their response. The second way is by narrating how Jesus disciples people. We look at the overall approach Jesus takes in disciplining others, highlighting how Jesus interacted with his disciples in Mark. These interactions reveal Jesus’ method of discipleship.

      In this blog we will look at the first of the two ways. Mark teaches about discipleship. But first a few general point on discipleship in Mark.

      A. General Character of discipleship in Mark

        1. Just as God earlier had called Israel to reflect his character, so too must Jesus’ followers reflect his character, especially in self-denying, cross-bearing discipleship (8:34–38).
        2. Impurity is not a like a biological contagion. It follows that purity is not a social badge of honor. Holiness is a matter of the heart (7:15–23) and is expressed particularly in love of God—and thus love of Jesus—and in how we treat others (9:35–10:16; cf. 12:30–31).
        3. Jesus’ followers must be prepared to face the same kind of rejection he experienced.

      B. The general Logic of obligation in Mark

        1. If Jesus is A Ransom for Sinners, then we have been bought with a price.
        2. If the Gospel of Mark is about who Jesus is, it is also about who we are and his claim on our lives. His claim is total. Here is how Jesus put it in 8:34: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

      I. Jesus’ teaching on discipleship in Mark

      A special connection exists between the cross and discipleship in Mark. It can been seen in the way Mark connects Jesus’ passion predictions to discipleship. In light of this, special attention should be to the times Jesus teaching on discipleship arise from Jesus’ predictions of his passion. The passages are Mark 8:34–9:1; 9:35–10:31; 10:42–45.

      The clearest example Jesus teaching in this a issue is found in 8:34–38. Here the general invitation to follow Jesus is extended to “anyone” (note the reference to the crowd in 8:34a) and involves three requirements: 1.) denying oneself, 2.) taking up one's cross, and 3.) following Jesus.

      1.) The first involves not just denying oneself of things, such as giving up something for a season, but denying oneself as the determiner of one's goals and purposes in life. It is to deny mastery over one's life and ambitions and place oneself under the lordship of Jesus. That this involves denying various things is evident from the examples of Jesus and of those who chose or chose not to follow him but these “things” are simply the consequences of denying oneself. Denying oneself refers to an initial act of commitment (an aorist imperative). It is a negative command involving an inner decision, and it functions much like the command to repent (1:4, 15; 6:12). At it’s core, Self denial implies renouncing self-rule, no longer making oneself the center of one’s life and actions. This requires an essential reorientation of life in which God is at the center.

      2.) “to take up one's cross,” is a figurative expression. Mark understands this as giving a specific example of what “denying oneself” might entail. Mark’s Gospel is not generically portraying hardship in life. Rather, it portrays a condemned man carrying His cross to the execution site, as Jesus did. To “take up one's cross” recalls Jesus denying himself (14:36–39) and committing himself to fulfill God's will even to death (8:35; 13:12–13). For Jesus's hearers, Mark's readers, and present-day readers, the figurative nature of this expression was/is self-evident. The command does not require actual martyrdom for all who choose to follow Jesus. Luke makes this clear by adding “daily” to this command (9:23). The expression refers rather to a total commitment to follow Jesus that accepts even the possibility of martyrdom.

      3.) In contrast to other two requirements, the command “to follow Jesus” is a present imperative and refers to a continuing action. This expression is a popular one in Mark to describe being a Christian, or “follower” of Jesus (1:18; 2:14–15; 9:38; 10:21, 28, 52; 15:41). It emphasizes outward, continual actions and refers to the living out of Jesus's teachings and example. We live out a particular style of life as we follow Jesus in community with others following Jesus.

      This cross centered style of life involves

        • loving God with one's entire being and loving one's neighbor as one loves oneself (12:29–31),
        • becoming a servant/slave of others (9:35; 10:43–44),
        • keeping the commandments (10:19)
        • following Jesus above even one's love and commitment to family (9:29; cf. Matt. 10:37–38/Luke 14:26–27 and note that loving Jesus more than one's family is followed immediately by a reference to taking up one's cross),
        • having faith (Mark 1:15; 2:5; 4:40; 5:36; 9:42; 11:22),
        • praying (11:24; 14:38),
        • confessing Jesus and not denying or being ashamed of him (8:38),
        • removing any stumbling block from one's life, even if it's a life long struggle (9:43–47).

      II. Examples

      1.) Mark also reveals what discipleship consists of through various examples. These examples show us how this style of life is expressed in the ambiguity and uncertainty of real life. Marks gives both positive and negative examples making for a well rounded picture.

      A.) The greatest example is Jesus. What discipleship demands, Jesus himself lived out. From the beginning he was aware of his forthcoming passion and denied himself in order to fulfill God's will (14:36, 39). He modeled a life of prayer (1:35; 6:46; 14:32–39) and served as the supreme example of what it means to be a servant of all (10:43–44) by giving his life as a ransom for many (10:45).

      B.) The disciples also modeled what discipleship involves by denying themselves, by their leaving their “nets” or livelihood (1:18) and family (1:20;10:28–30). Despite their many failures in Mark they continued to follow and it is in the simple determination to continue to follow through it all that they demonstrate what it means to follow Jesus. They follow not perfectly or triumphantly but step by step by the grace of God. For this group, faith developed slowly, even laboriously, by repeatedly hearing, receiving, and finally bearing fruit (4:10–20). The disciples only see ‘in part’ but still they press in for a second touch. And, like the blind man at Bethsaida, they too begin to see clearly, but only out of the sustained interaction and repeated “touch” of Jesus (8:14–26).

      C.) Negative examples

          1. The story of the rich man provides an important example of what it means to deny oneself. Here Jesus points out that entering the kingdom of God involves denying oneself and that, for the rich man, this requires that he sell whatever he has, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus (10:21). Unwilling to do this, he provides a negative example of what not denying oneself involves (10:22) and its consequences (10:22–25; cf. 8:36–37).
          2. The disciples also are shown as negative examples. They lack of understanding is a mark of chapters 1-8. The disciples shown to be self-seeking as they seek personal greatness, advantage over others, and places of honor (9:32-34; 10:35-45). They know little to nothing but want power and position. At Jesus’ lowest point the three closest to Jesus sleep while he prays (14:32-42). the disciples avoid persecution as all abandon Jesus (14:50-52).
          3. Peter is a negative example. Peter lacks sound self-awareness. He is unaware of his own shortcomings as well as the dangers of his impulsive tendency (14:29-31). Peter lack of introspection fully blossoms in him doing what he claimed he could never do. He denies Jesus three times (14:66-72).

      Eduard Schweizer explains that the disciples' failure never affected Jesus gracious response:

      “So man's continued inability to understand is contrasted with Jesus' promise to go before them and accomplish what human hearts cannot do; despite every failure he would call the disciples again to discipleship and would encounter them in a way that would enable them to see him.”(1)

      The point Schweizer gets at is as simple as it is profound. Even in all the disciples failures Jesus never failed them. Such a truth should bring our hearts to worship.


      (1) Eduard Schweizer, The Good News according to Mark (trans. Donald H. Madvig; Atlanta: John Knox, 1970), 373






      Mark 1:41-44a
      Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone

      Mark 5:40b-43
      [Jesus] entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, …. “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it.

      In the first passage above Jesus healed a leper and the second He rose a girl from the dead. In both he did something odd, instructing people to not publicize what he had done. Who would not want such free TRUE publicity. Who turns down all that free press? Well, Jesus did. The "Messianic Secret" is what scholars have labeled this practice of Jesus. On numerous occasions in Mark, Jesus told those who revealed his identity to "zip it, and Tell no one”. In the first half of Mark, for some reason, Jesus try’s to keep his identity a secret. Here are a few examples.

      • Jesus Silences the Demons [1:23-25, 34; 3:11ff; cf. 5:6 and 9:20]
      • Prohibitions to those Jesus Healed [1:43-45; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; 10:47ff]
      • Jesus’ Warning to his Disciples [8:27-30; 9:9]

      Many scholars see this as examples that Mark is not much of a historical account. Others calm it shows Mark is more an example of revisionist historian. Other scholars understand the practice to be selections of real events, Mark uses to make a theological point. My personal favorite was from an online message board user name Theo-theLeo78, 'He told people to Shush and keep the secret because he did not have those Dope 'Clark Kent' glasses"

      While I truly appreciate Theo-TheLeo78 outside the box thinking. Yet i don't think he is right. I believe the best explanation is the simplest. Jesus knew what he was doing. A hint comes from the way people misunderstood Jesus’ identity in Mark. In light of this a few reason can be given as to why he would keep his identity a secret.

      Why did Jesus want to keep His identity as the Messiah a secret?

      A few possible reasons

      • To avoid being considered just a "miracle worker." Note that many of these commands follow miracles. Jesus did not want people to follow Him just to see Him do spiritual tricks. He came as the Son of God to bring salvation and forgiveness from sin, not just physical healing and miracles.
      • To avoid undue publicity which would hinder His mobility and ministry to His disciples. Note the result of the leper's disobedience in 1:45 lead to more people.
      • To avoid the mistaken notion of the type of Messiah He came to be. He came to suffer and serve and sacrifice Himself, not simply to display His power (cf. 10:45). His Jewish contemporaries largely misunderstood the role of the Messiah. First-century Jews conceived of the anticipated Messiah as (1) a political and military deliverer who would liberate the Jews from the Roman Empire, (2) restore the Davidic boundaries and national sovereignty of Israel, and (3) cleanse Israel from all Gentile influence. Jesus’ concept of the messiah did not just exclude these but staunchly opposed them, Jesus carefully crafted His Messianic identity in parables and cryptic sayings. This is one reason he spoke of the ‘son of man’, in second person even though he was speaking of himself.
      • To avoid the premature death that increased popularity could bring. Following His transfiguration, which displayed His glory to the disciples, Jesus tells them not to speak of this event “till the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (9:9). Following His resurrection, his identity and the character of His mission is properly understood in its full scope.

      The practice continues until chapter 8. In Mark 8:29 Peter’s confession of Christ identity.

        1. A high point and pivot of Mark narrative
        2. The first true confession of Jesus by a disciple.
        3. After this confession Jesus sets his eyes on the cross and prepares his disciples for his death. Chapters 8 to 16 are described by Mark as one journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, the place of Christ execution.
        4. Here is why, only after laying the appropriate groundwork did Jesus publicly make explicit his messiahship at the end of His ministry (Mark 14:61–62).

      Ethical consideration of the messianic secret

      As we have seen, Jesus had good reasons to keep things quite. So the "secret" is not as much a literary 'tell' as some scholar's think. His behavior makes sense within the cultural and historical outlook of the first century. Yet Jesus' actions do give us insight but of an ethical nature. When reading the gospels, it is to be assumed that Jesus operated with integrity. This means, Jesus' character can be seen in his behavior (when understood contextually and historically). Jesus actions reveal the shape of his heart. So behaviors like, Jesus' mistrust of the crowd, his aversion toward spectacle or his attempts to not have his miracles 'go viral', reveal something of Jesus' values, worldview and ethical disposition. They reveal an often obscured aspect of Jesus' character. Below is my ethical considerations:

      Mark took a handful of moments as a way to highlight an aspect of Jesus character that was needed due to the cultural values common in the first century. Values that have had something of a cultural revival today.

      You see, Mark’s readers would have seen Jesus actions as odd. Roman culture embraced the praise of men. Humility and being unassuming was thought of as a bad thing. Jesus was showing basic 'Beta' behavior and in no way would he ever be 'Alpha' material. Roman 'Alpha' leaders did not shy away from free publicity… especially if it was true. They capitalized on every opportunity. The same mentality was true of the Jewish religious leadership, only political power was replaced by religious influence. Such twisted values were common among the elites of the first century.

      First century readers would think, Jesus was awful at self-promotion. He would not play into those cultural values which had likely made inroads into Jesus’ context, as much as they had in Mark’s audience. Mark wanted his readers to see Jesus acted in a contrary way to these culturally accepted behaviors. After reading about Jesus healing a blind man then telling him to 'zip it' and 'keep it on the DL', Mark’s first readers would have thought that Jesus needed a PR team and maybe a round of Testosterone shots. Yet Jesus was awful at it because his character was on point. His power was under control for he was meek at heart and sure of who he was. He would not play into those cultural values for his own gain. He knew such gain was actually loss. He waited on the Lord’s timing and did not take every opportunity of making much of himself.

      The “messianic secret” reveals Jesus preferred to follow God’s ways over man’s ‘methods’. He did not shy away from shutting down storms or opening blind eyes. He did not hesitate to evict a legion of demons. All the while, Jesus loved people enough not to cheapen their experience by making it a tool for self-promotion. One sign of godly character is caring about people in the little things even when the only one who sees is God, and the only one who takes the hit is you.

      He chose to wait on the Lord’s timing and not take every opportunity of making much of himself. The messianic secret, shows Jesus valued doing things God's way above all. He understood the value of following God's ways over the efficient shortcuts of man’s practical measures.

      In your reading as you come upon such passages, see Jesus’ character on display. Let the passage reveal the shape of Jesus’ humble servant heart. See Jesus choosing God’s ways and not man’s self-promoting methods. See Jesus trusting God’s timing for advancing the kingdom, and not someone opportunistically capitalizing on every opportunity as if his livelihood depended on it.






      The short answer: Gospels are written in genre of Roman biographies.

      A Few Academic Voice on the Issue

      Craig Keener: “Most Gospels scholars today view the Gospels as belonging to the genre of ancient biography. Both supporters and detractors now recognize this general consensus…. Arguments concerning the biographical character of the Gospels have thus come full circle: the Gospels, long viewed as biographies of some sort until the early twentieth century, now are widely viewed as biographies again.” (1)

      Philip Stadter: “Philosophical biography brought out the moral character of its subjects and the relation of their teachings to their lives. Aristoxenus, a pupil of Aristotle, wrote on Pythagoras, Archytas, Socrates, and Plato; Hermippus in the third century wrote Lives of many philosophers, as well as lawgivers and other figures. Diogenes Laertius’ extant Lives of the Philosophers continues the tradition. Since such lives are usually heavy in sayings, as in Lucian’s Demonax, they may be difficult to distinguish from apophthegm collections. The Gospels also belong to this category, as does Philostratus’ novelistic Life of Apollonius of Tyana.” (2)

      David Aune: “ancient readers of Greek and Latin biographies from the period of the early Roman Empire (e.g., Cornelius Nepos, Plutarch, Suetonius, and Tacitus) had the same expectation as those who read the Gospels, expecting them to preserve the gist of what their subjects had actually said and done.” (3)

      Graham Stanton: “…the gospels are now widely considered to be a sub-set of the broad ancient literary genre of biographies.”(4)

      Regarding Mark

      R.T. France: “[f]ifty years ago we were drilled in the critical orthodoxy of the form-critical school which insisted that the gospels were not to be seen as biographies, but since then there has been a massive swing in scholarly opinion on this point, and increasingly sophisticated study of the nature of biographical writing in the ancient world has led to a general recognition that, for all the distinctiveness of its Christian content and orientation, in terms of literary form Mark’s book (and those of Matthew, Luke and John) would have seemed to an educated reader in the first century to fall into roughly the same category as the lives of famous men pioneered by Cornelius Nepos and soon to reach their most famous expression in the ‘Parallel Lives’ of Plutarch’.” (5)



      1. Craig Keener, Christobiography (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2019), 41, 43.

      2. Philip Stadter “Biography and History” in A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography vol. 2 Edt. John Marincola (Oxford, Blackwell pub 2007), 528, 530.

      3. Quoted in Craig Keener, Christobiography, 3.

      4. Graham Stanton, Jesus and Gospel (Cambridge, Cambridge press, 2004), 192.

      5. R.T. France The Gospel of Mark: a commentary on the Greek text (NIGTC, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2002), 5


      “Son” language in Mark

      Mark uses “son” language to speak of Christ; the most common is “Son of Man”. Except for the personal name “Jesus,” the theological title “Son of Man” is the most frequent phrase used to refer to Jesus in Mark.

      1. What “Son of Man” Means

      a. Jesus use of Son of Man

      The way Jesus taught about himself
      If you listen to Jesus’ own words in Mark’s Gospel, he did not teach morals. The main thing Jesus taught about was himself. Yet Jesus taught about himself in a very round about way. It was a way that would have been clear to those who knew Old Testament but likely sounds odd to us today.

      Jesus used the phrase “Son of Man” to refer to himself.
      In Mark, When Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man he often spoke in second person. We can be sure Jesus is speaking of himself by looking to the same passages in other gospels. In Mark 10:45, Mark uses the phrase “Son of Man” to refer to Jesus’ coming to serve, Luke uses “I” in an equivalent phrase (Luke 22:27).
      But why would he speak that way? Answer: Likely, Jesus was being deliberately evasive so as to avoid being accused of blaming messianic status before it is His time. Jesus wants his disciples to connect the dots for themselves.

      Jesus was not saying, “I’m nobody special. I’m just another run-of-the-mill guy.” The “Son of Man” title in Mark is more than that It has a strong connection to the messianic and eschatological figure in Dan 7 who will judge the world. (particularly, Dan. 7:13-14).

      b. He pulls from Old Testament Passage

      The Son of man language in Mark may not be what it appears. On the surface, it appears to speak of Christ’s humanity yet that might not be the discussion being had in Galilee during Jesus time.

      Son of Man has connection to the Apocalyptic Worldview of second temple Judaism. Given the use of eschatological material in Mark, the title may reflect an apocalyptic background, with its roots in books like Daniel and 1 Enoch. (1)

      Jesus’ use of the title hints at Jesus’ self-identification as the figure from Daniel 7. Messianic figure who’s divinity is hinted at in the text by him doing things only reserve for God. Many now see, Jesus is making an allusion to his divinity not his humanity unlike some earlier scholars that has noted in connecting the use of the title in Ezekiel.

      Jesus calls attention to the title as used in Daniel’s vision of the representative of God’s people. In Daniel, the figure is worshiped like God and ascends in clouds to receive an eternal kingdom (8:28; 13:26; 14:62; Dan. 7:9– 14).

      Jesus also makes some interesting comments on the Son of Man’s purpose (10:45; 8:31; 9:12, 31) with illusions to the Suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

      Jesus may appeals to the Son of Man title may point to this expectation in his context, of a coming “Divine / Messianic figure” who will exhibit a comprehensive presence through the kingdom of God, this is one aspect of the Son of Man in second temple thought. The Son of Man will judge the world and through his work God’s kingdom will spread to cover the earth, so that shalom is restored to the world.

      Shalom is used here to means more than just “peace”. Shalom is the right rhythm of creation before the fall. It is the wholeness of creation in its “orderliness” and “fittedness” of all things. In Jewish thought, Shalom was lost but at the eschaton the Son of Man will bring in the restoration of it by the rightly admonition of justice and righteousness. To reiterate, shalom is the harmonious movement of the created order which bring flourishing, fruitfulness, and fullness of life.

      2. What does Jesus teach the Son of Man came to do?

      1.) Bear authority.

        • Jesus taught with authority: “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority” (1:22).
        • He had authority to forgive sin “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .” (2:10).
        • He had the authority to be the Lord of the Sabbath (2:28).
        • Who had that kind of authority? No one but God.

       2.) Suffer.

        • He also taught that the son of man must suffer. Mark 8:31, 9:12, 9:31, 10:32-34, 14:21, 14:41. Jesus has come to teach with the authority of God and to forgive sins. Yet he says the religious leaders of the people will reject him. Also each time he taught them about his suffering he taught them he would rise again. No pain without purpose, no suffering without resurrection
        • He also taught them he would rise from the dead. We can see his promise in Mark 8:31; 9:31; and 10:33-34.

      “that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” 8:31

      “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 9:31

      “the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” 10:33-34

      3.) Return to judge.

        • While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts during his last week in Jerusalem, his disciples marveled at the massive stones (13:1). But Jesus promised that the temple would be destroyed (13:2), that great chaos and judgement would follow (13:5-26).
        • At his trail before the high priest, Jesus was asked directly by the high priest whether he was the Messiah (14:61). Jesus answered, “I am…you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). This is reminiscent of what we have of the messianic and eschatological figure in Dan 7 who will judge the world.
        • This is Mark’s teaching about Jesus: God came in the flesh, was rejected, and will come again in judgment.




      1. The availability of this title to Jesus in his Galilean context is discussed. In a monograph entitled, Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift. Eds. James Charlesworth and Darrell Bock (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013) The monograph put forth that the Son of Man title was very much a topic for reflection in first-century Galilee.


      Smell can be a powerful sense. The right smell can bring back old memories, you haven't thought about for decades. In the same way having a good literary sense about a text can unfold truths hidden in plain sight. It all begins by knowing a little something about an author's style of writing. Mark is about as stylish as Elton John and twice as obvious. In other words, when you know what Mark is doing, you can't help but see it.

      One of the earliest references in the Church Father's to Mark's gospel claimed it was based on the preaching and testimony of Peter making note to add that Mark did not structure the work in a strict historical chronology. Some stories were organized for thematic purposes. A comparison of Mark with the other Gospels reveal that he employs the sandwich technique in a unique and pronounced manner. This technique was used to underscore the major themes of the Gospel.

      What is the Sandwich Technique?
      The Sandwich Technique is a way of ordering stories, it this way the author helps interrupt a story by inserting a second, seemingly unrelated, story into it. In Mark the sandwich technique occur around nine times ( 3:20–35; 4:1–20; 5:21–43; 6:7–30; 11:12–21; 14:1–11; 14:17–31; 14:53–72; 15:40– 16:8.) The Technique highlights themes like discipleship, bearing witness, or the dangers of apostasy.

      Sandwiches are thus literary conventions with theological purposes. These “sandwiches” serve theological purposes by inviting readers to reflect on the similarity between the pairs of stories. Each sandwich unit consists of an A1-B-A2 sequence, with the B-component functioning as the theological key to the story it is between.

      Like in Mark 11:12-21, The fig tree that withers in keeping with Jesus’ curse symbolizes Israel and the corrupt worship being offered in its temple, which demanded purging by the Messiah who is jealous for God’s glory among the nations. The sin of the Temple brings a cures.

      A Few Examples:

      • Jesus’ movement to the home of Jairus and his gravely ill daughter by the healing of a woman who has suffered long from a defiling flow of blood (5:21–43). This particular sandwich is about faith
      • Jesus’ cleansing of the temple between His cursing of the fig tree and His disciples’ discovery that it has withered (11:12–21),
      • The anointing of Jesus by a woman surrounded by accounts of the developing conspiracy to destroy Him (14:1–11).
      • Between the sending out of the Twelve to preach and their return, Mark inserts the account of Herod’s execution of John the Baptist, which occurred at an earlier point in the narrative (6:7–30).

      A Few more Examples:

      • Mark 3:20–35 (Jesus’ family’s misunderstanding, surrounding the scribes’ accusations)
      • Mark 4:1–20 (the parable of the Sower, surrounding the purpose of parables)
      • Mark 14:17–31 (Jesus’ announcement of His disciples’ betrayal and denial, surrounding His institution of the Lord’s Supper)
      • Mark 14:53–72 (Peter in the high priest’s courtyard, surrounding Jesus’ trial inside)
      • Mark 15:40–16:8 (women at the cross and the empty tomb, surrounding Jesus’ death on the cross).

      In most of these sections, the movement from the “frame story” to the inserted narrative naturally reflects the flow of historical events (this is not true of Mark 6:7–30). Mark was not concerned with historical chronological order as much as making theological connections between real historical events.



      God-man of action
      From start to finish, Jesus is the uncontested subject of the Gospel of Mark, and he is portrayed as a man of action. The action of the Gospel is all-important to the meaning of the Gospel, for we learn who Jesus is not so much from what he says as from what he does. In this respect, Mark writes with a paintbrush.

      Although Jesus is often referred to as a teacher, when compared to Matthew or Luke, Mark is not focused on the content of his teaching as much his actions. It is quickly apparent that the person of the 'teacher' is Mark's aim. He wishes to to hold up as important

      In his book, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, Theologian David Garland, thinks Mark as presenting Jesus “as the Messiah and the Son of God and to show that his shameful death on a cross was part of God’s plan for the redemption of humanity.”(1)

      Garland considers the Christology of mark To be an Enacted Christology. “Mark developed his Christology through narrative. That is, the audience learns Jesus’ identity and significance for their lives through story.”(2)

      In Mark, we discover Jesus as Messiah, Son of God, through his actions and deeds. Mark gives a consistent balanced christology, describing Jesus with divine and human characteristics.  But it is through the whole narrative from beginning to end that Mark describes Christ in high definition to add clarity to the portrait of Jesus, he is presenting.

      Jesus the Authoritative Son of God
      Mark’s Jesus is authoritative: He calls disciples and they follow him; people are amazed and listen attentively when he speaks; even unclean spirits obey his commands. In the opening chapters His authority is clearly on display.

      Jesus the controversial Son of God
      According to Mark, the religious leadership opposed Jesus. In chapter 2, Mark gives four stories about the controversy Jesus stirred up. The religious leaders were offended by his confrontation of their self-righteousness, ethnocentrism and the correction he brought to their misinterpretation of the Torah. Despite this animosity, Jesus never opposed Judaism as a religion. Jesus as the Jewish messiah. He came to be the fulfillment of it.

      Jesus the Misunderstood Son of God
      In the first half of the Gospel, only five individuals or groups know Jesus’ identity: 1.) God, 2.) Jesus, 3.) the evil spirits, 4.) the author, and 5.) the reader. Not even his family or closest disciples understand who he is. It is not until the middle of the Gospel that his disciples begin to realize that Jesus is the Son of God. And this they know, in part, at best.

      Jesus the Suffering Son of God
      Mark portrayed Jesus as the suffering servant of Isaiah’s servant songs. Jesus even predicts his death three times in this Gospel, and the latter part of Mark’s Gospel focuses exclusively on Jesus’ the events leading up to the crucifixion. Mark explains that it is precisely because Jesus is the messiah that he must die: His death will serve as “a ransom for many” (10:45). The narrative continues with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, teaching at the Temple, arrest, and trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate.

      Jesus the Crucified Son of God
      Even at the end, Jesus’ disciples do not understand his identity and mission. Judas hands him over, Peter denies him, and the others scatter to avoid arrest. Jesus is left to die alone. Though he was alone, He would not die in vain. What was accomplished in those three hours changed everything. Mark uses two events at Jesus’ death to illustrate the reality of what Jesus has done for sinful broken humanity. First, when Jesus dies, the curtain into the Holy of Holies is torn from top to bottom. Not a bottom up work but a top down act of Grace signifying open access. Through this story, Mark implies that after Jesus’ sacrificial death, all people, not just the high priest, have full access to God. Second, and even more striking, is the Roman centurion at the cross who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son. The man who killed Jesus, recognizes Jesus as God’s son. Throughout the Gospel, all of the Jews, including Jesus’ closest followers, fail to recognize Jesus for who he is. Ironically, and deeply consistent with the Scope of Christ’s work, it is a Gentile with Christ’s blood on his hands, who first confesses this truth. Taken Together, the two points form a profound truth, on the grounds of Jesus’ work on the cross that (1) their is open access for all, (2) access to God only comes through Jesus.


      1. David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2015) 25

      2. David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2015) 262




      Pentecost as fulfillment
      When speaking of the theme of promise and fulfillment in relation to Pentecost most would point to Jesus’s words, in Luke,

      “I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).

      “what my Father promised”, Jesus speaks of promises already made. Everyone knows Jesus is taking about Pentecost but we rarely think about the promises that were fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus promise links the end of Luke to Acts where the promise is restated and reinforced in Acts 1:4–5.

      Fulfillment is a major theme of Acts. Luke has built up expectation throughout his gospel and now focuses attention on fulfillment. To this point C.K. Barrett writes:

      “Chapter 1 leads the reader to expect that the work of Jesus will not be complete and that his followers will not be fully prepared for their work, until notable activity of the Holy Spirit has taken place. This expectation is for filled on the day of Pentecost. The presence of the spirit -the gift of God in the eschatological age- is made known in visible and audible manifestations”

      The coming of the Spirit on the disciples in Acts 2 is very important for it is the foundational event the rest of Acts is theologically built upon.

      The four eschatological hopes all promised in the Old Testament can be seen as fulfilled at Pentecost. These Jewish hopes are eschatological in that they are connected to and rise from the hope of God's work in the last days. They are:

          1. Universal prophethood,
          2. Pouring out of Yahweh's Spirit,
          3. A new Spirit within Yahweh's people
          4. A new covenant to govern the administration of God's kingdom.

      Does Luke demonstrates Pentecost as the fulfillment of these hopes in Acts 2?

      In the below outline, under each heading I have given possible evidences that point to Luke implying a hope fulfilled.

      I. The first hopes: universal prophethood (ie. the democratization of the Spirit)

      A. Peter claimed it had been fulfilled in Joel's prophecy (2:17-18). Luke emphasizes this in Universal prophecy in his description that these things happened to ‘all' (2:1, 4, 7; ‘each one' in v3), All in Acts 2:1, 7, (cf. 2:3). almost certainly means the 120, not just the twelve, as the connections with 1:13-15 are strong — the ‘all' of 1:13-15 is carried through the ‘they' of 1:24-26, and into chapter 2. "All" will have access to experience the Holy Spirit in which both young and old, male and female will prophesy. In this way, Joel 2:28–32 has been understood as depicting a democratization of the Spirit. This age is one that the Christian community is to be considered as “sons of the prophets” (Acts 3:24–25).

       II. The second hope: a pouring out of Yahweh's Spirit

      A. Peter claimed it was also fulfilled in Joel's prophecy (2:17-18).
      B. More support is found in Peter's repetition of the phrase ‘poured out' in 2:33.

      III. The third hope, a new Spirit for Yahweh's people

      A. It is implied by the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:38) to the crowd.
      B. Supportive evidence is found in the context of both Acts 2:38 and Ezekiel 36:25

      (i) both speak of cleansing and forgiveness
      (ii) the promise that they will dwell in the land (Ezekiel 36:28, 37:14) suggests that Ezekiel, that like Peter, is calling to those ‘who are far off' (Acts 2:39).

      IV. The fourth hope: a new covenant

      A. We do not have explicit connection but a number of implicate ones that make the connection fulfillment likely. It is generally understood that Pentecost was the inauguration of the new covenant. When the Holy Spirit began his work of applying redemption and all its benefits to the people of God.

      (i) connection between the fire and wind at Pentecost and the promise of God’s presence of God with his people. In Acts 2 there is an emphasis on a close relationship between Yahweh and his people, which is one of the main themes of Jeremiah's new covenant promise. Evidence for this is found in the visible and audible signs of Acts 2:2-3. The analogous to fire and wind which are both imagery associated with old covenant theophanies and therefore demonstrate the presence of God with his people. the strong wind blew through the congregation assembled together, and the fire rest on the people individually signifying location of the indwelling spirit. God had come to his new temple, in both its corporate expression and individual expression.

      (ii) The timing of the coming of the Spirit as a historical event with the Jewish calendar, particularly the feast of Pentecost connects the idea of new covenant and Pentecost, the evidence is likely that at this time at least some Jews saw Pentecost as a feast of covenant renewal. Luke may be making a theological and literary parallel between the giving of the Torah and the sending of the Spirit. Some scholars see a close parallel other do not hold to the same conviction. In the sending of the Spirit, we clearly have the fulfillment of Jeremiah's new covenant prophecy, linking the giving of the ‘old' law at Sinai, with the giving of the ‘new', internal law in their hearts (Jer 31:33).

      The evidence adds up to a promise and fulfillment of the Father. Identifying Pentecost as as the fulfillment of the eschatological hope. For Luke, Pentecost is a unique moment in salvation history.











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