This is the first in our series of posts on the Gospel of Mark, first published in August 2023
In Acts 12, we read that James, the brother of John, had been martyred by King Herod in order to satisfy the Jewish leaders. This was quickly followed by the arrest of the Apostle Peter, with the expectation that he would also be put to the sword. Herod is determined that Peter will not escape his fate, appointing four squads of guards to watch over him. He is forced to sleep between two guards, whilst further soldiers guard the door. Meanwhile, the Church is praying for Peter’s release.
This is the start of one of my favourite stories. In the middle of the night, Peter is awoken by an angel, who tells him to get dressed and follow him. Peter’s shackles fall away, and he is led out of the prison. Finding himself alone in the street, Peter makes his way to the house of a friend called Mary, where people are praying for his release. This Mary is identified as the mother of a man called Mark, sometimes called John Mark (Acts 12:12). At this point, Mark was probably a young man. This is the first that we read about this man who is the author of the Gospel which bears his name.
As with most biblical characters, we know little of his life, apart from one or two ‘cameo’ moments. If Mark met Christ, he would almost certainly have been a small child at the time. However we know that he travelled with Barnabas and Paul (Acts 12:25), becoming the cause of a disagreement between them because of his behaviour (Acts 15:38). Yet he was later reconciled as an important support to Paul’s ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).
Not only was he close to Paul, but this Mark also became a friend, colleague and companion of the Apostle Peter, closest companion of Jesus. Peter even referred to as ‘my son Mark’ in 1 Peter 5:13. We know that Mark was with Peter towards the end of his life in Rome, and there is every reason to believe that Peter was the direct source of this Gospel. When we read , we hear the voice of Peter.
To read this Gospel is to listen to the voice not of Mark, but of Peter. To read this Gospel is to hear the voice of the one who walked with Christ, talked with Christ, ate with Christ, and witnessed the miracles of Christ. To read this Gospel is to listen to the voice of the one who walked on the water, who recognised Christ as Messiah, and knew the pain of hearing the cock crow three times. To read this Gospel is to hear the voice of one who witnessed the death and resurrection of Christ, one who experienced Pentecost, one who witnessed at first hand the exponential growth of the early Church. To read this Gospel is to listen to the voice of the one upon whose shoulders the Church was built.
Read this Gospel with expectation. Read it in the hope of being encouraged and inspired. Read it to listen to the voice of the Apostle and to engage with the story of how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, brought the good news to men, as written by Mark, but as described by one who was actually there.