The Gospel according to St. Mark presents the story of Jesus in a popular and engaging style. The narrative is fast-paced and dramatic, not dwelling long on detail. The emphasis is much more on the deeds of Jesus—his healings and wonders—than on his teachings, and through these Mark conveys to readers the striking impact his ministry had on people in Galilee in the early first century a.d.
Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels and if the word of the theologian Clement of Alexandria (a.d. 150–215) has merit, it was written for an audience of Gentile Christians in Rome around a.d. 70. That Mark translates Aramaic words, explains Jewish customs, and ignores Old Testament connections confirms this audience. The first nine chapters cover Jesus' ministry in Galilee, and the final six chronicle his journey to Judea and into Jerusalem (chapter 11) for his final week.
The underlying aim is to show that Jesus is the Messiah (“Christ” in Greek). That is already declared to readers in 1.1, but the author wants readers to see the centrality of Jesus' cross. In Mark Jesus is the suffering Messiah whose compassion led him to the cross, not a militaristic Messiah who would overthrow Roman occupation forces. Lest any in his audience misunderstand the new life in Christ as being about self-advantage, Mark says to the contrary that it is about selfless serving—that all who follow Jesus must also expect to take up their cross and follow him in the way of the cross. The author of Mark never identifies himself to the reader. Early church tradition associated the book with Mark, a companion of St. Peter, who would have learned what he reports about Jesus directly from the apostle.
Jesus Prepares for His Ministry (1.1-20)
Jesus Does the Work of God's Kingdom in Galilee (1.21—9.50)
Jesus Teaches and Works Miracles in Judea (10.1-52)
Jesus in Jerusalem (11.1—15.47)
Jesus Is Risen from the Sepulchre (16.1-20)
[NB: Some very important ancient manuscripts of Mark lack 16.9-20. This is generally regarded as a later ending added to Mark. The KJV translators did not have access to these ancient texts.]
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