The Gospel of Action
September 27, 2021
-Dr. J. Vernon McGee, as summarized in the Bible Companion for the Gospel of Mark
One of the first New Testament books to be written was the Gospel of Mark. Though John Mark was not an apostle, he traveled with Paul and his uncle, Barnabas, on the first missionary journey. By far, John Mark’s closest relationship was with Simon Peter. This Gospel has long been considered Simon Peter’s account, as told to John Mark. Some have said the facts of the Gospel are from Peter and the explanations are from Paul.
John Mark specifically wrote this Gospel for the Roman mind—the strong man who ruled the world for a millennium. The Romans brought a forced peace to the world with its strong dictatorship and—with it—justice, good roads, law and order, and protection. In the days when the Caesars ruled, the world longed for mercy and all they got was power. No man dared resist it, and fleeing the realm was impossible. It was in that day God sent a message to the Gentile world through the writer, John Mark.
Considering Peter as the source, no wonder the Gospel of Mark is a Gospel of action. Peter was that kind of man. The Lord Jesus here lays aside His robes of royalty that we saw in Matthew and girds Himself with the towel of service. Jesus is the King in Matthew and the Servant in Mark—God’s servant. The style of this shorter Gospel is brief and blunt, pertinent and pithy, simple and sweet, stripped of all excess verbiage. Mark goes right to the point, to the point of action and accomplishment. He answers the question: “Can Jesus do the job?”
Early in this Gospel we watch the intensity of Jesus’ ministry unfold. There’s probably more content in this first chapter of Mark than any other chapter in the Bible. It covers the ministry of John the Baptist, showing how he fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi. It follows Jesus through a busy Sabbath, demonstrates His authority over the demonic realm, and finishes with a mighty work of healing. Yet, despite the pressure of a busy life, Jesus still took time to pray—getting up before dawn to be alone with His Father.
More than any other name, Mark calls the Lord, “Jesus”—His common name. He then tells us about when Jesus (the second person of the Godhead) is baptized and comes out of the water. The Spirit of God (the third person) comes like a dove upon Him and a voice out of heaven, God the Father, says, “This is my beloved Son.” The Trinity sets heaven’s seal upon Jesus as God’s Son, ready for ministry.
Immediately (one of Mark’s favorite words), the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness for initiation. Remember the question Mark wanted to prove was, “Can Jesus do the job?” Other men couldn’t stand up under temptation. Adam didn’t make it. Noah failed miserably after the flood. Abraham failed. Moses and David did, too. Will Jesus?
So, for 40 days Satan tempted Jesus, and He did not fail. We’ll never know the depth of the pain He suffered in this wilderness, but we do see that after it was over, animals (below Him) and angels (above Him) ministered to His needs.
After the temptation, the Lord moves directly into ministry, specifically with works and words that illustrate the Servant, preaching the gospel of God, saying the kingdom of God is at hand. “Repent and believe the gospel.” As Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee, He calls His disciples. Most of them fishermen, they leave their nets and follow Him into a busy life of ministry.
Historical evidence shows demonism was rampant throughout the entire Roman Empire during Jesus’ ministry years. Mark intentionally records the miracle of casting a demon out of a man first because it was over the spiritual realm where only God can control. Mark proved Jesus’ credentials—His authority in His teaching and the demonstration of power only God has. The people couldn’t understand, but the demons recognized Jesus right away.
This is the beginning of the gospel. By His healing, He got people’s attention and proved His authority over the physical and demonic realm.
By His teaching, Jesus prepared people for salvation through His death and His resurrection. His teaching will not save us; it is only through His death for us on the Cross that we can be saved.
Want a fast, first-hand, witness’ look at Jesus? Read the Gospel of Mark. It should take around 90 minutes. As you read (or listen to it), consider the answer to the question John Mark addresses: “Can Jesus do the job?”
- Take the “Mark Challenge” this week in your time in God’s Word. Start by reading the first chapter of Mark right now. Notice, as Dr. McGee points out, how packed full of action that first chapter is.
- Begin and keep a running list of observations specifically about Jesus—what He teaches, how He treats people, what sets Him apart as a Servant …
- Ask God’s Spirit to teach you something new in every chapter.
Check out THRU the BIBLE’s plans on the YouVersion app for the Gospel of Mark. You can listen to Steve Shwetz read the plan to you. Invite someone to join you in reading it. (The content is an abbreviated version of the Bible Companion.) Go to TTB.org/YouVersion for more information.