The Gospel of Mark, the second book in the New Testament, is 16 short chapters long, the briefest of all the Gospels, and therefore easy to read in one sitting. Its brevity is probably the reason it is the most often translated book of the New Testament. The Wycliffe translators, I understand, almost invariably begin their translation work with the Gospel of Mark because it is so short and gives the whole story in one brief compass.
This Gospel has a completely different atmosphere from the Gospel of Matthew. If you go on to read Luke and John, you will see that they are still different from Matthew and Mark, Matthew, Mark and Luke are more similar to each other than any of these three are to the Gospel of John. Nevertheless, they are all different.
There is a reason for this, designed deliberately by the Holy Spirit. We make a mistake if we think these four Gospels are four biographies of the Lord. They are not biographies at all, they are character sketches, intended to be different, intended to present different points of view. Therefore, they constitute four distinct views of our Lord and of his work.
The Gospel of Matthew is written to present Christ as the King. The Gospel of Mark presents his character as a servant. The Gospel of Luke presents him as the Son of man -- as man in his essential humanity. The Gospel of John presents him as the Son of God, that is, his deity, and there you find the greatest claims for his deity.
The Place to Begin (Mark 1:1-8)
I have just spent two weeks in Mexico with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, and I have realized anew that the Gospel of Mark is the most translated book in all the world. No other book appears in as many languages. Almost all Wycliffe translators, after they have reduced a language to writing, begin their translation of the Scriptures with this gospel. I am sure that the fact it is the shortest of the gospels has something to do with that decision! Bible translators are human beings like the rest of us, and no one wants to start with a gospel as long as Matthew or Luke. But it is also a fact that Mark is particularly suitable for introducing to the Scriptures people of all backgrounds, classes, and tribes. It is the one gospel of the four which is aimed at the Gentile ear.
Jesus Came (Mark 1:9-15)
We are studying Mark's record of what happened when Jesus came to Israel. Those two little words, "Jesus came," are always a formula for dramatic and radical change. I spent a delightful evening this week listening to a man tell about what happened in his life -- the changes in his home and family -- when Jesus came into his heart.
A Day in the Life of Jesus (Mark 1:16-39)
It is a popular literary style today to trace through the events of one day in the life of a person. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has given us a remarkable book in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Perhaps you have read some of Jim Bishop's books, like The Day Kennedy Died or The Day Lincoln Died.There is something similar in the gospel of Mark, as Mark traces for us A Day in the Life of Jesus.
The Healer of Hurts (Mark 1:40 - 2:12)
We resume our study of the gospel of Mark, this remarkable witness concerning the servant of God -- his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ -- as seen through the eyes of Mark and Peter.
The Scandal Maker (Mark 2:13 - 3:6)
Many view Jesus in the way he is often pictured -- as a very weak and mild man who sought always to live at peace with everyone and who avoided controversy whenever possible. But as you read the gospel accounts you see that the truth is that, from the very beginning, he deliberately provoked certain groups. He never hesitated to flout the petty regulations of men, and he knowingly and deliberately offended people. In fact, he became too hot to handle, and the "establishment" of that day finally decided that the only way out was to get rid of him. We need this view of Jesus to balance the false impressions we often acquire. But we need to keep the entire picture in balance. He was no "radical revolutionist," as we use the term today. He did challenge the status quo, but never in a violent or desperate way.
False Forces (Mark 3:7-35)
We are beginning the third natural division of the first half of Mark's wonderful picture of the Servant who rules and the Ruler who serves. We have seen that the first division describes the authority of the servant -- the tremendous command Jesus exercised in many realms. The second division brought before us his knowledge of our humanity -- the penetrating, incisive understanding of man Jesus exhibited.