Why Study the Book of Mark?

This article is part of the Why Study the Book? series.

Why Study Mark?

The whole Bible is from heaven, and the whole thing is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16). But different parts of the Bible serve us in different ways. Psalms of lament help us process through grief. Genesis helps us when we wonder why we’re on the planet. Revelation stabilizes us with hope of a certain and happy future. Romans calms us when plagued with guilt.

So why study the Gospel of Mark? Here are a few reasons.

Individual Forgiveness

We are reminded of the point of the Bible, the point of the history of Israel, and the point of Christ coming to earth: “the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).

The book of Mark is in the Bible to show us what God decided to do when we turned our back on him—he sent his own “beloved Son” (1:11), and on the cross turned his back on that beloved Son so that penitent sinners can know that God will never turn his back on them. Our fickleness, our messiness, our inconsistency, is the point. Christ came “not to call the righteous, but sinners” (2:17).

Total Restoration

We are reminded that Jesus came not only to forgive our sins but to rinse clean this fallen world and restore the cosmos to the way it was supposed to be.

We are reminded that Jesus came not only to forgive our sins but to rinse clean this fallen world and restore the cosmos to the way it was supposed to be.

Why does Mark give us the strange information that Jesus was “with the wild animals” and “tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:13)? Because Jesus was undoing the disaster that Adam had brought when he was with the wild animals and tempted by Satan in the opening chapters of human history.

Why does Jesus heal people? Because he is restoring the world to the way it was meant to work. We tend to think of the miracles in Mark and the other Gospels as interruptions in the natural order. However, theologians such as Herman Bavinck and Jürgen Moltmann argue that Jesus’s miracles were not an interruption of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. We are so used to a fallen world that sickness, disease, pain, and death seem natural. In fact, they are the interruption. Jesus’s miracles normalized people.

When Jesus hung on the cross, the land was dark for three hours, from noon to three. Why? Because God was finally launching the longed-for new creation. This darkness picks up a whole-Bible theme that shoots back to the prophetic imagery of the darkness of judgment (Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 60:3) and the darkness of mourning for an only son (Amos 8:9–10) and the darkness that covered the whole land in the ninth Egyptian plague (Exod. 10:21–23) and, finally, the darkness that covered the whole land at the very beginning of everything (Gen 1:2).

In Jesus’s death and resurrection, Mark is telling us, the world was being reborn.

Mark

Mark

Dane C. Ortlund

This study of the Gospel of Mark helps readers understand what vibrant faith and authentic discipleship looks like for those who follow a rejected king.

Embracing Rejection

We are given firm ground under our feet for withstanding rejection.

Mark’s Gospel is rife with rejection. Tax collectors and sinners are rejected by the religious elite (Mark 2:16). Bartimaeus is rejected by the crowd (10:48). A man healed of demon-possession is rejected (5:15). John the Baptist is rejected and killed (6:27). Jesus’s followers are promised rejection (13:9).

And the climax of Mark’s Gospel is Jesus’s own rejection. The religious and the irreligious join forces to reject him (3:6). His own family rejects him (3:21). And then, after repeatedly warning his disciples of his impending rejection (8:31; 9:31; 10:33), he goes to a cross where he is forsaken not only by human authorities (14:64) and not only by those crucified with him (15:32) but by his own Father (15:34).

When we experience the sting of rejection, we are pushed away from other people but we are invited into fellowship with Christ. We share in his sufferings. We have newer, deeper solidarity with Christ. He draws close.

Take Up and Read

There are many more reasons to study Mark, but these are three: to see again the wonder of forgiveness, the hope of restoration, and the cross-shape of rejection.



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