The Gospels are the first four books of the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They each tell the story of Jesus from a slightly different perspective. Matthew writes to a Jewish audience who understands the Old Testament background of Jesus. This is why he quotes so many Old Testament writers to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. Luke writes as a chronicler, a recorder of events with great accuracy and detail. He wants to show Jesus as the perfect human and savior. John writes as a presentation to new believers and unbelievers to show them who Jesus is and why belief in him is the only way to eternal life. Mark writes to Christians in Rome, to help them understand what Jesus did, who he is and presents him as the suffering servant.
Mark writes about Jesus in a fast-paced, scene by scene style reminiscent of a screenplay. There isn't much in the way of explanation. Mark simply moves from one event in Jesus' life to another, showing the reader who Jesus is by his actions. As a church we are going to spend our summer in this book. We won't finish by the end of the summer however. We are taking our time exploring these small, but vivid snapshots of Jesus' life. For example, this Sunday we will look at just 8 verses at the start of Mark. The week after that, just 7 verses and after that, only 5. Each scene Mark presents has purpose, showing us something about our Savior or the people he was serving.
The key verse of Mark is 10:45: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. This is the main theme of the book: Jesus as Servant. Jesus served us by going to the cross on our behalf. Many people will acknowledge that Jesus lived and died and that he was a wise teacher. Others will even call him a great spiritual leader. But these same people will deny that he was God in the flesh. They have a powerless belief similar to what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:5, "a form of godliness but denying its power." Or they make Jesus into something he's not, similar to cults like Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. When dealing with Jesus there is no middle ground. You either believe he was and is Almighty God made flesh or you don't.
In Mark 8 Jesus asks the question that every person must answer: Who do you say I am?" As you read and study Mark with me over the next several months it is my prayer that you will be able to confidently answer that question along with Peter, who said, "you are the Messiah, (the Christ, the annointed one)"