Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples. He offers a first-hand account of what Jesus said and did over a three-year period.
Luke was a physician who became a follower of Jesus after Jesus' life on earth. He spent time with many who were close to Jesus during His earthly ministry. Jesus' mother Mary gave Luke a mother's insight into the birth and early life of Jesus.
John wrote the last of the four histories. Of the twelve disciples, no one was closer to Jesus than John. He was the disciple who stood alone at the foot of the cross. Jesus demonstrated His great trust in John by committing to John the care of His mother Mary. At the time he wrote the last of the four histories, John was the only disciple of the original twelve who was still living.
Mark's record is the earliest of the four accounts. A young boy during the latter part of Jesus' life, Mark grew up to travel with Peter, one of Jesus' first followers and closest friends. Peter was a fisherman who followed Christ personally and traveled with Him for more than three years. We know from early church historians that Mark wrote what he learned from Peter as he preached about Jesus to all who would listen. Irenaeus wrote in A.D. 175, "Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing the things preached by Peter."
Of the four histories, Mark's Gospel is the simplest, shortest and most direct presentation of Jesus' life, written in the common language of the marketplace. None of the other Gospels devotes as great a portion of its content to Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection. Mark does not mention Christ's genealogy or birth. Instead, he begins his Gospel by describing John the Baptist's preaching and baptism, followed by the baptism and temptation of Jesus. Then he leads into Jesus' public ministry in Galilee, giving special attention to His miraculous works that prove Him to be the Son of God.
As in all Peter's sermons about Jesus recorded in the Book of Acts, the presentation about Christ in the Gospel of Mark answers two simple but critical questions. It is divided almost perfectly in two equal halves, the first presenting who Jesus is and the second presenting why He gave His life.
From the earliest part of chapter 1 through the end of chapter 8, Mark records Jesus' miraculous works and repeatedly draws attention to the significance of who Jesus is. That is why in the first half of Mark's gospel the word "who" occurs so often.
In the first chapter, Mark clearly declares that Jesus is the Son of God1 Even demons gave this testimony: "I know who you are the Holy One of God!" But, Jesus did not permit the demons to speak, "because they knew who he was."2
In chapter 2, the scribes said, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?"3 In chapter 4, after Jesus miraculously calmed the storm, the disciples said to one another, "Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"4
The climax of Mark's presentation of who Jesus is in the first half of the book comes at the close of chapter 8: "And Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, 'Who do people say that I am?' And they told Him, saying, 'John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.' And He continued by questioning them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Peter answered and said to Him, 'You are the Christ.'"5
The second half of Mark's 16 chapters describe the final week of Jesus' life on earth His suffering, death and resurrection. In a series of statements Jesus reveals the purpose for which He was sent into the world: "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again."6 "He said to His disciples, 'The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.'"7 ''We are going up to Jerusalem,' he said, 'and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.'"8
Also contained in Mark are three dramatic "confessions." In the first verse, Mark himself confesses Jesus as the Son of God. 9 This is followed by Peter's confession in the middle of the book, "You are the Christ,"10 and builds to the Roman centurion's confession, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"11
As you read through Mark's record of the life and teachings of Jesus, you will discover that His life touches the very center of your life.