Charts and images help us quickly comprehend concepts. That’s why before you read the Gospel of Mark, I recommend you watch this brief video produced by The Bible Project. As the narrator explains the Gospel of Mark chapter by chapter, the scenes are illustrated on a chart demonstrating the structure and flow of the text. It’s fascinating to watch the drawings in progress before your eyes. The video does an excellent job of showing how the individual events work together to form a larger narrative about Jesus. Enjoy!
Download a Free Digital Copy of the Poster from the Video
These illustrated charts are so helpful, I encourage you to download a copy for personal study. It’s free! Courtesy of The Bible Project.
[button link=”https://thebibleproject.com/product/mark-poster/” color=”purple” newwindow=”yes”] Mark Poster[/button]
The gospel according to Mark:
it’s one of the first accounts of the life of Jesus
and our earliest historical traditions link this book to a Christian scribe
named Mark, or John Mark.
He was co-worker with Paul and close partner with Peter.
And in fact an ancient church historian named Papias he recalls
that Mark had collected all of the eyewitness accounts and memories of Peter
and then shape them in this account.
But Mark didn’t just randomly throw the pieces together
he’s carefully designed the story of Jesus.
In the first line of the book Mark makes this claim about Jesus:
“it’s the beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah the Son of God.”
And it’s interesting is that this is the only time
Mark is going to tell you what he thinks.
For the rest of the book is going to influence you
by simply putting Jesus’ actions and words in front of you
and showing you how other people react to Him.
Now Mark design the story of Jesus as a drama with three acts:
the first one set in Galilee, the third one is set in Jerusalem
and the second act shows Jesus on the way from one place to the other.
In each of the acts he focuses on repeated theme
so in act 1 everybody’s blown away by Jesus and they’re wondering who is this Jesus
In act 2 it’s the disciples who are struggling to understand
what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah.
And then in act 3 we watch the surprising paradox of how Jesus becomes the Messianic King.
Let’s just dive in and you’ll see how it unfolds.
After the opening line Mark begin with a quotation from the ancient prophets
Isaiah and Malachi who said that God would send messengers Israel
to prepare them for when God would show up himself to rescue His people
and become their King.
And Mark introduces John the Baptist as the messenger
and then right when you expect God to show it personally Mark introduces Jesus.
And as He comes onto the scene heavens open, God’s Spirit descends on Jesus
and God says: “You are my beloved Son.”
After this Mark places in front of us a summary of Jesus’ core message.
He went about Galilee announcing the good news that God’s kingdom has come near.
Jesus is carrying forward the story from the Old Testament scriptures
about God’s rescue operation for His world
Through Jesus God is restoring His reign over the world
by confronting and defeating evil and its hold on people’s lives.
And them by inviting them to live under His reign by following Jesus
From here Mark given us a big block of stories
showing us Jesus power as He brings God’s kingdom.
he goes about healing people whose bodies are sick
or broken or under the oppression of dark spiritual powers.
And Jesus even does something that for Jewish people only God has the right to do:
he forgives people sins.
And Jesus actions here produce lots of different responses:
so some people follow Him and become His disciples,
other people don’t know what to think and still others reject Him completely,
especially Israel’s leaders who accuse Him of blaspheming God
and being powered by evil.
But Jesus isn’t surprised by these responses, in fact He draws attention to it.
In chapter 4 Mark has collected many of Jesus parables
about the hidden mysterious nature of God’s kingdom.
Jesus says that His message is like seed falling on different types of soil:
some receptive some not; or it’s like a mustard seed that’s very tiny
it seems insignificant but then it grows huge and surprises everyone.
Jesus’ point is that He really is the Messiah bringing God’s kingdom,
but it doesn’t look like what anybody expected.
This growing confusion about Jesus among the crowds is connected to a key idea
Mark emphasizes at the end of Act 1
that even among Jesus disciples there’s confusion
even they’re struggling to grasp who Jesus really is
and that brings us to act 2.
It begins with a crucial conversation:
Jesus takes the disciples aside and He asks: “who do you all say that I Am?”
And Peter speaks up saying: “You are The Messiah,”
but it becomes clear that for Peter this means
that Jesus is a victorious military King from the line of David
will rescue Israel from the Romans,
but for Jesus to be the Messiah means that he is the suffering servant King
of Isaiah 53 who will bring God’s rule by giving up His life in Jerusalem.
An the disciples they don’t get it
they think following King Jesus is going to mean fame and status and importance.
And Jesus makes it clear that far following Him is actually like dying,
like carrying your own cross.
It means rejecting violence and pride and selfishness
and giving one’s life out for others and acts of service and love.
He has the same conversation with them two more times
and it all culminates in Jesus’ important statement
that the Son of man did not come to be served, but to become a servant
and give His life as a ransom for many.
The disciples still don’t get it they respond confusion and fear.
And so here in act 2 Mark has placed another key story that echoes the books introduction.
Jesus takes three of His disciples up to a mountain
and He suddenly transformed is radiating with light and glory
and a cloud envelops them.
Now this is just like the glory of the God of Israel
that showed up long ago on Mount Sinai.
And then the two prophets who stood in God’s presence on Mount Sinai,
Mosses and Elijah they appear next to Jesus as God announces again:
“This is my beloved Son.”
Now by placing this story in the middle of all these conversations in act 2
Mark is making an astounding claim
that Jesus God’s Son is the physical embodiment of God’s own glory.
And Jesus the glorious God of Israel is going to become King
by suffering and dying for the sins of His own people.
It’s a puzzling claim that confuses and scares the disciples
as they leave the mountain which brings us to act 3.
Jesus makes a very public royal entry into Jerusalem for Passover.
People are hailing Him as the Messiah
then He enters into the temple courtyard and He asserts His royal authority
by running out the thieves and crooks and stopping the sacrificial system.
Then this kicks off a whole week of Jesus debating
and confronting the leaders of Israel condemning their hypocrisy
and so they set in motion a plan to have him killed.
And Jesus warn His disciples predicting that Jerusalem
and it’s temple will be destroyed within a generation
and His disciples will be persecuted just like Him
until He return one day to bring God’s kingdom fully over the world
And it all leads up to the final night
Jesus has His last Passover meal with the disciples,
a symbolic meal, that told the story of Israel’s liberation from slavery
through the death of the Passover lamb.
And Jesus takes these symbols and gives the new meaning:
they point to the liberation from sin and death
that will happen through the death of the suffering servant Messiah
From here the story rushes forward to Jesus arrest
His trial before Israel’s priest in the Roman governor Pilate
all resulting in Jesus’ crucifixion.
And culminates in a key scene that matches the important scenes from acts 1 and 2.
Except this time it’s darkness that descends not a cloud
and instead of the divine voice from heaven it’s Jeusus’ crying out before He dies.
And then most surprising is that it’s a Roman soldier who sees Jesus died
who grasps and then announces who Jesus is:
“this man was the Son of God.”
He’s the first person in the story
to recognize the story shocking claim about Jesus’ identity
that it’s the crucified Son of God who is the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth,
who died for His friend and for His enemies.
After this Jesus’ body is placed in a tomb
and on the first day of the new week two women from His disciples come to the tomb
and they discover that the tomb is empty, the stone is rolled away
And then angelic man informs them that Jesus isn’t here
that he’s risen from the death.
And so he orders them to go and tell this good news to the others disciples
that Jesus is alive that he’ll meet them back up in Galilee.
And the women they’re freaked out;
Mark say that they fled from from the tomb in terror,
telling no one, for they were afraid.
And that’s how the book ends:
with Jesus disciples showing the same kind of fear and confusion
that concluded acts 2 and 1.
Now if you look at your Bible you’ll see
that the gospel of Mark has more to its ending
where Jesus appears, He speaks to His disciples
but there’s also a note here telling you that ending is not part of the original book
that it’s only found in later less reliable manuscripts.
Now it’s possible that the original ending got lost
or that Mark actually never finished his account,
but it’s more likely that this abrupt ending is intentional
to make a point the entire story has focused on the shocking claim
the puzzle Jesus disciples from beginning to end;
that is the suffering, crucified and risen Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God
that God’s love and upside-down kingdom were revealed
as Jesus died for the sins of the world.
And so the story ends without closure and it forces you, the reader,
to grapple with this very strange and scandalous claim about Jesus.
And are you gonna run away like the disciples,
or you going to recognize Jesus as your King and going tell the good news?
And only you can answer that question.
And that’s what the gospel of Mark is all about.