Some Christians might wonder how it is that my Forbidden Bible Verses series seems to be all over the shop.

Approaching the Bible as a treasury of divine guidance, sometimes I open it randomly and at other times read more about a passage cited elsewhere. Although many believers will read and study Scripture in canonical order, the online reader might want something relevant for his life today.

Therefore, as I read and digested the news around the world, I also run across Bible verses which respond to those situations. Some involve overcoming, others the Christian life, others persecution and so on.

In that respect, I probably do not differ much from the average Christian. Over the past year, I have been writing about entire books right the way through in terms of what the Lectionary for public worship omits.

For those who are interested in the faith, thanks to God’s grace working through them, the Gospels of John and Mark make excellent starting points. [My Essential Bible Verses page has a series on John.]

John’s Gospel shows Jesus’s divinity in every chapter, particularly in His responses to the Pharisees. Many believers have committed John’s verses to memory from their Sunday School and Confirmation class days. John’s Gospel shows that Jesus demonstrates in His own words that He is not just the ‘great prophet’ many today consider Him to be; He is the Son of God. The majority of what John recounts is unique to his Gospel alone.

Mark’s Gospel focusses on Jesus’s divinity as He expressed it through His miracles. Many men have profited greatly from reading Mark. Some fell on their knees and embraced Christianity as a result.

Mark is short and to the point. His Gospel cuts to the chase from the beginning. It begins with Jesus’s adulthood and John the Baptist, prefaced by a few verses from Malachi (Mal. 3:1) and Isaiah (Is. 40:3). Here is Mark 1:1-2:

 1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

    “Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
   who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight,'”

Mark’s Gospel also ends suddenly. Some translations provide a smoother conclusion in an attempt to tie up loose ends. I read somewhere that the last part of Mark’s scroll might have gone missing, which may account for this.

Here is a bit more from my oft-cited Bible experts, Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew Henry introduced his 17th century commentary on Mark in this way and explains why we have four Gospel accounts instead of just one:

Mark’s gospel, 1. Is but short, much shorter than Matthew’s, not giving so full an account of Christ’s sermons as that did, but insisting chiefly on his miracles. 2. It is very much a repetition of what we had in Matthew; many remarkable circumstances being added to the stories there related, but not many new matters. When many witnesses are called to prove the same fact, upon which a judgment is to be given, it is not thought tedious, but highly necessary, that they should each of them relate it in their own words, again and again, that by the agreement of the testimony the thing may be established; and therefore we must not think this book of scripture needless, for it is written not only to confirm our belief that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, but to put us in mind of things which we have read in the foregoing gospel, that we may give the more earnest heed to them, lest at any time we let them slip; and even pure minds have need to be thus stirred up by way of remembrance. It was fit that such great things as these should be spoken and written, once, yea twice, because man is so unapt to perceive them, and so apt to forget them. There is no ground for the tradition, that this gospel was written first in Latin, though it was written at Rome; it was written in Greek, as was St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, the Greek being the more universal language.

In 2009, John MacArthur preached a lengthy sermon on Mark, much of which is in my post concerning the evangelist’s appearances in the New Testament. On the characteristics of Mark’s Gospel, MacArthur says:

And, in fact, it ends in a very strange way. The legitimate ending is in chapter 16 verse 8, that’s where it really stops. And to show you how much a beginning with an end it is, here is the last verse of Mark, just listen. “They went out, fled from the tomb for trembling and astonishment had gripped them, they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid”… end.

In fact, that is such a strange ending that a false ending was added later, which you’ll see in brackets in your Bible. It doesn’t appear in the early manuscripts. But that’s so consistent with Mark. This is the beginning, this is not the end, the story has no end. If you want the rest of the story, go to the book of Acts …

There is no genealogy because Gentiles didn’t care about a Jewish genealogy. There are Latinisms all through Mark cause the Romans spoke Latin. Whenever there’s an Aramaic term, it is explained because they wouldn’t know it, they don’t speak Aramaic. When they refer to time, chapter 6 verse 48, chapter 13 verse 35, it’s Roman time. The style of Mark is fast paced like a sprint…no introduction, no conclusion. It’s just the beginning.

The content focuses on action. Very few teaching sections, chapter 4, chapter 13, a few teaching spots scattered around here and there, but mostly it’s action intended to be read aloud, experienced by the hearers. The theme is Jesus Christ the Son of God. The structure, real simple, there’s a midpoint in the book. Sixteen chapters, go to the middle, chapter 8 verse 29 and right in the middle of the book you hear this confession from Peter, “You are the Christ.” That is the pinnacle confession of the book. Everything in the front leads up to it. Everything in the back goes from it. The front half proves Jesus is the Christ by His deeds and words. The second half proves Jesus is the Christ by His death and resurrection. But everything moves to that pinnacle that He is the Christ. The goal of the book is for you to confess that Jesus is the Christ.

It has the same objective as John who writes in John 20:31, “These things are written that you may believe and believing have life in His name.” It’s an evangelistic book. The first half is filled with confusion, the people are confused. In fact, the only people who aren’t confused about Jesus in the first half of Mark are the demons. In the second half, it’s not confusion, it’s hostility. But the pinnacle is the confession of Peter. Isn’t it what you’d expect from one who was a disciple of Peter? One who drew his gospel from Peter, he would make Peter’s confession which Peter must have given every day that he was with Mark when he preached, he must have said, “I believe He is the Christ, I’ll tell you the story. One day we were here and Jesus said, ‘Who do men say I am?’ And we said, ‘You’re Jeremiah one of the prophets.’ And then all of a sudden out of nowhere, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ That’s what I said, that’s what I believe.” That’s the pinnacle of Peter’s testimony and that’s the pinnacle of the gospel of Mark. And it’s to bring all of us to that conviction.

What a privilege for this helper, the most unlikely of people … And God gave him privilege beyond calculation to be an intimate companion of Paul, intimate companion of Peter, helping both of them. But beyond that, giving him the privilege to write one of four inspired gospels. Don’t underestimate what God is able to do with helpers.

Therefore, I hope that those who have not encountered Mark’s Gospel before enjoy it as much as I do. I would encourage you to read the whole book, even though I shall only be choosing those passages which are not in the Lectionary.

It is a wonderful Gospel to read, enjoy and share with others.

In closing, just a few words on Mark as a Synoptic Gospel (‘synoptic’ meaning ‘seen together’), of which there are two others: Matthew and Luke. These three Gospels provide a history of the life of Jesus Christ. Many of the stories are the same, although some of the Synoptic Gospels add details or address them in slightly different ways.

Mark’s Gospel contains very little that was not included in Matthew and Luke’s gospels, which came later. Wikipedia explains that Matthew and Luke used Mark’s Gospel as a source for their own, although each had unique material as well.

Various hypotheses abound about the Synoptic Gospels. Below is Wikipedia’s diagram of how the three fit together. The caption reads:

Almost all of Mark’s content is found in Matthew, and much of Mark is similarly found in Luke. Additionally, Matthew and Luke have a large amount of material in common that is not found in Mark.