Thursday, April 15, 2021

P1 Introducing John Mark: Author Of The Second Gospel Who Fought To Know Jesus Better

Mark 14:48-52 "And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 49 Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” 50 And they all left Him and fled. 51 A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they *seized him. 52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked."


    Whenever we turn to the Four Gospels of the New Testament, we discover their primary purpose is to persuade the entrusting of our life into the hands of Jesus. In today's post, I want to introduce you to a man who fought to know Jesus better - John Mark - whom we otherwise know as  "Mark", the author of the second Gospel. 

    To better understand the Gospel of Mark, we need to grasp how Jesus of Nazareth would impact the author himself. As we attempt this brief sketch of Mark's life in both the New Testament and church history, we shall glean lessons which pertain to the significance behind knowing Jesus better.

Mark is introduced as a man who knew about Jesus, but did not yet know Him in a personal, spiritual sense.

    In the opening passage above, I underlined a phrase which speaks of a certain young man fleeing from the scene of Jesus' betrayal and arrest on the eve of His crucifixion. The Expositor's Bible Commentary has this to say of the young man in question:

"Only Mark records this mysterious episode. The “young man” (v. 51) is not identified, but the consensus is that he is Mark. Why else would he insert such a trivial detail in so solemn a story? Was this Mark’s way of saying, “I was there”? Why he was there is not explained."

Later the commentary adds:

"Perhaps the main point of the story—and the reason Mark included it—was to show that the forsakenness of Jesus was total. Even this youth forsook him."

    John Mark was an interesting young man. His first name was of Hebrew origin (something like "Yohanan"), quite common in the first century Jewish world. His other name, "Mark", was a very common Greek name, "Markos". As to whether or not Jesus and the disciples actually held the last supper in Mark's boyhood home, one can only conjecture. Since we observe Mark fleeing from the scene of Jesus' arrest, some commentators have suggested a link between the upper room of the Lord's supper to that of Mark's boyhood home. That connection, though speculative and intriguing, is not near as important as to note how Mark is first encountered as within ear-shot of Jesus' arrest.

    This particular reminiscence by Mark about his "fleeing from the scene" of Jesus' arrest shows us how he knew about Jesus. Mark, like so many of those who first hear the Gospel, only know about Jesus. In cultures like the United States, the cultural memory of a Judeo-Christian worldview functions as a rapidly fading "low-frequency hum" in the background of our secular society. Sadly, the name of Jesus is nothing but a slur or curse word used by many people. Regardless of background or how much or little exposure one has to Jesus, whenever the Gospel is proclaimed, whatever is "known about Jesus" is immediately corrected.

    R.C. Sproul writes about Mark's appearance in Mark 14:51 as a portrait of a sinner in need of salvation:

"The motif of clothing and nakedness is at the heart of our understanding of redemption. Our own righteousness, we are told, is like rotten, filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The only way any of us can stand in God's presence is to be stripped of those rags and then clothed afresh in the garments of Christ's righteousness. That is the Gospel. You and I can never stand in the presence of a holy God unless we are clothed from on high with a righteousness that is not our own." (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary on Mark, page 347).

    Mark knew about Jesus. What was needed was a spiritual transformation in which He would come to know Jesus.

Mark would go from "knowing about to Jesus" to "coming to know Jesus" in salvation.

    Following the events of Jesus' arrest, crucifixion and resurrection, another year would pass until we cross paths once again with John Mark in the New Testament. Acts 12:12 records a prayer meeting that gathered to pray for an incarcerated Apostle Peter. Luke, the author of the text in Acts, describes the prayer meeting scene:

"When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying."

    It is not long after Peter's release and later beginnings of the first missionary of the Apostle Paul that we then find Mark's involvement in the ministry of the Gospel. Acts 13:5 speaks of Mark (identified with his Hebrew name "John"):

"When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper."

Closing thoughts: Born again to know Jesus better

    John Mark had evidently had a conversion experience through saving faith in the risen Savior. The Apostle Paul's inclusion of Mark in that first missionary journey testifies to Mark's rapid growth in faith. Mark was likely not even twenty years of age. Youth, ambition, giftedness - all ingredients that are admired by many - resided within Mark. It would not take long until Mark would become a broken man. This man who "knew about Jesus" had come to know Him. 

    The Christ of history, space and time, whom He glimpsed arrested only a year prior, was now His Savior, Lord and treasure. The physically risen Lord, ascended into Heaven, would by His Holy Spirit wield His authority in Mark's life. Truly, the purpose of salvation is to know Jesus better (see Philippians 3:7-10; 2 Peter 3:18). As we shall see in the next post, John Mark would soon see that "knowing Jesus better" involves a fight of faith.

.....more next time

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