Over the remaining 4 weeks of Lent I’ll be leading a survey course on The Gospel According to Mark. This week was the introduction, looking at what the Gospels are and the background of Mark in particular. I’ve adapted the basic outline for the course from The Bible Project, a great online tool for learning about the Bible.
What are the Gospels?
The four Gospels of the Christian New Testament are a bit hard to fit into a standard category. They look a bit like biographies, but only cover a small part of Jesus’ human life. They contain a lot of his teaching, but don’t read like a standard work of religious philosophy. And most of all they have the goal of persuading the reader to accept the truth of their overall message. So what are they?
Well if you look at their full titles they are all called ‘The Gospel According to… Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.’ So they’re all claiming to be distinct witnesses to something called ‘The Gospel.’ In the original Greek this word is εὐαγγέλιον (evangelion) which literally means ‘good news.’ In fact the Gospel of Mark opens like this: The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1 NRSV)
So What is The Good News?
Question: How does this presentation of the Gospel of Jesus as ‘The Good News of the Kingdom’ compare to how you’ve previously thought or been taught about the Gospel?
How would I personally describe the Gospel? After thinking, reading and reflecting on this since I was in seminary, here are two ways that I find helpful:
The Good News of how God has restored his Reign on earth through Jesus the Messiah; and Jesus’ call to be reconciled to God, healed and transformed as we join his Kingdom movement and follow him as King.
The Story of Jesus
(told as the climax of)
The Story of Israel [ie. the Bible]
(which solves the problem at the heart of)
The Story of the World
This second definition is based on one of the ways Scot McKnight describes the Gospel in his book The King Jesus Gospel: Reclaiming the Original Good News. Along with N. T. Wright, McKnight has been the biggest influence on how I’ve come to understand the full extent of what the New Testament means by the Gospel.
I’ve also preached on the basics of the Gospel a couple times this current Church year as we’ve been exploring Mark together in worship. You can find my first message on the Gospel of Mark here: http://standrews.ws/sermons/the-good-news-of-the-kingdom/
The 4 Gospels
Since they are four distinct (but related) witnesses to the same Gospel or Good News, the four New Testament Gospels share a lot in common. Here are four of the most important features:
- They frame Jesus’ story within the story of Israel as told in the Old Testament.
- They tell stories that make claims about who Jesus is, and what he accomplished.
- They present the death and resurrection of Jesus as the climax of the story of Israel and the World as told in the Bible.
- They carefully arrange and retell the story and teaching of Jesus to highlight certain aspects of Jesus’ character and work.
The first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) share a very similar perspective and for this reason scholars call them the Synoptics. Mark seems to have been the first written (roughly 60-70AD) and also seems to have been adapted as a template by the writers of Matthew and Luke. The Gospel of John takes a noticeably different perspective on Jesus. it’s almost as if Matthew, Mark and Luke were standing on one side of the room, and John on the other. But even so they all tell a very similar story, and announce the same essential Good News.
Mark: The Mystery of the Suffering Servant King
For an amazing summary of the entire Gospel of Mark in just 10 minutes watch the video below. We’ll be using this outline to guide our study of Mark over the next 4 weeks.
Each week I’ll post a summary of our Wednesday night study at the church. Here’s where we’ll be going next:
- February 28 – Mark 1:1-8:26
- March 7 – Mark 8:27-10:52
- March 14 – Mark 11:1-13:37
- March 21 – Mark 14:1-16:11