Mark is a short and fast-moving account of the life of Jesus – it’s fewer than 15,000 words from start to finish. What’s more, Mark puts his purpose front and centre – he wants to show us the good news that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1).
What unfolds from there is a series of accounts which make that point with relatively little direct teaching. With that in mind, the structure becomes even more essential to understanding the message. Here, then, are six pointers to help you understand Mark’s structure.
1. There are three significant points where Jesus is directly named by people
In 1:1 Jesus is named as Christ and Son of God by Mark. In 8:31, he’s named as Christ by Peter. And in 15:39, he’s named Son of God (most surprisingly of all) by a Gentile centurion. Jesus’ identity is front, middle, and end.
2. There are two points where Jesus is supernaturally named by the Father
In chapter one at his baptism, the heavens are opened, and a voice says “You are my Son”. In chapter 9, a cloud envelops them, and a voice says “This is my Son”. Jesus’ identity is endorsed by the Father in a Psalm 2-like, kingly way.
3. There are key moments when Jesus says what he has come to do.
Jesus’ three purpose statements (1:38, 2:17 and 10:45) say that he has come to preach, call sinners, and give his life as a ransom for many. In addition, his three predictions of the cross (8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34) emphasise the way he will die.
4. There is an ongoing story about the nature of true response
Jesus’ command in 1:14-15 about repentance, belief, and kingdom membership starts a long narrative about the nature of true faith, in which the disciples are key. Some ‘bad’ people come to belief, some ‘good’ people turn away, and the disciples are often somewhere in the middle (see, for instance, the three boat crossings in chapters 5-8 and the depressing episode with the disciples which follows each).
5. All of the main themes seem to come together in 8:27-9:1
This is the hinge section of the gospel. It brings together Jesus identity (8:29), Jesus’ death (8:31), and the nature of true discipleship (8:34-35).
6. For these (and other) reasons, we’re going to take Mark in 5 main sections
Ch 1-4 Jesus identity: who will listen to him?
Chs 5-8 The nature of true faith
Chs 8-10 The nature of costly discipleship
Chs 11-13 In Jerusalem: the king comes to the temple
Chs 14-16 Jesus dies and rises as a ransom for many
Hope you’re looking forward to the year ahead!