Fortner Discovering Christ in Mark

Fortner Discovering Christ in Mark is Fortner’s Discovering Christ in series for the Gospel of Mark. He finds and identifies elements that speak of Christ and salvation.

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Christ the Servant

The words of our Savior in Mark 10:45 give us a clear summary of Mark’s Gospel. Remember, Mark’s object is to present our Savior in his character as Jehovah’s righteous Servant; and that is exactly how our Lord describes himself.—”For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Distinct Purpose

Each of the four gospel narratives is distinct. Each one presents our Savior in a specific character. It is a mistake to read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as four biographies of the Lord Jesus. They are not biographies at all. They are biographical character sketches. Each is intended to be different from the other. Each presents our Savior from a distinct different point of view. The four Gospels give us four distinct views of our Lord and of his work.

The Gospel of Matthew is written to present Christ as the King. The Gospel of Mark presents his character as Jehovah’s Servant. The Gospel of Luke presents him as the Son of man. The Gospel of John presents him as the Son of God.

No Genealogy

Have you ever wondered why there is no record of our Lord’s ascension in Matthew and John, and why there is no record of his genealogy in Mark? Luke gives his own record of our Lord’s genealogy as a man; but John gives us neither a record of his genealogy or his ascension. Why? The answer is obvious when you remember the distinct purpose of each.

Matthew presents Christ as the King, and Luke presents him as the man promised in the Old Testament. In both cases a genealogical record is needed. Because Christ is the King from eternity, a record of his ascension in Matthew’s case would be redundant. John presents the Savior as the incarnate God, that One who is immutably God over all and blessed forever. In his case, a record of our Lord’s genealogy or his ascension would be contrary to his purpose. Mark only mentions the ascension, because his intent is to show us that as Jehovah’s Servant, our Savior’s mission is complete, successful, and accepted by the Father. Having finished his work, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High (Heb. 1:1–3; 10:10–14).

Christ the Servant

Mark’s Gospel narrative is “a joyful account of the ministry, miracles, actions, and sufferings of Christ” (John Gill). It is all about the obedience of our Savior to the will of God. He tells us nothing about the birth and early life of our Lord. He gives us very few details about our Master’s sermons. Yet he gives greater details than others about his miracles. Mark’s is the shortest of the four Gospels. Yet it is not in any way less significant. Mark used greater brevity than the others; but his narrative is just as important. Those who suggest that Mark simply copied down some facts from Matthew, or that he wrote what Peter told him to write both miss the purpose of Mark’s work and undermine the inspiration and authority of Holy Scripture. Without question, he got information from those men who taught him the gospel; but he wrote by divine inspiration.

J.C. Ryle very properly observed that Mark’s Gospel is “The independent narrative of an independent witness, who was inspired to write a history of our Lord’s works, rather than of his words … Like all the rest of Scripture, every word of St. Mark is ‘given by inspiration of God,’ and every word is ‘profitable.’ “

Mark Himself

The man God used to give us this inspired narrative of our Savior’s obedience as our Representative, as the One who worked out righteousness for us, was a man like us, not always dependable, a sinner saved by grace, just like we are.

In other places he is called John Mark. He was the man who accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey and proved himself at that time an unfaithful servant. He could not take the pressure of the work: the constant opposition, the thankless labor, and the relentless long, lonely hours. So he ran back home to momma. This is not the only time we see Mark displaying such weakness.

If you want to meet Bro. Mark turn to chapter 14. There is an unnamed young man here, who is probably Mark himself. I say that because Mark does not give us the man’s name and because this is the only time this incident is mentioned in Scripture. After our Lord’s arrest in Gethsemane, we are told that the disciples forsook him. But Mark adds what is found in verses 51 and 52.—”And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.”

Yet, this is the man God chose to use to give us this portion of his Word. A less than dependable servant, a man who was at times very weak, was chosen to record for us the perfect faithfulness of that Servant of God of whom it is written, “He shall not fail,” the Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful for that fact. Aren’t you? If the Lord used one failure, maybe he will use another (1 Cor. 1:26–29).

Peter’s Influence

Mark was Peter’s son in the faith (1 Pet. 5:13). He was converted under the influence of Peter’s ministry and taught by Peter. He was, as well he should have been, greatly influenced by his pastor, Peter. His Gospel narrative naturally reflects the teachings and viewpoints we see in Peter.

In fact, if you will look at Acts 10:38, you will see that Peter gives us a very brief summary of all that is recorded for us in the Gospel of Mark. Speaking in the house of Cornelius, we read that Peter stood among them and told them exactly what Mark tells us in these 16 chapters.—”How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.”

Matthew and John, like Peter and Paul, were apostles of Christ. As such, they learned the gospel from the Master himself. Neither Mark nor Luke was an apostle. What they learned of Christ, they learned, like us, through the preaching of others by the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the preached Word (Rom. 10:17).

Profitable Mark

The human author of this Gospel narrative was John Mark, the son of Barnabas’ sister, Mary (Acts 12:12, 25; Col. 4:12). Paul and Barnabas eventually had a falling out because Paul refused to take Mark with them on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36–41). But that is not the end of the story. At some point, Paul and Mark did some fence mending, and in his latter days the old man Paul found Mark to be one of few who were loyal to the gospel. As he was awaiting execution, he wrote to Timothy and said, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).

Mark’s Message

Instead of opening with a record of our Lord’s incarnation and birth, instead of telling us about his youth and early years, Mark begins at once with his ministry. Look at verse 1 of chapter 1—”The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This is the beginning, but not the end, for there is no end to the story Mark tells. He is telling us the God-story of redemption, grace, and salvation by God’s Servant, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Our Lord tells us that the story will go on forever, even in eternity. This is too wondrous to grasp; but our Lord tells us that in that great day called “eternity,” “he shall gird himself and make (us) to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve (us)” (Luke 12:37).—We will never come to the end of the story. The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God is everlasting.

Time Fulfilled

After describing the ministry of John the Baptist and our Lord’s baptism by him (1:2–13), Mark gives a very brief description of the wilderness temptation (vv. 12–13). Yet, even in his brevity, Mark adds some things that show the greatness of that trial by which the faithfulness of Jehovah’s Servant was proved.

Matthew and Luke tell us that our Lord was “led” of the Spirit into the wilderness. Mark’s words are stronger.—”The Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.” It is Mark who tells us the temptation lasted forty days, and that the Lord was “with the wild beasts” in the wilderness.

Then, he begins to describe our Lord’s earthly ministry in verses 14 and 15 of chapter 1.—”Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Mark tells us that our Lord stepped onto the scene of history and declared that the time God had promised for the accomplishment of his promises of redemption were fulfilled. That meant that the kingdom of God was now in the midst of men. If we enter into that kingdom, we must enter in by faith’s door, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. In due time, Christ came here to die for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6; Galatians 4:4–5;).—”When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” He came here as Jehovah’s Servant (Phil. 2:5–8).

First Disciples

Immediately after announcing our Lord’s appearance in Galilee, calling sinners to repentance, Mark shows us what is meant by that. In verses 16–18 we are told how that the Lord Jesus called his first disciples, Simon and Andrew, James and John. Those who repent and believe, those who come to and follow Christ, those who are born into his kingdom are called by him. And those who are called by him forsake all and follow him.

Full of Activity

The Gospel of Mark is a book full of activity. He moves rapidly from one place to another and from one miracle to another. The words “immediately,” “forthwith,” “anon,” and “immediately” meet us constantly in these 16 chapters. Many of the chapters begin with the word “And.” If Mark were telling us his story orally, we might say, “Slow down. Catch your breath. You’re moving too fast.” That is exactly the sense the Holy Spirit intends to give us in this book. Mark is describing God’s faithful Servant, our all-glorious Christ, whose meat and drink it was to do the will of his Father. He had nothing to call his own, not even his time.—O Lord, my God, give me grace to be such a servant!

Mark moves like lightning as he declares our Lord’s works in Galilee, casting out demons and healing the sick (1:21–3:12; 5:25–34; 6:53–56; 7:24–37). He gives us display after display of our Lord’s power and authority as that Servant into whose hands the Father has given all things.—After giving us four kingdom parables in chapter 4, he calmed the raging sea and the troubled hearts of his disciples with his mere word (4:35–41).—He cast demons out of the poor Gadarene (5:1–20).—A woman was healed of her twelve-year issue of blood by the touch of his garment (5:25–34).—He raised Jairus’ twelve year old daughter from the dead (5:35–43).—He fed hungry multitudes by miraculously multiplying little (6:34–44; 8:1–9).—Twice we read of him giving sight to the blind.—Repeatedly, we read of our tender Savior having “compassion” upon needy souls.

Pictures of Grace

These miracles were intended to display our Savior’s power and authority as that man who is Jehovah’s Servant, that man who is God, to show that he has power and authority by virtue of who he is and by virtue of the sacrifice he made in eternity and was about to make at Calvary, to forgive sins (2:9–10).

It is therefore obvious that these miracles were intended to be pictures of his wondrous works of grace in saving lost sinners.—Like the leper, saved sinners have been made whole by Christ, the Priest, who touched us and made himself unclean to make us clean. We are made whole by the omnipotent touch of his grace.—Like the woman with that twelve-year issue of blood, who had spent all she had on physicians of no value, we are made whole by virtue we get from touching him.—Like the Syrophenician woman, we who have no claim on the children’s bread have obtained mercy by faith in Christ.—Like the Gadarene, we have been made whole and set free by the Master’s word of grace.—Like the blind men, our Lord has given us eyes to see him and to see “every men clearly.”—Like Jairus’ daughter, the Lord Jesus Christ raised us up from the dead.

Determination to Die

Beginning in chapter 8 (v. 31), we see a marked determination in our Savior, Jehovah’s Servant. He set his face like a flint to go up to Jerusalem, to suffer all the wrath of God as our Substitute (Isaiah 50:5–7).—”And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

The Lord Jesus did not come here hoping that the Jews would allow him to be their king, sitting on a physical throne in Jerusalem. He came here as the King to suffer and die, rise again the third day, and ascend to his throne to give eternal life to his elect by the virtue and efficacy of his blood atonement. He came here to do the will of his Father, suffering death as our Substitute at Jerusalem, and nothing could deter or hinder him from accomplishing his purpose.

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