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A Year Through the Gospels: Week 13 — A Secret Messiah

April 9, 2016

Darryl Sluka

This is the thirteenth installment in a yearlong series. You can find the previous installments here.

The Nature of Mark

At first glance, it may seem like the gospel of Mark does not bring much to the table. Most of its content can be found in either Matthew or Luke- or both. Some of the accounts found in all three of the synoptics, such as the temptation of Jesus, are briefly mentioned in Mark and expanded upon in Matthew and Luke. In addition to that, Mark is significantly shorter than all the other gospels. With all of this seemingly working against Mark, it would be easy to consider it superfluous. However, Mark presents a side of the gospel that the other three gospels do not capture. There are reasons behind its quirks and brevity. Mark is the most suspenseful gospel, and it has a prevalent theme known as the Messianic Secret.


Of the four gospels, Mark is the one that most closely resembles a play. Its theatrical flavor comes from suspense, character development, a plot twist, and an ultimate climax to the story that leaves you wanting more. The first verse of the book acts as a title. From this title, we are able to see that the story is about Jesus, the Son of God. Even though we know Jesus’ title right away, we have to read the story to find out what qualifies him to be the Son of God. Mark’s lack of unique material did not prevent him from writing a good story. After the title in 1:1, a suspenseful anticipation builds within the reader to find when Jesus’ true identity will finally be revealed to those around him. This suspense builds until chapter eight when Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ. It seems as though the story will simmer a little now that his disciples know who he really is, but Jesus goes on to say that he will suffer at the hands of the religious leaders and be put to death; this tells us how things will end for Jesus, but we have to wait and see how it all plays out. The story finishes rather abruptly after Jesus’ resurrection. Mark decided to end it on a cliffhanger, and we are left wondering what happens next.

The Messianic Secret

As mentioned above, there is a sense of wonder about who Jesus is. This is called the Messianic Secret. This secret is active amongst the disciples from chapters 1-8 when Peter finally confesses that Jesus is the Christ. Throughout these chapters no one really knows who he is, and he instructs people, as well as demons, to conceal his identity. A possible reason as to why Jesus did this is because he did not want his ministry to get hijacked by people who thought they knew why he was there when in reality they did not. (See 1:27,34, 44; 3:11-12; 4:41; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; 9:9)


Mark is significantly shorter than the other gospels, and it lacks details that can be found in either Matthew or Luke. For instance, Mark does not include Peter walking on the water with Jesus after feeding the five thousand, nor does it have any interaction between Jesus and Satan when Jesus is being tempted. Many people believe the absence of these details indicates that Mark wrote his gospel first and that Matthew and Luke used his as a reference while writing theirs. Whether Mark wrote first or not, it is safe to say that he wanted his gospel to be brief. He explained the story of Jesus without including anything extra. He did not elaborate about Jewish customs or laws as Matthew did; nor was he concerned with giving an accurate historical record like Luke. He wrote his gospel for gentiles (non Jewish people), and he wanted it to be a short and simple explanation for why they should believe in Jesus.

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