Mark is the second of the gospels, as well as one of the synoptics. Much of the ground covered here will already have been covered by Matthew with differences in length, focus, and sometimes semantics. I know some people scoff at semantics as creating unimportant nuances to things, but I don’t see things that way. Often the way we say things has roots in how we feel about those things or in the message we’re trying to convey. With that, the differences here are important. What was Mark trying to say that Matthew wasn’t? Or vice versa.
For the full text of Mark 1, click here.
For example, Mark goes straight to the baptism of Jesus. You may recall that Matthew gave the reader the genealogy of Jesus and the circumstances surrounding His birth to help substantiate the claim that He is the Christ, the one that had been prophesied about for so long. These take up chapters one and two in Matthew. He doesn’t get to the baptism of Jesus until chapter three. Mark gets right into it and introduces the baptism in the same way. He begins with the same prophecy from Isaiah.
Again, the words used here aren’t exactly the same as what is in Isaiah itself but it is identical to what Matthew had. Well, there’s an extra verse but that’s not the point. It makes it seem all the more that the difference between Isaiah and Matthew and Mark is that Isaiah had been translated from a different language already and the dual translations made this subtle different. The point remains that John the Baptist was sent before Jesus, in the wilderness, to prepare the way for Him.
The wording of the moment of baptism are the same, with the heavens opening and the dove and the words of God to His son when it happened as well as being whisked away to the wilderness to be tempted. The difference comes back in when Matthew spends half of chapter four detailing the temptations of Jesus and the prophecies that go with it and Mark moves on in two verses to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. Mark’s account of calling the first four disciples is also near identical. This is where Jesus calls Andrew, Simon, and James and John of Zebedee. The stories diverge a bit in detail and focus after that when the healings and preachings are relayed a little differently but the overall sentiment is the same.
Here in Mark, Jesus first goes into a synagogue in Capernaum and begins to teach. As we’ve seen before, the people are astonished by His teaching and the authority with which He teaches. Jesus gets heckled by a man who He sees to be possessed and casts the demon out, much to the amazement of everyone around him. Mark then mentions that the fame of Jesus spread, which Matthew also did, but with a specific difference. Mark does not mention that they traveled throughout Gallilee with Jesus teaching. His account appears that they stayed in one place at this point.
From here, Mark skips over the specific teachings in the Sermon on the Mount that takes up chapters 5, 6, and 7 in Matthew and jumps into Jesus healing Simon’s mother-in-law. We know from Matthew that Simon is also called Peter, but he’s still Simon at this point in Mark. In Matthew, this happens in chapter 8 after the healing of a leper and the centurion’s servant. Here, it happens “immediately” after that first teaching and is followed by many others being brought to Him there for healings.
The next morning Jesus goes out for some solitude before Simon finds Him and tells Him that people were looking for Him. This is when Jesus decides to leave the first town and continue His teaching throughout the area. Mark ends the chapter with the cleansing or healing of a leper in the exact same way and using the same conversation that Matthew had at the beginning of chapter 8, before the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law rather than the next morning. Regardless, the stories match up and I know how easy it can be to confuse which came first.
This is where Mark ends the first chapter, covering much of the same ground that Matthew did from chapters 3-8, but leaving out some details while adding in others.
For downloadable study guides, click here.