Next Thursday (April 25th) we celebrate the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, author of the Gospel According to Mark. Mark’s Gospel is thought to be the first of the Gospels written, which Sts. Matthew and Luke used as the framework for their Gospels. Little is actually known of Mark, but he does appear in the Acts of the Apostles and he is mentioned in two of St. Paul’s letters.
Mark was present for many events of the early church. After’s St. Peter’s miraculous escape/rescue from prison in Acts 12 he went to Mark’s mother’s house, where several members of the church were gathered to pray. Mark also accompanied Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch after they brought the gift from Antioch to the churches in Judea. Mark also joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but left them early, returning to Jerusalem. When a second missionary journey was purposed Barnabas suggested they take Mark with them, but Paul thought he was unreliable. The disagreement was so sharp that Paul and Barnabas went on their own journeys, Barnabas taking Mark and Paul taking Silas. Mark makes no other appearance in Acts.
Paul does, however, mention him in his letter to the Colossians, naming him as a fellow Jew and worker for the Kingdom of God. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul says, Mark is very useful to him for ministry, and asks Timothy to bring Mark with him when he comes to him.
Peter, in his first letter to the Church, mentions Mark as his son. It is probable that he means son in the spiritual sense here. Papias a Christian writer from the 2nd century states, Mark acted as Peter’s interpreter. He also says that Mark wrote down what Peter said (not in the same order), thus composing the Gospel. So it is likely that Mark also traveled with Peter for a time, probably near the end of Peter’s life; since Mark was with Peter in Rome when he wrote his longer letter to the Church.
There are rumors surrounding Mark as well. Many believe that Mark might have been present at the arrest of Jesus as the boy, clothed in a linen cloth, who was disrobed when trying to escape capture. This is believed to be Mark because who would know this detail about the arrest, and include it in the story other than the person to whom it happened? Tradition says after Peter’s death Mark left Rome and traveled to preach in Alexandria and Egypt and eventually suffered martyrdom.
In the Church Mark’s Gospel is usually associated with a lion. Based off the four living creatures around the throne in Revelation (lion, man, ox, and eagle). Mark is associated with the lion because it starts with John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, much like a lion roaring. This has been applied to the Gospels as early as the 800s if not earlier.
The Church views Mark as a saint because he wrote about the life of our Lord Jesus and lived out a life devoted to our Lord Jesus. His idea to write down the life and miracles of our Lord, based on the preaching of St. Peter was the first of its kind. His Gospel Gives the Church a solid starting point for the remembrance of our Lord’s deeds and actions. The Gospel ends at the perfect place to start preaching and teaching about the Lord’s Resurrection, almost as if it was meant to be read to a group by someone already a Christian to continue the teaching at the end of the book, allowing someone to actually preach the good news to a crowd instead of just reading it (Note: I am referring the earliest manuscripts which end at Mark 16:8).
Prayer: Almighty God, awaken in us a love for the story of the life of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Allow us to take from his preaching and miraculous deeds, a sense of awe and the scope of your power. Give us hearts that want to explain your great love for the world to others, as you gave your servant St. Mark. Allow us to like him explain the life, Passion, and Resurrection of your Son to all those we meet, who need to hear about your great love for them. We pray that you would send to us the same Holy Spirit who directly Mark’s mind, mouth, and hand in composing your story. We ask this through your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.