There is a stunning verse in Matthew 10 in which Christ declares that he didn’t come to bring peace, “but a sword.” This, of course, is one of Jesus’s sayings that doesn’t fit the modern narrative most have for the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s a statement from Jesus that is brought to light in Mark 3, in which we find a stark contrast between Jesus’s enemies and friends — and what constitutes his family.
The great scheme of the devil isn’t to annihilate the gospel entirely — he knows he can’t do that — but to adulterate the gospel. Satan’s gambit is, and always has been, to mar, muddy, mix truth with error. As the “angel of light” (2 Cor 11:13–15), his plot remains to steal men’s hearts by swindling their faith from God’s gospel and to “another gospel.” He enacts this plot gleefully and successfully so long as Christ is not preached.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus comes suddenly on the scene and immediately begins preaching the gospel of the kingdom. But, overall, his actions are less than kingly. He serves. He stoops. He touches unclean people and spends time with the riffraff. He subverts all the understood ways the Messiah should act and conduct himself. He is our unexpected Friend.
In Mark 1, we learn that Jesus was not opposed to benevolence in his earthly ministry; he healed countless lives, after all. However, I seriously doubt all those in crowd with “diverse diseases” were seeking him for his doctrine. And rather than merely being known as one who performed miracles, Jesus was desirous of being known through the fundamental elements of his ministry: death and resurrection.
Throughout Mark’s Gospel, the evangelist demonstrates a propensity to use the “immediately” or “straightway” to indicate his message’s urgency. Employing this term gives the entire account a sense of pace and the feel that the narrative is constantly churning forward. In chapter 1 alone, there are seven uses of “immediately” or a synonym for it. This is indicative of Mark’s entire Gospel, which has often been called the “Gospel of action.”
From the outset of Mark’s Gospel, we are told Jesus’s true identity. He is the “beloved Son” of God. The entire Gospel, in fact, is bookended with affirmative declarations of his deity (Mark 1:1, 11; 15:37–39), as if the evangelist is saying, “This is who he is, and this is what he did, this is what he has done.” Such is what forms the basis and ground of all Christian hope. The fact of the gospel as a record of human history is what steadies and stabilizes our faith. It is the incontrovertible good news that the God’s own Son has come to bring everything to completion as the Divine Solution, as the True and Better One.
Mark’s Gospel is the simplest and shortest of the canonical Gospels by a fairly wide margin. John Mark seldom inserts editorial comments that might further explain the narrative and, to a large degree, foregoes the inclusion of Jesus’s discourses which are so common in the other Synoptics. This makes for a short, quick, hard-hitting Gospel of action. The evangelist seems to have recorded Jesus’s movements rather than his words, no doubt deliberately, as he strove to show Jesus as the unexpected Messiah who came to serve — as the unlikely King who came to die.