Thou art the only Heavenly Teacher; none teacheth, Lord,
like Thee. We cannot teach unless Thou teach us. We are
here this morning as Thy disciples, those who are to be
taught by Thee, take Thy Word and open it to us. Open our
ears to hear, give us understanding, give us obedient
hearts, lead us in Thy truth, Holy Spirit, do the work
which Thou hast come to do. Our Lord Jesus said that when
You would come, You would guide us into all truth. Do
that work here today that the Lord Jesus may be
satisfied. We ask it in His Name. Amen.
said that the whole of the New Testament is occupied with
one thing in three parts - the mission, the meaning and
the message of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and that
every one of the twenty-seven parts of the New Testament
contains some particular aspect of those three things. We
went on to see how that is true in the Gospel by Matthew,
and now we are going to see this in the Gospel by Mark.
Now I am going to ask you to look at quite a number of
"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the
Son of God" (Mark 1:1).
Those are the first words in this Gospel. Now we turn to
the last words, in chapter 16:20:
"And they went forth, and preached everywhere,
the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by
the signs that followed."
"And when he had considered the thing, he came to
the house of Mary the mother of John whose surname was
Mark" (Acts 12:12).
"And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem,
when they had fulfilled their ministration, taking with
them John whose surname was Mark" (Acts 12:25).
"And when they were at Salamis, they proclaimed
the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they
had also John as their attendant" (Acts 13:5).
"Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos,
and came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departed from
them and returned to Jerusalem" (Acts 13:13).
"And after some days Paul said unto Barnabas, Let
us return now and visit the brethren in every city
wherein we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how
they fare. And Barnabas was minded to take with them John
also, who was called Mark" (Acts 15:37-38).
"Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him
with thee: for he is useful to me for ministering"
(2 Timothy 4:11).
"She that is in Babylon, elect together with you,
saluteth you: and so doth Mark my son" (1 Peter
Who was Mark?
passages give the life story of Mark and we hardly need
to take time to ask: Who was Mark? His full name was John
Mark, and he was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10,
R.V.). Now I want you to remember these details that I am
giving you, for there is a significance bound up with
very one of them. He was a cousin of Barnabas, and we
shall have more to say about that presently. We know
nothing about his father, but we do know that his mother
owned the upper room in Jerusalem, and there was a lot of
history bound up with that upper room! It was probably
the room in which the Lord had the Last Supper before He
died. John Mark knew all about that! He certainly knew
all that happened in Jerusalem, at least during the last
week of our Lord's life. There was a Christian man who
lived in the first half of the second century, whose name
was Papias, and he wrote this: "Mark, having become
Peter's interpreter, wrote down accurately, though not in
order, as many as he remembered of the things said or
done by the Lord." There is a very great deal to be
said about that, as we shall see in a minute.
At that point, then, we want to recognize a very
important principle. If you forget everything else,
remember this. We are speaking about the mission, the
meaning and the message of Jesus Christ, and we must
recognize that those three things were written in the
lives of the Lord's servants. Mark did not only write the
history: he was that history. The history of Jesus
Christ was very largely written in the experience of
Mark, and that is what we are going to see.
Let us recognize that when the Lord gets hold of our
lives, He does not just make us talkers about Him, nor
does He just make us writers of books about Him. He
writes Himself in our experience and such are the
only true teachers and preachers. I know that I say a
very responsible thing when I say that, but it is
essential that when we speak or write about the Lord
Jesus people see Him behind our words. That is why the
Lord Jesus makes spiritual history in our experience.
When we come to this man, John Mark, we have to see the
man behind his Gospel, and that is why we read all those
passages about his history.
Nature of the Gospel by Mark
begin by looking at the nature of his Gospel. Here we
come upon a young man in a big hurry! He is very eager to
get things done. He has no time for chronology, and times
and places do not matter very much with him. His whole
disposition is: let us get on with the work! This young
man has only three words in his vocabulary. You read the
Gospel and you will find them: 'straightway!' Have you
noticed how often Mark uses that word? 'Straightway...
and straightway...', and he goes on like that. The second
word is 'immediately', and the third is 'forthwith'.
Thirteen chapters begin with the word 'and'. You see,
this young man is getting on with it.
John Mark does not give us any genealogy, nor
introduction, but he begins at once: "The beginning
of the gospel of Jesus Christ". It is the shortest
of all the Gospels, but he puts into a short space a very
great deal of material. He gives us just enough facts for
action, so much so, that scholars believe that Matthew
and Luke built their Gospels on Mark. And you notice the
last words in his Gospel: "They went forth, and
preached". This young man is getting on with the
work! His idea is to get things done as quickly as
That is our foundation. Now we begin on the message,
which comes out of several things. Firstly, his title:
"they had John as their minister", or, in other
words, "as their attendant". They had John Mark
to assist them in the work; he was a servant to the
ministry. Just remember that as we go on.
Mark on Trial
Then as to
his history. The first thing that we have about John
Mark's history is that he was put on trial. He was given
an opportunity - "Barnabas and Saul returned from
Jerusalem... taking with them John whose surname was
Mark". That provided this young man with a great
opportunity. He was on probation. He had the opportunity
of proving himself, and proving himself in difficulty.
Mark a Failure
John Mark was a failure. He could not stand up to the
situation, so he went home. That nice upper room in
Jerusalem was much more comfortable than this life with
the apostles! So Luke says that "John departed from
them and returned to Jerusalem". John Mark a
Do any of you here feel that you have been a failure?
Well, the story does not finish there. We come to the
third doing, which is
failure? We have said that things were too difficult, but
why were they too difficult? It would seem that John
Mark's beginning in the work was without an adequate
foundation. How did it come about that John Mark ever
went with Barnabas and Paul? Do you notice the order in
which I put the names? Barnabas and Paul! That order will
be changed presently... but did John Mark go on a basis
of family interest? Dear old Uncle Barnabas! And dear old
Uncle Barnabas did want to give his dear young cousin an
opportunity and it was out of family sentimentality that
he wanted Mark to go with them.
Do you think that I am reading something into this? It
was this very personal relationship which resulted in the
separation of Barnabas and Paul. John Mark went into the
work on someone else's experience and not on his own. I
do want you to get the picture right! We know that
Barnabas was a very loving man. He had a large heart. You
remember the story of Barnabas! Paul, on one occasion
said: "Even Barnabas was carried away"
(Galatians 2:13) - 'You wouldn't think that Barnabas
would ever be carried away!' And John Mark was captivated
by this large-hearted, sentimental uncle. He was
captivated by some strong, loving personality, and he was
not captivated by Jesus Christ. His foundation was some
man and not the Lord, and anything like that is bound to
break down sooner or later. Do you remember what we said
about Matthew? His message is the absolute foundation of
Christianity, because it is the absolute Lordship of
Jesus Christ, and that was the weakness in the life of
John Mark. Uncle Barnabas was lord! And the very best men
are not good enough to go through this battle.
Well, the point is this: the absolute necessity for a
personal experience of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It
is a very dangerous thing to put a young man in
responsibility if he has not got that experience! That is
the ground of proving ourselves. Policy must never take
the place of principle. Diplomacy says: 'Give the young
man a chance', but principle says: 'Let only approved
people be put into responsibility.'
Well, we see that Mark broke down on natural grounds, but
he came to victory when he came under the mastery of the
Lord Jesus. He could never have written this Gospel if
that were not true. All his enthusiasm in this Gospel is
to speak about the glory of the Lord Jesus, and nowhere
do you find him speaking about what a wonderful uncle he
had. It is always about what a wonderful Lord he had, and
that meant a great change. We began with him as an
attendant, and we end with him as a partner. He is not
now just a busy servant, he is now a partner in the firm.
He has passed from being unprofitable to being
"profitable" - and that is the word that the
great apostle Paul used about John Mark in the end:
"Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is
profitable to me for the ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11,
A.V.). What a big change! Do you want just to be an
attendant, or do you want to be a partner in the gospel?
One who is just doing a lot of things, or one who is
carrying heavy responsibility? Well, we are getting
nearer to the message.
Place which the Gospel by Mark Occupies
thing is the place which Mark's Gospel occupies, and this
again is a very significant thing. You know that Mark's
Gospel was the first Gospel to be written. It was written
before Matthew, before Luke and before John. Why then was
it not given the first place? This is not natural at all.
Seeing that it was the first Gospel to be written, surely
it ought to have the first place! But the Holy Spirit
knew what He was doing. He never works on natural lines,
but on spiritual lines, and that is a different order
from man's way of doing things.
So Mark has second place, and, oh! here is the
message! All service and activity must come out of
authority and submission. Matthew first: the authority of
Jesus Christ and His absolute Lordship. Mark second: all
service comes out of submission to the Lord Jesus. All
action must follow the mastery of Jesus Christ. What is
the chief characteristic of a true servant of the Lord?
It is meekness. That is true of the Lord Jesus. Do you
remember John 13, when He laid aside His robe girded
Himself with a towel, the symbol of the bondslave, poured
water into a basin, and then He - the Lord of glory,
through Whom and by Whom all things were created - now
divested of everything, was on His knees, washing the
feet of sinful men! He was right when He said: "I am
meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29)! Was there
ever one who served the Lord more fully?
We have said that Mark was very closely connected with
Peter in his writing, and I wonder if you remember the
spiritual connection between these two? The Lord Jesus
said something to Peter that he never forgot, and when he
was about to be executed he said: "even as our Lord
Jesus Christ signified unto me" (2 Peter 1:14). When
and where did the Lord signify that to Peter? What was it
that the Lord showed him? 'Simon, when you were young you
girded yourself and went wheresoever you wanted to go.
You took your life into your own hands and did as you
liked. When you are old another will gird you and carry
you where you would not go' (John 21:18). There you have
the change between the old Simon and Peter in the end. We
know that the whole history of Peter, when the Lord was
here was of one who was wanting to have his own way all
the time. Sometimes he would even tell the Lord that He
was wrong! In other words he said: 'Lord, You are wrong
in that! Lord, You don't know what You are saying!' This
man must have a very deep history, for the government
must be taken out of his hands and put into other hands.
From being a dictator he must be a bondslave, and we know
the story of how that happened: "Simon, Simon,
behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you
as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy
faith fail not: and do thou, when once thou hast turned
again, stablish thy brethren" (Luke 22:31-32). True
service comes out of submission.
So both Peter and Mark embody the principle of subjection
to the Lordship of Christ. I like that little fragment
which we read in Peter's Letter. It is a very tender
reference to John Mark: "She that is in Babylon...
saluteth you: and so doth Mark my son". There is a
lot of history in that!
Well, now I am going to say a thing which is very
difficult to say. You may not all understand it, but I
will try to make it simple. It is always a very perilous
thing to sublimate the soul. Now you do not understand
that, but let me explain. It is possible to put soulish
emotion in the place of spiritual feeling and soulish
emotion is just sentimentality. It is that kind of
emotion which people call love: 'Oh, my dear cousin John
Mark, I do want you to come with me into the Lord's work!
You know I love you very much, and I am quite sure that
your dear mother in Jerusalem would like you to be a
minister. Come along, Mark, and I will introduce you to
Paul and get him to agree to your coming.' Of course,
that is all very lovely, but it is not spirituality. That
is false spirituality, what I have called the sublimation
of the soul. It is mistaking the soul for the spirit, and
in that there is no deep brokenness of soul. Do you see
what I mean?
Well, what does all this have to do with the mission, the
meaning and the message of Jesus Christ? John Mark has
shown us in his Gospel how very active the Lord Jesus
was, how tireless He was in doing the will of His Father.
There were times when they had no opportunity even for
taking their food. Mark says: 'Straightway...
immediately... forthwith... they went forth' and that is
the story of Jesus. No, there is no laziness about the
Lord Jesus! Paul's words were very fully fulfilled in His
case: "Always abounding in the work of the
Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). Jesus was wholly
committed to the work of His Father, but - and it is a
big 'but' - there was no one on this earth ever who was
more in subjection to the will of His Father. Two words
sum up the work of the Lord Jesus: submission and
dependence. He said: "I must work the works of him
that sent me, while it is day" (John 9:4). Yes, that
is true, but He never did one work without first asking
His Father if He should do it. For everything that He
did, and every place to which He went, He asked the
Father's guidance. With us it all seems so necessary, and
the situation is so needy, and the soul says: 'You ought
to do it', but not with Jesus. Do you remember the three
temptations in the wilderness? They all seemed so
reasonable and necessary, but never did necessity or
reason govern the Lord Jesus. He was joined to heaven by
the anointing Spirit. Why should the Son of God need to
pray? Because He was dependent upon His Father. For
guidance, for what He should do, He always referred to
the Father, and for strength to do it He had to live by
That principle was written in the history of John Mark.
It did not mean that either the Lord Jesus or John Mark
did less because they were dependent upon the Father. I
think they did much more, and they did much better, and
their work remains to this day because "whatsoever
God doeth, it shall be forever" (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
I wonder if you have got the message of John Mark? Let me
say to my younger brothers: Be John Marks in the last
situation. Be utterly committed to Jesus Christ, and He
will make you a very useful partner in the Kingdom.
with all this that has been said, the one thing that we
ask for is an impression. We may not remember all things,
but make this deep impression on us - that a life wholly
submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ will be a very
fruitful life. Make all our hearts Thy throne and reign
over us, Lord Jesus. Amen.