From the Introduction to Mark by N.T. Wright
The following introduction can be found in Mark (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides), pp. 5-7). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
“Mark’s Gospel is the shortest and sharpest of the early stories about Jesus. Many people think Mark’s Gospel was the first to be written, and certainly it has all the zip and punch of a quick story that’s meant to grab you by the collar and make you face the truth about Jesus, about God and about yourself.
There is a sense of urgency in the Gospel of Mark. We find the word immediately many times in the first two chapters and several times after that. Early in chapter 1 the main theme of Jesus’ ministry is articulated: God’s kingdom is arriving. The kingdom of God is at hand (1:15). Something momentous is happening. Be alert! The train is about to leave the station. Jump on board before it is too late!
What was the crisis? For the century or so before Jesus’ time the whole region had been overrun by the Romans. The legions had marched in and taken over, as they did everywhere from Britain to Egypt. Whoever got in their way was crushed. A few people—local politicians, tax collectors, call girls—did all right out of the Romans. Most people, though, saw them as The Enemy. As satan incarnate. They longed to see the Romans pushed out of the land. Rome was the Monster of all monsters. Rome was unclean. Rome was a nation of pigs. And like the pigs into which Jesus sent the legion of demons who were possessing the Gentile man in Mark 5, they should be thrown back into the Mediterranean Sea.
But here they were, the people of God, his chosen nation, and yet the land he’d given them, promised them, was occupied by enemies. Where was God? Why did he not act? Why were they in exile in their own land? The solution for many was to take up arms against Rome, violently expel it and restore God’s kingdom.
Jesus knew, however, that this path on which Israel was heading with her Roman oppressors was a battle they would be sure to lose. Rome was simply too strong and too ruthless. Yes, God promised his kingdom, but it would not be the political, military kingdom they expected. And yes, the kingdom would come through the Messiah but not through the kind of Messiah they expected either. (For more on this letter, also see my Mark for Everyone on which this guide is based, published by SPCK and Westminster John Knox.)
For there was an enemy far more powerful than Rome that had to be dealt with—the satan. All of these forces were heading to an imminent climax. So this redefined kingdom must be announced immediately, before it was too late. Through this guide, prepared with the help of Lin Johnson for which I am grateful, we will see what this kingdom would look like and what the king would do in the story Mark tells us.”
Suggestions for Individual Study
“Read and reread the Bible passage to be studied. Each study is designed to help you consider the meaning of the passage in its context. The commentary and questions in this guide are based on my own translation of each passage found in the companion volume to this guide in the For Everyone series on the New Testament (published by SPCK and Westminster John Knox).
Each session features selected comments from the For Everyone series. These notes provide further biblical and cultural background and contextual information. They are designed not to answer the questions for you but to help you along as you study the Bible for yourself.”