Many scholars believe that Mark’s emphasis on the Messiah’s humility, suffering, and steadfastness indicates that this Gospel (most likely written between 55 and 65 C.E.) is directed toward a community of Yeshua’s followers suffering persecution, perhaps in Rome.
While the Gospels of Matthew and Luke open with genealogies that tie Yeshua’s story into the narrative of the Tanakh (Old Testament), Mark dives into the action, introducing the ministry of John the Baptist in the second sentence. This reflects the vigor and activity of the Elijah-Elisha story that shapes this Gospel.
Like Yeshua’s first-century followers in Rome, those in and around Israel may have faced opposition, so Mark’s portrayal of the suffering Messiah was likely relevant and edifying. Furthermore, Mark presents the good news of the Messiah in distinctly Jewish ways, often employing midrash on the Torah and other texts of the Tanakh.
Mark writes as a loyal Jew, proclaiming Yeshua to be the Messiah of Israel and Son of God (1:1), emphasizing a distinctive, mysterious element: the messianic secret. In this Gospel, Yeshua seems more intent on hiding his messianic identity than on revealing it.
- Yeshua silences demons who recognize him as the Son of God and are about to say so (1:24; 3:11; 5:7);
- He tells those he heals not to make him known (1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26);
- He refuses the Pharisees request for a sign (8:11-12);
- He even warns his disciples “not to tell anyone about him” (8:30).
Yeshua’s goal is not to deny he is the Messiah, or to hide it indefinitely, but to reveal it in his own time, with its full implications made clear through his death and resurrection. This strategy is key to the overall structure of Mark’s Gospel.