ImmerseMessiah NLT - Page 269

I N T H E M I D - 6 0 S A D ,
the Roman emperor Nero began a severe persecution of Jesus’ followers. During that time, the apostles Paul (see
“Immersed in 2 Timothy,” p. 249) and Peter were imprisoned and executed. The apostle Peter had been one of Jesus’ closest companions.
According to church tradition, Mark had become a close companion
of Peter, who then passed along to Mark his recollections of Jesus’ life
and teachings. Mark compiled the story of Jesus in a succinct Gospel,
which inspired an already-embattled generation of Jesus’ followers to
remain faithful. After all, Jesus himself had said, “If any of you wants
to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross,
and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if
you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News,
you will save it.”
Mark’s use of Latin terms suggests that his Gospel was written primarily for Romans and other Gentiles in the empire. He also explains
Jewish customs and translates Aramaic phrases, indicating that his audience isn’t familiar with the culture and language of the land where
Jesus had lived.
Mark uses Peter’s accounts to shape the traditions about Jesus that
were already being passed down by word of mouth. He announces
right at the start of his Gospel that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of
God.” Mark’s main themes are the identity of Jesus and the surprising
way this “Son of God” is bringing God’s rule into the world.
Mark shows how various groups—crowds of Jewish people, the
teachers of religious law, Jesus’ family, and even Jesus’ own disciples—
struggled to understand who Jesus was. Jesus even told people not to
talk to others about him. Everyone could see that Jesus had great powers of healing and deliverance, but his actions did not fit first-century
Jewish expectations for the Messiah.
Mark tells the story with urgency, like a fast-paced drama—Jesus
moves quickly from village to village, preaching and healing. The heart
of Jesus’ message is the coming of God’s Kingdom. But Rome has
its own version of the “Good News,” claiming that Caesar is the son
of God and that peace and security come through him. By contrast,

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