Introduction, Background & Discipleship

Introduction, Background & Discipleship

religious studiesSt Mark’s Gospel, part of the Bible’s New Testament, is one of the richest sources of Christian belief. Along with Matthew, Luke and John it is one of the four Gospels, which tell the story of Jesus Christ. To cover this unit properly, a complete reading of St Mark is essential. Although any version of the Bible is acceptable, if you are following the AQA syllabus, quotations in the exam paper will come from either the Good News Bible (GNB), the New International Version (NIV) or the Revised Standard Version (RSV). The Revised Standard Version is used in this guide.

Mark’s Gospel covers the story of Jesus from his baptism by John the Baptist to his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to heaven.


Background to Mark’s Gospel

religious studiesThe traditional view was that Mark the Evangelist wrote the Gospel in Rome, heavily influenced by the apostle Peter. However, modern thinking detects more than one hand at work, questions the influence of Peter, and theorises that the text may have been written in the Middle East.

Read the first chapter of the Gospel which includes the baptism of Jesus by John, his time in the wilderness, the gathering of the disciples in Galilee, his preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law and the healing of a leper.

Also read Chapter 4, 35-41, about how Jesus was able to calm a storm.



Mark describes the disciples, their work and the instructions Jesus gives them. Consider his description of the lives of disciples and what it means for modern people about self-sacrifice, service and attitudes to wealth.

religious studiesChapter 1, 16-20 – This describes how Jesus gathers the disciples from among fishermen on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He tells them ‘Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.’ They follow him without hesitation.

Chapter 4, 3-9, 14-20, 30-32 – These verses are known as the Parables of the Kingdom. The first parable is about a farmer sowing seeds. Some seed does not grow but other seed falls on fertile ground and thrives. Jesus means that in spreading the word of God with the disciples, some people will hear and understand the message but others will not.

Chapter 6, 7-13 – Jesus sends out the 12 disciples to preach and cast out unclean spirits. He tells them to take no money or food, to wear only sandals and a tunic, and to carry a staff. The disciples must depend on the goodwill and hospitality of those they meet.

Chapter 8, 34-38 – Jesus tells the disciples that they must have faith in him. In return, they will be saved by God.

Chapter 10, 17-31 – A man asks Jesus how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him he should follow the commandments, and the man says he has done. Jesus replies, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But the man does not want to give up his wealth, so he does not follow Jesus.

Chapter 10 42-45 – Jesus tells the disciples that those with power and authority should act as the servants of people, not the masters. He adds, ‘For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

Chapter 12, 28-34 – A scribe asks Jesus which is the most important of the commandments. Jesus answers that the first one is. ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second most important is ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

religious studiesChapter 12, 41-44 – Jesus watches people giving money to the treasury. He sees rich people contribute large amounts but then a poor widow gives her all and he says, ‘For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.’ It’s easy for the rich to give, but much harder for the poor.

Peter’s promise and denials: 14 26-31, 66-72 – Jesus tells the disciples that they will betray him. Peter protests, but Jesus answers, ‘Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ Later when Jesus has been arrested, Peter does indeed deny all knowledge of him three times. He hears the cock crow a second time and weeps because Jesus was right.

Chapter 16, 14-18 – Jesus has been crucified and resurrected. He gives instructions to the disciples (except his betrayer Judas), instructions which are now called the Commission. He tells them to go out and preach the Gospel. Believers who are baptised will be saved and non-believers will be condemned.