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Whenever possible, encourage non-Christians to read the life of Christ. I recommend giving them the Gospel of Mark.
Traditionally, the Gospel of John has been the most distributed book of the Bible. No verse of Scripture is better known than John 3:16. For many decades, John's Gospel was widely distributed in evangelism and follow-up. Because of its extensive use, many assume it is the best book of the Bible to give to unbelievers and new Christians.
Mark's Gospel is the earliest of the four accounts. A young boy during the latter part of Jesus' life, Mark grew up to travel with Peter, one of Jesus' first followers and closest friends. Peter was a fisherman who followed Christ personally and traveled with Him for more than three years. We know from early church historians that Mark wrote what he learned from Peter as he preached about Jesus to all who would listen. Irenaeus wrote in A.D. 175, "Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing the things preached by Peter."
Of the four histories, Mark's record is the simplest, shortest and most direct presentation of Jesus' life, written in the common language of the marketplace. None of the other Gospels devotes as great a portion of its content to Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection. Mark does not mention Christ's genealogy or birth. Instead, he begins his Gospel by describing John the Baptist's preaching and baptism, followed by the baptism and temptation of Jesus. Then he leads into Jesus' public ministry in Galilee, giving special attention to His miraculous works that prove Him to be the Son of God.
As in all Peter's sermons about Jesus recorded in the Book of Acts, the presentation about Christ in the Gospel of Mark answers two simple but critical questions. It is divided almost perfectly in two equal halves, the first presenting who Jesus is and the second presenting why He gave His life.
From the earliest part of chapter 1 through the end of chapter 8, Mark records 17 miracles of Jesus and repeatedly draws attention to the significance of who Jesus is. That is why in the first half of Mark's gospel the word "who" occurs so often.
In the first chapter, Mark clearly declares that Jesus is the Son of God. Even demons gave this testimony: "I know who you are - the Holy One of God!"1 But, Jesus did not permit the demons to speak, "because they knew who he was."2
In chapter 2, the scribes said, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?"3 In chapter 4, after Jesus miraculously calmed the storm, the disciples said to one another, "Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"4
The climax of Mark's presentation of who Jesus is in the first half of the book comes at the close of chapter 8: "And Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, "Who do people say that I am?" And they told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets." And He continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ.'"5
The second half of Mark describes the final week of Jesus' life on earth - His suffering, death and resurrection. In a series of statements Jesus reveals the purpose for which He was sent into the world: "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again."6 He said to His disciples, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.'"7 "'We are going up to Jerusalem,' he said, 'and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.'"8
Also contained in Mark are three dramatic "confessions." In the first verse, Mark himself confesses Jesus as the Son of God.9 This is followed by Peter's confession in the middle of the book, "You are the Christ,"10 and builds to the Roman centurion's confession, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"11 These three confessions can be reiterated to encourage a person to make a decision to follow Christ.
The simple yet powerful witness of Mark's Gospel is especially appropriate for evangelism, because it presents the "good news" concerning who Jesus is and why He gave His life.
1 Mark 1:24
2 Mark 1:34
3 Mark 2:7
4 Mark 4:41
5 Mark 8:27-29
6 Mark 8:31
7 Mark 9:31
8 Mark 10:33,34
9 Mark 1:1
10 Mark 8:29
11 Mark 15:39
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