A Living Witness to the Lord
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
By: Jeff Smith
Sometimes I wish I had been born in Israel around the same time as Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great to witness what the first disciples saw as they heard him preach, watched him heal people, and listened to him share what was on his heart? How blessed Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, and the rest must have been!
Of course, we live in 2023, not AD 30. But God has given us the gift of the Gospels to help us out. These four books, written only decades after Jesus’ resurrection, allow us to “walk with Jesus” almost as if we were right there with him. They allow us to hear him teach us how to pray. They bring us to the upper room, where we can witness the beauty and the sorrow of the Last Supper. They let us walk alongside him to Calvary and experience the joy of seeing him risen on Easter Sunday.
Walking with Jesus—and St. Mark. In this month’s articles, we want to invite you to walk with Jesus as we pray through the Gospel of Mark—which we’ll be reading for most of this month at daily Mass. Mark’s Gospel was often called the “hidden” Gospel in the early Church. That’s because Matthew’s Gospel was the most popular back then. In fact, the first full commentary on Mark didn’t even appear until the sixth or seventh century!
But the tide turned when scholars began searching for answers to the question of which Gospel was written first. While we cannot know for sure, the majority of scholars today believe that Mark came first, and then Matthew and Luke followed, with John coming later. Most scholars also hold that Mark wrote his Gospel around AD 65–70, not long after Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome.
In fact, one of the earliest traditions—written by a bishop named Papias only a century after Jesus’ resurrection—tells us that Mark was a disciple of St. Peter’s in Rome. According to Papias, Mark based his Gospel on Peter’s own preaching and recollections of his time with Jesus. “Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter,” he said, “wrote down accurately everything he remembered of the things either said or done by Christ.” Isn’t it amazing that we have the witness of someone so close to the Lord?
This month’s articles have been adapted from the book Encountering the Lord in the Gospel of Mark by our editorial director, Leo Zanchettin. Leo focuses on how we can respond to Jesus’ call to follow him and what it’s like to experience his love in an individual, personal way, just as St. Peter did. So as you read these articles—and even more important, as you read from Mark every day in prayer or at Mass—invite Jesus to speak to you. Picture yourself joining Mark as he heard Peter preach. Or even better, imagine yourself with Peter and the other disciples as they sat at the feet of the Lord. Let Jesus’ words speak directly to you, and let his Spirit show you how to live them out.