Favorite Commentaries on the Gospel of Mark

Here at Curve Baptist Church, we finished our sermon series in the Gospel of Mark this past Sunday. It was a joy to preach the resurrection of Jesus on Christmas Day! You can find the files of all the sermons form this series on the Sermons page, thanks to the diligent work of my friend Tim Blackstock.

Over the course of the six months we spent in Mark, I found five commentaries especially helpful in preparing sermons. Because I love rankings and lists at this time of year, here they are, in reverse order:

5. The Training of the Twelve, A.B. Bruce

This is an older book, written around the turn of the Twentieth Century. Bruce is seeking to vindicate the gospels as accurate, historical accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus at a time when this was increasingly coming under fire. But the way he goes about this is by harmonizing the four gospels, addressing in each chapter a different lesson in discipleship which Jesus gives to the Twelve. I did not consult this book every week, but there were some real gems along the way when I did. I think particularly of his insights into the character of Judas Iscariot, his treatment of the Sabbath and the life of liberty to which Jesus calls his followers. This would be a good book to have on the shelf for any study of any of the gospels.

4. King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, Timothy Keller.

This collection of studies in Mark (it does not cover every passage in the book) was released just before I began my sermon series. Keller writes as a pastor in Manhattan, and as expected, he was most helpful in showing how Jesus applies to twenty-first century man in all his starvation for God and the gospel. Our ministry contexts are very different, but his insights were great for my own meditation on how to apply each passage to myself and my people.

3. The Gospel of Mark, New International Commentary Series, William L. Lane.

This is a classic, and the strongest commentary in terms of filling in the historical background of each passage. But as good as Lane’s is, if I could only purchase two books on Mark, it would be the following:

2. Mark, NIV Application Commentary Series, David Garland.

This may be the most well-written commentary I have ever read. Garland is a talented, lively writer. He really knows his Bible (making all the important Old Testament connections that hover in the background of Mark’s narrative), and  skillfully weaves in strong illustrations throughout. The application section was almost always immensely helpful. Garland’s book does an outstanding job of capturing the punch and power of Mark’s presentation of the victory of Jesus. His treatment of the resurrection was particularly good, where most commentaries (in this Bible-reader’s humble opinion) fail to capture the electricity of the announcement. Highly recommended.

1. Let’s Study Mark! Sinclair Ferguson.

Those who know me well will not be surprised to hear me rank anything by Ferguson, my favorite living preacher and writer, at the top of my list. The Let’s Study Series, published by Banner of Truth Trust, is designed as a doctrinally-sound devotional commentary for lay men and women, walking through passages and making heavy application. I think Ferguson, a long-time pastor as well as a systematic theology professor, is a master at this sort of thing. Broken down into 72 separate studies, this book was consistently the most helpful tool I consulted from week-to-week.

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About Eric Smith

Sinner saved by the grace of Jesus, husband of Candace, father of Coleman and Crockett, West Tennessean, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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