Peter’s Preaching: the message of Mark’s Gospel

Jeremy Duff, BRF (2015)


Confession time. I didn’t enjoy lectures at theological college wrestling over which Gospel was written first and who used whose material to produce their Gospel. Up to that point, I had enjoyed reading each Gospel as it was presented, and to be honest I still do. However, reading Jeremy Duff’s highly scholarly but refreshingly accessible work has been a real tonic.

The starting point for the book is a piece of detective work examining the evidence that Mark drew heavily on Peter’s sermons to construct his Gospel. Duff presents Papias’ views that support this in a compelling and convincing way.

The heart of the book is a treatment of eight themes that are central to Mark’s Gospel, each of which are rewarding and enriching to explore. In addition, Duff helpfully provides his own translation of Mark’s Greek, which was often rougher than the smoother versions we read today.

Particularly helpful is the explanation of what it means to be ‘following on the way’. The picture of the disciple as one who follows Jesus and is ready to take up his cross is a vital corrective to our comfortable Christianity. As the crucifixion approaches, the disciples desert Jesus and flee, but surprising new followers come to anoint Jesus and carry his cross. The book ends, as does Mark’s Gospel, with a challenge to go and meet with the risen Jesus.

For preachers who are in a hurry with a sermon deadline approaching, this book won’t be the best source of last-minute help. However, for all who want to understand Mark’s Gospel more fully, whether preaching or not, this is a deeply rewarding read.

Reviewed by John Birchall