A Comparison Between Matthew and Mark

A Comparison between Matthew and Mark
While both books of Mark and Matthew portray Peter as one of the most important followers of Jesus, Mark seems to emphasize Jesus’ spiritual career unlike the broad, more in-depth pursuit of Jesus’ life that Matthew embellishes on. As both Jesus’ student and friend, Peter is the one disciple most commonly referred to in the stories. Yet the two passages seem to draw different pictures of Jesus’ distinguished disciple. In Matthew, Peter seems to play a larger role in Jesus’ teachings and seems more significant to Jesus throughout the book. In Mark, he is still important, but to a lesser extent in the eyes of the author. Mark leaves Peter out of a few of the stories altogether and only touches on Peter’s importance to Jesus towards the very end. Each difference in the stories connected to Peter gives a slightly altered account of his personality and role.

Peter is introduced as one of Jesus’ first followers in both Matthew 4.18 and Mark 1.16. Both passages seem to recount Jesus’ speech word-for-word. He merely said to Simon (a.k.a. Peter) and his brother, “‘Follow me and I will make you fish for the people'”(Matthew 4.19, Mark 1.17). Their reaction is described in a simple phrase, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him”(4.20, 1.18). This story presents Peter and his brother as incredibly devoted to their leader from the first few moments. Whether their lives as fishermen were prosperous or not, to simply abandon everything for one stranger is risky and takes faith. The story’s important message about Jesus’ strength as a leader and his follower’s devotion entices both authors to include it among their lessons.

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Yet, Matthew’s next significant mention of Peter is a story that Mark fails to develop. The story of Jesus walking on water appears in both accounts (Matthew 14.22-14.33 and Mark 6.47-6.52). Yet only in Matthew does Peter have a role in the story. Upon seeing Jesus on the water, he calls out, “‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water'”(Mt. 14.28). He almost succeeds, yet he suddenly gives in to fear and begins sinking. Jesus scolds him by saying, ” ‘You of little faith, why do you doubt?'”(14.31). This draws a strange picture of Peter. He no longer simply listens to Jesus, but tries to become actively involved in his teacher’s lessons. This idea is again shown in Matthew 15.15. After the parable of the blind leading the blind, Peter asks, ” “Explain this parable to us.” Jesus replies with a rather impatient remark, but dives a little further into the meaning. He often comes to Jesus with questions throughout Matthew and these questions always ask for clear definitions of stories or truths about some spiritual detail. Many times Jesus snaps a little at him, but Peter obviously is not swayed by any impatience his teacher bestows. This seems to paint a closer relationship between the two men, where Peter is not afraid of Jesus and Jesus is not simply polite to Peter, as teachers tend to be. Jesus’ obvious favoritism of Peter, shown in the transfiguration and throughout the gospel, leads one to believe that the two are indeed close friends with trust and mutual respect, which allows them to be freer with their words to one another. Friends tend to be less polite and more open with each other, as Matthew has painted these two to be. Mark tends to leave out these little views into Peter’s relationship with Jesus, for they are rather trivial when it comes to the message from the Lord. Yet these few questions leave the reader with a better understanding of how the divine one interacted with his close buddies and the very human qualities to the exalted one’s day to day life.

Peter’s deep trust in Jesus is apparent through his bold actions in Matthew’s account of walking on water. His faith is so strong that he is willing to put his fears aside and try to trust God with the purity his teacher does. For a short while he appears to succeed, proving that he above all the other followers has the courage to follow and the faith to see him through. Yet the fears of a mortal man keep him from attaining the faith that Jesus has secured. His life still is at risk and God seems so abstract when you are inch away from drowning. By leaving this story out, it appears Mark does not want to acknowledge something about the story. Perhaps he believes that Jesus and Jesus alone can accomplish such miracles and that the story undermines his power as the savior. Or the story could paint Peter as weak and without faith in some readers’ eyes and Mark may wish to save Peter from that humiliation. Nevertheless, it creates an important parable for any follower of Jesus, comparing man’s fears and material connections to Jesus’ lack of self, while also creating a better picture of Peter himself.

The most interesting difference in the two stories is found in Peter’s confession, in both Matthew 16.13 and Mark 8.30. When Jesus asks his disciples ” ‘Who do you say I am?'” in Mt. 16.15, it is Peter who answers. In Mark he simply says, ” ‘You are the Messiah'”, but in Matthew he adds, ” ‘…the Son of the living God'”(Mt. 16.16). Perhaps this addition is just added to define Jesus’ role and add an extra punch to the statement. Mark, who is more interested in telling the story as laconic as possible, may have found this bit unimportant. Yet it is Jesus’ next speech which is so vital to the portrayal of Peter that Mark completely leaves out. Jesus continues in praise:

son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not

revealed this to you, but my father in

heaven. And I will tell you, you are Peter,

and the gates of Hades will not prevail

against it. I will give you the keys of

you bind on earth will be bound in heav-

en, and whatever you loose on earth will

Not only does Jesus dispense many intriguing religious ideas in this speech, he casts light upon Peter’s own spirituality. The image presented is a man of religious insight who has gained respect in both Jesus’ eyes and God’s. Yet Mark leaves this lengthy speech out. Again, it may be too far-fetched from the message Mark is trying to present about Jesus’ life, just a petty little detail. Another hypothesis, much debated among the scholarly circle, is that perhaps Mark is trying to write from Peter’s perspective about Jesus. This explains the embarrassment that the walking on water story would create for Peter and the author’s choice to leave it out. Therefore, such a speech as this would need to be tossed aside to create a humble portrait of the follower, one that is simple and quiet.

If such a theory were true, many confusing aspects of Mark would be clarified. For example, Mark leaves out the story of Jesus’ birth. Peter has no connection to that time period of Jesus’ life, nor is it important to the message God is trying to send. In the first chapter itself, Peter is quickly introduced. Now a book written from Peter’s eyes focusing on Jesus’ teachings would not include his own embarrassment or praise. He would only appear as he feels a humble, devoted follower of a divine man. Yet, there is no first person. This is not a surprising fact, because it seems rare in ancient storytelling, especially the Bible. In addition, this not even Peter writing, and although the author chooses to write from his eyes, the subject is Jesus. Why complicate that obvious point by adding a main character that narrates? The author of Mark wishes to show a spiritual leader in his prime. Peter is an excellent viewpoint to take because he was extremely close and devoted and would therefore been present as Jesus acted as a miracle worker and fulfilled the prophecy.

Peter’s most substantial part in Mark is described during the denial scenes, in 14.66-72. Peter, out of all the disciples, is the only one who follows Jesus to his trial. As Jesus foreseen earlier, Peter, while waiting nearby for news of his friend, denies any connection with his teacher three times in order to preserve his own life. This scene is also depicted in Matthew, with extremely similar but not exact words. Why has Mark included such a personal depiction of Peter now, at the end of the story? Although one can argue it teaches many important lessons about humanity, so did the other passages that Mark left out. This is no more important to the story of Jesus than the other two passages were. Yet, somehow it hits the heart harder; it is in this passage that a man denies his best friend for the sake of his own well being. Jesus’ prophesy had come true, exposing the unintentional cruelty that lies within man’s soul. Matthew as well creates this miserable image, and both end the chapter with a similar depiction, “And he {Peter} broke down and wept” (Mark 14.72). While shedding light on Peter, this story ties in strongly with Jesus, for one’s friends and personal ties seem most important when you’re facing your final hours. This story shows how alone Jesus is during this time, and the personal suffering he feels over his friend specifically, all to fulfill some eternal plan. Both authors appear to value this passage just as much as his sayings and his death.

The authors of Mark and Matthew have different goals in their attempts to summarize Jesus’ historic life. Matthew is a passionate, well-rounded depiction that includes many intrigues into all aspects of his existence. Mark, on the other hand, seems to center in on what Jesus is trying to teach the world through his sayings and actions, rather than waste words on the doings of his mortal followers. Peter’s importance is determined by this difference of views, leaving two different pictures of him behind. In Matthew, his personality is unfolded through several insightful passages that leave behind a lively and devoted friend and follower. In Mark, he is merely one of the disciples, more important definitely, but nothing compared to Jesus. The absence of those few important passages throw a shadow over this figure and leave him humbly depicted, rather than the outspoken, involved man shown in Matthew. Yet his faith and deep devotion to Jesus make Peter stand out from the other disciples in both passages, and leave him weeping in misery over the denial and loss of his friend and teacher.


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A Comparison Between Matthew and Mark. (2018, Sep 11). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/mark-and-mathew-essay/