Since the author of this Gospel has not provided any firm date or clear background for this composition, the interpreter is compelled to look for clues that may suggest some probable answers.
From an overall reading of the text one encounters a community that has endured persecution from without and division from within. Right from the opening chapter the Cross casts it’s unmistakable shadow over the entire work. For example, John the Baptist preaches and is handed over or arrested. Thereafter, Jesus and subsequent believer’s experience the same fate.
The theme of division among Jesus’ disciples also plays a prominent role in the work. In addition, persecutions figure significantly in the gospel.
When one puts all these observations together, there surface images of an early Christian community that has endured pain for the name of Jesus and most likely was anticipating more suffering.
A likely setting for the writing of the gospel is the persecution of Christians. Under Nero because of the great fire of 64 A.D. In order to shift blame from himself for the fire, Nero attributed the conflagration to Roman Christians.
The Roman historian Tacitus relates that Nero had Christians arrested and then convicted. He also imposed harsh punishments on those convicted.
To make matters worse, Christians betray fellow Christians.
Apostasy was rife indeed.
The author of Mark probably writes his gospel around the year 70 A.D.
(This was also the year in which the Romans utterly destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.)
He clearly demonstrates that Christian discipleship and suffering go hand in hand.
To accept the message of Jesus is to embrace the cross. The Jesus Mark is undeniably the suffering Messiah.
As Jesus unequivocally states in 8:31, ‘the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days, ‘Ironically, the infidelity of the disciples in this Gospel, notably Peter, becomes good news for those who experience failure, especially apostasy. Like Peter, they are called to repentance and reconciliation.