This one's a real Rubix Cube, so we need to Shmoop ourselves through it, one piece at a time.
It's pretty clear that Mark believes Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God, who came in a way that people did not recognize, then suffered, died, and was raised. That's basic Christianity there. And, according to Mark, all of this fulfills prophecies written long ago in Jewish scriptures (think Isaiah, Malachi, Daniel, and the Psalms).
Why do people call Mark apocalyptic? Because he thinks about the coming of the Jesus as the first of several events that will climax in the Messiah's return to earth with angels. At that point, he will divvy out judgment upon those responsible for his death and gather together his followers. Go and take a long look at 13:1-37 and our thoughts on "Revenge" and "The Parable of the Wicked Tenants" to see what we mean.
Mark has a sense of urgency about the whole shebang, although he never quite says when it's all going to go down. Shmoop thinks he may have been looking for it in his own lifetime—what, after all, are we going to do with 9:1 and 13:30?
Pop quiz: what's the order of the gospels in the New Testament? Okay, we'll just tell you:
But guess what? Mark was almost certainly the first of the four to write. Take that, Matthew. To top it off, there's pretty good evidence that Matthew, Luke, and possibly John knew and used Mark as they composed their own gospels.
Think about what that means. It was none other than Mark who first developed the literary phenomenon we call "gospel," even as he drew on several prior Christian sources (like miracle stories) and contemporary literary forms (like biography). For more on this, click on over to "Genre."
In fact, the only New Testament writer earlier than Mark is Paul, but Mark's overall strategy is very different. Paul wrote letters (not gospels) in the years and gave little attention to the actual life and teachings of Jesus. Mark instead decided to compose a story about Jesus's career, including Jesus's very own sayings and an account of his death.
Mark's particular brand of Jesus-story left its mark (pun clearly intended) on the early Christian movement and—as we now know—definitely made a name for itself.