The author never tells us who wrote this gospel. While the gospel has the title at the beginning (“according to Mark”), this was most likely not in the original autograph. Carson and Moo write,
The title, ‘According to Mark’ (kata Markon), was probably added when the canonical gospels were collected and there was need to distinguish Mark’s version of the gospel from the others. The gospel titles are generally thought to have been added in the second century but may have been added much earlier. Certainly we may say that the title indicates that by A.D. 125 or so an important segment of the early church thought that a person named Mark wrote the second gospel.
How then do we know that Mark was the author? While we cannot be certain, there is a good inductive case for John Mark being the author.
First, early church history states that Mark wrote under the inspiration of Peter. Several sources can be considered:
Papias (AD 60-130) writes, “Mark indeed, who became the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately, as far as he remembered them, the things said or done by the Lord, but not however in order. For he had neither heard the Lord nor been his personal follower, but at a later stage, as I said, he had followed Peter, who used to adapt his teachings to the needs of the moment, but not as though he were drawing up a connected account of the oracles of the Lord: so that Mark committed no error in writing certain matters just as he remembered them. For he had one object only in view, [namely] to leave out nothing of the things which he had heard, and to include no false statement among them.”
The anti-Marcionite prologue claims that Mark was the author.
Irenaeus (AD 180) writes, “After their [Peter’s and Paul’s] death, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter” (Contra Haereses 3.1.2).
Peter refers to Mark as “his son” (1 Pet. 5:13). This could imply that Mark came to Christ through Peter, or merely that he was discipled by Peter.
Second, Mark was with Peter and Paul in Rome, according to the NT. This would fit with these early historical accounts. Paul writes that Mark was with him in Rome (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11), as does Peter (1 Pet. 5:13).
Third, the first and last named disciple in Mark is Peter. Peter is mentioned first in Mark 1:16 and last in 16:7. This forms an inclusio (i.e. “bookends” for the work) that shows Mark’s focus on Peter.
Fourth, it is unlikely that the early church would have made up Mark’s name as the author. Wessel writes, “It seems unlikely that the church would have deliberately assigned the authorship of a Gospel to a person of secondary importance like Mark, who was neither an apostle nor otherwise prominent in the early church, unless there were strong historical reasons for doing this.” Cole adds, “Had it been fathered on a well-known apostolic figure like Peter, that would have been another matter, and good reason could be seen for it. Since (as we shall see) the same church tradition, rightly or wrongly, considered Peter to be the ultimate source of information contained in Mark’s Gospel, the failure to credit the gospel directly to Peter is even more remarkable. Later apocryphal gospel-writers had no such scruples and cheerfully attributed another gospel to Peter. The only explanation of the failure to do the same here must be a strong early tradition to the contrary, and this should therefore not be rejected lightly.”
Fifth, the “young man” of Mark 14 might be Mark himself. In Mark 14:51-52, we read, “A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. 52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.” Carson and Moo write, “It has been argued that this enigmatic reference, peculiar to Mark’s gospel, is an autobiographical reminiscence. This may be the case, but the identification may call into question Papias’s claim that Mark was not an eyewitness.”
Sixth, the Greek style of Mark seems to fit with a Judean Christian. Carson and Moo write, “The Greek style of Mark’s gospel is simple and straightforward and full of the kind of Semitisms that one would expect of a Jerusalem-bred Christian.”
Conclusion. We have good historical grounds for thinking that John Mark was the author of this gospel. In order to reject such a view, we would need either good defeaters of this historical evidence, or good evidence for another author. In lieu of this, we contend that Mark was the author.
What do we know about Mark?
After Peter was released from prison, he showed up at Mark’s house (Acts 12:12). He was a member of Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:5), but Paul refused to take him on his second missionary journey, because he had flaked out on the first journey (Acts 15:36-39). After Barnabas and Paul split, Mark went with Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15:39). Later, Barnabas (?) must have restored Mark to a vibrant ministry, as Paul attests in his later letters (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11).
Mark’s cousin Barnabas was a wealthy, Greek speaking Hellenist (Col. 4:10; Acts 4:36). His mother, Mary, seems reasonably wealthy, because she was a widow but also a home owner (Acts 12:12), who lived in Jerusalem.
From these references, we see that Mark was closely associated with Paul, Peter, and Barnabas.
We are not entirely sure to whom Mark was writing. If we had to guess, it would be the Christians in Rome. Mark was with Peter in Rome (1 Pet. 5:13) and later with Paul in Rome (2 Tim. 4:11). Early church tradition puts Peter in Rome at the end of his life.
He also feels the need to explain Jewish customs (Mk. 7:1-4; 15:42), translate Aramaic words (3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 15:22), and emphasize persecution and martyrdom (8:34-38; 13:9-13). Less persuasive are the presence of “Latinisms” in Mark—that is, Latin terms that would lend themselves to a Roman audience. The problem with this evidence is that these could fit throughout the Roman Empire—not just in the capital of Rome.
Mark drives through the events at a rapid pace (notice his use of the word “immediately”). This would fit with the rapid rates of persecution. R. Alan Cole finds the destination of Rome “attractive,” but “not proven,” and we would tend to agree. While we are inclined to see a Roman audience, the evidence is decidedly thin and surely uncertain.
We would date the book before AD 60. If Luke is dated around AD 62 (see “Introduction to Luke”) and Luke used Mark to write his gospel, then Mark must have been written at least before AD 60—most likely in the 50’s AD. Of course, critical scholars reject such an early dating, because Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 (Mk. 13:14). However, Robert Gundry writes,
If one accepts the phenomenon of predictive prophecy, no compelling reasons exist to deny an early date, say, A.D. 45-60. In fact, If Luke ends his book of Acts without describing the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome because the trial has not yet taken place, then Acts must be dated around A.D. 63, its preceding companion volume, the Gospel of Luke, somewhat earlier, and—if Luke’s Gospel reflects Mark—Mark still earlier in the fifties or late forties.
Irenaeus (AD 180) wrote that Mark handed down his writing after Peter and Paul’s death (Contra Haereses, 3.1.2). From this, some commentators argue that Mark must’ve been written in the mid-60’s AD. But this doesn’t necessarily follow. The expression “handed down” could simply mean that Mark circulated his letter after their deaths—not that he wrote the letter at that time.
John Wenham dates Mark to the mid-40’s AD. Critical scholar James G. Crossley (a co-founder of the highly skeptical Jesus Seminar!) dates the book to the late 30’s or early 40’s AD. from the University of Sheffield. He is a modern NT scholar who dates Mark to the late 30’s, early 40’s.
The Value of Mark’s Gospel
The early church fathers didn’t give this gospel much attention, preferring Matthew instead. After all, if 90% of Mark is in Matthew (all but 40 verses), then why should we give Mark serious study?
The benefit of Mark’s gospel is that it gives a bare bones description of Jesus’ life. Before others had written down these events, Mark wrote his gospel. We cannot compare him to the other authors anachronistically. They built upon the simple skeleton of what he wrote. Since Matthew and Luke appreciated Mark’s work and quoted it frequently, why shouldn’t we?
Mark 1 (John the Baptist)
John the Baptist
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 3:1-6 and Luke 3:3-6.]
(1:1) Mark opens by telling us that he is writing about (1) the gospel and (2) Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The expression “Son of God” is missing from some of the early manuscripts, but the NET note argues for its authenticity. Regardless, the Roman centurion also calls Jesus “the Son of God” at the end of the gospel (Mk. 15:39), which gives us two bookends for Mark’s writing.
Luke gives us more specifics on when Jesus historically came on the scene (Lk. 3:1-2).
(1:2) Since Isaiah was the more important “major” prophet, Mark ascribes both texts to him—even though the first citation comes from Malachi (Mal. 3:1; Isa. 40:3).
(1:3) In the original context, Isaiah was referring to the “Lord” as Yahweh God. Here, Mark uses this passage to point to Jesus.
(1:4) John the Baptist was preaching about forgiveness, but without Jesus, we can have no forgiveness. Matthew (3:1-6) and Luke (3:3-6) give us more detail on the nature of John’s preaching.
(1:5) The “all” is hyperbole. It is enough to say that many Jewish people were coming to see him. There were so many that Josephus refers to John the Baptist and his ministry (Antiquities, 18).
(1:6) John is very similar in appearance to Elijah (2 Kin. 1:8).
(1:7) This is a very high Christology: John the Baptist—an incredibly righteous man—felt that he was unfit to even touch Jesus’ feet. Luke adds that people were wondering if John himself was the Messiah (Lk. 3:15). This is what prompted John to clarify his identity.
(1:8) Jesus’ baptism will blow John’s baptism out of the water. Matthew 3:11-12 adds that John mentions the judgment of Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit (believers) or in fire (non-believers).
John baptizes Jesus
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 3:13-17 and Luke 3:21-23.]
(1:9) Jesus had humble origins. He came from the small town of Nazareth. This isn’t the place we would expect the Ruler of the world to be born.
Matthew adds that John felt uncomfortable baptizing Jesus, because Jesus was so much greater than John (Mt. 3:14).
(1:10-11) Here we see the three persons of the Trinity: Jesus coming out of the water, the Holy Spirit descending “like a dove,” and the Father speaking from heaven.
The temptation of Jesus
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.]
(1:12-13) The Holy Spirit led Jesus into temptation. Jesus spent almost six weeks being tempted by Satan (cf. Mt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-13).
(1:14) John adds much additional information before the arrest of John the Baptist (Jn. 2-3). After Jesus goes to Galilee, John adds more detail (Jn. 4).
(1:15) Mark has this unique note that people should “repent and believe in the gospel” (compare with Mt. 4:17).
After this, Jesus heals the official’s son (Jn. 4:46ff).
Jesus picks up four disciples (Peter, Andrew, James, and John)
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 4:18-22 and Luke 5:1-11]
(1:16-18) Jesus met these two men by the sea. Luke records that Jesus taught in front of Peter and Andrew (Lk. 5:3). After the teaching, Jesus told these men to go out and cast their nets (Lk. 5:4-5). The catch was so big that their “nets began to break” (Lk. 5:6). They signaled to their business partners (James and John) to come and help with the catch of fish (Lk. 5:7). Peter was overwhelmed with his own sinfulness in the presence of Jesus (Lk. 5:8), but he began to follow him after Jesus told him not to fear (Lk. 5:10).
(1:19) This little throwaway point is interesting: James and John were “mending the nets.” This is a case of interlocking in the gospels. Mark doesn’t tell us why James and John were mending their nets. It’s only as we read Luke’s account that we realize that they had picked up the hoard of fish, and they were mending their nets because the catch was so big (Lk. 5:6-7).
(1:20) Since they had seen the miracle, they decided to follow Jesus too.
Healing a demon possessed man
[The parallel account is Luke 4:31-37.]
(1:21) The setting is in the synagogue on the Sabbath in Capernaum.
(1:22) This parallels the words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 7:28-28).
(1:23) Is there any significance to the fact that this demon-possessed man was in the synagogue? Perhaps it shows that the religious authorities didn’t have the power to heal this man, but Jesus did.
(1:24) This demon has supernatural knowledge of Jesus, knowing his name (“Jesus of Nazareth”) and his nature (“the Holy One of God”).
Notice that the demon is afraid of being “destroyed” by Jesus. He must realize that Jesus has incredible power.
(1:25) This fits with the concept of the so-called “messianic secret.” Jesus was silencing this demon.
(1:26) The demon couldn’t resist Jesus’ authority. Even though the man went through “convulsions,” Luke adds that the demon left “without doing him any harm” (Lk. 4:35).
(1:27) The crowds recognized that Jesus had authority over the demonic realm.
(1:28) Jesus’ reputation spread to Galilee and beyond.
Healing in Capernaum
[The parallel accounts are found in Matthew 8:14-17 and Luke 4:38-41.]
(1:29) Peter and Andrew had just started to follow Jesus. After this event, they will be glad that they did.
(1:30) Peter was married (“Simon’s mother-in-law”). Luke adds that this was a “high fever” (Lk. 4:38).
(1:31) Jesus instantly healed this woman. The fact that “she waited on them” isn’t condescending to her. In this culture, women served the family in this way. This also shows that she was so fully healed that she could return to her regular activities.
(1:32) Illness and demon-possession were seen as separate maladies (cf. Mt. 4:24).
(1:33) The reference to the “whole city” is likely hyperbole.
(1:34) This also fits with the “messianic secret” (cf. Lk. 4:41).
Preaching in Galilee
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 4:23-25 and Luke 4:42-44.]
(1:35) HUMOR: Jesus worked hard, but he also prayed hard.
(1:36-37) Jesus knew how to find a secluded place to pray, where people couldn’t find him easily. This fits with his teaching that when we pray we should go away with God in secret (Mt. 6).
(1:38) Jesus enjoyed healing people, but his primary mission was preaching (cf. Lk. 4:43).
(1:39) Again, Jesus is showing his power in the synagogues. This must show that he had a power and authority that the religious leaders did not.
Healing the leper
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:2-4 and Luke 5:12-16.]
(1:40) The leper trusted Jesus’ will, rather than his own.
(1:41-42) Lepers were never physically touched—both for medical and religious reasons. This really shows the “compassion” of Jesus to reach out and touch a leper like this.
(1:43-44) This also fits with the “messianic secret.” Jesus wasn’t ready to reveal himself to the world.
(1:45) There is a certain irony to this. Jesus told him not to speak about this, and the man spoke openly to everyone. Today, Jesus tells us to speak to everyone, and Christians are often silent.
Mark 2 (Healing the Paralytic)
Healing the paralytic
[The parallel passages are in Matthew 9:1-8 and Luke 5:17-26.]
(2:1) Jesus returns to Capernaum.
(2:2) He was speaking, and it was standing room only. People were peeking their heads through the door to see and hear Jesus.
(2:3) Four friends of this paralytic came and brought the man to Jesus.
(2:4) This is what we would call persistence. Instead of giving up, they literally tore the roof off of this house to get inside to see Jesus. Luke notes that they pulled the tiles off of the roof to get him inside (Lk. 5:19).
(2:5) This remarkable act was an act of faith (“seeing their faith”). The faith of these friends resulted in the healing of this paralyzed man.
(2:6-7) This passage really supports the deity of Christ. If only God can forgive sins, and Jesus was forgiving sins, then Jesus must be God. Notice that Jesus doesn’t correct this reasoning; he affirms it.
It’s also interesting that the man came for physical healing, but Jesus gave him spiritual healing instead. God doesn’t always give us what we want, but what we deeply need. Of course, Jesus does heal the man of his paralysis, but notice the order of operations: spiritual healing came first.
(2:8) Jesus had supernatural insight into their hearts and minds. Who else can read someone’s mind but God?
(2:9) Clearly, it’s easier to say that your sins are forgiven. Such a thing is intangible and not empirically testable, while healing from paralysis is much more concrete.
(2:10-11) Jesus performed this miracle
(2:12) This is an archetypical example of a biblical miracle. Jesus was no flim-flam deceiver who is helping someone’s headache go away. He healed the man’s paralysis so completely that “everyone” could see it.
Jesus reaches Matthew
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:9-13 and Luke 5:27-32.]
(2:13) Why did Jesus like to teach by the sea so much?
(2:14) Tax collectors would bid to collect more and more taxes for each province. They would claim that they could collect more money for each province. Armed guards would protect these people to collect taxes. There was no court of appeals to protect the people from being overtaxed. Jewish society fought back by ostracizing tax collectors (e.g. tax collectors couldn’t testify in court; their money was considered unclean). The Romans and Jews didn’t like the tax collectors, because the Romans viewed them as traitors too. Most rabbis taught they had passed the point of repentance and forgiveness. Complete ostracizing.
No one would take this job, unless they were already a low-life, criminal, or loser.
Mark calls him “Levi the son of Alphaeus” (Mk. 2:14; cf. Lk. 5:27). Matthew (his Greek name) was also called Levi (his Jewish name). Jesus hires this lowlife to be one of his twelve disciples! It’s hard to compare this to someone today. It would be like Billy Graham hiring a man from a Colombian drug cartel.
Luke adds that Matthew “left everything behind” to follow Jesus (Lk. 5:28).
(2:15) Luke adds that Matthew himself had this party (Lk. 5:29). He must’ve invited all of his friends to meet Jesus. Matthew’s conversion made it safe for the other “sinners” to come to Jesus. Once they saw Matthew getting near Jesus, they wanted to meet him too. In fact, they threw a dinner party. What kind of person was Jesus like that wildly sinful people wanted him at their parties?
(2:16) Of course, the self-righteous religious leaders were outraged by this.
(2:17) In reality, everyone is sick. But the religious leaders couldn’t see this in themselves.
[The parallel accounts are found in Matthew 9:14-17 and Luke 5:33-39.]
(2:18) Both John’s disciples and Pharisees asked this question. This must show that many “holy men,” even from various traditions, considered fasting essential to true spirituality.
(2:19-20) At a wedding, you eat and drink, rather than fast. Since Jesus (the Groom) was there on Earth, it wasn’t a time for fasting.
(2:21-22) When these old wineskins expanded, they would tear. These old creaky wineskins were spilling the wine, and Jesus’ point was that these old wineskins need to be replaced.
Old wine: This refers to the old covenant under Moses.
Old wineskin: Rabbinic teaching served as the human embodiment of the covenant.
New wine: This refers to the new covenant.
New wineskin: We don’t know what this is yet. When the new covenant arrives, we will have to create forms to transfer and communicate God’s truth in the new covenant.
Jesus’ point here is that he isn’t trying to give the old wineskins a tune-up. Jesus isn’t a revisionist, but a revolutionary!
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 12:1-8 and Luke 6:1-5.]
(2:23-24) The contradiction in the mind of the religious leaders was that picking grain was technically considered work, and work was outlawed by the Sabbath rest.
(2:25-26) This event occurred in 1 Samuel 21:6. Jesus is pointing out that the Mosaic Law banned the eating of the sacred bread (Lev. 24:9), but God was fine with this. Jesus’ appeal was to the fact that saving a life is more important than the ceremonial laws. This is a case of prioritized ethics (see “Prioritized Ethics”).
(2:27) This chiastic statement is communicating that God’s laws are for our good (“the Sabbath was made for man”), rather than as a reason to harm us (“not man for the Sabbath”).
(2:28) Jesus had authority over the Sabbath. In the OT, Yahweh was Lord of the Sabbath (Ex. 20:10; Deut. 5:14). Thus Jesus is ascribing divine rights to himself. Matthew adds that Jesus said, “Something greater than the temple is here” (Mt. 12:6).
Mark 3 (Calling the Apostles)
Healing man with a paralyzed hand
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 12:9-14 and Luke 6:6-11.]
(3:1) Again, Jesus is (intentionally?) doing many miracles in the synagogue. He is showing that he has a power and authority that the religious leaders do not.
(3:2) Instead of getting the message, the religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus. If Jesus heals the man, he could be indicted by the religious authorities, but if he doesn’t, he will be succumbing to their non-biblical view and the poor man will remain handicapped. What will he do?
(3:3-4) Instead of falling into their trap, Jesus gives them a dilemma of his own: If they answer that it is right to save a life on the Sabbath, then he is justified. But if they answer that it is not right, then they will be the ones who are indicted.
Their silence was deafening!
From this parallel account in Matthew, we discover that there was more of an interaction with the religious leaders. In Matthew’s account, we read that the religious leaders asked Jesus the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Jesus responds with an a fortiori argument: If a sheep was stuck in a pit, wouldn’t you pull it out? How much more should we care for a human being? (Mt. 12:10-12)
(3:5) Jesus was “angry” and “grieved” that they couldn’t affirm such a simple theological and ethical question. Clearly, they refused to answer because they had “hardened hearts.”
(3:6) This assessment of their “hardened hearts” (v.5) is demonstrated to be true, because they witness a miraculous and compassionate healing, only to plan a plot to kill Jesus.
More teaching and healing
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 12:15-21.]
(3:7-8) When Jesus left the interaction above, the people followed him—not the religious leaders.
(3:9-10) Jesus was getting such much attention that the crowds were overwhelming him. He needed a boat to have room to teach. Perhaps people were coming up to Jesus in the middle of a teaching to be healed.
(3:11) There is a great irony that the demons are the ones who know who Jesus really was, while the people and the religious authorities are slow to understand or hard-hearted.
(3:12) This fits with the “messianic secret.”
Calling the apostles
[The parallel passage is found in Luke 6:12-16.]
(3:13) Is there significance that Jesus called the apostles while standing on a mountain? It could simply be that he wanted privacy (see Mk. 3:9-10).
Luke records that Jesus spent “the whole night in prayer” before he chose these men (Lk. 6:12).
(3:14-15) Why twelve disciples? Many commentators see this as Jesus caring for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jesus wanted the disciples to (1) be with Him to learn and (2) to be sent out to preach and heal. This shows us the balance of (1) character and (2) ministry.
(3:16) Jesus renamed Simon as Peter.
(3:17) Why did Jesus give them these nicknames? (the Sons of Thunder) Lemke writes that this “seems to characterize the brothers as hot-tempered, prone to outbursts of anger (see Mk 9:38; Lk 9:54).”
HUMOR: This sounds like the name of a biker gang, rather than the name of a couple of apostles.
(3:18) Did Philip struggle with the fact that Peter (his biological brother) was picked as the leader, rather than him?
(3:19) Here we have explicit foreshadowing how Jesus will meet his end.
The unforgiveable sin: claiming that Jesus was from Satan—not God
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 12:22-37.]
(3:20) This description really implies mayhem—like a rock concert or a packed party. Jesus was overwhelmed with the people’s needs.
(3:21) Jesus’ own family didn’t understand who he was. They were trying to pull him away from the crowds, because they thought he was insane. This is a very odd and embarrassing comment for Mark to include. He must have been so confident in Jesus’ sanity that it didn’t bother him to include it. It also shows that he had some measure of respect for reporting the facts—even if they were embarrassing.
(3:22) Note that the religious authorities didn’t claim that Jesus’ miracles were a sham. Instead, they denied the source of his power to perform these miracles (i.e. Satanic empowering).
(3:23-26) Jesus is rationally picking apart their claim that he is empowered by Satan. He shows that this claim is really self-defeating: Why would Satan want to fight against his own demons?
In Matthew’s account, Jesus takes the argument a step further: “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt. 12:28). In other words, Jesus is claiming that his explanation has more explanatory power, and if true, it means that God’s Spirit is working through him.
(3:27) We deny that this refers to the “binding” (deo) of Satan during the Millennium. Instead, this refers to the power of believers to bind Satan under Jesus’ authority (cf. Mk. 3:15).
(3:28-29) This parallel passage to Matthew 12:32 shows that a purgatorial interpretation is simply false. It isn’t that there is a sin that can be committed later on; it’s simply that the person “never has forgiveness” in the first place.
(3:30) Again, this is an embarrassing detail for Mark to include, which supports his veracity.
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21.]
(3:31) Remember, earlier we read that his family thought, “He has lost His senses” (v.21).
(3:32) In this culture, family was a premier value. If your family wanted you, you should drop what you were doing to help them.
(3:33-35) Jesus overturns this cultural convention by saying that followers of God are his true spiritual family. Matthew states that Jesus extended his hands to his “disciples” to make this point (Mt. 12:49). Lemke notes, “Although some groups venerate Jesus’ physical family, Jesus Himself more highly valued His spiritual family which consisted of those who do the will of God.”
Mark 4 (Parables)
(4:1-2) The crowds were so large that Jesus needed to teach them from a boat from the sea.
The parable of the FOUR SOILS
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 13:3-23 and Luke 8:5-18.]
(4:3) Who is “the sower” in the parable?
(4:4) Soil #1: Beside the road. Birds ate them.
(4:5-6) Soil #2: Rocky places. Immediate, they sprang up, but had no depth of soil or roots, so they quickly withered.
(4:7) Soil #3: Among the thorns. These were choked out.
(4:8) Soil #4: The good soil. These produced a crop of 100, 60, or 30 fold.
(4:9) The problem isn’t that they can’t hear the words audibly, but that they don’t desire to understand.
(4:10) The disciples began to ask Jesus what he meant by this parable.
(4:11) This fits with the “messianic secret.” Jesus wasn’t disclosing himself to everyone. He was only giving his truth to a select few.
(4:12) Jesus cites Isaiah 6:9.
(4:13) If they don’t understand this one, then how will they grasp all of the others Jesus wants to share with them?
Explaining the PARABLE OF THE SOWER (vv.3-9 above)
(4:14) Mark doesn’t tell us who the sower is, but he tells us what the seed is: “the word.”
(4:15) Soil #1: Beside the road. Birds ate the seed. This is the person who hears, but doesn’t understand (v.14). Satan can come right into the person’s heart and pull away what they heard, if they refuse to receive it. Luke makes this more explicitly, writing that “they will not believe and be saved” (Lk. 8:12).
(4:16-17) Soil #2: Rocky places. Immediately, they sprang up, but had no depth of soil or roots, so they quickly withered. This person seems to be a true believer. After all, they receive the gospel “with joy.” Suffering and persecution is what stops him from growing. Luke writes that “they believe for a while” (Lk. 8:13).
(4:18-19) Soil #3: Among the thorns. These were choked out. Materialism and the world-system render this believer unfruitful. Luke adds that “the pleasures of life” are another factor (Lk. 8:14). These seem to be true believers, but they are rendered unfruitful because they are obsessed with the things of the world.
(4:20) Soil #4: The good soil. These produced a crop of 100, 60, or 30 fold. What is the difference between this soil and all of the others? He both “hears and understands” (v.14). That is, he grasps the truth and implications of the gospel. This is the key to persevering and bearing fruit.
The purpose of this parable is not fatalism. Jesus’ whole point is that you get to choose which sort of soil you want to be.
(4:21-22) Jesus’ point is that his truth is currently being concealed, but it will later be revealed.
(4:23) As with verse 9, the problem isn’t that they can’t hear the words audibly, but that they don’t desire to understand.
(4:24) Adding on to verse 23, Jesus tells them to listen carefully (“take care what you listen to”). He’s telling them not to brush off this teaching, but rather, to let it sink in deeply.
(4:25) If you listen carefully and understand Jesus’ teaching, you will get more. If you don’t, you will lose what was originally given to you.
Parable of the SEED
[This material is unique to Mark.]
(4:26) In the previous parable, the “seed” was the spreading of the word (v.14).
(4:27) This passage really speaks to the mystery of how God grows his church. We do our part (spreading the seed), but we aren’t really sure how God grows his kingdom.
Isn’t it interesting that God will often wait until we strategize or try to plan initiatives to get something going in ministry? But, at the same time, he often bears fruit in ways that don’t fit with our plans. This must be to show us that he’s looking for initiative, but he doesn’t want us to believe that our strategy and self-effort is the key to ministry.
(4:28) This is God’s role: growing the seed.
(4:29) This is our role: harvesting the crop.
Parable of the MUSTARD SEED
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 13:31-35.]
(4:30-32) The Jewish people expected the Kingdom of God to start big and take over the Gentile nations. Here, Jesus is teaching that the Kingdom will start small, and it will grow slowly over time.
(4:33-34) Again, this fits with the messianic secret. Jesus was speaking cryptically to the crowds, but he was explaining the mysteries of the Kingdom “privately to His own disciples” (v.34).
Stilling of the sea
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:18-27 and Luke 8:22-25.]
(4:35) Remember, Jesus gave these teachings while on a boat in the sea (Mk. 4:1). Now, he wants to depart from the crowds and go to the other side.
(4:36) Apparently, other people still followed him on the water (“other boats were with Him”).
(4:37) These boats were tiny fishing boats—not big barges. It would be pretty scary to be out at sea in one of these.
(4:38) Jesus was so secure in God that he was sleeping through this storm! The waves must’ve been smashing him in the face, but he was fast asleep.
This is the sign of a good leader: When everyone else is panicking, Jesus remained calm and modeled faith.
(4:39) Jesus is the Creator of the sea. So the sea has to listen to him, as his subordinate. In the OT, only God himself could control nature (Ps. 65:7; 89:9; 107:22-32). Thus there question is a good one: Who (but God alone!) can calm a storm and have sovereignty over creation?
(4:40) “Afraid” can also be rendered “cowardly.” Fear and faith are mutually exclusive.
(4:41) This made them even more afraid! They were in the presence of a power that they couldn’t conceive of.
Mark 5 (Healings)
The Gerasene Demoniac
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-39.]
(5:1) They landed off their boats into the land of the Gerasenes. Matthew writes “Gadarenes,” while Mark and Luke write “Gerasenes” (Mk. 5:1; Lk. 8:26). Lemke writes, “Mark seems to have located the healing near a little-known town named Gerasa on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which corresponds to the modern site known as Kersa. Matthew 8:28 uses the region of the Gadarenes for the location, pointing to the more well-known city of Gadara, which was about six miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The main idea is that by crossing over the Sea of Galilee Jesus has now entered into Gentile territory.”
(5:2) Why would this demon possessed man run toward Jesus?
(5:3) Why did this demon possessed man dwell “among the tombs” (cf. v.2)? Is there something about death that attracts demonic activity?
Luke records that the man was buck naked (Lk. 8:27).
(5:4) This man had supernatural strength.
(5:5) Imagine how scary it would be to go to sleep as a little kid in this village with a man screaming and howling at the moon all night!
Part of demon possession includes self-harm (“gnashing himself with stones”). He must’ve looked bloodied and scarred all over his body.
(5:6) This scary demon possessed man had to bow before the authority of Jesus.
(5:7-8) This demon tormented all of the people in this village, but the sound of Jesus’ voice “tormented” him. Mark records that Jesus had been repeatedly calling on the demon to come out of the man. This doesn’t show a lack of power on Jesus’ behalf, because the demon was being “tormented” and was sniveling for mercy. Specifically, they didn’t want to go to the “abyss” (Lk. 8:31). This must be some sort of maximum security prison for demons.
(5:9) Demon possessed people can have more than one demon in them.
(5:10) This demon wanted to remain in this geographical location. Why might this be the case? We are not told, and to answer would only be speculation.
(5:11-12) Is there any significance to the fact that Jesus sent them into the pigs? Swine were “unclean” animals in Israel.
(5:13) How many demons were there in this man? A “legion” of soldiers was 6,000. They said that they were “legion” earlier (v.9). There must have been at least 2,000 demons to enter into all of those pigs.
Again, part of demon possession includes self-harm (v.5). Here, the pigs commit suicide. Imagine the sound of this stampede of pigs as they ran down the hill and off the cliff.
Does this also imply that demons can possess animals? It seems so.
(5:14) This event no doubt led to the rumor mill starting in the nearby towns.
(5:15) They all knew this man, and he was completely healed. Why did this make them “afraid”?
(5:16-17) They may have been afraid of the fact that they were encountering a mightier power. Or they could’ve been angry that all of this pork and bacon had been taken from them (2,000 pigs).
(5:18) The formerly demon possessed man wasn’t afraid of Jesus. He wanted to follow him.
(5:19-20) Note the shift from the “great things the Lord has done” (v.19) and the “great things Jesus had done” (v.20).
Healing of Jairus’ daughter
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8:40-56.]
(5:21) It seems like Jesus went across the water to heal this demon possessed man, and now, he leaves to go back and heal more people.
(5:22) Jesus has been healing multitudes of people in the synagogues, showing his power over the religious leaders. Here, a religious leader (Jairus) is recognizing this authority.
(5:23) Mark records that the girl was “at the point of death.” Later, we learn that she was only a preteen (“twelve years old,” v.42). Luke records that this was his “only daughter” (Lk. 8:42).
(5:24) The crowd wanted to see Jesus do another miracle.
Interruption: A hemorrhaging woman
(5:25) This hemorrhaging would’ve made this woman perpetually ceremonially unclean.
(5:26) Imagine how she would’ve felt: She had spent all sorts of money on getting medical help, but nothing had worked. She probably ran herself into debt trying to get this embarrassing medical condition healed.
(5:27-28) She knew that the solution to her problem was getting near Jesus.
(5:29) Just touching Jesus’ clothes healed her (!!).
(5:30) Jesus didn’t know who touched him (see “The Incarnation” for an explanation of how this could be).
(5:31) The disciples were probably laughing when they asked him this. It would be like asking who elbowed you in the ribs in a mosh pit. There were so many people crowding around him that Jesus’ question didn’t make sense to them.
(5:32-33) Jesus didn’t relent on his inquiry. He eventually discovered who had touched him. The woman was afraid that she had made a mistake. After all, her blood flow made her ceremonially unclean, and she just touched a rabbi.
(5:34) Instead of retaliating against her for touching him, Jesus shows incredible love toward her.
Back to Jairus’ daughter
(5:35) This interruption must’ve been hard for Jairus. Remember, his little girl was “at the point of death” (v.23). How did he feel about Jesus getting distracted with an unclean, hemorrhaging woman? Jesus was delayed by a bleeding woman, and meanwhile, his daughter died!
God doesn’t heal us in our timing, but in his timing.
(5:36) Faith and fear are mutually exclusive. Jesus delayed to build this man’s faith.
(5:37) Jesus only brought his “inner three” disciples with him.
(5:38) The people were getting ready for the funeral service. Lemke writes, “Hired musicians assisted at funeral lamentations in which all the relations and friends joined.”
(5:39) Jesus states that the girl is not physically dead (cf. Mk. 5:39). Was she in a comatose state? Jesus used the term “sleep” as a euphemism for death in John 11:11. However, he uses it here in contrast to death. Regardless, death seems like the ultimate end to us, but Jesus didn’t see it this way. We will die, but we will be raised again.
(5:40) Jesus ignored the laughter of the crowds. He took the parents and his “inner three” disciples with him.
(5:41-42) Jesus had power over death itself.
(5:43) This also fits with the “messianic secret.” Jesus didn’t want his cover to be blown before the time.
Mark 6 (Sending of the Twelve)
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 13:54-58.]
(6:1) Jesus returns home.
(6:2) Again, we’re seeing a theme: Jesus goes into the synagogues to show that he has a wisdom and power that the religious authorities do not.
(6:3) They were offended that a blue collar guy like Jesus (“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”) could be
(6:4) Jesus quotes this in all four gospels (Mt. 13:57; Jn. 4:44; Lk. 4:24). However, this shouldn’t lead us to fatalism, as followers of Christ. After all, Jesus reached his unbelieving family!
(6:5) This makes it sound like Jesus was unable to do miracles, but Matthew explains, “He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Mt. 13:58).
(6:6) The unbelief of these people was perplexing to Jesus.
Sending of the Twelve
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:35-11:1 and Luke 9:1-6.]
Before Jesus summoned his disciples, he prayed that God would “send out workers into His harvest” (Mt. 9:38). This mission was not for the Gentiles or Samaritans, but only for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 10:5-6). This makes sense of why Jesus chose twelve disciples to reach the twelve tribes.
(6:7) Why does Matthew group the Twelve in pairs of two? Matthew records the twelve disciples with pairings for each: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James and Thomas, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot (Mt. 10-2-4). However, Mark just lists the Twelve without any pairings between them (Mk. 3:16-19). Is there any significance to these pairings?
Mark explains that Jesus sent the twelve disciples out “two by two” (Mk. 6:7). Matthew doesn’t mention the “two by two” sending, but Mark does. Thus both gospels mention pairings, but in different ways, complementary to one another.
This passage shows us that God desires to work through human agency. After all, the authority belongs rightfully to Jesus, but we read that Jesus “gave them authority.”
(6:8-9) They were instructed to travel light. They were also supposed to depend on the charitable giving of those they served (Mt. 10:10).
Mark records that they should bring “a mere staff,” but Luke records that they shouldn’t not take a staff (Lk. 9:3). This could be harmonized by the fact that the people would provide these things for them as they travelled (Mt. 10:10).
(6:10) If they were welcomed, then they should stay there.
(6:11) If they were rejected, then they were supposed to move on. There seems to be a principle for us today. There are so many people that are dying to hear about Christ that we shouldn’t spend exorbitant time with those who are hard hearted (cf. Mt. 10:13-14; Lk. 9:4-5).
(6:12) Their message was the same as Jesus’ message: repentance.
(6:13) For the concept of anointing people with oil, see comments on James 5:14.
After he sent his disciples, Jesus himself went out to preach and teach in these cities (Mt. 11:1).
Death of John the Baptist (remembered)
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 14:1-12 and Luke 9:7-9.]
(6:14) People were claiming that Jesus was a resurrected John the Baptist. This is an odd inference, because John the Baptist didn’t perform any miracles.
(6:15) Clearly, the people were confused. They didn’t know if he was John, Elijah, or another prophet.
(6:16) Since John the Baptist was a type of Elijah, the people probably thought that he was coming back (cf. Mt. 16:14; Lk. 9:7-8; Mk. 6:14-15). Herod couldn’t have thought that John had been physically resurrected, because Jesus was already well known at this time. Instead, he probably thought John’s spirit was alive in Jesus.
“King Herod” was also called “Herod Antipas.” Jesus referred to him as a “fox” (Lk. 13:31-32), because Herod put John the Baptist to death. F.F. Bruce writes, “Aretas naturally resented the insult offered to his daughter, and seized the opportunity a few years later to wage war against Antipas (ad 36). The forces of Antipas were heavily defeated, and Josephus says that many people regarded the defeat as divine retribution for Antipas’ killing of John the Baptist. In ad 39 Antipas was denounced to the Emperor Gaius by his nephew Agrippa (see 4) as a plotter; he was deposed from his tetrarchy and ended his days in exile.”
(6:17-18) John the Baptist spoke out against Herod’s righteous marriage, and it landed him in prison.
(6:19-20) Herodias wanted John killed for his views, but Herod was more sympathetic to John.
Josephus tells us that Herod was afraid of John the Baptist’s large public ministry (Antiquities, 18.118).
(6:21-23) Our sex drive can lead us to do very foolish and evil things.
(6:24-25) Herodias used her daughter’s body to get the head of John the Baptist. What a sick and twisted family! This has all of the intrigue of a Game of Thrones episode.
(6:26) Since he made this declaration publicly, he couldn’t take it back.
(6:27-28) He went through with the request.
(6:29) John’s disciples took the body and buried him.
(6:30) This must have been difficult news to share. It would be like a medical doctor telling his patient that she has terminal cancer.
(6:31-32) It’s interesting that Jesus took time to grieve with his close friends, rather than just press on in ministry. They hopped into a boat and got away together to grieve and rest.
Feeding of the 5,000
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-13. Besides the resurrection, this is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four gospels.]
(6:33) Jesus’ plan to grieve didn’t work out. The crowds interrupted him.
(6:34) Even though Jesus was grieving, he still gave out love to these people. He viewed their needs as more important than his own. The concept of them being “sheep without a shepherd” harkens back to Ezekiel 34.
(6:35-36) Once evening came, the disciples wanted to send the people home, so that they could get food.
(6:37) Jesus gave them this imperative. Of course, with God’s power, they could accomplish this. But they didn’t take God’s power into account. Instead, they focused on their own self-effort: Could they really spend a year’s wages (200 denarii) to feed these people?
Originally, Jesus directed his question specifically toward Philip (Jn. 6:5-6). Why did Jesus ask specifically ask Philip where to buy bread? Why does Jesus ask a relatively obscure apostle like Philip, rather than Peter, James, or John? Philip only appears in three places in John’s gospel (Jn. 1:43ff; Jn. 12:21ff; Jn. 14:8ff), so why is he singled out here?
The feeding of the 5,000 occurred near Bethsaida (Lk. 9:10), but John never mentions this. However, John does mention that Philip was from Bethsaida (Jn. 1:43-44; 12:21). McGrew comments, “One can… picture Jesus asking the question in a slightly teasing manner. The fact that Philip was from that vicinity makes the question (and the joke) more pointed. If Philip is from the nearby town, Jesus is in essence saying, ‘Philip, you’re from around here. Where can we get bread for all these people?’” This is another case of interlocking in the gospels, where the authors confirm each other without intending to.
(6:38) They only had a few loaves and fish. Apart from God’s power, this couldn’t do anything to meet the serious spiritual needs around them. We need to take our meager resources and place them into the hands of Jesus for him to use them. We often feel like we don’t have a lot to give, but Jesus can multiply what we have to meet people’s needs.
(6:39) John records that this was during the time of the Passover (Jn. 6:4). This makes sense of Mark’s comment that the grass was green (Mk. 6:39). Throughout the year in this arid place, the green was usually burned dry and dead. But in this time of the year (during Passover), the grass would grow. This is a case of interlocking in the gospels that shows the truthfulness of the accounts.
(6:40) Jesus probably had them sit down so that there wasn’t mob mentality when the food was starting to be served.
(6:41) Jesus works through human agency. He could’ve just snapped his fingers and all of the people would’ve been full. Instead, he wanted the disciples to carry out the food to the people. Mark records that they sat in groups of 100’s and 50’s (Mk. 6:40; cf. Lk. 9:14).
(6:42-43) Is it a coincidence that there were twelve disciples and twelve full baskets left over? The disciples must have been hungry serving people all day, but Jesus more than provided for them when they were through.
John later records that this was a “sign” to show how God wanted to deliver spiritual life to people. Jesus himself was the “bread of life” (Jn. 6:35). So this picture of taking the bread out to people is really a picture of Jesus sending his disciples to bring spiritual life to people.
(6:44) There were 5,000 men, but this doesn’t include the women and children. There could’ve been as many as 10,000 to 20,000 people there.
Jesus walks on water
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 14:22-33 and John 6:14-21.]
(6:45-46) Jesus sent his disciples away in the boat, he sent the crowds away, and he spent some time alone in prayer.
(6:47-49) Matthew records that they were a stadia (~one mile) from shore (Mt. 14:24).
The “fourth watch” was between 3 and 6 am. It would’ve been dark and hard to see. Imagine how scary it would be to see a man walking toward you on the water. This has all of the makings of a good horror movie. The disciples were justifiably terrified.
Jesus had “intended to pass by them.” This doesn’t mean that Jesus was just going to take a stroll across the lake, and happened to bump into the disciples. Instead, it means that he had the intention of them seeing him on this sea. Lemke comments, “The background for making sense of Jesus’ desire to pass by the disciples is in the language used for God’s revelation of His glory to Moses (Ex 33:17–34:8). Alter [sic] Moses asks to see God’s glory, the Lord places him in the cleft of the rock and protects his life by covering him with His hand while His glory ‘is passing by’ (Ex 33:18–22; see 1 Kg 19:11–13). Jesus’ desire to pass by His disciples, therefore, does not indicate that He wanted to go beyond them to reach another location but rather that He wanted to reveal His glory to them.”
(6:50) Jesus’ power was scary to them. If Jesus wasn’t all-loving, it really would be scary to be confronted with his power.
(6:51) Jesus stills the sea for the second time.
(6:52) The disciples didn’t understand his miraculous powers. They didn’t learn the lesson of his miracle of the bread and loaves.
Healing at Gennesaret
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 14:34-36.]
(6:54) Jesus was becoming so famous that people would recognize him when he came to town.
(6:55) They carried fully grown adults to him on pallets. This really shows a considerable amount of faith, because this would be strenuous work.
(6:56) This is similar to the hemorrhaging woman in Matthew 9:20-21 and Mark 5:25-28. Had these people heard about this miracle? Where else did they get the idea of being able to receive healing from touching Jesus’ clothes?
Mark 7 (Truth over Tradition)
Truth over tradition
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 15:1-20 and John 7:1.]
(7:1-2) The religious thinking at the time was that sin could be transmitted into the air or through physical touch with Gentiles or sinners. The washing of the hands was not for hygienic purposes, but for religious purification.
(7:3-4) This parenthetical note gives more details on the ceremonial washing. This isn’t a biblical teaching, but rather the “tradition of the elders.” That is, this is rabbinical Judaism—not biblical Judaism.
(7:5) Again, the religious leaders couldn’t appeal to a single Scripture to support this practice. Instead, they appealed to “the tradition of the elders.”
(7:6-7) Jesus cites Isaiah 29:13.
(7:8) The root issue is that tradition was superseding truth.
(7:9) “You are experts…” The beginning of this passage sounds like it’s going to be an encouragement, but Jesus keeps talking. “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God.”
(7:10) Jesus cites two portions of the Pentateuch. The portion about honoring father and mother (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16) and the part about capital punishment (Ex. 21:17; Lev. 20:9).
In Matthew, Jesus explains that “God said” these things (Mt. 15:3). Here, he says that “Moses said” these things. Jesus believed that God spoke through Moses to write the Scriptures.
(7:11-12) This practice of “Corban” would effectively dishonor their parents by placing their money in the Temple. Lemke writes, “They had devised a tradition by which to avoid their responsibility. When asked for help by father or mother, all they had to do was recite words such as, ‘Any money which I have and which could be used to support you has been dedicated to the temple, and therefore I cannot give it to you.’ By reciting this formula, they were free from financial responsibility to their parents… This loan word from Hebrew was a technical term for a gift or offering reserved for God and therefore no longer available for ordinary use (see Lv 1:2). The scribes of Jesus’ day considered such a dedication as a binding vow, one that could not be broken even if it resulted in harm to one’s parents.” Of course, they could always remove this money in the future. This would be similar to laundering money, so that their parents wouldn’t have access to aid. In other words, the religious leaders were charging Jesus with breaking the rabbinical laws, but Jesus charged them with breaking biblical laws.
(7:13) Tradition cannot contradict Scripture in Jesus’ mind.
Turning to the crowds
(7:14) Jesus addresses “the crowd” here to make this rebuke a teaching opportunity.
(7:15) It isn’t what goes in, but what comes out. Our sin problem isn’t external, but internal. Sin begins in the heart of a person.
(7:16) This enigmatic statement led his disciples to search for more explanation.
(7:17) Matthew states that Peter started this discussion (Mt. 15:15).
(7:18-20) The ceremonial laws were abrogated by Jesus’ death on the Cross (see “Why the Arbitrary Laws?”).
(7:21-23) Again, our sin problem is not external, but internal (see v.15).
Note that Jesus spoke against “fornication” (porneia). This refers to all sexual acts performed outside of the one man, one man, for one lifetime paradigm (see Mt. 19; Mk. 10).
The Syrophoenician Woman
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 15:21-28.]
(7:24) The setting is in Tyre. Jesus couldn’t get away from the crowds. His popularity was immense.
(7:25-26) A Syrophoenician woman asked Jesus to heal her “little girl” from demon possession. Matthew calls her a Canaanite woman (Mt. 15:22).
(7:28) The woman is acknowledging Jesus’ plan to reach the Jewish people first, but she is asking him to show mercy on her anyhow.
(7:29-30) Jesus goes ahead and heals this woman’s daughter on the spot.
Healing a deaf and mute man
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 15:29-31.]
(7:31) Jesus travels from Tyre to Sidon.
(7:32-33) Why did Jesus feel the need to spit in order to heal the man? Did he spit into his hand before he prayed?
(7:34) This is more Aramaic.
Why did Jesus feel the need to look “up” into heaven when God is omnipresent?
(7:35) The man is healed.
(7:36) Again, we see the great irony: When Jesus tells us not to talk about him, we do; when he tells us to talk about him, we often don’t.
(7:37) The crowds continued to build confidence in Jesus.
Mark 8 (Peter: Jesus is the Messiah)
Feeding of the 4,000
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 15:32-38.]
(8:2) The meager resources of these people couldn’t last for three days. It isn’t as though they could drive to Subway to grab some food. They had to pack their food with them.
(8:3) These people chose to put Jesus and his teaching first in their lives. Jesus wasn’t going to let them starve for doing this (cf. Mt. 6:33).
(8:4-9) This is very similar to the feeding of the 5,000 in chapter 14. The main differences are that here there were only 4,000 men (rather than 5,000 men), and they only had seven baskets left over (rather than twelve baskets). This shows that Jesus would perform similar miracles more than once. Sometimes, when we are trying to solve Bible difficulties, interpreters posit two separate miracles, rather than just one. This isn’t an ad hoc hypothesis, because even the same author records similar miracles like this.
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 15:39-16:4.]
(8:10) The scene shifts to Dalmanutha. Matthew calls this “the region of Magadan” (Mt. 15:39).
(8:11) This is really disingenuous, because Jesus had been performing countless signs. Lemke writes, “This was the fourth time the religious leaders had asked for a sign (Mt 12:38; Jn 2:12; 6:30). Miracles do not convince people of sin or give a desire for salvation, but they do offer confirmation where there is genuine faith.”
(8:12) In another place, Jesus says that he will give no sign except the sign of Jonah: that is, his resurrection (Mt. 12:39; 16:4).
Hypocrisy of the religious leaders
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 16:5-12.]
(8:13-14) The disciples forgot to bring bread, but they were right next to a bread-making miracle worker (cf. vv.1-9). Regardless, Jesus uses this as a teaching opportunity.
(8:15) “Leaven” (i.e. yeast) is being used for the hypocritical teaching of the Pharisees (cf. Mt. 16:12).
(8:16) The disciples were taking a hyper-literal interpretation, and they were missing the point.
(8:17) The problem with their misinterpretation was not their intellect, but their “hardened hearts.”
(8:18) Jesus cites Jeremiah 5:21 and Ezekiel 12:2.
One of the keys to changing our hardened heart is to “remember” what God has done for us. In this case, the disciples had forgotten about the feeding of the 4,000, which had just recently happened.
(8:19-20) When Jesus supplied the food for the people, there was plenty left over for the disciples. He’s reminding them that they don’t need to worry about mundane things like bread if they are following him (cf. Mt. 6:33).
(8:21) This question was geared at them so that they could grasp the meaning of the miracles that had already happened. Merely adding more miracles wouldn’t fix their hardened hearts.
Jesus admonishes them for their focus on material things, rather than spiritual things. After all, Jesus had fed 5,000 people just recently (Mt. 14), and if that wasn’t enough, he fed 4,000 more (Mt. 15). Why were they concerned about bread, when Jesus gave them more than enough on two recent occasions?
Healing a blind man
[This miracle is unique to Mark.]
(8:22) This is very similar to the healing in Mark 7:33.
(8:23) What is the reason behind Jesus spitting on the man’s eyes?
(8:24) This implies that some healings would occur through a process, rather than having an immediate effect.
(8:25) Of course, Jesus didn’t lack the ability to heal. The man was completely restored.
(8:26) This continues to fit with the “messianic secret.”
Peter’s confession of Jesus the Messiah
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 16:13-26 and Luke 9:18-25.]
(8:27) Jesus was moving directly into Pagan territory to identify himself as the Son of God. This would be like Frodo walking into Mount Doom to identify that he is going to destroy Sauron. Keener said, “The recently renamed Caesarea Philippi was as pagan a territory as one could find. It was famous for its grotto where people worshiped the Greek God Pan; its earlier name Paneas persisted even in its modern Arabic name, Baneas (compare Josephus, Wars, 1.404), and public pagan rites reportedly continued there until a later Christian miraculously demonstrated that Jesus was more powerful (Eusebius. H.E. 7.17).”
Luke tells us that Jesus was in prayer by himself before he asked them this question (Lk. 9:18). When Jesus asked this question, he was trying to get his disciples thinking about his identity. It isn’t that Jesus was an amnesiac (!), but rather, he was asking this question to get them thinking.
To put this question in context, we need to remember that up until this point Jesus was telling people to keep his identity secret, even as he performed miracle after miracle after miracle. Now that he has fully proven himself to his disciples, he wants them to see that he is in fact the Messiah.
Why so much evidence? Couldn’t one miracle have done the job? Not likely. After all, we’ve been seeing that the disciples were slow to understand the ramifications of Jesus’ miracles. Moreover, Jesus is about to drop a theological bomb on the disciples: the Messiah will be crucified! (Mk. 8:31; Mt. 16:21) In Jewish thinking, this was a remarkable and unforeseen turn of events in God’s plan, and Jesus wanted to provide as much evidence for his identity as possible before he revealed this to them.
(8:28) We already heard these claims in Mark 6:14.
Jesus wasn’t satisfied being called just a good teacher or a good prophet. He wanted them to see that he was far greater than these titles. Incidentally, this idea still confronts the modern reader, who claims that Jesus was merely a “good moral teacher.”
(8:29) Matthew’s account goes even farther. Peter continues to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). Luke records that Peter said, “The Christ of God” (Lk. 9:20).
(8:30) Again, this fits with the messianic secret, which wouldn’t be revealed until after Jesus’ resurrection (Mk. 9:9).
(8:31-32) Peter understood Jesus’ nature, but not his mission. The dominant view of the Messiah was that he would kill the evildoers—not be killed for the evildoers.
(8:33) Peter did such a good job identifying Jesus (v.29) that now he wants to correct Jesus. For those of us who follow Christ, this is never a good idea. Peter thought that the Messiah was coming to judge the wicked Romans—not to be judged himself.
What a stern rebuke! Mark notes that this was in front of the other disciples (“seeing his disciples”). This doesn’t mean that Peter was necessarily demon-possessed, but rather than he was speaking from Satan’s perspective. Instead of focusing on God’s plan, Peter was driving his own (finite and limited) plan.
(8:34) The One who commands us to take up our cross and lose our lives, was the same One who took up the Cross and lost his life.
(8:35) This was Jesus’ most repeated teaching in the four gospels. This “riddle” appears in all four gospels at least once (Mt. 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; Jn. 12:25), in Matthew twice (Mt. 10:39; 16:25) and Luke twice (Lk. 9:24; 17:33). Mark adds “for My sake and the gospel’s” (Mk. 8:35).
(8:36-37) Why should we lose our lives for others? Jesus gives us two reasons: (1) we can’t keep our status or power on Earth anyways and (2) God will richly reward us based on our sacrificial love.
(8:38) If we reject Jesus, then the Father will reject us.
Mark 9 (The Transfiguration)
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36.]
(9:1) The chapter divisions are much better in Mark, than in Matthew (Mt. 16:28). In Mark, we see that the (likely) fulfillment for this statement is found in the Transfiguration.
(9:2) Jesus leads the disciples up the mountain to reveal himself. We don’t know which mountain this was. Tradition tells us that it was Mount Tabor, but this is unlikely because a fortress existed up there. Others think that this was Mount Hermon. The importance isn’t the mountain, but the revelation of Jesus. Similarly, it didn’t matter which bush was burning when God revealed himself to Moses (Ex. 3). The more important issue was God’s revelation.
Matthew and Mark both record that “six days” passed (Mt. 17:1; Mk. 9:2), but Luke records that it was “eight days” (Lk. 9:28). How do we resolve this? For one, Luke writes that is was “some eight days after these sayings,” which may imply a general time period. Moreover, the trek up the mountain could’ve taken an extra two days, and Luke may be including these extra two days.
(9:3) Just like movies have previews, this is a little sneak peek of Jesus’ true nature. Matthew uses the term “transfigured” (metamorphosis) to describe Jesus’ transformation (Mt. 17:2). Mark adds that his clothes were so white “as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mk. 9:3). He sounds like he is advertising for a Downy commercial!
Luke adds that Jesus was praying when the Transfiguration took place.
(9:4) Moses had never made it into the Promised Land until this moment. Some commentators point out that Moses and Elijah were chosen because they represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah).
Luke adds that Moses and Elijah were speaking to Jesus about his “departure” (Greek exodus) from Jerusalem.
Since they had been hiking all day up this mountain, this event probably happened at night. After all, Luke notes that he disciples were sleeping when this event occurred (Lk. 9:32). They woke up to this overwhelming light being generated by Jesus himself.
(9:5-6) Like a lot of people having a “mountain top” experience, Peter didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay locked in this incredible experience. Mark adds that Peter “did not know what to answer” because he was “terrified.” Luke adds that Peter didn’t realize what he was talking about (Lk. 9:33). Peter was on sensory overload!
Why did they react in fear and terror? Modern people usually assert that religious experiences are always pleasant and tranquil. While God does want to fill us with his love, there is an aspect in the Bible that coming into the raw presence of God is terrifying. Regularly, biblical figures feel overwhelmed and wrecked by the presence of the real, transcendent God.
Comparative religion scholars like Rudolph Otto talk about the horror of coming into the presence of the divine—not the warm fuzzies. They call this the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. The mysterium (refers to “wholly other”), termendum (refers to “awfulness, terror, awe”), and fascinans (refers to “attractiveness in spite of fear”). When Isaiah saw God in his throne room, he said, “I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5). The second time Peter saw Jesus’ miracles, he said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk. 5:8). When Jesus returns at his Second Coming, all people will collapse to the ground (Phil. 2:10).
If we collapse in the presence of a spectacular person (e.g. so much smarter, more charismatic, more attractive, so much better at something you think you’re good at), how will we respond in the presence of God? You’re intrigued and attracted, but you also sense your personal inadequacy. If it can be traumatic to be in the presence of human glory, then how much more in the presence of divine glory?
(9:7) In the OT, God usually revealed himself in the form of a cloud. Luke records that they “entered the cloud” (Lk. 9:34). This must symbolize coming into the very presence of God.
The content of God the Father’s message is identical to Jesus’ baptism, but he adds another thought that they should listen to Jesus. He doesn’t tell the disciples to listen to Moses or Elijah (though they certainly should); instead he tells them to listen to Jesus—the ultimate revelation of God. It was Moses who predicted a future prophet whom the people should listen to (Deut. 18:15).
(9:8) At this point, everyone was gone except Jesus. This reminds us of when Commissioner Gordon is talking to Batman in front of the bat signal, and when he turns around, Batman is gone.
God came into the world to direct these disciples to Jesus. In Matthew’s account, we read Jesus came up and “touched” them, and he told them not to be afraid (Mt. 17:7). While God’s transcendence is scary, Jesus bridges this gap for us, so we can come into the presence of God.
Elijah and the End Times
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 17:9-13 and Luke 9:36.]
(9:9) Again, this fits with Mark’s emphasis on the “messianic secret.” Note that Jesus is already saying that he will allow them to speak after his resurrection (cf. Mt. 17:9).
(9:10) Clearly, they couldn’t grasp what he was saying. They were so focused on the Messiah liberating Israel from her foreign occupiers that they could fathom a dying Messiah.
(9:11-13) This question is interesting—especially since it comes on the heels of Elijah actually appearing to Jesus (Mt. 17:3). Jesus affirms that Elijah will return in the future (Mal. 4:5), but he argues that John the Baptist was a figurative Elijah.
See comments on (Mt. 11:14) Could John the Baptist be a figurative Elijah?
Healing a demon possessed man
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 17:14-21 and Luke 9:37-43.]
(9:14) The scribes were arguing with Jesus’ other followers while he was gone. Were the religious leaders trying to pull away these disciples while Jesus was gone?
(9:15) The crowd wasn’t persuaded by the religious leaders. Instead, they came to Jesus.
(9:16) Jesus wanted to be included in on the debate.
(9:17-18) This demon produced self-harm and convulsions in this boy (see Mark 5).
(9:19) Jesus expresses frustration, but he still chose to serve.
(9:20) The demon reacted violently to merely seeing Jesus in the flesh.
(9:21-22) Were the scribes arguing that Jesus couldn’t really help him? (v.14) Perhaps they were saying, “Jesus isn’t around, and he couldn’t help you even if he was here!”
(9:23) Jesus picked up on the subtlety of this man’s unbelief (“If you can…”). Jesus was a careful listener—even in times of crisis.
(9:24) Jesus accepted this “mustard seed” of faith! (Mt. 17:20) For more on the relationship between faith and doubt, see comments on James 1:6.
(9:25) Why did Jesus need to add this last part? (“…and do not enter him again…”). This must imply that demons can reenter people. Luke adds that the demon would “maul” the young boys when it left him, but it would come back (Lk. 9:39). If indeed the demon would come and go, then this would make sense of Jesus’ command for the demon to leave the boy “and do not enter him again” (Mk. 9:25). Jesus didn’t want this demon to return.
(9:26) The process of being healed from demon possession isn’t easy. The kid looked like a “corpse.” The healing is hard, but the alternative is worse.
(9:27) That must’ve been really comforting to be embraced by Jesus like that after being terrorized by a demon.
(9:28-29) What were the disciples doing to drive out the demon? Waving their arms? Yelling and screaming? Stomping their feet? Apparently, they didn’t try “prayer.” We might find this absurd, but how little do we pray against Satan? Often, we try self-effort, rather than turning to God in simple prayer.
Matthew mentions “fasting” in his account (Mt. 17:21), but our earliest manuscripts do not contain this verse. In Mark’s account, Jesus only mentions “prayer,” not fasting (Mk. 9:29).
Predicting his death
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 17:22-23 and Luke 9:43-45.]
(9:30-32) Jesus returns to Galilee. Again, this touches on the messianic secret (“He did not want anyone to know about it”). The disciples couldn’t grasp what he was talking about.
Who is the greatest?
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 18:1-5 and Luke 9:46-48.]
(9:33-34) The disciples felt proud and confident when talking to each other, but they went “silent” once Jesus came addressed them. Luke adds that Jesus knew “what they were thinking in their heart” (Lk. 9:47).
Our self-righteousness really crumbles when we come into the presence of true righteousness. We are like a bunch of elementary school kids boasting about our athletic abilities, until we come into the presence of Lebron James.
(9:35-37) Jesus claims that the humility and dependence of children is true greatness, rather than the pride and self-righteousness which is so common to adults.
This must have been shocking to Jesus’ audience for him to extol children. In the ancient world, kids were looked down upon. NT scholar Steve Lemke writes, “A child in the ancient world had no real status, so to use a child as an example of the humility one must have was a powerful illustration. To welcome a child was to welcome someone with no status, and yet Jesus gave that child a status equal to His own. In this way, the least are to be seen as great.”
In the ancient world, children were not viewed as significant. For instance, m. ‘Abot 3:10 reads, “Morning sleep, mid-day wine, chattering with children and tarrying in places where men of common people assemble, destroy a man.”
Joel Green writes, “Children were the weakest, most vulnerable among the population. They had little implicit value as human beings, a reality that is related to the likelihood that they would not survive into adulthood. Even if women procured their place in the household by bearing children, especially sons, children themselves were of the lowest status.”
Why does Jesus appeal to a little child to make his point about greatness? What is it about little children that Jesus was trying to extol?
It is NOT the gullibility or ignorance of children. Paul writes, “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).
It is NOT the selfishness of children. Kids are born with a sin nature like everyone else, and sometimes children show this more ably than adults.
It IS the humility and dependence of children. Jesus specifically says that we need to “humble” ourselves like little children (v.3). We need to becoming like children in our ability to being willing to receive gifts, willing to admit they can’t handle situations, and willing to be helped. Kids never say, “I couldn’t never accept this gift from you.” Instead, their eyes light up with excitement. They don’t stand aloof when they have problems; instead they run to and cling to their parents for help. They are totally dependent on their parents.
Jesus is looking for this sort of attitude in his disciples. The chief virtue of the Christian life is humility (see “Humility”).
Should we stop others from serving God?
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 18:6-14 and Luke 9:49-50.]
(9:38) The gospels never tell us who this Jewish exorcist was. Perhaps the disciples were jealous of this man or maybe territorial in some way (?).
(9:39-40) Jesus takes a laissez-faire approach. If the man is doing good, then leave him alone. Jesus’ point seems to be that if a person is empowered to do a miracle in Jesus’ name, then they wouldn’t deny his name later on.
(9:40) Note that this construction is different than Jesus’ statement in Matthew: “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Mt. 12:30).
(9:41) Jesus seems to be saying that God will judge people who are in the periphery of spirituality.
(9:42) Jesus also promises punishment toward those who would lead a little child astray. The imagery here is graphic: It is the severity of a mafia boss promising “concrete shoes” to someone so that they will “swim with the fishes.” However, this warning is not to hurt good men, but to protect weak and vulnerable people like children.
(9:43) This is identical to Matthew 5:30 and 18:8.
(9:44) This verse is identical to verse 48, but it is not in our earliest manuscripts.
(9:45) Again, this is similar to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:30).
(9:46) This verse is identical to verse 48, but it is not in our earliest manuscripts.
(9:47) This is identical to Matthew 5:29 and 18:9.
(9:48) Jesus cites Isaiah 66:24.
(9:49-50) What does it mean to be “salted with fire”? And how does this relate to having “salt in yourselves” (v.50)?
Mark 10 (Ethical Teaching)
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 19:1-12. Matthew reports this conversation in a different order than Mark, but the meaning is identical.]
(10:1) Jesus came back to Judea, where the religious leaders were more centrally located. This would make sense as to why this question on divorce would come up in this geographical location.
(10:2) This was a trap. Matthew’s account records that they asked if a man could divorce his wife “for any reason at all” (Mt. 19:3). The key to this passage is understanding the background views on marriage and divorce. The school of Shammai was strict, and the school of Hillel was loose. To remember these schools, use this slightly irreverent aid:
- Shammai: Samurais (Shammai’s) are strict.
- Hillel: The school of Hillel would answer, “What the hillel? Do whatever you want!”
The religious leaders were “testing” Jesus with this question. They were asking, “Do you agree with Shammai or with Hillel?” They were trying to trap him into a dilemma. Jesus splits the horns of the dilemma and offers a unique view instead.
(10:3) Jesus takes them back to Scripture, rather than rabbinical debate and dispute.
(10:4) They cite Deuteronomy 24:1.
(10:5) Moses gave permission to divorce, but this wasn’t God’s ideal.
(10:6-8) Jesus cites from God’s original design, rather than the Law (Gen. 1:27; 2:24). Paul makes a similar appeal in Ephesians 5:31 and 1 Corinthians 6:16.
(10:9) If marriage is really the bonding of a husband and wife together, then we don’t have the authority to separate it through rabbinical, theological discussions (“Let no man separate”).
(10:10) As usual, the disciples wanted to know more.
(10:11-12) Matthew includes that Jesus gives a qualification for divorce: “unfaithfulness” (porneia, Mt. 19:9).
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 20:17-28 and Luke 18:31-34.]
(10:13) Were the disciples rebuking the parents or the kids?
(10:14-16) This attitude toward kids made Jesus upset (“indignant”). Jesus loved children (see comments above in Mark 9:33-37).
Possession and Pride
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30.]
(10:17) Luke calls this man “a ruler” (Lk. 18:18). The man kneels before Jesus, so he must have some sort of respect for Jesus.
(10:18) If only God is good, then does this man realize what he’s saying?
(10:19) Jesus tells the man to keep the Ten Commandments. Jesus is clearly teaching Law here. His objective is to showing the crushing weight of the Law, so that the man is open to hearing about grace.
(10:20) Really? You’ve kept all of the Ten Commandments perfectly since your youth? Since the man is on a moral improvement project, Jesus ups the ante.
(10:21) Jesus didn’t call this man out of a life of materialism because he was self-righteous or cruel. He did this because he “loved” the man. As believers, we need to have the same attitude toward those caught in the snare of materialism.
Jesus was offering (1) true treasures in Heaven and (2) a relationship with himself.
(10:22) The moral improvement project was crushed. Jesus touched on the one thing that the man clearly hadn’t given over to God.
(10:23-24) Wealth can have a deceiving and seductive effect on the human heart.
(10:25) Pastors often claim that Jesus was referring to the “needle’s eye,” which was a little gate that camels had to stoop to get through. William Barclay writes, “It is said that beside the great gate into Jerusalem through which traffic went, there was a little gate just wide and high enough for a man to get through. It is said that that little gate was called the needle’s eye, and that the picture is of a camel trying to struggle through it.” The problem with this interpretation is that it is demonstrably false! No such gate exists. Another scholar writes, “The so-called needle’s eye gate in ancient Palestine has no historical basis, and is purely the concoction of a European expositor several centuries ago.”
(10:26) The disciples were realizing the incredible, crushing weight of the Law (v.19).
(10:27) If it was up to us, no one would be saved. Saving implies that we are the passive recipients, and someone else needs to do the saving. We cannot save ourselves.
(10:28) Wealth is the only reward the non-believer has. But God promises to give rewards to those who sacrificed for the cause of Christ. Luke’s version adds that the disciples “left their homes” to follow Jesus (Lk. 18:28).
(10:29-30) We never have to worry about outgiving God! He has all of the resources in the universe and beyond. If we give something to God, he is able and willing to give much more back. At the same time, we need to give over our lives and resources from the heart—not some sort of religious manipulation.
Health and wealth preachers like to quote this passage to claim that God will make us rich and healthy, but note that Jesus says we will also get “persecutions” for following him (Mk. 10:30).
(10:31) In God’s economy, the locus of value is flipped upside down. Jesus promises that the way of the world will be reversed in eternity.
Who is the greatest?
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 20:17-28 and Luke 18:31-34.]
(10:32-34) The death of the Messiah was such a counter-intuitive concept that Jesus needed to keep repeating this. As believers, we find this concept to make sense, but we need to remember how strange this would be in a first-century Jewish context. Jesus wanted them to be prepared.
(10:35) In Matthew’s account, the mother of James and John was pestering Jesus (Mt. 20:20-21). Did it embarrass John and James that their mom came and asked Jesus this? Did they put her up to it? Mark simply says that James and John were asking Jesus this question, so all three were probably bugging Jesus about this.
Remember, this whole question is given on the heels of Jesus repeatedly telling his disciples that he was going to be crucified.
(10:36) Jesus wouldn’t sign a blank check. He wanted to know what they wanted first.
(10:37) Jesus’ glory was… the Cross!
(10:38) The cup refers to God’s wrath, and the baptism refers to Jesus’ suffering (i.e. being put into suffering). Jesus was thinking of the “cup” of suffering, but James and John probably thought he was thinking of a cup of stately wine.
(10:39) Careful what you pray for!
Later church history tells us that James and John suffered intensely for Jesus. Luke records that James was run through by a sword (Acts 12:2). The early church fathers record that John was tortured and exiled for his faith in Christ.
(10:40) Matthew specifies that “the Father” will make this decision.
(10:41) The other disciples didn’t realize what transaction took place. They thought that James and John were getting some sort of benefit. In reality, they were getting more suffering. It is in this context that Jesus begins to correct the disciples’ false beliefs about the nature of leadership.
(10:42) Leadership in the world-system is characterized by “lording it over” others. Leadership is a power trip, and everyone can see it.
(10:43-44) Jesus didn’t deny the need for leadership or “greatness.” Instead, he redefines it. Leadership is based on serving and taking the lower seat.
(10:45) Why would we choose to do this? Jesus sets the example of the ultimate servant.
Healing a blind man
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 20:29-34 and Luke 18:35-43.]
(10:46) Mark gives more information about this blind man, giving us his name (“Bartinmaeus”) and his heritage (“the son of Timaeus”).
Matthew records that there were actually two blind men (Mt. 20:30), but Mark only focuses on one of them.
(10:47) The man called him by his messianic title (“Son of David”).
(10:48) This man overcame the peer pressure of the crowds to get to Christ. The people didn’t understand why he was so aggressively seeking Christ. The man was probably a little embarrassed to continue to seek Jesus, but it was well worth it.
(10:49) Jesus responds to seekers.
(10:50-51) He must have insecurely hobbled through the crowd, groping in the dark, reaching out for Jesus.
The man didn’t need to talk Jesus into healing him. Instead, he made a simple request, and Jesus was willing to heal him.
(10:52) This man had a genuine faith, because this healing led him to follow Jesus.
Mark 11 (The Triumphal Entry)
The Triumphal Entry
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:1-17, Luke 19:29-44, and John 12:12-19.]
(11:1) Jesus has now come close to Jerusalem at Bethany and Bethphage—near the Mount of Olives (see ch.13).
(11:2) Jesus instruct his disciples to get a colt from the nearby village.
(11:3) He prepares them for potential objections from the people there. These two verses really show that Jesus had supernatural foreknowledge. Jesus knew that there was a donkey and a colt there. He not only knows this, but he also knows how people will respond if the disciples start untying and walking off with their property. He also knows what people will freely do if they hear the words, “The Lord has need of them.”
(11:4-6) Jesus’ prediction came true, and the disciples brought the colt.
(11:7) Matthew 21:6-7 makes it sound like Jesus was riding both the donkey and the colt at the same time—maybe straddling both. Mark and Luke only mention the colt—not the donkey.
(11:8) Imagine how serious you would need to be to spread your coat on the street below the feet of Jesus’ donkey.
John adds that these were the branches of “palm trees” (Jn. 12:13). The “leafy branches” is where we get the title “Palm Sunday.”
(11:9) The people were singing Psalm 118:26.
(11:10) They were expecting the “coming [messianic] kingdom.”
(11:11) Jesus got a full view of the hypocrisy in the Temple. It was too late at night for him to clear the Temple.
The fig tree
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:18-19 and Luke 19:45-48.]
(11:12) Jesus was truly human. He “became hungry.”
(11:13-14) Jesus curses this poor, poor fig tree. How could he?? (We hope our sarcasm is evident.) Many skeptics treat this as an unforgiveable sin on Jesus’ behalf.
Lemke explains the likely meaning of this event, “The fig tree was frequently associated with Israel in the Prophets (Jr 29:17; Hs 9:10, 16; Mc 7:1–6). Micah 7:1–6 compared the absence of early figs to the dearth of righteousness.”
The cleansing of the Temple
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:12-13, 18-19 and Luke 19:45-48.]
(11:15-16) Why was Jesus being so harsh? These religious leaders were profiteering off of a poor culture. The historical background of this graft is important.
Josephus: “When Pompeii entered Jerusalem (80 BC), ‘There were in that temple… the treasures two thousand talents of sacred money.’” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4:76)
- One Attic talent was ~ 60 lbs.
- 2,000 talents
- 120,000 lbs of gold
- 92 million ounces (an ounce is $1,500)
Josephus: “Now Crassus… carried off the money that was in the temple, which Pompeius had left, being two thousand talents, and was disposed to spoil it of all the gold belonging to it, which was eight thousand talents.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7:105)
- 68 million ounces
- In total, $14.4 billion.
Josephus: “The Romans exacted of us, in a little time, above ten thousand talents; and the royal authority… became the property of private men.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4:77)
Josephus: “And let no one wonder that there was so much wealth in our temple, since all the Jews throughout the habitable earth, and those that worshipped God, nay, even those of Asia and Europe, sent their contributions to it. Nor is the largeness of these sums without its attestation; nor is that greatness owing to our vanity, as raising it without ground to so great a height; but there are many witnesses to it.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7:2)
For a milder example, consider spending $20 for a beer at a sports game. Once you’re at the Temple, you can’t go back and get another lamb from home. You must get bilked by the people in the Temple.
Imagine buying a used car for 8 grand, only to discover that it was only worth 2 grand. In fact, I think I’ve bought a few cars like that…
Jesus’ cleansing was not good for business. Mark adds that Jesus “would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple” (Mk. 11:16). This would be like shutting off the power at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. They wanted to dispense of him, but they couldn’t because he was well liked. Mark adds that the religious leaders “were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching” (Mk. 11:18).
(11:17) Jesus cites Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.
(11:18) The religious leaders could see that Jesus was winning over the crowds, and he was now dismantling the locus of their religious power (i.e. the Temple).
The fig tree dies
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:19-22 and Luke 21:37-38.]
(11:19) Jesus was in the city (or maybe even the Temple) until nighttime.
(11:20) They saw the withered fig tree (vv.13-14).
(11:21) In Matthew’s account, the disciples ask Jesus how this was possible (Mt. 21:20).
(11:22) Jesus is pointing out their lack of faith by asking this question. Incidentally, he confers this same power of prayer to the disciples.
(11:23) A key to prayer is to trust in the One to whom you’re praying.
(11:24) When we are praying in God’s will, we can bank on the fact that he is going to answer us (1 Jn. 5:14-15).
(11:25) This shows that our forgiveness toward others should be unconditional.
(11:26) Early manuscripts do not contain this verse, but regardless, it is very similar to Matthew 6:15 and 18:35. This is in the old covenant, so forgiveness was not yet unconditional toward believers in Jesus (compare with Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).
Debating the religious leaders
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:23-32 and Luke 20:1-8.]
(11:27-28) Jesus reenters the Temple, and this time the religious leaders are waiting for him. They are trying to trap him into giving himself away. Jesus has a trap of his own.
(11:29-30) Jesus springs a true theological dilemma on the religious leaders. He asks if John the Baptist’s authority was from God (“from heaven”) or not from God (“from men”). If they go with the first horn of the dilemma, then they would need to admit that Jesus was also from God, because John the Baptist affirmed Jesus. But if they chose the second horn of the dilemma, then they would be at odds with the people, because John was so popular.
Which option do they choose?
(11:31-33) They chose agnosticism (“We do not know”). This really isn’t a fair answer. Often, people say, “I don’t know” thinking that it’s the safe position. But in reality, their agnosticism is really a lack of intellectual integrity and causes them to miss out on what God has to offer them.
Jesus knows that the issue is not with knowledge, but with their hearts. So he doesn’t give them more evidence or debate with them.
Mark 12 (Debating the Religious Leaders)
Parable of the Vine-growers
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:33-46 and Luke 20:9-19.]
(12:1) This comes from Isaiah 5:1-2.
(12:2-5) The Owner wanted to collect the money which rightly belonged to him. He sends multiple waves of slaves to collect the money, but the renters keep killing or beating them.
(12:6) The Owner believes that the key problem is that they don’t “respect” these slaves, but they were surely “respect” his son.
(12:7-9) Instead of respecting the son, they see this as an opportunity to kill the son and illegally seize the vineyard for themselves. Jesus uses this parable to get the religious leaders to identify with the Owner, and his rightful need for justice.
In Matthew’s account, the religious leaders agree that those renters should be judged, and the vineyard should be given away (Mt. 21:41).
(12:10-11) Jesus cited Psalm 118:22-23. He is showing that God predicted that his plan (“his cornerstone” Jesus) would be rejected by his own people.
(12:12) The religious leaders understood the parable was referring to them. They got the message.
Jesus: the Great Debater
Notice how Jesus’ opponents are trying to trap, and how deftly he maneuvers in debate. This is a case where people are getting off on rabbit trails, but Jesus was able to hit them with a good question in return. He doesn’t stay on the defensive the entire time, but instead, he forces his opponents to answer some questions.
Debate #1: PHARISEES ask about Caesar and God
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26.]
(12:13) The Pharisees come to “trap” Jesus in a debate. This shows how important it is to know truth, know how to defend it, and be prepared for how to maneuver in these tough situations (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).
(12:14) They seem to be buttering Jesus up. Remember, they are trying to “trap” him.
They bring up a very heated topic in the first century. Different factions of Jews had different views on this topic. The Pharisees and Sadducees believed it was permissible to pay taxes to the godless, Roman emperor. The Pharisees were waiting for the Messiah to overthrow Rome, and the Sadducees were getting wealthy off of this arrangement. Meanwhile, the Zealot party was in hostile opposition to paying taxes to Rome. They were similar to those who were “zealous for the Law” in the days of the Maccabean Revolt.
If Jesus agreed to the tax, his messianic status would be questioned. After all, the Messiah was supposed to dethrone Caesar—not pay taxes to him. But if he disagreed, then he would be viewed as a threat to Rome, which was a capital offense. Which horn of the dilemma will Jesus choose?
This topic was so heated that the religious authorities brought this up at Jesus’ trial (Lk. 23:2).
(12:15-17) Jesus could see through this trap. Mark calls this “hypocrisy,” because they themselves could also be asked this question and wouldn’t be able to answer it. That is, this wasn’t just a tough question for Jesus to answer, but for everyone to answer.
Jesus’ answer is really brilliant. He doesn’t fall into the dilemma. Instead, he splits the dilemma by showing that the political and spiritual authorities are different. By saying so little, we could interpret Jesus to be saying that we should pay taxes to Caesar, because that is his money (cf. Rom. 13:1-7). But we can also see beneath this answer a radical commitment to God. After all, what things belong to God? Everything! (Ps. 24:1)
Debate #2: SADDUCEES ask about the Resurrection
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-40.]
(12:18) Note the present tense (“[those] who say there is no resurrection”). Those who date Mark after AD 70 will have difficulty with this passage, because the Sadducees virtually disappeared after the Jewish Revolt (AD 66) and the Destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70).
(12:19) Instead of a political trap, they argue a theological trap. They cite Deuteronomy 25:5, which told the Jewish people to marry a widowed woman.
(12:20-23) They are using an argument ad absurdum. That is, you adopt the premise of your opponent, and carry it out to his logical and absurd conclusions. They are trying to show that the concept of resurrection is absurd, because it would make marriage (an eternal bond) absurd.
HUMOR: The real question is why seven men would marry such an unlucky and deadly woman!
(12:24) Jesus is assuming that they (1) know what the Scriptures are and (2) what the Scriptures teach (note the same concept in verse 31). This defeats the notion that the Jewish canon was still undecided or unknown in Jesus’ day.
(12:25) Marriage lasts until “death do we part.” Moreover, we will not get remarried in heaven. Thus, Jesus answers their objection.
(12:26-27) Now, Jesus goes on the offensive and strikes them with a theological argument of his own. The Sadducees respected the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). Jesus cites Exodus 3:6 to support his concept of the afterlife. Mark’s account makes it clear that Jesus has Exodus 3 in mind, because he says, “The passage about the burning bush…” (Mk. 12:26; cf. Lk. 20:37).
Jesus makes his argument on the verb tenses. It doesn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham.” It says, “I am the God of Abraham.”
Debate #3: A SCRIBE asks about the Law
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 22:34-40.]
(12:28) Mark’s account is slightly different. He places a “scribe” asking this question, rather than the Pharisees (Mt. 22:34).
This was a test because rabbinical thinkers argued over how to accurately systematize the OT law.
(12:29-31) Jesus doesn’t bend on his conviction that the purpose of the Law was to love God (Deut. 6:5) and love our neighbor (Lev. 19:18).
(12:32-33) The scribe approves of Jesus’ answer.
(12:34) Jesus doesn’t say that he was in the kingdom, because he was citing law—not grace. Instead, Jesus says that he is close to the kingdom. If the scribe allowed the crushing weight of the Law to have its effect, he would be open to grace.
When Jesus wanted to debate, he could argue his opponents into utter silence. Why did Jesus do this? Was it because he wanted to embarrass the Pharisees? Not at all. He waited until this point in his ministry to publicly take them down in debate to reveal to them and the crowds that their real problem with him was not intellectual or theological; instead, it was moral and spiritual.
Mark’s account points out that the “large crowd enjoyed listening to him” (Mk. 12:37). While Jesus didn’t reach all of the religious leaders, his message bounced off of their hardened hearts and connected with the crowds.
Debate #4: Jesus asks them about the Messiah
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-40.]
(12:35-37) But Jesus doesn’t feel satisfied just defending his convictions. Again, he goes on the offensive in the debate. Now it’s time for them to answer some questions. He argues that Psalm 110 was written by David, and yet David could refer to the Messiah as his “Lord.” How could this be, unless the Messiah was greater than David?
Jesus rebukes their hypocrisy
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 23:1-39 and Luke 20:45-47.]
(12:38-40) Matthew’s account is much more extensive. Here, Jesus’ central grievance with the religious leaders is that they enjoy the praise of people, but they are immoral leaders.
The widow’s giving
[The parallel passage is found in Luke 21:1-4.]
(12:41) The wealthy members of society were giving “large sums” of money.
(12:42) A poor woman only gave a single “cent.”
(12:43) In God’s economy, the widow gave more than “all the contributors” that day. Why?
(12:44) Presumably, she gave her offering in faith, knowing that she was poor but giving anyhow.
Mark 13 (The Olivet Discourse)
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. John doesn’t contain this teaching of Jesus, but he does have an entire 22 chapter book dedicated to the end of human history: Revelation.]
For a thorough response to a Preterist reading of the Olivet Discourse, see James Rochford, Endless Hope or Hopeless End, “Chapter 8: Was Jesus a Preterist?” pp.97-108.
(13:1-2) The Jewish Temple was beautiful and enormous. Josephus writes that the stones were 40 feet long, 18 feet deep, and 12 feet tall. The Talmud records, “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has not seen a beautiful thing.”
The fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction occurred in AD 70. Virtually all interpreters agree on this. Regarding the destruction of the Temple, Josephus recorded, “It was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came [near] believe it had ever been inhabited.”
(13:3) Mark’s account states that Jesus spoke these things to his “inner three” disciples: Peter, James, and John. Remember, John goes on to write the book of Revelation.
(13:5-6) It’s interesting that Jesus opens up this discussion on the end times by warning about false teachers. 2,000 years later, many false teachers have flocked to end times prophecy like flies to dung.
(13:7-8) Preterists note that many messianic pretenders arose during the time between Jesus’ resurrection (AD 33) and the Jewish War (AD 66). Is Jesus referring to this time period or to the end of human history? Preterists very well be correct in seeing this period as referring to the history leading up to AD 70.
Famines (Acts 11:28) and earthquakes (Acts 16:26 are recorded in the book of Acts. This could also refer to the first century world—not the end of history. Again, a first century fulfillment wouldn’t preclude the Futurist reading, because Jesus continues to say that “these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”
(13:9) This sounds similar to Matthew 10:17.
(13:10) This may refer to the Church spreading the gospel to all nations. This could also refer to angels spreading the gospel during the Tribulation (Rev. 14).
(13:11) We should never use this passage as an excuse for lacking preparation in teaching or apologetics (1 Pet. 3:15). This passage says that we shouldn’t worry. It doesn’t say that we shouldn’t work.
(13:14) Matthew makes it clear that Jesus is referring to the book of Daniel, and most likely Daniel 9:27 (Mt. 24:15).
Mark’s account uses the masculine singular to refer to a person standing in the Temple (“when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be” Mk. 13:14 ESV). This shows that the Futurist reading of Daniel 9:27 is correct—namely, that Daniel was predicting a man (the Antichrist) desecrating the Temple (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-5).
(13:15-16) In Matthew’s account, the setting is in “Judea” (24:16) and there is a return to “Sabbath” keeping (24:20). If the Futurist reading is correct, then a return of Jewish life is implied by these descriptions.
When believers see the Abomination of Desolation, they are to urgently flee. This is the language of a fireman telling people not to grab precious commodities from a house that is on fire. There is simply no time to linger. Jesus is saying, “Get out NOW!”
(13:17) This would be an especially bad time to have children.
(13:18) This would be an especially bad time for travelling during the winter—mostly because you wouldn’t have any possessions—not even a “cloak” (v.16). It would be rough travelling.
(13:19) The overwhelming horror of this event fits best with a Futurist reading—not a Preterist reading.
(13:21-22) This period of history will be an intense time of deception. Just as Jesus gave “signs” to demonstrate his identity, these false Messiahs and false prophets will be empowered (by Satan—not God) to lead people astray.
This differs slightly from John’s description in Revelation. John writes of a singular false Christ (“the Beast”) and a singular false prophet.
This fits with Paul’s teaching about the end of human history: “[The Antichrist’s] coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:9-12).
(13:23) This period of history will be terrifying, but Jesus reassures us that we have the truth “in advance.” There is no good reason why a believer in Jesus should fall away, because Jesus has told us the plans of the Enemy “in advance.”
(13:24-25) This passage occurs “after the tribulation.” This means that the “great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21) has past, and this is ended with the return of Christ. The imagery of the sun, moon, and stars is most likely phenomenological language describing the cataclysmic return of Christ.
(13:26) Jesus will literally return—just as he literally left (Acts 1:11).
(13:27) Jesus will use angelic agency to gather believers at this time. Remember, these believers just escaped the final world war—a war that would’ve ended all life on Earth (Mt. 24:22). Thus these believers are probably in bad shape and in need of rescue.
(13:28-29) Jesus has just finished listing a number of events that need to occur before his return. When believers see these events finally happening, they will know that Jesus’ return is “near.”
(13:30) When these things occur, this is the final generation of the human race. Our failed experiment of human rebellion will almost be over.
(13:31) Jesus’ predictions seem hard to understand and maybe hard to believe. But here, Jesus reaffirms the veracity of his words. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “This is going to go down exactly as I’ve predicted it.”
(13:32) Since Jesus had given up the use of his divine attributes (see “The Incarnation”), he willingly gave up his access to this information. To be clear, Jesus still had the attribute of omniscience, but he laid aside the use of this attribute in his incarnation.
Application: Be ready!
(13:33) We can know the general time of Jesus’ return, but we cannot know the exact time of Jesus’ return.
(13:34-37) Jesus uses this illustration to show that we should be ready for his imminent return. In verses 33-37, Jesus commands us to be on the “alert” four times!
Mark 14 (Betrayals and arrest)
Why this waste?
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:2-8]
(14:1) The parallel for these passages is Matthew 26:1-5 and Luke 22:1-2.
(14:2) The religious leaders didn’t want this plot to occur during the festival, because it could result in a riot from the people.
(14:3) John tells us that this was Mary—the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Jn. 12:3).
These alabaster viles couldn’t be closed like Tupperware once they were opened. These would need to be broken open and used. They had a very high value, and women usually owned these for their dowry or their retirement. This woman uses it on Jesus instead.
Mark and John mention that the vile was filled with “pure nard” (Mk. 14:3; Jn. 12:3). This was a very expensive perfume. The cost of the vile was estimated at 300 denarii; that is, it was worth roughly a full year’s salary (Mk. 14:5; Jn. 12:5).
(14:4-5) The disciples considered this woman’s offering as wasteful. They were even “scolding” her. What really is waste? It’s when we spend our resources on something that doesn’t have any benefit. Spending our lives on Jesus doesn’t lead to waste, but to spiritual wealth.
In parallel passage, we discover that it was Judas who was pushing this perspective (Jn. 12:4). John writes that Judas didn’t really care about the poor “but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it” (Jn. 12:6).
(14:6) Jesus doesn’t consider our spending of our resources on him to be a waste.
(14:7) This passage implies that we should normally use our money to help the poor.
(14:8) Jesus was thinking about his death on the Cross when he saw this happen. Since he was crucified, the women didn’t have an opportunity to anoint him with oil before he was buried. Joseph of Arimathea took the body and prepared it for burial.
(14:9) Today, nearly 2,000 years later, we are still talking about what she did.
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:14-16 and Luke 22:3-6.]
(14:10) After seeing this act of sacrificial love, Judas realized that his involvement with Christ wasn’t going to profit him. This was the last straw for Judas. He wanted to get out ahead however he could.
Luke records that “Satan entered into Judas” at this point (Lk. 22:3).
(14:11) Matthew records that Judas agreed to 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:15). Modern Christians often scoff at Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. They think, “Why would you abandon Christ for a measly 30 pieces of silver?” But we should be careful. After all, Christians are often willing to put Jesus in the backseat in order to pursue their careers and materialistic conquest. While we aren’t as obvious in our betrayal of Christ, we often give him second place in our lives for transitory commodities like money or status.
The value of 30 pieces of silver was the price of a slave (Ex. 21:32). This was the low value that Judas had of Jesus. How much do you value God? What price tag would you place on your relationship with God?
Preparing for the Passover
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:17-19 and Luke 22:7-13.]
(14:12-16) Jews would celebrate the Passover supper together, which was also called “the Feast of Unleavened Bread” (Lk. 22:2). The disciples planned this dinner for Jesus. They were supposed to look out for a man carrying a pitcher of water (Mk. 14:13; Lk. 22:10). Lemke notes, “At that time men normally carried water in skins while women carried water in jugs.” The man gave them a large and furnished upper room to eat (Mk. 14:15; Lk. 22:12).
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:20-29, Luke 22:14-30, and John 13.]
(14:17) During this time, Luke records that the disciples began to argue with each other over which one of them was the greatest (Lk. 22:24). It is in this context that Jesus began to wash the disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:4-5). In Luke’s account, Jesus gives an extended teaching on the nature of servant leadership.
(14:18-19) Judas must have been a very keen liar and hypocrite. The disciples were quicker to implicate themselves, rather than Judas. They had a debate over which one of them it might be (Lk. 22:23). John records that the disciples were “at a loss to know of which one He was speaking” (Jn. 13:22).
(14:20) In John’s account, Jesus dips the bread and hands it to Judas (Jn. 13:18, 26).
(14:21) God predicted that the Messiah would be betrayed, but Judas had the freewill to choose this.
Judas is clearly in hell. After all, if he eventually made it to heaven, then it would have been better if he was born.
(14:22) Judas was lying right to Jesus’ face and in view of the other disciples. He kept up appearances right to the bitter end. Judas left before Jesus initiated the Last Supper (Jn. 13:27-30).
(14:23-24) The Passover supper was about a sacrificial lamb who would substitute for the death of the people. At the Passover, God took the firstborn son of the people who didn’t have the sacrifice. Here, God gives his firstborn son to substitute for all people (see comments on Exodus 12 for the prophetic fulfillment of the Passover supper).
(14:25) We will be drinking wine with Jesus in the kingdom. This could refer to the Millennial Kingdom or to Heaven.
Consequently, this passage contradicts the Mormon doctrine that Jesus celebrated the Lord’s Supper in the Americas. Jesus says that he will not drink wine again until the kingdom is inaugurated.
[John includes chapters 13-17 before Jesus goes out to the Mount of Olives.]
(14:26) They went back to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus had just finished giving his Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24-25).
(14:27) Jesus predicts that the disciples will all betray him (see Zechariah 13:7).
(14:28) Jesus predicts that he will meet with them after the resurrection. Mark’s gospel ends on a cliffhanger, but here we have Jesus’ prediction that he will be coming to them soon.
(14:29) Peter had a higher view of his character than Jesus did. The root of his problem is that he was comparing himself to others (“Even though all will fall away, I will never fall away”). This wasn’t humble dependence on Christ, but boasting in his own self-effort and courage.
(14:30) How much did this moral effort and boasting help Peter? As it turns out, it doesn’t help him at all. He will betray Christ that very night.
(14:31) We shouldn’t be too hard on Peter. “All” of the disciples were making similar boasts.
The Garden of Gethsemane
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:30-46, Luke 22:39-46, and John 18:1.]
(14:32) He told his disciples to stay in one part of Gethsemane, while he went away for some solitude. In Luke’s account, Jesus tells them to pray that they wouldn’t fall into temptation (Lk. 22:40). Because they lost this battle in prayer, they lost the battle in practice. Because Jesus won his battle in prayer, he was able to win the battle at the Cross.
(14:33-34) On the most difficult night of his life, Jesus wanted to be surrounded by three of his closest friends. He broke down in front of them.
(14:35-36) On the most difficult night of his life, Jesus longed to meet with God in prayer by himself. What can we learn from Jesus’ prayer?
(1) He addresses God as Father—even though he knew suffering was ahead of him. Mark’s account is more tender: Jesus calls God “Abba” (Mk. 14:36). Jesus saw no contradiction with the idea that God loves us like a Father, and yet he calls on us to suffer. The “cup” refers to the wrath of God.
(2) It isn’t sinful to ask God to spare us from suffering. Jesus prays this multiple times (v.42, 44).
(3) Jesus submits himself to God’s will. While he asks for rescue, he doesn’t demand this (“not as I will, but as You will”).
Luke records that God sent an angel to comfort Jesus at this time (Lk. 22:43). Jesus was sweating in fear (Lk. 22:44).
(14:37-38) We often criticize the disciples for sleeping on the most horrible night of Jesus’ life. But how many believers have been able to stay awake for a single night in prayer?
Prayer is the cure for our weakness.
(14:39) Jesus kept praying until he was sure of the answer.
(14:40-41) How did Jesus feel to have his three closest friends sleeping, rather than supporting him on this horrible night? They apparently fell asleep each time Jesus left.
(14:42) It’s too late for the disciples to pray now. They lost their opportunity. Judas had arrived!
Judas betrays Jesus
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:47-56, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:2-11.]
(14:43) Jesus couldn’t finish these words (vv.41-42) before Judas walked up in the middle of the night, surrounded by guards.
(14:44-45) Judas was trying to keep up appearances right to the bitter end. We sometimes see believers apostatize or choose to live a life of sin, and we wonder why they are so dishonest about their decision. Judas was the same way. Psychologists refer to this as cognitive dissonance, and perhaps this is a way of explaining the insanity of sin.
Luke records that Jesus was dumbstruck with Judas’ hypocrisy, asking him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Lk. 22:48)
(14:46) In Matthew’s account, Jesus calls him, “Friend” (Mt. 26:50). Why doesn’t he call him “Liar!” or “Hypocrite!”?
(14:47) John tells us that this was Peter who struck the slave (Jn. 18:10). This is really a pitiful attempt to show his loyalty to Christ. After all, there is a massive assembly of guards. John records that Judas brought a “Roman cohort” with him (Jn. 18:2). All Peter can do is cut the ear off of a single slave! He couldn’t even kill the poor guy!—just maim him.
Luke adds that Jesus rebuked Peter for doing this: “Stop! No more of this” (Lk. 22:51). Luke also adds that Jesus healed the slave on the spot (Lk. 22:51).
(14:48-49) Jesus points out the hypocrisy of this wrongful arrest. Luke adds that Jesus said, “This hour and the power of darkness are yours” (Lk. 22:53).
(14:50) Jesus’ appeal to the veracity of Scripture is fulfilled (see v.27). All of the disciples fled Jesus, but Jesus also requested that the guards would leave his disciples alone (Jn. 18:8).
(14:51-52) Some commentators believe that this young man is the author Mark.
Jesus stands trial before the religious leaders
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:57-68, Luke 22:54-65, and John 18:24. John includes that they brought Jesus to Annas before this trial (Jn. 18:12-23).]
(14:53) The soldiers followed the order of operations. They take Jesus to stand before the high priest to be investigated. Really, the religious leaders were leading a kangaroo court, and they had already decided to have him killed.
(14:54-57) Again, this was a witch hunt. They didn’t care about truth. They just wanted Jesus dead. Jesus was so squeaky clean that they couldn’t even find false witnesses to accuse him. They needed at least two false witnesses to have Jesus killed according to the Mosaic Law.
(14:58) Mark doesn’t record this saying of Jesus, but John does (Jn. 2:19). Of course, this witness was distorting Jesus’ statement. But this charge of destroying the Temple was a capital crime, so this would’ve been enough for the authorities to have Jesus put to death.
(14:59) The witnesses were contradicting each other.
(14:60-61) If the high priest could get a confession, it would end the trial. If Jesus admitted to being the Christ (the Conquering King), the high priest would have warrant to hand Jesus over to the Romans to be killed.
(14:62) Jesus cites Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13 to refer to himself, which were both very clear messianic passages. Jesus’ use of the self-designation “Son of Man” is clearly being lifted from Daniel 7—not the book of Ezekiel.
(14:63-64) Having gotten his confession, he calls for the people to confirm this. They “all” uniformly condemned Jesus to death.
(14:65) Because Jesus was “blindfolded,” they were sadistically asking him to “prophesy” who hit him. They were saying, “If you’re such an amazing prophet, then tell us who hit you??”
Peter denies Jesus
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:69-75, Luke 22:54-62, and John 18:25-27.]
Right in the midst of trying to salvage his image, Peter actually fails even harder than before. Peter was warming himself around a fire in the dark of the night (Mk. 14:54; Lk. 22:55). John adds that “another disciple” helped him gain access to the courtyard (Jn. 18:15).
(14:66-67) Once they kindled the fire, the girl began to recognize Peter (Lk. 22:56).
HUMOR: Peter couldn’t even stand up for Jesus in the presence of a little girl! It doesn’t even say that she was a particularly strong or intimidating little girl, just a “servant-girl.”
(14:68) Denial #1.
(14:69) Again, the mighty Peter cannot even keep his vow to another little girl!
(14:70) Denial #2.
Galileans had an accent that would “give them away.” Lemke writes, “Galileans pronounced gutturals peculiarly and had a sort of lisp.”
(14:71) Denial #3. Peter’s denials became more and more severe. In his second denial, he made an “oath.” Now he both “cursed” Jesus and “swore” that he didn’t know him.
Immediately after his third denial, the shrill and staccato noise of a rooster pierced through the air. This probably sent a shiver up Peter’s spine.
Luke adds that they were likely transporting Jesus through the courtyard at this time, and Jesus “turned at looked at Peter” (Lk. 22:61). Jesus heard Peter deny him, but Jesus didn’t say a word. He just stared at Peter.
(14:72) Peter remembered Jesus’ prediction (v.30). He wept bitter tears.
God really broke Peter’s self-reliance through this episode. We don’t read about Peter in the rest of Matthew’s gospel.
Mark 15 (The Cross)
[Judas hangs himself at this point in Matthew 27:3-10.]
Jesus faces Pilate
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:2, 11-14, Luke 23:1-5, and John 18:28-38.]
(15:1) After gaining their conviction, they had Jesus sent to Pilate. At this point, Jesus had been up all night. He must’ve been exhausted.
(15:2) Pilate thinks that Jesus is rising up as a political ruler—a Conquering King. He doesn’t realize that Jesus is coming as a Suffering Servant. They are speaking past each other.
(15:3) Why did Jesus admit his Messiahship to Pilate, but not to the religious leaders? Instead, he chose to “remain silent.”
(15:4-5) Pilate seems incredulous over the fact that Jesus wouldn’t defend himself. Pilate was not a good man. He is probably hesitant to crucify Christ, because it could start a riot. The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead, but they didn’t want to be held responsible.
Jesus faces Pilate… again
[Jesus meets Herod Antipas in Luke 23:6-12.]
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:15-26, Luke 23:13-25, and John 18:39-19:16.]
(15:6) Pilate probably chooses this option because he wants to appease the crowds. He is worried about inciting a riot (Mt. 26:5), and he wants to make sure the crowds agree to this execution.
John includes that the religious leaders had leverage over him. If Pilate released Jesus, he could be considered a traitor to Rome (Jn. 19:7-8, 12-16; see “Dating Jesus’ Death: April 3, AD 33”).
(15:7) What do we know about Barabbas? Matthew simply says that he is a “notorious prisoner” (Mt. 27:16). Mark adds that he was one of the “insurrectionists” and a “murderer” (Mk. 15:7; cf. Lk. 23:19, 25). John adds that he was a “robber” (Jn. 18:40).
(15:8) The crowd was pressing Pilate for this solution.
(15:9) By putting the decision to the crowds, Pilate is getting them to make the decision, so he isn’t held responsible for a riot. Interestingly, the people start to riot over Jesus not being killed.
(15:10) Pilate wasn’t friendly to the Jewish people. In fact, history tells us that he was fiercely anti-Semitic. He didn’t want to cause a riot simply because the religious leaders wanted a man dead.
(15:11) The religious leaders were behind the public relations campaign against Jesus. The leaders were the ones who “persuaded the crowds” (Mt. 27:20).
(15:12-14) Pilate has the crowds make this decisions, so that he isn’t responsible for the consequences. These same people were calling out “Hosanna! Hosanna!” just days earlier.
(15:15) This is a picture of substitution: A “notorious prisoner” is released from judgment, and Jesus is killed in his place.
Pilate isn’t a good man. He succumbed to the whims of the crowd, had Jesus tortured, and handed him over to be crucified (see “The Crucifixion of Christ”).
Mocked by the military guards
[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 27:27-30.]
(15:16) After his scourging, Jesus faced a Roman cohort, suffering ridicule.
(15:17-18) They stripped him naked, which is always disgraceful, but especially embarrassing in such a modest culture. They created a macabre theater scene to humiliate Jesus.
(15:19) They spit and beat him some more.
Carrying his Cross
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:31-34, Luke 23:26-33, and John 19:16-17.]
(15:20) Jesus wasn’t led to the crucifix naked. He had his own clothes back on.
Luke adds that a group of women followed him (Lk. 23:27).
(15:21) Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross—probably because of all of the blood loss. They must’ve thought that he wouldn’t make it. This really shows the humanity of Jesus. He wasn’t like Clark Kent pretending to be human. He really was truly human, and he didn’t exercise the use of his divine power to lift the cross.
Mark gives more information on Simon of Cyrene, mentioning that he was “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mk. 15:21).
(15:22) The Latin version of Golgotha is “Calvary.”
(15:23) What is the “wine mixed with gall”? Mark calls it “wine mixed with myrrh” (Mk. 15:23). Lemke writes that this was “a narcotic sedative that drugged the victim. Jesus would not receive it; He faced the redemption of mankind with senses intact.”
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:35-44, Luke 23:33-43, and John 19:18-27.]
(15:24) Mark gives a very short and concise explanation: “They had crucified Him.” This gory and horrific form of execution was known so well to these people that Mark didn’t feel the need to explain this any further.
They must have stripped Jesus naked again, because they were gambling for his clothing. This fulfills Psalm 22:18 (cf. Jn. 19:24). John records that they were doing this because Jesus’ garment was one piece, and they didn’t want to tear it apart (Jn. 19:23-24).
(15:25) The darkness occurred from noon until 3pm (Mt. 27:45). Darkness was a symbol in the OT for God’s judgment.
Mark writes that Jesus was crucified at 9am or “the third hour” (Mk. 15:25). Mark agrees that the darkness occurred from noon until 3pm (Mk. 15:33; cf. Lk. 23:44).
(15:26) Rome would place a certificate of debt above the crucifixion victim, telling the passersby what they did to deserve death. Jesus committed no sin. He was only guilty of being “The King of the Jews.”
John adds that this was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (Jn. 19:20), presumably so all of the people could read it.
John also adds that the religious leaders asked Pilate to write that Jesus said he was the King of the Jews—not that he was the King of the Jews (Jn. 19:21), but Pilate refused to change the placard (v.22).
(15:27) Jesus was crucified in between two criminals of the State. Lemke writes, “Rebel or insurrectionist is probably a better translation than ‘robber.’ The nature of their crimes likely involved terrorism and assassination.”
(15:28) Early manuscripts do not contain this verse from Isaiah 53. Note that Matthew follows Mark very closely in this section, and he skips over this verse.
(15:29) This fulfilled Psalm 22:7.
(15:30) Jesus’ statement about the Temple was being misused against him (Jn. 2:19-21), but this really shows how seriously the Jewish people venerated their Temple. Of all the things Jesus claimed, this is the claim that they bring up so frequently when he is on the Cross.
(15:31) The religious leaders couldn’t help themselves from mocking him. Jesus had been such a thorn in their side for so long that they enjoyed watching him suffer. Note that they affirmed that Jesus could “save others.”
(15:32) The gospel is centered on a dying Messiah. We are called to put our faith in the Messiah who is on the Cross—not one who is taken off the Cross.
You know you’re having a bad day when even the other crucifixion victims are “insulting” you (Mk. 15:32). Luke records that one of these men came to faith in Christ at the very last moment of his life (Lk. 23:40-43).
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:45-50, Luke 23:44-46, and John 19:28-30.]
(15:33) The darkness occurred from noon until 3pm. Darkness was a symbol in the OT for God’s judgment.
Mark writes that Jesus was crucified at 9am or “the third hour” (Mk. 15:25). Mark agrees that the darkness occurred from noon until 3pm (Mk. 15:33; cf. Lk. 23:44).
(15:34) At the end of the darkness (~3pm), Jesus cried out to God, citing the first line of Psalm 22.
“My God, My God.” This is the only recorded prayer of Jesus where he doesn’t address God as his Father. This is a conspicuous shift! This implicitly means that Jesus was giving up his Father, so that we could have his Father. Likewise, God gave up his Son, so that we can become his sons!
“Why have you forsaken Me?” To be “forsaken,” means to be rejected from God. At the Cross, Jesus became sin, so that we can be declared righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).
(15:35) They made this false inference because Jesus was calling out to “Eli, Eli.”
(15:36) They kept trying to feed Jesus “sour wine.” Why did they do this? Were they being merciful, or were they trying to prolong his death?
(15:37) Mark doesn’t record the content of Jesus’ “loud cry.” Luke records that Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk. 23:46). This fulfills Psalm 31:5.
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:51-56 and Luke 23:45-49.]
(15:38) This demonstrates that the way to God has been opened. Remember, the people kept insulting Jesus because he claimed to destroy the Temple (Mt. 26:61; 27:40). Here, through his death on the Cross, Jesus abrogated the need for the Temple. Both Mark and Luke contain this note that the Temple veil was torn in two (Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45).
(15:39) While the religious leaders rejected Christ, this pagan Roman centurion comes to faith at the Cross. This must show that even one of the killers of Christ could become a follower of Jesus. Luke merely writes that the centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent” (Lk. 23:47). In Mark, this centurion is the only human (besides Jesus) to affirm that Jesus was God’s Son.
(15:40-41) Mark notes that many women were watching these events. This is interesting because the male disciples had fled in fear.
The Burial of Jesus
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:57-60, Luke 23:50-54, and John 19:31-40.]
(15:42-43) When did Joseph of Arimathea become a “disciple” of Jesus? Joseph of Arimathea must’ve had some clout and influence because Pilate allows him to take the body. Mark notes that he was a “prominent member of the Council [i.e. the Sandhedrin]” (Mk. 15:43; cf. Lk. 23:50). Luke adds that Joseph of Arimathea “had not consented to their plan and action” (Lk. 23:51). John writes that Joseph was a “secret disciple of Jesus” (Jn. 19:38). Nicodemus also helped to bury the body (Jn. 19:39).
(15:44-45) The Romans had mastered the art and science of execution. Jesus was surely dead when they took him down from the Cross (cf. Jn. 19:34).
(15:46) Jesus wasn’t buried as a common criminal. He was placed in a “rich man’s tomb” (Isa. 53:9). This statement has historical credibility because it passes one of the criteria of authenticity: embarrassment. Why would Christians place the story of the burial of Jesus in the hands of a Sanhedrinist, who voted to have Jesus killed (Mk. 14:55).
(15:47) Matthew records that the tomb was guarded closely (Mt. 27:61-66).
Mark 16 (The Resurrection)
[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 28:1-8, Luke 24:1-8, and John 20:1.]
(16:1) This is parallel to Matthew 28:1.
(16:2) This would be very early Sunday morning.
(16:3) They wanted to anoint the body for burial, but they were wondering how they would even get access to the body. They must have collected these materials and made the trip on faith.
(16:4) This massive stone being moved was the first sign of a supernatural event.
(16:5) They were “amazed” at this angel.
(16:6) The angel tells them not to be “amazed” at him, but implicitly to be amazed at the resurrection of Jesus.
Even the shortened version of Mark (i.e. not including verses 9-20) contains the empty tomb and the explicit mention of Jesus being raised.
(16:7) Jesus had promised this back in Mark 14:28.
(16:8) Why doesn’t Mark explain more about the resurrection appearances?
Other authors from the time period (including biblical authors) ended with cliffhangers. Wallace writes, “J. Lee Magness, in Marking the End: Sense and Absence in the Gospel of Mark, demonstrates that suspended endings—that is, endings that leave the reader hanging—can be found in Graeco-Roman literature, in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament.” For instance, Luke ends the book of Acts with Paul preaching in Rome! What happened next? Did the emperor convert? Would Paul be killed? Literarily, this has the same effect of a cliffhanger in a movie, where audience members walk out saying, “What did that ending mean? I’m gonna have to think about that!”
This ending connects readers with Jesus’ earlier prediction of his resurrection. When Jesus announces his death and resurrection, Mark records, “They did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him” (Mk. 9:32). The Greek is in the imperfect tense, so it should be rendered “they were continually afraid.” This is the same verb tense used of the women in Mark 16:8 (“they were continually afraid”). This could be a literary convention used by Mark: namely, Mark wanted his readers to question what they will do now. Will they be afraid or will they embrace the risen Messiah?
Mark’s gospel contains the theme of immediacy throughout. He was writing to persecuted Christians in Rome (see “Introduction to Mark”), and he was trying to demonstrate the immediacy and necessity of faith. Thus this shorter ending would only reinforce Mark’s theme throughout his gospel.
 Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 172.
 No other Mark is mentioned in the Bible besides John Mark.
 The term “interpreter” should be rendered “explainer,” according to Cole. Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 29). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 28). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 177.
 Wessel, W. W. Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1984. 606.
 See Kruger, Michael. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Wheaton, IL. Crossway. 2012. 185.
 Wessel, W. W. Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1984. 607.
 Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 25). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 175.
 Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 175.
 For example, talitha cumi (5:41), ephphatha (7:34), rabbi (9:5 niv), rabboni (10:5 rv), abba (14:36), and the cry from the cross, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthāni (15:34). Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 59). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 73). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Gundry, Robert Horton. A Survey of the New Testament. 4th Edition ed. [Grand Rapids]: Zondervan Pub. House, 2003. 128.
 John Wenham, Redating Matthew, Mark, and Luke (InterVarsity Press, 1992).
 James G. Crossley, The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity (T & T Clark, 2004).
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 67). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 81). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 87). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 90). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 91). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 95). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Bruce, F. F. (1996). Herod. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 472). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts (Chillicothe, OH: DeWard Publishing Co., 2017), Kindle Location 1552.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 99). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 103). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 107). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Keener, C. S. (1997). Matthew (Vol. 1). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 112). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 We are indebted to one of Tim Keller’s sermons for this insight.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 116). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 391.
 William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 238.
 William E. Phipps, The Wisdom and Wit of Rabbi Jesus (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1993), 90.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 158). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 To be more accurate, he states that the dimensions were 25 cubits long, 12 cubit deep, and 8 cubits tall. A cubit is thought to be 18 inches long. Josephus, Antiquities, 15:392.
 Baba Bathra, 4a.
 Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 7:1:1.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 180). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 198). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 208). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 209). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Black, David Alan, and Daniel Wallace. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2008. 34.