Introduction to Mark

By James M. Rochford

Authorship. 2

What do we know about Mark?. 5

Audience: Rome?. 5

Date. 6

The Value of Mark’s Gospel 6

Mark 1 (John the Baptist). 7

Mark 2 (Healing the Paralytic). 16

Mark 3 (Calling the Apostles). 21

Mark 4 (Parables). 26

Mark 5 (Healings). 31

Mark 6 (Sending of the Twelve). 38

Mark 7 (Truth over Tradition). 51

Mark 8 (Peter: Jesus is the Messiah). 56

Mark 9 (The Transfiguration). 65

Mark 10 (Ethical Teaching). 74

Mark 11 (The [Un]triumphal Entry). 81

Mark 12 (Debating the Religious Leaders). 85

Mark 13 (The Olivet Discourse). 91

Mark 14 (Betrayals and Arrest). 98

Mark 15 (The Cross). 109

Mark 16 (The Resurrection). 117

Authorship

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.[1]

How then do we know that Mark was the author? While we cannot be certain, there is a good case for John Mark[2] being the author.

INTERNAL EVIDENCE: Evidence from INSIDE of Mark

Within the gospel itself, we discover several clues that point toward Peter supervising Mark.

First, by percentage, Mark refers to Peter more than any other gospel author (26x versus Matthew’s 29x). This could show that Peter’s point of view is more represented, because he oversaw the authorship of the book.

Second, the author never refer to Peter as “Simon Peter.” This is odd because the name Peter was very common in Israel, but the author never identifies him as Simon Peter—only as “Simon” or “Peter.” This might imply familiarity with Peter.

Third, the author mentions Peter as the first named disciple (Mk. 1:16) and the last named disciple (Mk. 16:7). This mention of Peter first and last forms an inclusio (i.e. “bookends” for the work) that shows the author’s focus on Peter.[3]

Fourth, the author refers to Capernaum as “home” (Mk. 2:1). Of course, Capernaum was home for Peter (Mk. 1:21, 29-31), but obviously not for Jesus.

Fifth, some think that the “young man” in Mark 14 might be Mark himself. There, 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” (Mk. 14:51-52). 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.”[4]

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.”[5]

EXTERNAL EVIDENCE: Evidence from OUTSIDE of Mark

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[6] 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.”[7]

The anti-Marcionite prologue claims that Mark was the author (AD 160-180).[8] This states, “Mark declared, who is called ‘stump-fingered’, because he had rather small fingers in comparison with the stature of the rest of his body. He was the interpreter of Peter. After the death of Peter himself he wrote down this same gospel in the regions of Italy.”[9]

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).[10]

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). Peter also refers to Mark as “his son” (1 Pet. 5:13), which implies a close relationship.

Third, Peter’s preaching summaries in Acts follow the same pattern as Mark. Compare Acts 10:36-41 with Mark’s chronology. William Lane writes, “While Peter’s preaching has been epitomized for inclusion in the Acts, it is clear that its structural development and emphases are accurately reflected in the Marcan outline.”[11]

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.”[12] 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.”[13]

Conclusion

We have good internal and external 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.

Audience: Rome?

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.

Mark 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),[14] 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 of Jesus’ life 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,”[15] and we would tend to agree. While we are inclined to see a Roman audience, the evidence is decidedly thin and surely uncertain.

Date

We have good reasons for dating Mark perhaps as early as the 50s AD or perhaps 60 AD. For one, most scholars agree in what is called “Markan Priority,” which means that Mark wrote first, and Luke and Matthew borrowed from him. If Luke is dated around AD 62 (see “Introduction to Luke”), 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 notes,

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.[16]

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.[17] Critical scholar James G. Crossley (from the University of Sheffield and a co-founder of the highly skeptical Jesus Seminar!) dates the book to the late 30’s or early 40’s AD.[18]

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) “The beginning” (en archē) is the same language as the Septuagint’s version of Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning”). This could imply that his “book is a new beginning in which God reveals the Good News of Jesus Christ.”[19]

The “gospel” (euaggelion) derives from the Greek word angelos (“messenger”).[20] The word eu means “good.” That’s why some translations render this “good news.” In secular usage, the term referred to the king’s “birth, coming of age, or enthronement, and also his speeches, decrees and acts.”[21] Heralds proclaimed “good news” (euaggelion) at the birth of Caesar Augustus in September 23, 9 BC, when they wrote,

[It] has given a new look to the Universe at a time when it would gladly have welcomed destruction if Caesar had not been born to be the common blessing of all men.… Whereas the Providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a saviour for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere… and whereas the birthday of the God [Augustus] was the beginning for the world of the glad tidings [euaggelion].[22]

The NT authors pick up on this language to describe the “good news” about Jesus. Mark opens by telling us that he will explain the “gospel of Jesus Christ.” The good news is about a person entering into history, and Mark shares the news about him. Luke gives us more specifics on when Jesus historically came on the scene (Lk. 3:1-2).

Was the expression “Son of God” in the earliest manuscripts? Textual critics debate this, but there are good reasons for affirming its authenticity. First, the manuscript evidence is strong for including it. Second, a scribe could have dropped it because of an error called homoioteleuton. This is where a scribe drops words because they have similar endings to the previous words. In this case “Jesus Christ” (Iēsou Christou) is similar to “Son of God” (huiou theou). Third, the expression “Son of God” appears throughout Mark’s gospel (Mk. 1:11; 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 12:6; 13:32; 14:36, 61; 15:39). Specifically, 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 (or what scholars call an inclusio).

(1:2) Since Isaiah was the more important prophet—namely, a “major” prophet, Mark ascribes both texts to him—even though the first citation comes from Malachi (Mal. 3:1), while the second comes from Isaiah (Isa. 40:3). Since Malachi himself borrowed from Exodus 23:20, there are “exegetical ground [for] the conflation.”[23]

(Mk. 1:2) Why does Mark cite Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 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. That is, Mark is identifying Jesus as Yahweh through this proof text.

Mark skips the birth of Jesus, and he enters directly into his introduction by John the Baptist. Mark likely didn’t want to “waste time” with this introductory material, which fits with his fast-paced narrative (“immediately… immediately… immediately!”). This is similar to Peter’s teaching on Jesus’ life, which starts with John the Baptist—not Jesus’ birth (Acts 10:37).

(1:4) John the Baptist was preaching about forgiveness. Yet 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. Yet, it shows that John was incredibly popular. There were so many that Josephus refers to John the Baptist and his ministry. Josephus writes,

Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; (117) for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. (118) Now, when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late. (119) Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure against him” (Josephus, Antiquities, 118.116-119).

This citation from Josephus shows no literary dependence on the biblical account. Yet it gives a strikingly similar historical similarity of John the Baptist.

(1:6) John is very similar in appearance to Elijah (2 Kin. 1:8), and Mark makes this connection later in his book (Mk. 9:9-13). The locust was a clean insect to eat (Lev. 11:21). Elijah’s clothes were the typical clothing of a prophet (Zech. 13:4).

(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.

“After me One is coming…” This was “technical terminology for discipleship among the scribes and rabbis of the first century.”[24] For instance, Jesus uses this language for discipleship (Mk. 1:17). The great twist is that Jesus came to Earth after John, but he existed eternally before him. John may be setting up the theme that Jesus is in one sense lower than others, but in another sense infinitely higher!

“I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.” This language was common in the Jewish literature. For instance, Babylonian Talmud states, “A Hebrew slave must not wash the feet of his master, nor put his shoes on him, nor carry his things before him… But one’s son or pupil may do so” (Mekilta to Ex. 21:2). And elsewhere we read, “All services which a slave does for his master a pupil should do for his teacher, with the exception of undoing his shoes” (Ketuboth 96a).[25]

(1:8) Jesus’ baptism will blow John’s baptism out of the water! (pun intended) Matthew 3:11-12 adds that John mentions the judgment of Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit (believers) or in fire (non-believers).

Mark doesn’t include as much of John’s preaching as Matthew and Luke. Instead, he used a literary device called “telescoping,”[26] which basically means to focus on one part, rather than another. In this case, Mark wants to focus on Jesus’ nature.

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). William Lane argues that verse 5 and 9 correspond—only verse 5 mentions all the people, whereas verse 9 mentions only one. From this, Lane sees that Jesus “identified himself with a rebellious generation in need of redemption.”[27]

(Mk. 1:9) Why was Jesus baptized?

(1:10-11) Unlike “all” the people from Judea coming for baptism (v.5), God shows up to Jesus’ baptism. 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.

Was this a public event, or private vision? Some believe that the heavens opening could’ve been a private vision given only to Jesus.[28] Although, John 1:32 states that John the Baptist saw this as well. The voice from heaven seems to have been definitively public.

What does it mean to descend “like a dove”? The short answer is: we’re not sure. However, some speculate that this is an allusion to how the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters like a dove in Genesis 1:2. Jewish tradition taught that the Spirit in Genesis 1:2 was “the Spirit of the Messiah, which would be withheld from Israel until the nation was prepared through repentance.”[29] (The Babylonian Talmud: Hagigah 15a; Gen. Rabba 2; Yalqut to Gen. 1:2.)

The temptation of Jesus

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.]

(1:12) The same Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus with God’s love now sends him into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit “impelled” (exballo) which means “force to leave, drive out, expel” (BDAG). This is different from Matthew and Luke who both use the word “led.” Because Mark’s tone communicates such a frantic speed of events, this would fit with his literary style.

(1:13) What is significant for the number 40? Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:18) and Elijah spent 40 days in the wilderness (1 Kings 19:8, 15). Furthermore, the nation of Israel spent 40 years wandering the wilderness after their unbelief at Kadesh Barnea. This latter view seems likely to us: namely, where Israel failed in the temptation, Jesus succeeded. Lane comments, “Jesus’ obedience to God is affirmed and sustained in the wilderness, the precise place where Israel’s rebellion had brought death and alienation, in order that the new Israel of God may be constituted.”[30]

Satan tempts Jesus during these forty days (cf. Mt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-13). Yet, Mark doesn’t go into detail. For instance, he doesn’t mention Jesus’ victory over Satan or the cessation of the temptation. Lane argues that the gospel according to Mark “constitutes the explanation of the manner in which Jesus was tempted.”[31] This seems to fit with the later chapters where Jesus battles numerous demons.

Why does Mark mention the “wild beasts”? Some understand this to be an allusion to the Christians in Rome being tortured and killed by “wild beasts” in the Roman Colosseum. In this way, Mark is saying, “You are facing the wild beast, but Jesus faced them first!”[32] But frankly, this seems like a stretch—most notably because we never read that these beasts harmed Jesus.

Others argue that the wild beasts depict the wilderness as the domain of Satan. In the OT, paradise is described with an absence of wild beasts (Isa. 35:9; Ezek. 34:23-28). Lane explains, “Mark’s reference to the wild beasts in Ch. 1:13 serves to stress the character of the wilderness. Jesus confronts the horror, the loneliness and the danger with which the wilderness is fraught when he meets the wild beasts. Their affinity in this context is not with paradise, but with the realm of Satan.”[33]

What is the significance of the angels “ministering to Him”? This might show that Jesus is greater than angels (Heb. 1:14). It could also imply Jesus’ humanity, and that he needed help. Finally, it could show that the Father had not forgotten or neglected his Son. While he allowed him to endure temptation, he comforted him afterwards.

Jesus passes the temptation, starvation, and dehydration. Suffering prepared him to begin his public ministry. What will Jesus do coming out of the gate?

Initial Galilean Ministry (1:14-3:6)

(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). The “gospel” Jesus was preaching is explained in verse 15: namely, the good news about God’s coming kingdom.

(1:15) Mark has this unique note that people should “repent and believe in the gospel” (compare with Mt. 4:17). That is, we should have a change of mind about the good news. The reason that the kingdom of God is at hand” is because the King is at hand!

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) Peter and Andrew had met Jesus before this event—immediately after Jesus’ baptism (Jn. 1:40-42). So, this was the second time Jesus had met Peter and Andrew—not the first time.

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).

Does the concept of “fishers of men” come from the OT? No, we disagree with Lane who argues that the background for this “fishers of men” language comes from God who is depicted as a fisherman in OT (Jer. 16:16; Ezek. 29:4 f.; 38:4; Amos 4:2; Hab. 1:14-17). For one, we are not God. Second, we are preaching grace—not judgment. Lane notes that these passages are “distinctly ominous in tone, stressing the divine judgment.”[34] He contends that this is a call to repentance before the great judgment at the end of history. This view simply doesn’t fit with the OT references, though Lane tries to harmonize these concepts. Instead, this language of being “fishers of men” was a personal illustration for these men who were fishermen—not an OT allusion.

(1:19) James and John were “mending the nets.” This little throwaway point 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) This also explains why James and John of Zebedee were so quick to follow Jesus—namely, because they had just seen a miracle.

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. Capernaum becomes a hot spot for Jesus’ preaching, and it was most likely the hometown of all four men: Peter, Andrew, James, and John.[35]

(1:22) This parallels the words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 7:28-28). Jesus spoke in the place of God, which gave him “authority.” This isn’t “ordained rabbinic authority,” as some skeptical scholars have claimed. Jesus wasn’t trained in any official school (unless you count his short time in the Temple as a 12 year old boy in Luke 2:42ff). More importantly, the scandal of Jesus’ teaching was in the fact that he spoke in the first-person as God. Matthew brings this out, “You have heard it said… But truly, truly, I say to you…” This is what led the crowds to be “amazed” at his “authority,” not his rabbinical qualification or ordination. Later, the term “authority” (exousia) is used in conjunction with casting out demons (v.27).

(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”). It is also thought that using a person’s name in occult practice showed dominance and ownership over the individual.[36] This further shows that this was no “ordinary sickness,” but what indeed “demonic possession.”[37] Why? Because sick people don’t have supernatural knowledge like this.

Notice that the demon is afraid of being “destroyed” by Jesus. He must realize that Jesus has incredible power. Ironically, the demons know who Jesus is—even though the people don’t.

“What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth?” This expression “is a common formula in the OT within the context of combat or judgment.”[38] Lane cites numerous OT passages (Judg. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chron. 35:21; Isa. 3:15; 22:1; Jer. 2:18; Hos. 14:9). In this context, Lane states that is means, “We have no business with each other—yet.”

(1:25) This fits with the concept of the so-called “messianic secret.” Jesus was silencing this demon. Furthermore, this shows that Jesus only needed to speak a few words—no magic formulas, no incantations, no spells, no rambling prayers, etc. At Jesus’ word, the demon had to flee.

(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). This wasn’t harmful to the possessed person, but apparently, it was intensely painful to the demon (“the spirit cried out with a loud voice”). This shows that demon possession can have physical influence on a person (i.e. convulsions).

(1:27) The crowds recognized that Jesus had authority over the demonic realm.

(1:28) Jesus’ reputation spread to Galilee and beyond.

Healing in of Peter’s mother-in-law 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.

By healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus showed tender care for his new disciples. Surely, Peter never looked at Jesus the same way after this event.

(1:32) They needed to wait until “sunset” because it was viewed as illegal to carry a sick person on the Sabbath (Mk. 1:21). Illness and demon-possession were seen as separate maladies (cf. Mt. 4:24; Mk. 1:32, 34; 6:13).

(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) Jesus worked hard, and he also prayed hard. This is the first of three times that we see Jesus praying (Mk. 1:35; 6:46; 14:32-34). In each instance, Jesus retreats from the crowds and goes away in solitude. This could imply that these are all key times of crisis for Jesus, because he is being tempted to move away from his mission of the Cross, to become a King instead.

(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). This should be our method of operations as well. While we try to heal people’s physical and spiritual needs, the spiritual needs of people are more important.

(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. The cities of Galilee were quite large. Josephus states that even the smaller cities “contained more than fifteen thousand inhabitants” (Josephus, Jewish Wars, 3.3.2).

Healing the leper

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:2-4 and Luke 5:12-16.]

(1:40) Lepers in this culture were social outcasts. Since the Jewish approach to contagious and incurable disease was quarantine, those with leprosy needed to live in isolation. When people came close to him, the leper was required by law to call out, “Unclean, unclean!” (Lev. 13:45). They could attend the synagogue, but they needed to block themselves off with a screen! (Misnah Negaʿim 13.12)

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.

Some early manuscripts (primarily in the Western text) contain the words “moved with anger” (ojrgistheis), rather than “moved with compassion” (splanchnistheis). We’ll leave it to the textual critics to decide. However, even if the original autograph used the word “anger,” this wouldn’t necessarily mean that Jesus was angry with the leper, but with his painful, fallen condition. Jesus could have righteous anger “at the ravages of sin, disease and death which take their toll even upon the living, a toll particularly evident in a leper.”[39] Similarly, Jesus was angry and tear-filled at Lazarus’ tomb, because he was angry with death itself (Jn. 11:33-35).

(Mk. 1:40-42) Was Jesus breaking the law in touching a leper?

(1:43-44) The procedure to show himself to the priest is from Leviticus 14. This also fits with the “messianic secret.” Jesus wasn’t ready to reveal himself to the world. Jesus’ strong words could be “because he foresaw the disobedience of the man.”[40] Another option is that Jesus knew that the man’s “loose lips” would prevent Jesus from entering any more towns in Galilee, which ended up occurring (v.45).

The “testimony” (marturion) to the priests could be a sign of “incriminating testimony which may serve as evidence for the prosecution.”[41] This would fit with the only other usage in Mark 13:9. If the priests acknowledge the man’s healing, then they are admitting that Jesus performed a miracle from God.

(1:45) The man definitely didn’t listen to the command to be quiet, and it doesn’t seem like he listened to the instruction to go to the priests (Lev. 14). 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)

Jesus faces several confrontations with the religious leaders in Mark 2:1-3:6.

Are these in chronological order? Not necessarily. It’s possible that these events are topically arranged, rather than chronologically arranged. The events exactly parallel Luke 5-6, but in Matthew’s account, the order jumps from Matthew 9 to Matthew 12. The opening of each confrontation has ambiguous language regarding the chronological timing of these events. For example:

“John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting…” (Mk. 2:18)

“And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath…” (Mk. 2:23)

“He entered again into a synagogue…” (Mk. 3:1)

This language doesn’t seem to imply chronological ordering. We agree with Lane writes, “It is unlikely that these five incidents happened consecutively or even at the same period in Jesus’ ministry.”[42] Instead, these stories were most likely topically arranged by Mark to explain related aspects of Jesus’ identity.

Healing the paralytic

[The parallel passages are in Matthew 9:1-8 and Luke 5:17-26.]

(2:1) Jesus returns to Capernaum, after leaving to serve elsewhere (Mk. 1:38). “Home” likely refers to Peter and Andrew’s home (Mk. 1:29).[43]

(2:2) While Jesus spoke, 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) “They removed the roof…” While this seems like an odd practice, other ancient sources mention this sort of thing. The Mishnah states, “They opened the ceiling and let him down to him” (Midrash Rabba to Leviticus, 19:6), and Cicero also mentions this happening as well (Cicero, In M. Antonium oratio Philippica II).[44]

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 action was an act of faith (“seeing their faith”). Jesus saw the faith of all of the men, including the paralytic. It took faith for the friends to interrupt Jesus’ teaching in such a rude and ridiculous way. It would’ve also taken faith for the paralytic to allow himself to be hoisted onto the house and lowered down (What if he fell?).

“Son, your sins are forgiven.” In rabbinical thinking, physical ailments were considered to be because of sin. So, they may have interpreted Jesus’ statements about a physically handicapped man to refer to having spiritual sin with God. Jesus doesn’t believe in this unbiblical teaching (Jn. 9:1-3). However, this religious background becomes necessary for understanding this account.

(2:6-7) This passage really supports the deity of Christ. We might put this in the form of a syllogism.

(1) Only God can forgive sins (Ex. 34:6 f.; Ps. 103:3; 130:4; Isa. 43:25; 44:22; 48:11; Dan. 9:9).

(2) Jesus forgave sins.

(3) Therefore, Jesus is God.

When David sinned, Nathan said, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Sam. 12:13). However, Jesus didn’t appeal to “the LORD,” but rather, he simply declared that the man’s sins were forgiven. Wessel writes, “In Jewish teaching even the Messiah could not forgive sins. That was the prerogative of God alone.”[45]

It’s 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 first and foremost 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 simply say that your sins are forgiven. Such a thing is intangible and not empirically testable, while healing from paralysis is open to observation and testing. Wessel writes, “To the teachers of the law, it was easier to make the statement about forgiveness because who could verify its fulfillment? But to say, ‘Get up … and walk’—that could indeed be verified by an actual healing that could be seen.”[46] In other words, by doing the physical healing, Jesus demonstrated his ability to perform spiritual healing: the one verifies the other.

Moreover, on the rabbinic view, this man was paralyzed because he had sinned. Therefore, if he was physically healed, then this would mean that he was spiritually forgiven by God. Again, Jesus didn’t believe in this cruel teaching, but he could be using this against the religious leaders present.

(2:10-11) Jesus uses the title of the “Son of Man” to demonstrate that he is the Messiah, and he could also forgive sins. This was a direct response to what they were reasoning against in their hearts. Jesus did the physical miracle to prove the even greater spiritual 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, and the crowds attributed this miracle to God (“glorifying God”).

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? It could’ve been better acoustics. It also may have allowed for more seating on the beach.

(2:14) Why did Matthew follow Jesus so quickly? It could be that he saw (or heard about) the previous miracles, and Jesus’ reputation preceded him. It could also be that Matthew realized a “felt need” that his life was a mess, and he needed Jesus. For important historical context on tax collectors, see our article “Tax Collectors in Jesus’ Day.”

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; cf. Mt. 9:9). 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. This term does not refer to generic sinners (i.e. all of humanity). Rather, in context, it refers to “outcasts” or “well-known and despised classes among the people.”[47]

Once these people saw Matthew getting near Jesus, they wanted to meet him too. In fact, they threw a party! What kind of person was Jesus like that wildly sinful people wanted him at their parties?

(2:16) Earlier, the Pharisees were “reasoning in their hearts” (Mk. 2:6); now, the Pharisees sent their scribes who were speaking out loud. The self-righteous religious leaders were outraged (or perhaps confused?) by the fact that Jesus would befriend notoriously sinful people.

Notice that the scribes don’t directly rebuke Jesus—only his disciples. Were the scribes afraid of confronting Jesus? Were they trying to dissuade Jesus’ followers from following him?

(2:17) Apparently, the scribes were speaking out enough for Jesus to overhear them. Jesus cited this wellknown proverb about doctors being with the sick—not the well (see Mekilta to Ex. 15:26; Plutarch, Apophthegmata Laconica 230 f.).[48]

Why might have happened if Jesus cowered to this challenge? Instead of cowering, Jesus stands up to the scribes. Notice, however, that Jesus doesn’t condone the lifestyle of the “tax collectors and sinners.” Specifically, he calls them “sick.” Jesus didn’t approve of their lifestyles, even though he approved of loving them.

In reality, everyone is sick, but the religious leaders couldn’t see this in themselves.

Fasting

[The parallel accounts are found in Matthew 9:14-17 and Luke 5:33-39.]

(2:18) This could still be the scribes accusing Jesus. They point out that John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples were fasting, but Jesus’ disciples were not. This must show that many “holy men,” even from various traditions, considered fasting to be essential to true spirituality—even though it was only required for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31; 23:27-32; Num. 29:7). We have evidence that the Pharisees fasted twice a week—on Mondays and Thursday (Lk. 18:12 Didache 8:1; Mishnah Taʿanith 1.4-5; The Babylonian Talmud Taʿanith 10a.).

(2:19-20) Why does Jesus use this illustration? Why does he compare himself to a groom in a wedding? This might foreshadow how Jesus is the “husband” of the Church (which is the Bride of Christ).

At a wedding, you don’t fast; you eat and drink! Since Jesus (the Groom) was there on Earth, it wasn’t a time for fasting—but rejoicing! Fasting was a sign of mourning—not rejoicing. This could be a veiled jab at the Pharisees; after all, if you were discipled by a Pharisee, then maybe you really should be mourning! By contrast, Lane writes, “The central comparison between the wedding festivities and Jesus’ disciples lies in the joy which they possess in their master. Jesus emphasizes this with his answer to the critical question. The reason for the fundamentally different position of his disciples is that… in his presence they experience joy.”[49]

Furthermore, why would these scribes show up to this dinner in the first place, just to complain about others eating?

(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 disciples shouldn’t imitate John the Baptist or the Pharisees, but Someone entirely new! The earlier parable of the “bridegroom” points to the new covenant (v.19), as does Jesus’ being “taken away” (v.20). Wessel writes, “The main teaching of the parable seems to be that the newness the coming of Jesus brings cannot be confined to the old forms.”[50]

Sabbath laws

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 12:1-8 and Luke 6:1-5.]

(2:23-24) OT law allowed the poor to take leftover food (Deut. 23:25). 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, according to rabbinical teaching (M Shabbath 7.2). Also, Jesus was travelling on the Sabbath, which would’ve been illegal as well.

(2:25-26) Jesus’ response was, “David did it!” In fact, David’s act was worse than what Jesus did, because it actually broke a stated ceremonial law, while Jesus’ disciples were only breaking a rabbinical law.

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”).

(Mk. 2:26) Was the high priest Abiathar or Ahimelech?

(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). Later, the religious authorities lay a trap for Jesus, trying to see if he will heal a man on the Sabbath (Mk. 3:2). After all, it is one thing to claim to be the “Lord of the Sabbath,” but would Jesus really act like the Lord on the Sabbath? We see what he will do in chapter 3.

Mark 3 (Calling the Apostles)

Healing a 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.

The man he would heal had a “withered” (enraino) which means “to become dry to the point of being immobilized, be paralyzed” (BDAG).

(3:2) Instead of getting the message, the religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus (cf. Lk. 6:7). They didn’t care about a man being healed; instead, they cared about Jesus being harmed. Luke records that Jesus could read their minds (Lk. 6:8), and he knew their intent was to trap him. By breaking the Sabbath, Jesus would face death by stoning. Lane writes, “Ex. 31:14-17 provides that the violator of the Sabbath shall be killed, while Misnah Sanhedrin VII. 4 specifies death by stoning.”[51] The scribes allowed for helping a person from the immediate threat of death on the Sabbath.[52] However, they wouldn’t have agreed with this legal case, because this man wasn’t facing imminent death.

Jesus faces a dilemma: If Jesus heals the man, he could be indicted by the religious authorities. However, if he doesn’t heal the handicapped man, he will be succumbing to their non-biblical view and the poor man will remain handicapped. What will he do?

(3:3-4) Jesus told the man to “get up.” The handicapped person was probably sitting in the crowd, and Jesus called him to “the front of the class.”

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 Jesus is justified in healing. But if they answer that it is not right, then they will be the ones who are indicted!

How do they respond? Blubbering silence!—and their silence was deafening! The omission of the religious leaders showed that they were the ones in sin—not Jesus.

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?” And 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.” It’s possible to be angry at sin, but also feel grief toward the sinner. 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. Notice that they are not surprised or astounded at the miracle at all. We often hear today, “If I saw a miracle, then I’d believe.” But this is not the case here. Their problem was having a “hardened heart” (v.5). As one person has said, “The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.”

Who were the Herodians? Josephus only mentions them in passing (Wars of the Jews, 1.16.6; Antiquities, 14.450), where he implies that these were supporters of Herod Antipas. The Herodians weren’t necessarily “card carrying” party members. Instead, their name “suggests a common attitude of allegiance to Herod in a country where large numbers of people chafed under his rule.”[53] Wessel writes, “Although it is not clear who the Herodians were, it seems fairly certain that they were neither a religious sect nor a political party. The term probably refers to influential Jews who were friends and backers of the Herodian family. This meant, of course, that they were supporters of Rome, from which the Herods received their authority. They joined the Pharisees in opposition to Jesus because they feared he might be an unsettling political influence in Palestine.”[54]

More teaching and healing

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 12:15-21.]

(3:7-8) When Jesus left, the people followed him—not the religious leaders. The word of Jesus was spreading—even into the capital of Israel: Jerusalem.

(3:9-10) Jesus was getting such much attention that the crowds were overwhelming him. He probably called for a boat to “provide escape… in case the crowd began to get unruly.”[55] It’s also possible that he had intended to teach from the boat, which would allow for good acoustics.

(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) Jesus had a huge following at this point. He selected from the crowd these twelve men. So, these were already followers of Jesus, but now, they get a special relationship with him and a special commission. Luke records that Jesus spent “the whole night in prayer” before he chose these men (Lk. 6:12).

Which mountain was this? Wessel thinks it refers to the “the hill country of Galilee near the lake.”[56] But, we’re simply not sure.

Is there significance that Jesus called the apostles while standing on a mountain? It could simply be that he wanted privacy from the massive crowds (see Mk. 3:9-10). It could also harken back to other divine commissions given from mountains in the OT.

(3:14-15) Why twelve disciples? Many commentators regularly recognize that this relates to caring for the twelve tribes of Israel.[57]

Jesus wanted the disciples to (1) be with Him to learn and to (2) 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. The name “Peter” (cephas) is not a “proper name” in this context, but rather it “may describe some quality or trait which Jesus recognized in Simon.”[58]

(3:17) Why did Jesus give James and John these nicknames? (e.g. “the Sons of Thunder”) It sounds like a biker gang! Lemke writes that this “seems to characterize the brothers as hot-tempered, prone to outbursts of anger (see Mk 9:38; Lk 9:54).”[59] Jesus was happy to work with strong-willed men.

(3:18) Did Andrew struggle with the fact that Peter (his biological brother) was picked as the leader, rather than him?

The rest of these men aren’t mentioned elsewhere in Mark:

Philip is an old Macedonian name.

Bartholomew means “Son of Talmai.”

Matthew is the Greek name for Levi—the tax collector—whom Jesus reached in Mark 2:14. Matthew explicitly calls him “the tax collector.” This is a case of interlocking: Mark switches from Levi to Matthew without explaining the change. Matthew fills in this gap, showing that Levi is Matthew the tax collector.

Thomas

James the son of Alphaeus

Thaddaeus is equivalent to “Judas, the son of James” in Luke-Acts (Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13). Like various other biblical figures, he had more than one name.

Simon the Zealot must have had a difficult time working alongside Matthew (the tax collector). After all, the Zealot party wanted to kill the Romans, and the tax collectors wanted to profit off of them. Wessel comments, “It was a strange group of men our Lord chose to be his disciples. Four of them were fishermen, one a hated tax collector, another a member of a radical and violent political party. Of six of them we know practically nothing. All were laymen. There was not a preacher or an expert in the Scriptures in the lot. Yet it was with these men that Jesus established his church and disseminated his Good News to the end of the earth.”[60]

(3:19) Here we have explicit foreshadowing how Jesus will meet his end.

These men aren’t sent out until the Galilean ministry in Mark 6:7-13…

The unforgiveable sin: claiming that Jesus was from Satan—not God

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 12:22-37.]

(3:20) There were probably going back to Peter’s “home” (cf. Mk. 1:29; 2:1).[61] This description really implies mayhem—like a rock concert or a packed party. The people were overwhelming the area.

(Mark 3:21) The word(s) “lost his senses” (exeste) means “to cause to be in a state in which things seem to make little or no sense” or “be out of one’s normal state of mind” or “lose one’s mind” (BDAG). The people refer to his family (v.31). In other words, Jesus’ own family 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. This is parallel to John who records people saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” (Jn. 10:20)

This statement is so embarrassing that early scribes removed it! Lane writes, “Codex D W it read ‘when the scribes and the rest heard concerning them,’ thus removing all possible reference to Jesus’ family. The reason for seizing Jesus in D it is that ‘he escaped from them.’ Similarly in Codex W and 28 all reference to insanity is removed: ‘Because they said that they were adherents of his’ or ‘dependent on him.’”[62]

(3:22) In the parallel accounts, Jesus had just healed a demoniac (Mt. 12:22; Lk. 11:14). Notice 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).

Lane argues that the Sanhedrin was running an official investigation to see whether the city of Capernaum had become a “seduced city” and become the “prey of an apostate preacher.”[63] Consequently, this is why they sent their scribes to investigate the case. There is historical precedent for this, according to Lane.

(3:23-26) Jesus was so confident in his identity and sanity that he didn’t defend himself against their charge of demon possession (!!).

Regarding the second claim: 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. J.C. Ryle writes, “There is such a thing as a sin which is never forgiven. But those who are troubled about it are most unlikely to have committed it.”[64]

(Mk. 3:29) Blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

(3:30) Again, this is an embarrassing detail for Mark to include, which supports his veracity.

The apostles

[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). Jesus’ family had begun to travel to see him (v.21), and now, they had actually arrived. The reason that they were standing outside was that the house was packed with people (v.32).

(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. The crowd told Jesus to “behold” that his family was there, but Jesus says “behold” in return!—saying that his family already is there (v.34). Jesus is practicing what he preaches later (Mk. 10:28-30; cf. Ps. 22:22).

(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.”[65]

Notice that each iteration refers to “mother and brothers,” except for the final verse which adds “sisters” (v.35). Jesus was inclusive of women as well as men.

Mark 4 (Parables)

(4:1-2) The house was so packed (Mk. 3:20) and the crowds so large that Jesus may have needed to be out on a boat so he could get good acoustics to teach. The genre of parables “can refer to figurative forms of speech of every kind…. [It] is so broad and complex that it cannot be limited to any one type or application.”[66]

The parable of the FOUR SOILS

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 13:3-23 and Luke 8:5-18.]

Jesus picked a parable that would connect with an agrarian, farming culture. The point of the parable is not to be fatalistic. We can choose what kind of soil we want to be. That’s why Jesus ends the parable by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mk. 4:9). He doesn’t explain that the parable is about the kingdom until verse 11. At this point, he is just giving an illustration.

(4:3) Who is “the sower” in the parable? Jesus? Believers? Jesus doesn’t explain this part—only saying that the “sower sows the word” (Mk. 4:14).

(4:4) Soil #1: Beside the road. Birds ate this seed.

(4:5-6) Soil #2: Rocky places. Immediately, this seed sprang up, but had no depth of soil or roots, so they quickly withered.

(4:7) Soil #3: Among the thorns. This seed was choked out.

(4:8) Soil #4: The good soil. This seed 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. They have the ears, but will they listen?

Why parables?

(4:10) The Twelve, as well as other “followers,” came to inquire more about the parable. The rest of the people in the crowd must’ve been perplexed and simply went home. We wonder if they said, “We heard all about Jesus of Nazareth… But we showed up to see and hear the show, and all he did was talk about farming! What a rip off! We should’ve stayed home…”

But not the “followers” of Jesus. They wanted to know more. Once the crowds dispersed and they were “alone,” Jesus gave them more explanation. This shows that those who want to know more will stick around to listen and learn. In fact, this demonstrates the very message of the parable itself!

(4:11) Why would Jesus “give” the “mysteries of the kingdom” to these people, but not others? The context implies that they were following Jesus and wanted to know more (Mt. 7:7). This fits with the “messianic secret.” Jesus wasn’t disclosing himself to everyone. He was only giving his truth to those who wanted to know more. This is in contrast to those who heard him and wanted to kill him! (Mk. 3:6)

(4:12) Jesus cites Isaiah 6:9-10. Mark introduces this citation with the words “so that” (hina), while Matthew introduces it with the words “which says” (hoti). Hina would imply the cause (“in order that”, while hoti would only imply the result (“so that”).[67] Mark could be saying that the cause refers to the fulfillment of the prophecy (“so that it may be fulfilled”).[68]

Furthermore, this doesn’t mean that all people, everywhere cannot understand Jesus’ teaching. Rather, this referred to the “contemporary situation”[69] in which Jesus found himself. Lane writes, “The citation of Isa. 6:9f. does not mean that ‘those outside’ are denied the possibility of belief. It indicates that they are excluded from the opportunity of being further instructed in the secret of the Kingdom so long as unbelief continues.”[70]

(4:13) It’s interesting that Jesus earlier said that it was “given” to them to understand (v.11), but they still don’t understand! If they don’t understand this one, then how will they grasp all of the others Jesus wants to share with them? This one isn’t just first in order, but first in priority.

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.” The sower is most likely Jesus himself,[71] who has been speaking about the kingdom throughout the gospel of Mark. It has been received in various different ways—just as Jesus taught. For application today, Jesus still speaks the word of the gospel through his people: the Body of Christ. So, we see similar responses to Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness today.

(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. Apparently, Satan doesn’t wait for an opportunity later on, but he does this “immediately.” Luke makes this more explicit, writing that “they will not believe and be saved” (Lk. 8:12). Therefore, believers should pray immediately as people are hearing the gospel.

(4:16-17) Soil #2: Rocky places. This seed 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 them 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? This one both “hears and understands (v.14). That is, this person grasps the truth and the implications of grace. 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.

A lamp

(4:21-22) Jesus’ point is that his truth is currently being concealed, but it will later be revealed. In fact, Jesus is in the process of revealing God’s truth about the kingdom to them.

(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. If you actually hear, then you will get something from Jesus. However, if you ignore his teaching, he’ll take away what you had. Put another way, you only get out of Jesus’ teaching what you put into it.

(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). In this passage, it’s clear that the sower is a “man” who doesn’t even know how the seed grows.

(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? And yet, 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 fruit-bearing. This keeps us striving, while also utterly dependent.

(4:28-29) The “soil” does the growing—not the “sower.” Similarly, God causes the growth—not us. Our job is simply to sow the seed, and to harvest the crop that God has supplied.

Further reflections

Unlike the parable of the soils, nothing obstructs or interferes with the seed from growing. Similarly, Jesus will grow his church! (Mt. 16:18)

We took the view that believers sow the seed, and the harvest refers to seeing people come to faith. Lane holds that the sower is Jesus himself and the harvest refers to judgment.[72] The difficulty with this view is that the sower doesn’t understand how the seed grows (which doesn’t fit very well with Jesus being sower!).

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—like a mustard treelike shrub.

What do the “birds” refer to in the parable? Jesus may be quoting from Ezekiel 17:23, which states that God cut down big trees and make little trees grow big. Others think that the birds refer to the Gentiles being included in the Church Age. Lane holds that it could refer to a litany of OT passages (Ps. 104:12; Dan. 4:12, 21; Ezek. 17:23; 31:6), but we aren’t sure which one or if the audience would understand any particular reference. Instead, he argues that the purpose is to show the size, power, and protection of God’s kingdom.[73]

(Mk. 4:30) Was Jesus wrong in saying that the mustard seed is the smallest seed? (cf. Mt. 13:31-32)?

(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).

“So far as they were able to hear it…” Lane writes, “This means that he adapted it to the level of understanding that he found in his listeners.”[74]

Stilling of the sea

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:18-27 and Luke 8:22-25.]

Jesus had been teaching from a small boat (Mk. 4:2), and this is likely the same one. These boats were tiny fishing boats—not big barges. In 1986, the “Ancient Galilee Boat” or what was later called the “Jesus Boat” was discovered, which dates to the first-century AD. It is roughly 27 feet long and 7.5 feet wide. It would be pretty scary to be in the middle of a storm in one of these.

(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 of the sea of Galilee.

(4:36) Apparently, other people still followed him on the water (“other boats were with Him”).

(4:37) The Sea of Galilee is small (more like a large lake). It is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. However, because it is surrounded by mountains, these fierce gales are common. Lane writes, “Sudden violent storms on the sea are well known. Violent winds from the southwest enter the basin from the southern cleft and create a situation in which storm and calm succeed one another rapidly.”[75]

(4:38) The word “care” (melei) can also be translated as “anxious.” The disciples are effectively saying, “Aren’t you scared about the fact that we’re all going to die?—including you!” They are taking the tone of a rebuke,[76] which is never a good idea when addressing Jesus!

How could Jesus sleep through a fierce storm with the water splashing him in the face? Wessel believes that it was because Jesus was utterly exhausted from doing so much ministry.[77] That’s possible, but hard to believe. It might demonstrate that Jesus was so secure in God that he wasn’t afraid of a “little” storm. This is the sign of a good leader: When everyone else is panicking, Jesus remained calm and modeled faith. Jesus wasn’t afraid of the storm, but the storm was afraid of Jesus!

(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 the waves (Ps. 33:7; 65:7; 77:16; 89:9; Job 12:15) and the wind (Ps. 107:25-30; 147:18; Prov. 30:4; Job 28:25; Amos 4:13; Nah. 1:3ff). Thus there question is a good one: Who (but God alone!) can calm a storm and have sovereignty over creation?

“Hush, be still” can be rendered, “Silence, be muzzled.”[78] This is a similar to rebuke to what Jesus said to a demon (Mk. 1:25).

(4:40) “Afraid” can also be rendered “cowardly.” Fear and faith are mutually exclusive. Specifically, they lacked faith in Jesus’ saving power. Lane writes, “Very early this incident was understood as a sign of Jesus’ saving presence in the persecution which threatened to overwhelm the Church. It is not surprising that in early Christian art the Church was depicted as a boat driven upon a perilous sea; with Jesus in the midst, there was nothing to fear.”[79]

(4:41) Why are they still afraid—even after the storm subsides? The only thing scarier than a massive storm is a being who can stop it with a word. Their question leaves us hanging, demanding an answer. Who can control nature? Who indeed!

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). Geresa is 30 miles southeast of the lake. However, Mark states that they were in the “region” (NIV, NLT) or “country” (NASB, ESV) of the Gerasenes. This implies that a larger region is in view—not a specific location. However, Wessel notes, “Another possibility is that Gerasa is to be identified with the ruins of Kersa (Koursi), a village on the eastern shore. Not far from this site there is a cliff within forty meters of the shore and some old tombs.”[80] Lemke concurs, “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.”[81]

(5:2) Why would this demon possessed man run toward Jesus? (v.6) Luke records that the man was completely naked (Lk. 8:27).

(5:3) Why did this demon possessed man dwell “among the tombs” (cf. v.2)? Is there something about death that attracts demonic activity? Wessel writes, “It was a natural place for a possessed man to dwell because of the popular belief that tombs were the favorite haunts of demons. This wretched man had probably been driven from ordinary society into the tombs.”[82]

(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!

One aspect of demon possession involves sleeplessness (“Night and day…”).

Another aspect of demon possession includes self-harm (“gnashing himself with stones”). He must’ve looked bloodied and scarred all over his body. This could very well be a form of occult Satanic worship. Lane writes, “Was this practice associated with worship of demonic deities? Cutting the flesh in frenzied worship is very ancient (cf. 1 Kings 18:28)… The suggestion lies close at hand that the possessed man was involved in a demonic form of worship contrary to his will.”[83]

(5:6) This scary demon possessed man had to bow before the authority of Jesus.

(5:7-8) Another aspect of demon possession is having supernatural knowledge. This demon (or these demons) knew Jesus’ name and his title (“Son of God”).

The demon knew that he had no power over Jesus. Yet he was “shouting with a loud voice” at him. He must have been using a scare tactic. Demons likely use the same tactic with believers. That is, they know that they have no power, but they scare us into backing down. Incidentally, Jesus doesn’t fall for such a ploy!

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, these demons didn’t want to go to the “abyss” (Lk. 8:31). This must be some sort of maximum security prison for demons. He implores Jesus “by God.” This is odd language coming from a demon, but this could show that there are certain rules in the spiritual realm that God upholds and sustains. The demon was appealing to these.

(5:9) Demon possessed people can have more than one demon in them. A Roman legion “consisted of over six thousand men.”[84] This would explain why 2,000 pigs get possessed (v.13).

(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. Rather than believing in “territorial demons” as some charismatic groups do, this text could simply refer to not being sent into the “abyss” (Lk. 8:31). We’re not sure.

(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? There must have been a considerable amount of demons in this one human host. A “legion” of soldiers was 6,000 (v.9). Since 2,000 pigs were possessed, there must have been at least 2,000 demons to enter into all of those pigs.

Why would the demons go into the pigs only to commit suicide? Part of demon possession includes self-harm—specifically suicide (v.5). Imagine the sound these shrieking animals as they stampeded over the cliff to their deaths. This would send a shrill and shiver up your spine.

This implies that demons can possess animals. This isn’t a stretch, because demons can possess humans which are far more complex creatures.

Isn’t it cruel that Jesus killed these 2,000 pigs? Who said Jesus killed them? Mark states that he gave “permission” to the demons to enter the swine. The demons killed these swine—not Jesus. Besides, these animals were not destined to live forever. They would’ve died of natural causes within a few years.

(5:14) This event no doubt led to the rumor mill starting in the nearby towns.

(5:15) Imagine what it would feel like to be the man healed of demon-possession. Everyone had fled from you and avoided you at all costs. Now, they were flocking around to see that you were healed.

Why were the people “frightened”? There are many different reasons—not all of which are mutually exclusive.

First, it would’ve been a pretty frightening event in general—especially hearing 2,000 pigs squeal to their deaths and seeing a lacerated man, whom they had not seen for some time.

Second, if the people were afraid of the demon-possessed man who was supernaturally powerful, they may have even been more afraid of Jesus’ power. In other words, they may have been afraid of the fact that they were encountering a mightier power than a legion of demons. They feared the unknown.

Third, they could have viewed Jesus as a mere magician, rather than the Messiah. Keener writes, “Magicians were generally feared and usually detested.”[85] It wouldn’t be the last time he had been accused in this way. The religious leaders believed that Jesus was empowered by Satan to perform his miracles (Mt. 12:24; cf. Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a).

Fourth, they feared for their business. They may have been worried that all of this pork and bacon had been taken from them (2,000 pigs). Remember, this is Gentile country, so this would have been their sustenance. In this case, they wanted Jesus to leave for materialistic reasons—namely, Jesus was bad for business!

(5:16-17) This shows that miracles do not necessarily produce faith. These people saw an incredible miracle that healed a man (i.e. power and love), but they still rejected Jesus.

In a sermon on this passage, Billy Graham said that this is the scariest prayer that Jesus ever answered: The people implored Jesus to leave, and he gave them what they wanted. Similarly, Jesus won’t force himself on people. If they reject him, he will give them their freedom to do so.

(5:18) The demons were afraid and the people were afraid, but not this man. This miracle changed this man’s life forever, and he wanted to stay close to Jesus. This is what made him want to follow Jesus.

“That he might accompany Him…” is language for discipleship (Mk. 3:14).[86]

(5:19-20) Jesus wanted this man to be a witness of what God was doing, so he sent him to his hometown (cf. the woman at the well, Jn. 4). Jesus likely doesn’t silence this man—as we’ve been seeing Jesus doing—because he was a Gentile.[87] His testimony to his family wouldn’t expedite Jesus’ death in Jerusalem. “Decapolis” was “a league of ten originally free Greek cities located (except Scythopolis) on the east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River.”[88]

Moreover, note the shift from the “great things the Lord has done” (v.19) and the “great things Jesus had done” (v.20). This is yet another passage that supports Jesus’ deity.

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. This is on the west side of the sea.[89]

(5:22) Jairus was a “synagogue official.” These were “laymen whose responsibilities were administrative, not priestly, and included such things as looking after the building and supervising the worship. Sometimes the title was honorary, given to prominent members of the congregation with no administrative duties attached.”[90]

Jesus has been healing multitudes of people in the synagogues, showing his power over the religious leaders. Here, a religious leader (Jairus) is recognizing Jesus’ authority. He falls at Jesus’ feet and implores him “earnestly.” Here was sincere faith!

(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). This is an agony that only a father could know.

(5:24) The crowd wanted to see Jesus do another miracle. They were following him to see the show.

Interruption: A hemorrhaging woman

(5:25) This hemorrhaging would’ve made this woman perpetually ceremonially unclean, because it was some sort of “uterine disease… that had persisted for twelve years.”[91] It was most likely

(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. Nobody could help her. She probably assumed that she would deal with this condition until she died. It would’ve been particularly embarrassing as a woman to have “doctors” help her with her “uterine disease.”

(5:27-29) She knew that merely touching Jesus would heal her. Why did Jesus perform this miracle through the touching of his cloak? This could be that this is a reversal of her shame. In this religious culture, the woman was ceremonially unclean, and even her clothes were ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:27; 17:15). Lane states that the Mishnah even distinguished the “stages in which clothes become unclean” (M. Ḥagiga 2.7).[92] This is a form of substitution: This unclean woman touched Jesus making him unclean; and by becoming unclean, Jesus made the woman clean. Many were healed this way (Mk. 3:10; 6:56).

(5:30) Jesus didn’t know who touched him (see “The Incarnation” for an explanation of how this could be). As believers, we can sometimes sense the Holy Spirit empowering us. Apparently, Jesus could feel this too.

(5:31) The disciples were probably laughing when they asked him this. It would be like asking who elbowed you in the ribs in the middle of a mosh pit! There were so many people crowding around that Jesus’ question didn’t make sense to them.

(5:32-33) Jesus didn’t relent. 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! This is probably why she was “fearing” and “trembling” at the feet of Jesus.

(5:34) The key to being cured was not magic (i.e. touching his cloak). Jesus said that the key was her “faith.” Here, faith meant getting close to Jesus and knowing he had the power to heal her. There was also an overcoming of her fear of being ceremonially unclean and touching a rabbi. She came to Jesus with all of her uncleanliness and fears.

Back to Jairus’ daughter

(5:35) This interruption must’ve been hard for Jairus to stomach. 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—a condition she had managed for twelve years. Meanwhile, his daughter was on the verge of death! In fact, when they arrive, they discover his daughter dead.

From Jairus’ perspective, Jesus timing and healing were all wrong. It may have been easy for Jairus to become bitter or even angry at Jesus. However, Jesus was teaching him a valuable lesson: 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.”[93] It was common for even a poor person to hire at least “two fluteplayers and one professional mourner.”[94] A synagogue-ruler would likely need to hire far more. This weeping and wailing was a customary way for people to express grief. When the mourning subsided, these “professional mourners” would weep and wail and get people mourning again.

(5:39) Jesus used the term “sleep” as a euphemism for death in John 11:11, and the messengers (v.35) and mourners (v.38) believed she was medically dead. Later, the parents and three disciples were “astonished” (v.42). If this was merely a comatose state, this wouldn’t call for this sort of astonishment, because ancient people came out of comas, just as modern people do. Furthermore, the parallel passage states that she was dead. Luke writes, “Her spirit returned, and she got up immediately” (Lk. 8:55). Lane writes, “Jesus’ statement means that in spite of the girl’s real death, she has not been delivered over to the realm of death with all of its consequences. Mourning is inappropriate because she experiences a sleep from which she will soon awake.”[95]

(5:40) It’s strange that the crowd goes from weeping to laughing so quickly. Grief does strange things to us. But Jesus ignored the laughter of the crowds. He took the parents and his “inner three” disciples with him.

(5:41) This use of an Aramaism (and the need to translate it) shows that Mark’s audience wasn’t Jewish. It also is a signifier of eye-witness testimony.

(5:42) Nobody expected this to happen—not the parents nor the disciples. Only Jesus knew what would happen in this miracle.

(5:43) This fits with the “messianic secret.” Jesus didn’t want his cover to be blown before his time had come. Moreover, he probably did this to protect this young girl. After all, when Jesus raised Lazarus, the religious leaders tried to kill Lazarus to literally “bury” the evidence! (Jn. 12:9-11)

Jesus didn’t want to reveal his identity to the cynical and skeptical crowds outside—only to the believing parents and his disciples. Lane writes, “It is appropriate to this consistent pattern of behavior that he was unwilling to make himself known to the raucous, unbelieving group that had gathered outside Jairus’ house.”[96]

Miracles are not in conflict with medicine: Jesus healed her, but she also needed food.

Conclusion

What do we learn about Jesus from this miracle?

First, Jesus is not in any sort of rush. He has time to heal a bleeding woman, and still plenty of power to raise a little girl from the dead. Our timing is not God’s timing.

Second, Jesus had tremendous power. He spoke of raising this girl from the dead as if he was nudging her awake from a nap. This statement was so absurd that the people burst into laughter. But Jesus was dead serious.

Third, Jesus is incredibly gentle, compassionate, and sensitive. The expression “Talitha kum” is an incredibly kind and gentle way to wake up this little girl. He even thinks about her physical hunger, calling for her to be given a meal. Lane comments, “There is a fine human touch in Mark’s final note, that in the midst of the excitement and confusion Jesus realized that the girl would need food.”[97]

Fourth, Jesus cares for the big needs, as well as the small. He cared for the humiliating illness of the hemorrhaging woman, but also for the needs of a dying girl. No need is too big or too small to bring to Jesus. Our role is to seek him, and trust him in his timing—not our own.

To conclude, we see in Jesus a source of unfathomable power and greatness, but also sensitivity and sweetness.

Mark 6 (Sending of the Twelve)

 

Returning home

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 13:54-58.]

(6:1) Jesus returns home to Nazareth. Though the town is unnamed, Mark has already named Jesus’ hometown earlier (Mk. 1:9, 24).

(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. Jesus must have been distinct from the other rabbis.

(6:3) They were offended that a blue collar guy like Jesus (“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”) could exude such wisdom and perform miracles (v.2). The idea that Jesus was a carpenter passes the historical criterion of embarrassment. Even Origen (AD 250) denied that Jesus was a carpenter, because he was only appealing to an errant textual variant of Mark and Matthew 13:55 (Against Celsus 6.36).[98]

Furthermore, while Mark never explicitly teaches the virgin birth, this passage implicitly teaches it. It was customary to identify a person through the father’s line—not the mother’s line (“son of Mary”).

Incidentally, this passage speaks against the notion of the “perpetual virginity of Mary,” because Jesus had at least six siblings.

(6:4) All four gospels contain this quotation of Jesus (Mt. 13:57; Jn. 4:44; Lk. 4:24). However, this shouldn’t lead us to fatalism in reaching our families for Christ. After all, Jesus reached his unbelieving family! Notice that “James” was specifically mentioned here (v.3), and he was a skeptic (Jn. 7:5). But later James came to Christ (1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19).

(6:5) Did Jesus lack the power or ability to perform miracles? No, Matthew explains, “He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Mt. 13:58). This is also mentioned in verse 6 (“He wondered at their unbelief…”). This could be similar to Jesus’ prerogative in John 2, where he himself decides when and where he chooses to do miracles (in that case, of course, he chose to do one). Lane writes, “It is not Mark’s intention to stress Jesus’ inability when he states that he could perform no miracles at Nazareth. His purpose is rather to indicate that Jesus was not free to exercise his power in these circumstances.”[99]

This might be similar to a father saying to his toddler, “I can’t give you a cookie before dinner.” It isn’t that the father lacks the ability or the means, but that he can’t do it based on his own character and plan (i.e. spoiling the child’s appetite).

(6:6) The unbelief of these people was perplexing to Jesus. Jesus couldn’t believe their unbelief!

“He was going around the villages teaching…” This is the third missionary trip through Galilee (Mk. 1:14, 39).

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.” Up until this point, Jesus kept this authority of the demonic for himself. Now, he gives the authority to them (and us).

(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). In other words, they should depend on the hospitality of people to carry a staff, but they shouldn’t bring one with them initially. This might be similar to a marathon runner not being allowed to bring a water bottle, but she would be allowed to accept water along the way.

(6:10) If they were welcomed, then they should stay there.

(6:11) The shaking off of the dust of the feet refers to “the Jewish custom of removing carefully the dust from both clothes and feet before reentering Jewish territory.”[100] Lane writes, “It was the custom of pious Jews who had travelled outside of Israel to remove carefully from their feet and clothing all dust of the alien lands in which they had travelled. By this action they dissociated themselves from the pollution of those lands and their ultimate judgment.”[101] In other words, these Jewish cities were being treated like Gentiles (!). Since the Jews did this to the Gentiles, Jesus was giving them a taste of their own medicine.

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) Why did they anoint people with oil? Cole writes, “Anointing with oil was not in this case a medical treatment but a spiritual symbol, though it appears to be used medically in the case of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:34), who poured ‘oil and wine’ on wounds… Oil is a biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit’s presence (1 Kgs 1:39), and so the very anointing is itself an ‘acted parable’ of divine healing by the Spirit’s power.”[102] 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 (Jn. 10:41). These people are clearly unaware of what was happening in the wilderness, because John baptized Jesus.

(6:15) John called Jesus the “Coming One,” which would fit with Elijah (Mal. 3:1; 4:5). To summarize the view of the people, they thought that Jesus was at least a prophet, because all three examples mention prophets.

(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). It’s possible that Herod felt guilty for killing John, and he thought God had raised him.[103] Under this view, Herod was “disturbed by an uneasy conscience” and “disposed to superstition.”[104]

“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 as a plotter; he was deposed from his tetrarchy and ended his days in exile.”[105]

Excursus: the explanation of John’s murder by Herod

(6:17-18) John the Baptist spoke out against Herod’s unrighteous marriage (Lev. 18:16; 20:21), and it landed him in prison. Herod didn’t want to go so far as to kill John, but he also wanted him out of the public eye. There’s a resulting principle here: When we speak the truth, people can react with hostility. Moreover, just because someone was rich and powerful, they also needed to hear God’s truth.

Herod likely arrested John the Baptist because he was afraid of a political uprising. The area of Antipas included Perea, which bordered on the Nabatean Kingdom. Herod’s earlier wife (before Herodias) was a Nabatean (the daughter of Aretas IV of Nabatea). John’s criticism of Herod’s remarriage to his former sister-in-law (Herodias) could be interpreted as a political criticism, because Herod had thrown out his former Nabatean wife for his new wife.[106]

Herodias had been Herod’s sister-in-law through his brother Philip. Josephus mentions this, but he fails to call Philip by his personal name.

Josephus (Antiquities 18.2) states that Herod locked up John in Machaerus, which was on the “southern tip of Perea tangent to the northeast corner of the Dead Sea.”[107]

(6:19-20) Herodias wanted John killed for his views, but Herod was more sympathetic to John, so she couldn’t judge him. Josephus tells us that Herod was afraid of John the Baptist’s large public ministry (Antiquities, 18.118).

Why was Herod afraid of John? The text says that it was because he was a “righteous and holy man,” but why would this intimidate Herod? It seems that Herod was superstitious that God might judge him if Herod harmed John. Remember, Herod’s immediate reaction was one of guilt (and fear?) that God had raised John the Baptist from the dead (v.16).

Herod enjoyed John’s teaching, but never found repentance.

(6:21-23) Our sex drive can lead us to do very foolish and evil things! Furthermore, this is particularly disturbing because this female dancer (whom Josephus names as Salome) was Herod’s step-daughter. She was only in her “middle teens at the time of her infamous performance.”[108] Her mom (Herodias) used her as sexual bait, and her step-dad (Herod Antipas) took the bait. The offer of “up to half of my kingdom” is reminiscent of Xerxes (Esth. 5:3, 6). This was likely proverbial—not literal.

(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. Wessel notes, “Herodias’s quick reply betrayed the premeditated nature of her homicidal plan.”[109] Salome was working with her mother to some degree, because she added the request “on a platter.” This is “black humor”[110] and a sickening request in the middle of this dinner party.

(6:26) Since he made this declaration publicly (“because of his dinner guests”), he couldn’t take it back. Herod liked John the Baptist, but he liked his reputation more.

(6:27-28) He went through with the request.

(6:29) John’s disciples took the body and buried him. This seems consistent with first-century Jewish burial practices—especially for righteous people.

This murder apparently haunted Herod, as we saw above. Just a few years later (AD 36), the Nabateans came through and defeated Antipas. Josephus states that the people interpreted this defeat as an act of God’s wrath on Herod (Antiquities 18.1-3).

(6:30-32) The text doesn’t state that the apostles told Jesus about John’s death. Though, the parallel account attributes Jesus’ desire for solitude to hearing of John’s death. Matthew records, “When Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself” (Mt. 14:13).

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.]

This meal is juxtaposed with Herod’s feast. Herod was an evil king, who lived in luxury in the palace. His reign consisted of sexual debauchery and even murder. By contrast, Jesus is the good and loving king, who feeds people in the wilderness by the thousands. His reign meets the needs of the people who follow him. Under Herod’s leadership, the people are like “sheep without a shepherd” (v.34), but Jesus is the true Shepherd (Ezek. 34; Jn. 10).

(6:33) The crowds came to him from all the cities.” It seems like people were being attracted from a 360 degree radius. The people were so eager that they beat the boats to the shore! (“ran there together on foot… and got there ahead of them”)

(6:34) Even though Jesus and the disciples were tired and hungry, they still gave out serving love to these people. He viewed their needs as more important than his own. The concept of them being a “sheep without a shepherd” harkens back to Ezekiel 34. The location of being in a “desolate” place (v.35) implies a wilderness scene similar to the miracle of the manna. The stage is set for Jesus to show that he is the true Shepherd and the true Bread (Manna).

Jesus could see through their physical needs (i.e. being hungry) and discern their spiritual aimlessness.

(6:35-36) Once evening came, the disciples wanted to send the people home, so that they could get food. Perhaps, the disciples were tired of feeding people, and just wanted some rest. Regardless, the disciples couldn’t perceive the spiritual need in the crowds that Jesus saw (v.34).

(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? The problem with the disciples is that they were too self-reliant, and they ironically weren’t weak enough to depend on God to feed the people.

In the parallel account, Jesus directed his question specifically toward Philip (Jn. 6:5-6). 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?’”[111] 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. We often feel like we don’t have a lot to give, but Jesus can multiply what we have to meet the needs of the masses. This is where we get the idea that God doesn’t care about our ability, but our availability.

(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 grass was usually burned dry and dead. But in this time of the year (during Passover), the grass would grow. Wessel writes, “Mark notes that the grass was green (v. 39). This shows that the incident took place in the late winter or early spring, when the grass in Galilee turns green after the rains.”[112] 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. The Good Shepherd made them sit down. David writes, “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2).

(6:41) What would this have looked like? The text says that Jesus “kept giving them” the food. Does this mean that more food appeared every time the disciples returned to Jesus? Does it mean that the baskets were empty one minute and full the next? As they handed out food, was there just a reappearing supply? We’re not sure, but whatever this was, it was a miraculous event.

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, who sat in groups of 100’s and 50’s (cf. Lk. 9:14).

(6:42-43) Is it a coincidence that there were twelve disciples and twelve full baskets left over? Hardly! The disciples must have been hungry serving people all day, but Jesus more than provided for them when they were through. Remember, at the beginning of this section, the disciples were hungry from serving: “There were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (Mk. 6:31). It was through serving the masses that they were themselves filled (Acts 20:35).

The typical Jewish man carried a “small wicker basket” with him as part of his “daily attire.”[113] They would carry their lunches and any other personal items. This has led many scholars to debate whether a “man purse” is biblical! (JOKE)

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.]

Mark and John both omit Peter walking on the water with Jesus. This could be to keep the focus on Jesus as the “Son of God” (Mk. 1:1), while Matthew may have wanted to distinguish Peter from the other disciples in his account.

How does this passage speak to me? You might be wondering right now why your Christian life has grown apathetic and lethargic. You might feel an inward desire to change, but you’re not sure what or even how. If you’re in that condition, it’s good that you’re studying this passage, which contains one of Jesus’ most famous miracles and gives answers to our spiritual need.

(6:45) “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away.” Why was Jesus so intent on “immediately” ushering his disciples into the boat? In the parallel account, we read that the people had tried “to come and take [Jesus] by force and make Him king” (Jn. 6:15). The crowd may have been in a state of hysteria and “crisis.”[114] Since the people just saw the disciples feed them, perhaps there was a temptation for the people to idolize them.

From or to Bethsaida?

Luke has the feeding of the 5,000 at Bethsaida (Lk. 9:10), but Mark says that they are leaving to go to Bethsaida. How do we explain this discrepancy? For one, Mark states that they were not in the city, but out in the country on the “green grass” (Mk. 6:39). Therefore, the feeding of the 5,000 wasn’t in the city of Bethsaida, but rather near the city. Second, it could be that the disciples were moving toward Bethsaida and landed in Gennesaret (Mk. 6:53). R.T. France states that they were “driven off course by the contrary wind.”[115] Third, the words to Bethsaida” could simply be translated toward Bethsaida.” The word here is pros, which can be rendered as a “marker of movement or orientation toward someone/something” (BDAG).

(6:46) “After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.” The parallel passage states that Jesus was “alone” in prayer (Mt. 14:23). Mark only records three instances of Jesus withdrawing to pray (Mk. 1:35; 6:46; 14:32-36). In each case, we see that “Jesus finds himself in a moment of crisis prompted by the enthusiasm of the crowds or the impending passion.”[116] That is, in each case, Jesus faces temptation from the crowds or from his circumstances to be a Conquering King, not a Suffering Servant. In this instance, the people wanted to crown Jesus as king (cf. Jn. 6:15). Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus needed to pray about the forthcoming Cross.

After powerful experiences of serving God, Jesus would withdraw to pray. Didn’t Jesus have important things to do? Why would he waste time praying? It must be because praying is one of the most important things that we can do! Jesus not only saw the need to draw near to his Father, but he must have also looked forward to these times with his Father.

(6:47) “When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land.” It was already “quite late” before the disciples fed the 5,000 (Mk. 6:35). This must have been deep into the night at this point.

These boats were tiny—not big barges. In 1986, the “Ancient Galilee Boat” or “Jesus Boat” was discovered, which dates to the first-century AD. It is roughly 27 feet long and 7.5 feet wide. It would be pretty scary to be in the middle of a storm in one of these.

“Middle of the sea…” The Sea of Galilee is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide.

(6:48) “Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.” The disciples had just served thousands of people food all day. Now, they can’t catch a break. The wind is in their face as their try to cross the sea at night.

The “fourth watch” was between 3-6 AM.[117] They must have been exhausted. It is in the darkest hours of the night that Jesus appears to them.

“Seeing them straining…” It must have been a bright moon for Jesus to see them. Matthew records that they were “a long distance” from shore (Mt. 14:24). The Greek literally reads “many stadia.”[118] A stadion was roughly 200 yards. John records that they had rowed “three or four miles” (Jn. 6:19).

If there was a full moon or the sun was rising (6 am?), then it’s possible that Jesus could see them—especially if he was up on a mountain (v.46).

Did Jesus really walk on water? It’s nonsense to think that Jesus was walking in shallow water, on a sandbar, or near the shore. First, both Matthew and John place this far from shore (Mt. 14:24; Jn. 6:19). Second, seasoned fishermen wouldn’t be shocked to see a man walking in shallow water. Third, after Peter sunk in the water, he yelled, “Lord, save me!” Of course, Peter wouldn’t be afraid to drown in six inches water!

“He 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. The verse itself states that Jesus “came to them.” Instead, it means that he had the intention of them seeing him on the sea. It could be that this was meant to be a theophany—just like with Moses (Ex. 33:19, 22) or Elijah (1 Kin. 19:11). The expression “pass them by” was common language for a theophany in the Septuagint.[119] This is also similar to the language found in Job (Job 9:8, 11).

“[God] alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8 NIV). This is the same Greek as Mark 6:48.

“Were He to pass by me, I would not see Him; were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him” (Job 9:11).

This is the language of a theophany. Lemke comments, “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.”[120]

(6:49) “But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out.” Apparently, the disciples were watching too much Scooby Doo (“It’s a g-g-g-g-ghost!”). Seriously, though, 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. “Cried out” (anakrazō) is used of demon possessed people “crying out” (Mk. 1:23). Given the scene, this must have been a shrill scream of terror.

(6:50) “For they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, ‘Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.’” Jesus doesn’t tell them to calm their fear based on their feeling of his presence, but rather, on the knowledge of his presence (cf. Heb. 13:5).

The words “take courage” and “do not be afraid” sandwich the central statement: “It is I” (egō eimi) is literally “I am,” which echoes God’s name Yahweh in the OT (see especially the LXX; Ex. 3:14; Isa 43:10; 51:12). Some commentators don’t see a reference to Jesus’ deity here,[121] while others do.[122] We agree that this is a reference to Jesus’ deity for several reasons. For one, the “I” is emphatic, showing that this was meant to communicate something important. Second, the command not to fear fits with Isaiah’s revelation of God. He writes, “I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’” (Isa. 41:13). Third, the language up to this point fits with a theophany, where Jesus intended to “pass by them” (see comments on verse 48).

(6:51) “Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished.” The sea just so happens to calm down once Jesus entered the boat. This is the second time that Jesus calmed the sea with the disciples in a boat (Mk. 4:39). At that time, the disciples had asked, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mk. 4:41) Who indeed!

(6:52) “For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” The term “astonished” (existēmi) means “to cause to be in a state in which things seem to make little or no sense, confuse, amaze, astound” (BDAG). In other words, they didn’t put together the meaning of the last 12 hours. They failed to understand the identity of Jesus, and they failed to accurately interpret the miracles they had just witnessed.

This appears to contradict Matthew’s account, where we read, “Those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” (Mt. 14:33). However, this term “astonished” (existēmi) simply means to be “confused” (BDAG) or even “amazed with joyful worship” (Lev. 9:24 LXX; Lk. 5:26).[123] Carson points out that the reaction of the disciples is “always with a mixture of misapprehension.”[124] Moreover, they probably called Jesus the “Son of God” with “superficial comprehension”[125] at this point. For instance, Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16), yet a few verses later, Jesus calls him “Satan” for rebuking Jesus for choosing to die in Jerusalem (Mt. 16:21-23).

The disciples had “hardened hearts” in Mark (6:52), but this likely refers to the fact that they would be amazed at Jesus’ miracle… after seeing Jesus do many miracles!—including calming a storm (Mk. 4:35-41). Both gospels depict the disciples as unbelieving and fearful (Mt. 14:26-27; Mk. 6:52). And finally, if Matthew describes Peter as a man of “little faith,” then what would this imply about the other disciples?[126]

Devotionally, we realize that we are a lot more like these disciples than we might think. We keep forgetting who Jesus is and what he has done for us!

What do we learn from this passage?

Never say, No, for God. When you think about it, Peter’s request exists somewhere between audacity and insanity. Can you even imagine asking Jesus if you could come out onto the water with him? I wonder if the other disciples were making fun of Peter behind his back when he even asked this question: “Who does he think he is??” Did they roll their eyes at Peter’s request? Did they make faces behind his back in cynicism? Did they mock his aspiration in skepticism?

Mark doesn’t say, and Peter didn’t seem to notice or even care. He probably pointed clumsily at Jesus on the waves and said, “I wanna do that…” If I was Jesus, I picture myself saying, “Peter, are you serious? Sit down and shut up… The adults are talking, alright?” After all, Peter’s request was impulsive, poorly timed, outrageous, shameless, and downright inappropriate! And yet, Jesus says, “That’s exactly how I want you to bring your needs and desires to me!” After all, what is it that we are believing about God if we don’t bring our big needs and big aspirations to him? James writes, “You do not have because you do not ask” (Jas. 4:2). Sadly, most Christians are simply too afraid to ask! If God is going to say, No, then that’s his prerogative, and we should be quick to agree: “Not my will, but thy will be done.” However, we should never say, No, for God. Like Peter, we will be likely be surprised by how God answers prayers. As Paul writes, “[God] is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Our mindset will make us or break us. Peter accomplished the supernatural as long as he kept looking at Jesus, and the same is true for us. The author of Hebrews writes, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2 NIV). What does it mean to “fix our eyes on Jesus”? This must refer to our mindset and how we think about him during times of perseverance, pain, and suffering.

Peter didn’t have the power in himself to walk on water, but he succeeded in doing this under one condition: He needed to focus on Christ, rather than the imminent threats around him.

Some followers of Jesus start off focused. They feel unstoppable, and they are! They have the infinite-personal God guiding and empowering them! Yet over time, the imminent pressures and dangers of life begin to dominate their thinking, distracting them and causing their thoughts to drift. Finances, work, relationships, unsatisfied desires, physical pain—all of these lead to a mental drift and a sense of felt-choice. That is, they feel powerless and helpless from thinking about anything else.

We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control our mindset. It’s one of the cruelest lies in circulation today to believe that we are powerless and helpless with what we think. This is one of the few things over which we actually have control! Jesus held Peter accountable for what he chose to focus on: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14:31) The same is true with us. At times, our situation is so dire that we have a felt-loss of freedom. That is, we feel like we can’t help but contemplate, ruminate, and meditate on our circumstances. Yet the “wind and waves” will always be there. The question is, “Will you choose to allow these to dominate and distract your mindset?”

Is it “denial” to look away from these threats? No, it isn’t denial to look to Christ during times of anguish and suffering; instead, it’s delusional to focus on anything else! It’s destructive to continue to ruminate on something over which we have no control!

Did Peter fail? Yes and no. Jesus did ask Peter why he doubted. But since Peter was under grace, he truly couldn’t fail. While Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, Jesus never took his eyes off of Peter. When we’re under grace, we have the security to pursue new aspirations, take risks, and even fall flat on our faces! Why? Because our core needs are met: we’re secure, we’re loved, and we’re safe. So, why not try?

Peter didn’t fail, but do you know who did fail? The eleven guys sitting in the boat! Many Christians are just like these eleven disciples. They are good, nice people. They never take any spiritual risks, never have any aspirations, and never make any impact for the cause of Christ.

Why should I get out of the boat?

Because we can’t fail! Since we’re under grace, there’s nothing worry about. We can enter any adventure with the question, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? Oh no, I might fail and still be forgiven!” The pressure is off.

Because complacency causes spiritual comas! We start to feel spiritually sleepy, then apathetic, and finally, our relationship with God feels like it’s on life support. Following Christ will give us battle scars, but seeking comfort will give us bed sores!

Because that’s where Jesus is. The idea of security apart from God is an illusion. It is always safer to be in the storm with Jesus, than to be in the boat without him.

Healing in Gennesaret

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 14:34-36.]

(6:53-54) Jesus was becoming so famous that people would recognize him when he came to town. Gennesaret was a highly populated area. It lay “three miles between Capernaum and Tiberias along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.”[127] The people “immediately… recognized Him” because of his miracles in Capernaum.

(6:55) They carried fully grown adults to Jesus on pallets. This really shows a considerable amount of faith, because this would be strenuous work. This harkens back to the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2, which happened in… (drumroll)… Capernaum! These people may have seen this miracle (or heard about it), because Capernaum was only a couple miles from Gennesaret.

(6:56) This is similar to the hemorrhaging woman in Matthew 9:20-21 and Mark 5:25-34. Had these people heard about this miracle? Where else did they get the idea of being able to receive healing from simply 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. In fact, there was “an entire division of the Mishnah”[128] devoted to cleanliness laws.

(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.” This is clearly rabbinical Judaism—not biblical Judaism. While the priests needed to do ritual washings before entering the Tabernacle (Ex. 30:19; 40:13), religious tradition made this mandatory for all others to live a righteous life.

This was an extrabiblical practice. The Pharisees believed that this oral law descended all the way back to Moses (Mishnah Aboth 1.1-3). Pious Jews would pray this prayer before eating meals: “Blessed be Thou O Lord, King of the universe, who sanctified us by thy laws and commanded us to wash the hands” (The Babylonian Talmud, Berachoth 60b.). By the third century AD, it was “strongly condemned” to eat food without ritual washings (The Babylonian Talmud Soṭah 4b; Shabbath 62b), and “this seems to have been a tendency already evident in Jesus’ day.”[129] The religious leaders treated this very seriously. Indeed, the Mishnah recorded placing a “ban” on “Eleazar ben Enoch, because he cast doubt on (the tradition of the Elders concerning) the cleansing of hands” (M. Eduyoth V. 6.).

The washing was not for hygienic purposes. Simply washing one’s hands with a handful of water was sufficient, and even immersing them to the knuckles was considered a sufficient cleansing. The Babylonian Talmud states, “the ablution [washing] of the hands before (eating) profane things is practiced up to the joint” (Ḥullin 106a). Clearly, this was ritual and religious cleansing. They had come to believe that a religious person became unclean by being around Gentiles, so they needed to wash this scum off of themselves.

Implications: When you think about it, this really gives a distorted picture of God and the human condition. For one, it makes it seem like sin is superstitious, floating in the air outside of us. Second, it lowers the nature of sin to the superficial (e.g. “skin deep”), and the solution for sin to be equally superficial (e.g. washing with water). Finally, this picture makes God look bizarre if he commands us to do this.

“The Pharisees and all the Jews…” Critics have argued that Mark believed that the entire population of Israel practiced these scrupulous laws, when this was surely not the case. In response, Lane argues that Mark was “generalizing his response… to a Gentile audience.”[130] He cites from the Pseudepigrapha (2nd c. BC) which made a similar statement to describe the culture of Israel. There we read, “And as the custom of all the Jews, they washed their hands and prayed to God” (Letter of Aristeas § 305).

(7:5) This isn’t directed at Jesus, but his followers (“disciples”). If it could be shown that Jesus’ followers were immoral, the religious leaders could argue that they picked this up from their leader. The religious leaders couldn’t appeal to Scripture to support this practice. Instead, they appealed to “the tradition of the elders.”

(7:6-7) Jesus cites Isaiah 29:13. This shows that the fulfillment of prophecy isn’t always a one-to-one fulfillment. Prophecy can be generally fulfilled. In this case, it’s fulfilled in the religious hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes. It’s interesting that the religious leaders never even mention God—only the tradition of the elders (v.5).

In verse 7, they are inventing novel teachings (“teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”). Lane comments, “Theoretically, the oral law was a fence which safeguarded the people from infringing the Law. In actuality it represented a tampering with the Law which resulted inevitably in distortion and ossification of the living word of God. The exaggerated reverence with which the scribes and Pharisees regarded the oral law was an expression of false piety supported by human precepts devoid of authority. Jesus categorically rejects the authority of the oral law.”[131]

(7:8) In this verse, the sin is superseding God’s revealed word (“Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men”).

Jesus explains HOW they used tradition to break the Law

(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.” Ouch! The sin here is elevating tradition over Scripture.

(7:10) Remember, the Pharisees believed that this oral law descended all the way back to Moses (Mishnah Aboth 1.1-3). This is why Jesus cites two portions of the Pentateuch which were written by Moses. 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). This showed both the authority and the severity of this issue.

In Matthew, Jesus explains that “God said” these things (Mt. 15:3). Here, he says that “Moses said” these things. In other words, Jesus believed that God spoke through Moses to write the Scriptures.

(7:11-12) This practice of “Corban” (or Qorban) was used for the priests in the OT (specifically Leviticus, Numbers, and Ezekiel). It refers to “an offering made to God.”[132] In the first-century, these religious leaders would declare their assets “Corban,” and therefore dedicated to God. But they didn’t actually give the assets away. Instead, they kept these possessions for themselves “as if they were an offering.”[133] Therefore, when a man’s parents came to him for help, he could say, “I’m sorry… All of my assets and possessions are Corban… So I can’t give you any financial support.” Thus the person could keep their money according to the law, but they were really doing so for selfish and inconsiderate reasons.

In effect, this “legal” practice was ultimately unspiritual and immoral! It effectively dishonored parents. The religious leaders began this encounter by charging Jesus with breaking the rabbinical laws, but Jesus charged them with breaking biblical laws.

(7:13) Tradition cannot contradict Scripture in Jesus’ mind. In this case, it isn’t a theological or abstract teaching that Jesus argues against. He is arguing against breaking ethical commands.

It’s interesting that this whole argument started with the Pharisees and scribes being indignant at Jesus’ disciples for not following tradition (v.5). It ends by Jesus showing that tradition leads to breaking God’s word and hurting people. This shows Jesus’ view on the outcome of man-made tradition.

Turning to the crowds

(7:14) Apparently, Jesus would “call” a crowd together to teach. Jesus addressed this “crowd” to make his earlier rebuke a teaching opportunity.

(7:15) Jesus was addressing the false notion of a “plague mentality” of sin, where sin would get on you like a cold or flu. Instead, Jesus tells them that our biggest problem is not outside of us, but inside. Sin begins in the heart of a person.

(7:16) This isn’t in early manuscripts.

(7:17) Matthew states that Peter started this discussion (Mt. 15:15). They went back to “the house” to talk in private. He might still be in Gennesaret, or maybe in Capernaum (cf. Mk. 9:28, 33; 10:10).

(7:18-19) Mark emphasizes how little the disciples themselves understood his teaching (Mk. 6:52; 7:18; 8:14-21). The ceremonial kosher laws (Lev. 11:1-47; Deut. 14:1-20) were abrogated by Jesus’ death on the Cross (see “Why the Arbitrary Laws?”). These foods when into the stomach—not the heart (v.19). This elaborates on Isaiah 29, which Jesus quoted above. There, the people were concerned about their lips—not their hearts.

As we noted in the introduction, history states that Peter was behind Mark’s gospel, and Peter was the one who had the visitation from God about all foods being clean (Acts 10:15). This concept of the ceremonial, kosher laws being lifted only occurs here in Mark. Therefore, this is an undesigned coincidence that Peter indeed oversaw the writing of this gospel.[134]

(7:20-23) Again, our sin problem is not external, but internal (see v.15). Notice that Jesus begins the list with “evil thoughts” (v.21). Think about this: Who doesn’t have evil thoughts?? Jesus keeps addressing the heart, rather than tradition, ritual, and any other external distractions that would pull people away from what is important to God—namely, the heart.

Jesus spoke against “fornication” (porneia). This refers to all sexual acts performed outside of the “one man, one woman, one flesh, 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 (modern day Lebanon), which borders Capernaum roughly 20 miles to the northwest. It was considered a pagan environment. Thus, Jesus is acting out what he just taught—namely, it isn’t the environment around you that matters, but what is within you.

Jesus couldn’t get away from the crowds, and his popularity was immense. Why wouldn’t Jesus want people to know that he was there? Did he want some relaxation and rest? Time to pray and meditate? Regardless, Jesus was willing to serve when he people sought him out with needs. Of course, this need was serious (A girl was demon-possessed!). We think it’s appropriate to draw boundaries for rest and vacation, but we shouldn’t be rigid if emergencies in ministry arise to serve.

(7:25-26) Syrophoenician comes from the territory of Phoenicia, which was in the larger territory of Syria. This woman asked Jesus to heal her “little girl” from demon possession. Matthew calls her a Canaanite woman (Mt. 15:22). It would’ve been a cultural taboo for a woman—not to mention a Gentile woman!—to come and ask Jesus to heal her daughter.

(7:27-28) This Gentile woman showed humility by agreeing with Jesus’ assessment—even calling him “Lord.” This is the only time anyone calls Jesus “Lord” in Mark.[135]

(Mk. 7:27) Was Jesus cruel to this Canaanite woman? (cf. Mt. 15:22-28)

The woman is acknowledging Jesus’ plan to reach the Jewish people first, but she is asking him to show mercy on her anyhow. She agrees with him (“Yes, Lord…”), but she notices that the dogs are fed at the same time as the children. Therefore, it would make sense for Jesus to help her while he was on his mission.

(7:29-30) Jesus goes ahead and heals this woman’s daughter on the spot. Lane writes, “The irresistible confidence of the woman in Jesus delighted him.”[136] Jesus loves when we come to him in boldness—albeit with the empty hands of faith (Eph. 3:13, 20).

Healing a deaf and mute man

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 15:29-31.]

(7:31) Jesus travels from Tyre to Sidon, which was 20 miles north. It’s uncertain if these were also Gentiles, because there were Jewish settlements in Sidon. However, if they were Gentiles, this would reaffirm the notion that Jesus was showing that our environment doesn’t make us unclean.

(7:32-33) This could be a fulfillment of Isaiah 35:5ff, which the rabbis believed would be fulfilled in the age of the Messiah (Genesis Rabba 95; Midrash Tehillin 146:8).

The man wasn’t mute, but rather, he had a severe speech impediment (“…spoke with difficulty…”). Because Jesus couldn’t communicate with this deaf man verbally, he communicated non-verbally by placing his fingers in the man’s ears. Why did Jesus feel the need to spit in order to heal the man? Lane writes, “Spittle was regarded as an important curative force in Judaism and Hellenism.”[137] In other passages, Jesus uses spit to heal the blind (cf. Mk. 8:22-26; Jn. 9:1-7).

On the other hand, the text doesn’t state that Jesus spit on his hands and put his spit-filled hands into the man’s mouth. Jesus could’ve been spitting as a kind of sign language to show the deaf man that he would heal his speech. Notice that the NASB has the phrase “with the saliva” in italics, because this is not in the Greek text. It is an inference by the translators.

(7:34) This is more Aramaic, which implies that Mark’s audience were Gentiles.

Why did Jesus feel the need to look “up” into heaven when God is omnipresent? This could be symbolic for the people around him.

(7:35) The man is healed. The fact that he could speak implies that he wasn’t born deaf and mute, but he had become this way after learning how to speak.

(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. Jesus ordered the crowd (“them”) not to speak. This fits with the “messianic secret.”

(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.]

Critics believe that this feeding is a repetition of the earlier feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6:33ff. For one, the events are quite similar. Second, the disciples do not mention an earlier feeding, and even give a similar unbelieving response (Mk. 8:4). This is surely an erroneous view.

First, these accounts are similar, but clearly not the same. This is 4,000, not 5,000. The other details are markedly different as well (e.g. five loaves versus seven loaves; twelve leftover baskets versus twelve leftover baskets, etc.).

Second, Jesus himself mentioned both miracles! He said, “‘When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?’ They said to Him, ‘Twelve.’ 20 ‘When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?’ And they said to Him, ‘Seven.’ 21 And He was saying to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’” (Mk. 8:19-21).

Third, this has too high a view of the disciples. In both accounts, Jesus rebuked their unbelief. After the feeding of the 5,000, we read, “they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (Mk. 6:52). And after the feeding of the 4,000, Jesus asked his disciples, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mk. 8:21).

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 or events, rather than just one (e.g. cleansing of the Temple). Critics consider this an ad hoc hypothesis, but this shows that such a conclusion is unwarranted, because even the same author records similar miracles in the same book.

Thematically, the first feeding was likely for Israel, while the second feeding was for the Gentiles in the Decapolis.[138]

(8:1-2) Jesus cared for both their spiritual and physical needs. 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. It’s amazing that these people would stay with Jesus for “three days” and still persist in staying there to hear Jesus teach.

(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). We never have to worry about putting Jesus first in our lives.

(8:4-9) They were in a “desolate place,” (v.4) perhaps a desert.

Application

This shows how quickly the disciples (and us!) can forget the incredible miracles of Jesus. How frequently do we see God come through in one situation, only to have unbelief in his power and goodness in another! We need to reflect on the past works of God to gain courage for the present and the future.

Seeking signs

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 15:39-16:4.]

(8:10) The scene shifts to Dalmanutha, which may be the region of Magdala, but is unknown.[139] Matthew calls this “the region of Magadan” (Mt. 15:39).

(8:11) Jesus normally told seekers that they would find truth if they were seeking it (Mt. 7:7). Here, however, they were “seeking” with bad motives (i.e. “to test him”). This is disingenuous on their behalf, because Jesus had been performing countless signs! This shows that Jesus had incredible discernment into the human heart. 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.”[140]

(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).

“This generation” most likely refers to the religious leaders (Pharisees). This is only common sense, because Jesus performed many miracles to the people in Israel. Perhaps, he was holding back miracles intentionally from the religious leaders (because of their hardened hearts).

(8:13) Because these people had no sincerity, Jesus had nothing to give to them. He got up and left.

Hypocrisy of the religious leaders

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 16:5-12.]

(8:14) The disciples had major food issues!—like a lot of college students who forget to grocery shop. They forgot to bring bread (v.8), and they were right next to a bread-making miracle worker (cf. vv.1-9). We might imagine Jesus rolling his eyes, but instead, he 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), or in context, the unbelief of the Pharisees. It was sometimes used to refer to corruption (see the Babylonian Talmud Berachoth 17a; Plutarch, Moralia II, 659 B).[141]

Herod Antipas had his capital in Tiberias, so this would incline us to believe that Dalmanuth was located in Magdala. Herod himself wanted to see a sign (Lk. 23:8). But Herod was too confused to understand the teachings of John the Baptist (Mk. 6:20), so how much more difficult would it be for him to listen to Jesus?

Similarly, the disciples had seen so much, but they didn’t understand. Jesus issued this warning because he didn’t want his disciples to forget the feeding of the 4,000, as the subsequent context makes clear.

(8:16) The disciples were taking a hyper-literal interpretation, and they were missing the point. They kept talking about bread, while Jesus’ teaching flew right over their heads.

(8:17) The problem with their misinterpretation was not their intellect, but their “hardened hearts,” which Mark has emphasized throughout his gospel (Mk. 4:13, 40; 6:52; 7:18).

(8:18) Jesus alludes to Jeremiah 5:21, Ezekiel 12:2, and Isaiah 6:9ff.

One of the keys to changing our hardened heart is to “remember” what God has done for us. It isn’t that the disciples had amnesia. Instead, they had chosen to forget about the feeding of the 4,000, which had just recently happened. The disciples may have had the attitude, “Yeah… but what have you done for us lately?” A hardened heart distorts our perception of history, reality, and our relationship with God.

(8:19-21) The disciples cognitively could answer Jesus’ questions. They remembered how many baskets there were, but they refused to learn from these miracles.

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 closely to him (cf. Mt. 6:33).

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?

Notice how Jesus admonishes them. We can imagine Jesus openly rebuking them, but he doesn’t take this tack. He asked three questions to get them to think about this for themselves. Their problem of being too dense led to the miracle of Peter’s confession later on… (Mk. 8:27-30)

Healing a blind man

[This miracle is unique to Mark.]

(8:22) This is very similar to the healing in Mark 7:33. Bethsaida was to the northeast of the Sea of Galilee, and Herod Philip ruled in this region (Polybius xvi. 18; xxviii. 1; Josephus, Antiquities XV. x. 3; XVIII. ii. 1; War I. xi. 3; II. ix. 1.).[142] This was the same region where Jesus fed the 5,000 (Mk. 6:45).

(8:23) Jesus led this man by the hand all alone.

What is the reason behind Jesus spitting on the man’s eyes? This is similar to Mark 7:33. There, we argued that this was a common cultural convention, and Jesus entered “into the thought-world of the man and established significant contact with him.”[143]

(8:24) In John 9:6, Jesus spit into the clay and applied this mixture of mud to a blind man’s eyes.

Why doesn’t Jesus heal the man immediately? For one, Jesus asks if the man can see (v.23), and he lays his hands on him twice to cure his blindness. Why is this the case? This implies that some healings occur through a process, rather than having an immediate effect.[144] It seems that “the man’s sight was restored only gradually and with difficulty.”[145] This is encouraging for believers who pray for miracles: Sometimes, it might take time before we see an answer to prayer.

Why does he see “trees”? The man couldn’t see clearly yet, so the “trees” represent blurry, vertical images of people. This man was likely not born blind; otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to identify “trees” at all.

(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.” The man must not have lived in the village, because his “home” wasn’t in the village.

Peter’s confession of Jesus the Messiah

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 16:13-26 and Luke 9:18-25.]

Mark places the confession of Peter’s identity directly in the middle of his gospel.[146] It seems that all of Mark 1-8 was there to show (rather than tell) who Jesus is. All of Jesus’ teaching, miracles, healings, and overall character demand us to come to terms with who Jesus is. Here, we see a great revelation from Peter to this central question: “You are the Christ” (v.29).

(8:27) The history of Caesarea Philippi reveals that this was at the heart of Paganism, and Jesus was marching directly into the center of it. This would be like Frodo walking into Mount Doom to identify that he is going to destroy Sauron.

Caesarea Philippi was 25 miles north of Bethsaida (v.22), and it was in the heart of Herod Philip’s rule. Augustus gave this region to Herod the Great (the man who tried to kill the infant Jesus in Mt. 2). He built a “temple in honor of the emperor near a grotto consecrated to the Greek god Pan.”[147] Herod also rebuilt the village of Paneas and renamed it after Caesar. Keener writes,

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).[148]

Wessel adds,

Caesarea Philippi was at the foot of Mount Hermon, on a shelf of land 1,150 feet above sea level and overlooking the north end of the Jordan River Valley. Originally the city was called Paneas (the name survives today as Banias) in honor of the Roman god Pan, whose shrine was located there. Herod Philip had rebuilt the ancient city and named it in honor of Tiberias Caesar and himself. Thus it was known as Caesarea Philippi and was distinguished from Caesarea, the Roman city on the Mediterranean coast.[149]

In other words, Jesus was moving directly into Pagan territory, where it would be common to hold that “Caesar is Lord.” Yet this is the same exact place where Jesus would reveal that He is Lord!

Luke tells us that Jesus was in prayer by himself before he asked them this question (Lk. 9:18). It isn’t that Jesus was asking this question because he was insecure about what people thought of him (!), but rather, he was asking this question to get the disciples 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.

(8:28) We already heard these claims in Mark 6:14.

Why was Jesus compared to John the Baptist? Both preached repentance, the kingdom of God, and God’s judgment. Moreover, both had a large following.

Why was Jesus compared to Elijah? Since John the Baptist was compared to Elijah, this probably wasn’t a stretch. This could be an example of the transitive property.

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). It could be that (1) the gospel authors selected words from the larger whole or (2) that the gospel authors were summarizing Peter’s declaration. Both options fit with biblical inerrancy.

Peter was the first human in the gospel of Mark to correctly identify Jesus as the Messiah. The only ones who correctly identify Jesus before him were the demons (!!).

(8:30) Again, this fits with the “messianic secret,” which wouldn’t be revealed until after Jesus’ resurrection (Mk. 9:9). Notice that Jesus shut down the question and answer right there. The disciples probably would’ve begun to speculate on Jesus’ mission as the Messiah, but instead, Jesus tells them about his mission. Now that the “cat was out of the bag,” Jesus stops using veiled statements about his identity with his disciples, “stating the matter plainly” (v.32).

(8:31-32) What might have happened if Jesus started his ministry telling the disciples that he would die in this way? Likely, none would have followed him. He needed to wait to demonstrate his power and identity before they could understand. Even after demonstrating his power, they still didn’t understand very well!

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 (cf. 2 Tim. 2:26). Instead of focusing on God’s plan, Peter was driving his own (finite and limited) plan. Peter was inadvertently speaking “a temptation coming from Satan himself who desires to thwart the divine plan of salvation.”[150] Also, Jesus had just told Peter that he “must” do this, which means that Peter was arguing against God’s will. In fact, Peter disagreeing with the greatest act of God in all of history: the Cross.

Jesus speaks to the crowds

(8:34) This is the first mention of the “cross” in the gospel of Mark, and it comes directly after Jesus’ revelation that he would need to die (v.31). The concept of crucifixion was not a Jewish metaphor, and this must have “sounded repugnant to the crowd and the disciples alike.”[151] The One who commands us to take up our cross and lose our lives, was the same One who took up his Cross and lost his life. Jesus waited to make this call until after he shared how he himself would do this. If Jesus had said this statement at the beginning of his ministry, it may have turned everyone away.

The three central aspects of discipleship are: (1) deny self, (2) take up the cross, and (3) follow Jesus.

Lane[152] and Wessel[153] understand the subsequent section as a warning to Roman Christians who are being tempted to apostatize under persecution, rather than being literally crucified. However, we understand the mention of “carrying one’s cross” to be metaphorical, because the reference in Luke says that this needs to be done “daily” (Lk. 9:23). Of course, God might call us to be literally crucified, but this passage is not speaking so narrowly.

(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). This is the “backwards wisdom of God.” When we sacrifice for the cause of Christ, we gain our lives back. When we sacrifice for the cause of comfort, we lose our lives.

“Lose” (apollymi) can be rendered “destroy,” but it can also be translated “ruined” (BDAG).

Life is not found in ourselves, but in following Christ. The context, again, is discipleship.

Wessel argues that “saving his life” refers to renouncing Christ in front of the Roman executioners.[154] By contrast, if the believer stays faithful in his testimony and “loses his life” through martyrdom, then he or she will “be assured of eternal life and salvation.”[155] We disagree for several reasons: First, the context is self-denial—not simply martyrdom. Although martyrdom could be in view, this is just one (extreme) example of the overall picture. Second, the term “save” (sōzō) implies that we are saving ourselves from hell. How is this not salvation by works—even the most difficult conceivable work of martyrdom? We agree with R. Alan Cole that Jesus is referring to a lifestyle of living “jealously and selfishly.”[156] When a person lives for self, they paradoxically lose their lives.

(8:36-37) In this section, Wessel goes so far as to say that a believer who recants his faith cannot come back after apostasy: “There is no way he can get it back… The kingdom was a good ‘buy’ at any price, if only these hard-headed businessfolk could see it.”[157] We disagree with this reading:

The term “forfeit” (zēmioō) means “to experience the loss of something, with implication of undergoing hardship or suffering, suffer damage/loss, forfeit, sustain injury” (BDAG). This is also the word used for “suffering loss” at the bema seat (1 Cor. 3:15), so eternal rewards could be in view.

Again, we agree with Cole, who notes, “The metaphor in profit, gain, and forfeit is commercial rather than judicial.”[158] The stakes are not eternal life or eternal punishment. Rather, Jesus is speaking about self-denial for the sake of the kingdom in this life, and perhaps rewards in the next life. His point is that living for selfish gain is a poor investment of our lives—both for this life and the life to come.

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. Jesus is doing somewhat of a “cost-benefit analysis” for following him. Is it worth it? Absolutely! We are reminded of the words of missionary Jim Elliot who wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”[159] Elliot died on January 8, 1956, sharing the message and love of Christ with the people of Ecuador.

(8:38) Since Jesus is addressing the crowds, this seems like an evangelistic teaching. If people reject Jesus, then the Father will reject them. This could also refer to Jesus feeling a sense of loss in seeing us lost. The term “ashamed” (epaischunomai) means “to experience a painful feeling or sense of loss of status because of some particular event or activity, be ashamed” (BDAG). Just as a person could reject Christ and feel a sense of loss, so also, Jesus could feel a sense of loss at losing him or her.

Elsewhere, John writes of those who feel “shame” (aischunō) at Jesus’ Second Coming: “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).

Mark 9 (The Transfiguration)

 

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. So far, Jesus’ identity has been “hidden” in Mark. Now that Peter has correctly announced Jesus’ identity (“You are the Christ”), Jesus chooses to reveal just what this means: He doesn’t just tell them about his identity, but shows them in the Transfiguration which follows.

(Mk. 9:1) Did Jesus make a false prediction about his second coming? (cf. Mt. 16:28)?

(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.[160] However, this is beside the point, because the importance isn’t the mountain, but the revelation of Jesus himself. 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.

Why are Peter, James, and John selected to go with Jesus? It could be because Peter correctly identified Jesus the Christ (Mk. 8:29). We might think this is favoritism. But biblically, extra revelation usually means extra suffering, and all three of these men seriously suffered and died for Christ.

(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’ change (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, and guess who ushers him into the Promised Land? Jesus! Despite Moses’ sin, Jesus brings him into the Promised Land.

Why do Moses and Elijah appear to talk with Jesus? Some commentators point out that Moses and Elijah were chosen because they represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Others see that Moses represented the condemnation of the Law, while Elijah represented the restoration of all things (Mal. 3:1ff; 4:5ff). These explanations make a certain amount of sense, but we don’t think they go far enough. We think that Moses and Elijah were chosen because this scene was meant to be a theophany. Both Moses (Ex. 33:19, 22) and Elijah (1 Kin. 19:11) had experiences of God revealing himself on a mountain just like this.

Luke adds that Moses and Elijah were speaking to Jesus about his “departure” (exodus) from Jerusalem (Lk. 9:31).

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 an 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? Postmodern people often have a conception of God that reflects Hallmark greeting cards or Lifetime television shows: God is warm, cozy, and fuzzy like a teddy bear or like a warm quilted blanket. Yet most people in world religions don’t perceive God this way.

Scholars of world religions observe that people across the world have a “frightening and irrational experience” when they come into contact with the divine.[161] They call this the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.” Mysterium refers to “wholly other,” tremendum refers to “awfulness, terror, awe,” and fascinans refers to “attractiveness in spite of fear.” To most people, God isn’t comfortable and cozy, but terrifying and attractive all at once. The worshipper “finds the feeling of terror before the sacred, before the awe-inspiring mystery (mysterium tremendum)… that emanates an overwhelming superiority of power. The numinous [i.e. God] presents itself as something ‘wholly other,’ something basically and totally different. It is like nothing human or cosmic. Confronted with it, man senses his profound nothingness, feels that he is only a creature.”[162]

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?[163]

Peter seems to ascribe equal glory to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, because each should have their own tabernacle. This could be why God tells the disciples to “listen to His Son,” rather than putting Jesus on par with Moses and Elijah.

(9:7) In the OT, God usually revealed himself in the form of a cloud (Ex. 16:10; 19:9; 24:15f.; 33:1). 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 (Mk. 1:11), 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) Just in case they didn’t know who God the Father was talking about, 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, Poof! 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 (as we mentioned above), Jesus bridges this gap for us, so we can come into the presence of God. The mysterium tremendum placed his hand on the disciples, and told them that there is no reason to be scared: the safest place to be is in the presence of power and love like this. This might be why John later wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18). Perhaps C.S. Lewis got it right, when one of his characters in the land of Narnia asked if Aslan (Jesus) was safe—to which one of the Narnians replied, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.”

Conclusion

This is a theophany of God through the person of Jesus. This entire scene reflects OT concepts of God revealing himself in what theologians call a “theophany” or “appearance of God.” However, rather than God appearing, Jesus himself is the focus! This shows that Mark is drawing on OT content to show that Jesus is God himself. Lane writes, “The transfiguration scene develops as a new ‘Sinai’ theophany with Jesus as the central figure.”[164]

God typically appeared to the people in the form of a cloud in the OT (Ex. 16:10; 19:9; 24:14-19; 33:1), just as he does here. Moreover, Moses and Elijah had similar experiences to this event—though nothing to this extent:

Moses went up on a mountain with Joshua to meet with God (Ex. 24:12-13), but even the elders stayed behind at the bottom of the mountain (Ex. 24:14). Once Moses made it to the peak of the mountain, we read that “the cloud covered the mountain” (Ex. 24:15). Then we read, “The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18 Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Ex. 24:16-18).

Later, Moses wanted to see the “glory” of God (Ex. 33:18), but God told him, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Ex. 33:20) Moses was only allowed to partially see God’s glory (Ex. 33:21-23), but here, he sees it revealed in the face of Jesus!

Elijah was told by God to go and “stand on the mountain before the LORD,” and then we read, “Behold, the LORD was passing by!” (1 Kn. 19:11). Elijah was so scared that he ran and hid in a cave! (1 Kin. 19:13).

We might compare the similarities in this way.

The Transfiguration as a Theophany

Moses and Elijah in the OT

Transfiguration in the NT

Only Moses (and Joshua) could come up on the mountain, and the elders had to stay behind (Ex. 24:14)

Jesus only chose three disciples to come with him up the mountain (9:2)
God appeared on a mountain (Ex. 24:12-13; 1 Kn. 19:11)

God appeared on a mountain (9:2)

God appeared in a cloud (Ex. 24:15)

God appeared in a cloud (9:7)
Six days passed (Ex. 24:16)

Six days passed (9:2)

God appears in glory (Ex. 24:17; 33:21-23), but a full revelation would destroy Moses (Ex. 33:20)

God appears in inexpressible glory (9:3)
Elijah was scared by what he saw (1 Kn. 19:13)

The disciples were terrified by what they saw (9:5-6)

The people should listen to Moses and Elijah

The people should listen to Jesus (9:7)

Because Jesus is God, we should “listen to him.” Who are you listening to in your life? Some take religious leaders as akin to the word of God. Others sense that something is wrong with themselves, and they read self-help books with a desire to change. Still others listen to their own thoughts, as though their own opinions had infallible authority! God tells us unequivocally: Listen to Jesus! This means studying his teachings and his view of the entire Bible.

Are you hearing from God? Is your knee-jerk reaction in difficult or confusing situations to turn directly to God? We see so many Christians nervously biting their fingernails, churning their thoughts around and around in their mind. They might even bring themselves to ask for wise Christian counsel. But have they turned to God himself and hear from him? No! We all need to learn to hear from God through his word and prayer, and learn to seek his guidance and encouragement to do what he wills.

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.” Notice that Jesus is already saying that he will allow them to speak after his resurrection (cf. Mt. 17:9), but not before. Otherwise, this would expedite his capture and death.

(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. The may have thought that he was speaking of the general resurrection of the death at the end of history, which would make sense of their question about Elijah.

(9:11-13) This question is interesting—especially since it comes on the heels of Elijah himself actually appearing to Jesus (Mt. 17:3). Rabbis affirmed that Elijah would come before the glorious messianic age. Rabbi Eliezer stated, “Without repentance Israel will not be redeemed… They will fulfill the great repentance only when Elijah of blessed memory comes, as it is said… [then he cites Mal. 4:5.]” (43 (25a) Other Jewish literature states, “If you (plural) keep the Law, expect Elijah, as it is said… [then he cites Mal. 4:5.]” (Sifré Deut. § 41).[165]

Jesus affirms that Elijah will return in the future (Mal. 4:5), but he argues that John the Baptist was a figurative Elijah. Just as “Elijah” has “two comings” so to speak, so does Jesus. In “Elijah’s” (i.e. John the Baptist’s) first coming, he faced death. However, Elijah’s second coming will restore all things alongside Christ (Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6). So too, Jesus suffered in his first coming, and he will reign in his second coming. Jesus may be showing that suffering (even for his followers) will occur, so the disciples shouldn’t think that peace and safety are on their way in Jesus’ new kingdom. In fact, the King himself will be killed.

See comments on (Mt. 11:14) Could John the Baptist be a figurative Elijah?

Healing a demon possessed boy

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 17:14-21 and Luke 9:37-43. Though much of this account is unique to Mark—specifically verses 14b-16, 21-24 and 26-27]

(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. The scribes (v.14) were probably arguing that the disciples were spiritual weaklings, because they couldn’t cast out this demon from this poor boy. This must have been the “discussion” that was happening.

(9:17-18) Can you even imagine seeing your son possessed by a demon? What heartache! Despair and grief must have filled his heart.

This demon produced self-harm and convulsions in this boy (see Mark 5). What do we learn about demon possession from this short passage? (1) It shuts the child’s mouth—definitely to stop him from speaking but also from praying; (2) sometimes are worse than others (“whenever it seizes him”); (3) seizure symptoms are associated with his possession; (4) this happened since childhood, so it could be lifelong (v.21), and Satan doesn’t hold back from attacking kids; (5) self-harm is associated with possession (v.22); (6) demons can leave temporarily and return (v.25).

(9:19) Jesus could be frustrated with the unbelief of his own disciples. When we experience frustration, we usually attack with anger or withdraw in silent punishment. But when Jesus experienced frustration, he still chose to move toward people—not away from them.

(9:20) The demon reacted violently to merely seeing Jesus in the flesh. Coming into the presence of Christ made things worse before it got better. The exorcising of a demon can be a violent process. This could scare us into not wanting to proceed.

(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!” Jesus sounds cool and calm—probably for the sake of calming down the father who is hysterical. Jesus is asking a specific question—almost like an expert doctor with a sick patient. The fact that he asks, “How long?” implies a deep care and compassion for the boy.

(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 did not say, “Well, why don’t you come back when you have better faith than that!” He 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 far, far worse!

(9:27) It must’ve been comforting to be embraced by Jesus like that after being held hostage by a demon since “childhood” (v.21).

(9:28-29) Jesus often gave more disclosure to his disciples inside closed quarters (Mk. 4:10; 7:17; 9:28). What were the disciples doing to drive out the demon? Waving their arms? Yelling and screaming? Stomping their feet? Apparently, they didn’t think to try praying! We might laugh at the foolishness of the disciples: How else did they hope to deliver this young boy from a powerful spiritual being? Why on Earth didn’t they pray?

At the same time, how little do you pray against Satan? Often, we wring our hands, strategize, worry, and exhaust ourselves with self-effort, rather than turning to God in simple prayer.

Moreover, we need to repeatedly remain in a position of prayer and active trust. Earlier, the disciples had cast out demons through God’s imparted power (Mk. 6:7). They may have been “resting on their laurels,” and perhaps, they lapsed into complacency. As one author wrote, “Yesterday’s faith won’t fight today’s battles.”

Matthew mentions “fasting” in his account (Mt. 17:21), but our earliest manuscripts do not contain this. In Mark’s account, Jesus only mentions “prayer,” not fasting (Mk. 9:29).

Jesus predicts his death again

[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 “it” refers to his teaching on his death and resurrection. The disciples couldn’t grasp what he was talking about. This bolsters the historical credibility of the account, because it contains the criterion of embarrassment.

Who is the greatest?

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 18:1-5 and Luke 9:46-48.]

(9:33-34) Again, Jesus returns to “the house” in Capernaum, which seems like a base of operations. When they were inside, Jesus addressed their pride and competitive attitude. The desire of the disciples for greatness stands in contrast to Jesus’ teaching on death and humility (vv.30-32). The disciples felt proud and confident when talking to each other, but they went “silent” once Jesus 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 sat down to teach this lesson. We wonder if he was literally showing them that they need to get lower in submission and service. 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 (cf. Mk. 10:13-16). 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.”[166]

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.”[167]

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).

(Mt. 18:3) Are believers supposed to be gullible like children?

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 become 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 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.]

(9:38-40) John changes the subject (v.38), but Jesus returns to the topic at hand later (v.41).

The disciples were most likely jealous of this man or maybe territorial in some way. After all, earlier in the chapter, the disciples had failed to exorcise the demon from the boys (Mk. 9:14-18).

The gospels never tell us who this Jewish exorcist was. This was not a Jewish exorcist that is denying Christ, because Jesus said, “There is no one who will perform a miracle in My name.” So it’s likely this exorcist was using Jesus’ name. However, the disciples were angry that he wasn’t part of Jesus’ following. Later, we see Jewish exorcists using Jesus’ name without being true believers, and they fail miserably (Acts 19:14).

Notice that this construction (v.40) is different than Jesus’ statement in Matthew: “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Mt. 12:30).

(9:41) The people giving to the disciples aren’t just being nice. They are theologically motivated. They want to give to Jesus himself through the disciples.

(9:42) John interrupted Jesus’ flow of thought about the children (v.37). Here, Jesus returns to the children. Jesus promises punishment toward those who would lead a little child astray (cf. Mt. 18:6). The imagery here is graphic: It is the same 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. This act of punishment occurred during the days of the Zealot Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37; Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum i. 67; Josephus, Antiquities XIV. xv. 10).[168]

(9:43) This is identical to Matthew 5:30 and 18:8. This must be other ways to “stumble.” Just as it is evil and punishable to make little kids “stumble” (v.42), so too, here are ways for people to stumble. Stumbling is so serious that it’s actually worse than being physically maimed.

“Enter life” refers to eternal life, and entering “the kingdom of God” (v.47).

(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. Matthew calls this “eternal fire” (Mt. 18:8).

(9:49) What does it mean to be “salted with fire”? This could be an allusion to the sacrifices made in the OT (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24; cf. Ex. 30:35). Many manuscripts of Mark 9:49 state, “Every sacrifice will be salted with salt.” Perhaps a way to understand this verse is in the concept of the bema seat (1 Cor. 3:13), which is accompanied by fire.[169] So, non-Christians get the fire of judgment (v.48), but Christians get the fire of judging their works for the purpose of rewards, and thus, this is a “fire of purification.”[170]

(9:50) What does it mean to have “salt in yourselves” (v.50)? The only connection with verse 49 is salt—not judgment. The point is this: If salt loses its saltiness, we can’t get it back; similarly, if we lose peace, this is just as hard to get back.

Mark 10 (Ethical Teaching)

In Mark, Jesus’ Galilean ministry is complete, and now, he focuses the biography on Jesus’ ministry in Judea and specifically Jerusalem.

Divorce

[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.]

For a robust analysis of the subject of divorce and remarriage, see “Biblical Ethics of Divorce.”

For an in-depth exegesis of this passage, see comments on Matthew 19:3-12.

(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.

“According to His custom” means that Jesus frequently was teaching.

(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: The school was very strict (like a Samurai).
  • Hillel: Our seminary professor told a (corny) joke to help remember the stance of the school of Hillel. If you asked a rabbi from this school what to do, he would reply, “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.

(10:4) It’s interesting that they go to case law in Deuteronomy 24:1, rather than going to the Genesis account.

(10:5) Moses gave permission to divorce, but this wasn’t God’s ideal. God would never have needed to give such laws if it was not for the depravity of humans.

(10:6-8) Jesus cites from God’s original design, rather than the Mosaic case law (Gen. 1:27; 2:24). Paul makes a similar appeal to Genesis 2:24 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) Mark gives God’s ideal, while Matthew includes that Jesus gives a qualification for divorce: “unfaithfulness” (porneia, Mt. 19:9). Jesus’ rejoinder is that we answer to God on this—not rabbinical teachers.

Why does Mark lack the exception clause? Mark 10:12 refers to wives divorcing their husbands, while Matthew contains husbands divorcing their wives. This could be explained by Mark’s Roman audience, where women divorced men more often—whereas Matthew’s Jewish audience didn’t see this as much.[171] Moreover, Matthew mentioned both men and women earlier (Mt. 5:31-32).

(Mt. 19:3-12) Is adultery the only reason for divorce? Are other reasons permitted?

Children

[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? The NLT states that they rebuked the parents.

(10:14-16) This attitude toward children upset Jesus The term “indignant” (aganakteo) comes from the roots agan (“much”) and achthos (“grief”). Jesus loved kids (see comments above in Mark 9:33-37). There’s lots of things wrong with children, such as being stubborn, disobedient, loud, nagging, etc. Yet none of these qualities seemed to bother Jesus. Instead, he liked the qualities of kids such as humility, dependence, and shamelessness.

(Mk. 10:14-15) Are believers supposed to be gullible like children?

Possessions 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) and Matthew calls him “young” (Mt. 19:20). Hence, he is often called “the rich young ruler.”

The man “knelt” before Jesus, so he must have respected Jesus. He showed Jesus “the deference reserved for revered teachers of the Law.”[172] We don’t read that he was trying to trap Jesus or coming to him under false presumptions. He seems like a genuine seeker.

The rich man asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The man’s focus is on himself (“What shall I do…?”), and his works (“inherit”). The verb “inherit” (klēronomeō) is in the active voice, which implies that he was working to inherit eternal life from God. He’s already off to a bad start! Jesus had just taught that we need to “receive the kingdom of God like a child” (v.15). We should not work for eternal life, but simply receive it.

(10:18) Calling him a “good teacher” was “virtually without parallel in Jewish sources and should be regarded as a sincere tribute to the impression he had made upon the man.”[173] Notice that Jesus never denies that he is good or that he is God. He seems to be asking, “If only God is good, then does this man realize what he’s saying?”

(Mk. 10:18) Is Jesus not God? (see comments on Lk. 18:19)?

(10:19) Jesus tells the man to keep the Ten Commandments. Jesus is (quite obviously) teaching Law here. His objective is to show the crushing weight of the Law, so that the man would be open to hearing about grace.

(10:20) We should pause here to ask, Really?? Had he really kept all of the Ten Commandments perfectly since his youth? Since the man believed that the law confirmed his righteousness, rather than condemning him, Jesus ups the ante…

(10:21) Jesus didn’t say this because he was angry or disappointed in the man’s greed. What does the text say? Jesus spoke against his materialism because he “loved” the man. Materialism leads to misery, and Jesus spoke the truth in love because he cared about him. As believers, we need to have the same love in our hearts as we call people out of the snare of materialism.

Jesus was offering (1) true treasures in Heaven and (2) a relationship with himself. Moreover, in the parallel passage (Lk. 18), this section is preceded by the account of the Pharisee and the tax collector. There, the law breaker was “justified” (Lk. 18:14), not the law keeper.

(10:22) Somehow, Jesus touched on the one thing that the man clearly hadn’t given over to God. The language here is emphatic: “saddened” and “grieving.” This is the language of a funeral! But for this man, it was the death of his “moral achievement project.”

What was his response to Jesus after this event? We don’t know! We know that he didn’t try to argue with Jesus or prove him wrong. It’s possible that he did sell everything, but even this would have missed Jesus’ point—namely, salvation through works is impossible. This man began his encounter with Jesus by throwing the word “good” around cavalierly (v.18). Here, he learns what “good” actually entails!

(10:23) Jesus felt love for the rich young ruler, so this statement probably implies that Jesus is saddened that many people will trust in wealth rather than him. Wealth can have a deceiving and seductive effect on the human heart, which keeps them from coming to faith in Christ.

(10:24) Jesus states that it is hard for everyone, but particularly the rich, as the context makes clear (v.23, 25).

(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.”[174] 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.”[175]

Jesus picks one of the biggest animals around and compares it to fitting through one of the smallest spaces around. The point is that it’s impossible for a camel to fit into a needle (unless you had a really large blender!!).

(10:26) The disciples were realizing the incredible, crushing weight of the Law (v.19). In this culture, wealth was associated with being blessed by God. So, if anyone would make it to heaven, it would be the rich and powerful. If those people weren’t going to make the cut, then who would??

(10:27) If it was up to us, no one would get into heaven. The term “saved” implies that we are the passive recipients, and someone else needs to do the saving. We cannot save ourselves.

(10:28) In lieu of Jesus’ statement to the rich young ruler to sell everything and follow Him (v.21), Peter claims that he did sell everything to follow Jesus. This might imply self-righteousness on Peter’s behalf. Indeed, since he uses the term “we,” he is speaking on behalf of the other disciples as well. They focused on what they gave to God, but Jesus’ response is what God will give to them.

Luke’s version adds that the disciples “left their homes” to follow Jesus (Lk. 18:28).

(10:29-30) This seems like a list that encompasses everything good in our lives. The point isn’t that we should leave our families (or children!). Rather, this captures everything precious in life. Obviously, Jesus cannot be speaking literally, because he doesn’t think we will literally receive a hundred children (!!).

We never have to worry about outgiving God! He doesn’t want to take anything from us that is worth anything. 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 there are many problems with this. First, Jesus says we will also get “persecutions” for following him (Mk. 10:30). Second, the majority of blessings are relational—not material. And third, in a great act of irony, this passage comes in the context of a rich young ruler rejecting Jesus!

(10:31) Jesus tacks this on the end to remind people not to be first in this life, by hoarding their resources. 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) This third prediction of his death (cf. Mk. 8:31; 9:31) is the most specific. He is revealing more about his future. The death of the Messiah was such a counter-intuitive concept that Jesus needed to keep repeating this. This is why they were both “amazed” and “fearful.” As believers, we find the death of Jesus to be obvious, but we need to remember how strange this would be in a first-century Jewish context. Jesus wanted them to be prepared.

Lane[176] holds that they were amazed and fearful of the person of Jesus himself (cf. Mk. 9:32). However, they are likely confused and afraid of the counter-intuitive future that they’re walking into. Jesus keeps repeating that he’s going to die, and they are following alongside him. (What does this mean for them??)

(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.

Remember, this whole question is given on the heels of Jesus repeatedly telling his disciples that he was going to be crucified… In other words, they were asking the crucified leader if they could have glory (!).

(10:36) Jesus wouldn’t sign a blank check. He wanted to know what they wanted first. This is a case of “careful what you pray for.” They didn’t realize what they were praying!

(10:37) Jesus’ glory was… the Cross! This request was at best insensitive toward Jesus. After all, he had just talked about being mocked, beaten, and killed! And all they could do was talk about being glorified. These positions were places of power, authority, and honor (cf. 1 Kings 2:19; Ps. 110:1; Josephus, Antiquities VI. xi. 9).

(10:38) The cup refers to God’s wrath (Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17-23; Jer. 25:15-28; 49:12; 51:7; Lam. 4:21 f.; Ezek. 23:31-34; Hab. 2:16; Zech. 12:2), and the baptism refers to Jesus’ suffering (i.e. being put into suffering). Elsewhere, Jesus shared, “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” (Lk. 12:50) 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) 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 (Rev. 1:9).

(10:40) Matthew specifies that “the Father” will make this decision. At the same time, all believers (positionally) sit at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20).

(10:41) The other disciples didn’t realize what transaction just 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. (We do wonder if Jesus was amazed at how quickly his announcement of torture, death, and resurrection turned into a debate over who was the greatest!)

(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) Here is the ultimate Servant Leader! Jesus hid his divine identity from the masses, and took the form of a servant. He would even go to his death without revealing who he was.

“…A ransom for many.” This shows that Jesus’ death would be substitutionary. His own life would be the “ransom.” The ransom was a “guilt-offering” (Isa. 53:10).

Healing a blind man: Bartimaeus

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 20:29-34 and Luke 18:35-43.]

This is the final healing miracle in Mark’s account…

(10:46) Mark gives more information about this blind man, giving us his name (“Bartimaeus”) and his heritage (“the son of Timaeus”).

Jericho was 18 miles northeast of Jerusalem, so Jesus is closing in on his trip to the capitol city. Matthew records that there were actually two blind men (Mt. 20:30), but Mark only focuses on one of them. This could be an example of telescoping, where the author chooses to focus on one, rather than both.

(10:47) The man called him by his messianic title (“Son of David”). He must have already heard about him and his reputation. This call for mercy was usually directed at God (Ps. 4:1; 6:2; 41:4, 10; 51:1; 109:26; 123:3).

(10:48) The crowds thought that this man didn’t have value, and so they assumed that Jesus wouldn’t have wanted to be bothered by such a nuisance.

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 and the marginalized.

(10:50-51) “Throwing aside his cloak…” likely refers to using his outer garment to collect money—almost like a tin can used today.[177] The man realized that he wouldn’t need this anymore.

This man wasn’t born blind. He must have become blind (“I want to regain my sight!”). 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) Many of the people that Jesus healed did not follow him. This man had a genuine faith before the miracle had even occurred. In fact, he formed his faith based on the verbal testimony of others—similar to believers today (Jn. 20:30-31).

Mark 11 (The [Un]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). Bethany was the final stop before entering Jerusalem.

(11:2) Jesus instruct his disciples to get a colt from the nearby village. This is a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, though Mark never cites this prophecy.

“On which no one has ever sat…” This was common language for an animal being set apart for a special and sacred purpose (Num. 19:2; Deut. 21:3; 1 Sam. 6:7).

(11:3) Jesus prepares his two disciples for 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 knew this, but he also knew how people would respond if the disciples started untying and walking off with their property. He also knew what people would freely do if they heard the words, “The Lord has need of it.”

(11:4-6) Jesus’ predictions came true, and the disciples brought the colt. These people probably thought that this was theft. But the people freely gave it. Moreover, everything belongs to God (Ps. 24:1). If God takes something from us, it is for a good purpose. He also promised to return it.

(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. This was a symbol of welcoming a king (2 Kin. 9:13). Two hundred years earlier, Simon Maccabaeus received similar treatment, being treated as a king (1 Macc. 13:51). 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. During the Festival of Tabernacles, people would wave bundles of palm, myrtle and willow (called lûlabim).

“Hosanna” means “save us.”[178] The rabbis understood this as a psalm about the return of David and “final redemption” (The Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 119a; Midrash Tehillim to Ps. 118, § 22, 244a).[179]

(Mk. 11:9) Why did the crowds shout out Psalm 118:26? (cf. Mt. 21:9)

(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 (“it was already late”). Remember, they travelled from Jericho (v.1) which was roughly 18 hours away.[180] This is the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1. Lane states that the ending to this section is remarkably quiet, but he rightly states, “It is the quiet before the storm!”[181]

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.

(Mk. 11:13-14) What is the significance of the fig tree? (cf. Mt. 21:18)

(Mk. 11:11-15, 19-25) Does this account of Jesus cursing the fig tree contradict Mark’s account?

(Mk. 11:15-17) Why did Jesus get so angry? Was his anger justified? (cf. Lk. 19:45-46, Jn. 2:14-15, and Mt. 21:12)

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)
  • $2,880,000,000

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
  • $11,520,000,000
  • 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. Or 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) This is the sequel to seeing the fig tree earlier on (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 (1 Jn. 5:14-15).

(11:25) This shows that our forgiveness toward others should be unconditional. Notice the absolute language: “whenever… anything… anyone…” This couldn’t be more all-encompassing.

(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. What answer were they expecting? They were probably trying to charge him with blasphemy by getting him to reveal his identity. But Jesus sets 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, his identity, and his message. But if they chose the second horn of the dilemma, then they would be at odds with the people, because John was so popular. The fact that they were huddling together showed that they were afraid of the consequences, and that this was a classic case of “groupthink.”

Which option do they choose?

(11:31-33) They chose agnosticism (“We do not know”). This 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 further. There’s no reason to debate with a person who refuses to be sincere and authentic.

Discussion question

What might have happened if Jesus continued to engage with these stubborn and close-minded religious leaders?

Unlike Jesus, we aren’t able to see directly into people’s hearts. But what are some ways we can tell when to give more evidence, and when to discontinue dialogue or debate over spiritual matters? (see Prov. 26:4-5)

Mark 12 (Debating the Religious Leaders)

It’s almost as if the religious leaders called a public press conference to grill Jesus with questions. He answers them flawlessly, and he also scores some points of his own…

Parable of the Vine-growers

The combatants are the Sadducees mentioned in chapter 11. These religious leaders profited off of the Temple, and so this parable would’ve been a serious indictment against their greed.

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:33-46 and Luke 20:9-19.]

(12:1) This comes from Isaiah 5:1-2. We don’t want to over-interpret every detail in this parable. The main point is that the Owner gave a precious commodity into the hands of tenants to watch over it. Similarly, God gave the nation of Israel and its mission to these religious leaders, but they rejected Him in the process.

(12:2-5) The Owner wanted to collect the money which rightly belonged to him. He sent multiple waves of slaves to collect the money, but the renters kept killing or beating them. These “slaves” that served as messengers represent God’s prophets (Jer. 7:25ff; 25:4; Amos 3:7; Zech. 1:6). They were repeatedly rejected in the OT. Notice how the beatings escalate to murder. The messengers received worse treatment as time goes on.

(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) We see a heinous level of deviant scheming on behalf of the tenants. This is a premeditated crime. It’s clear that they hate this Owner and only want his stuff.

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; cf. Isa. 5:5). Isaiah addresses the entire nation (Isa. 5), while Jesus only indicts the leadership.

(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 got the message, understanding that this referred to them. Instead of staying for another intellectual beating, they flee from Christ.

Summary

We realize through this parable that the problem is not with the messengers or with the owner, but with the tenants. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Owner sent a hundred more messengers; the result would’ve been the same.

Discussion question

It seems like the Sadducees didn’t care about God at all—only his resources and money. Religious people can be the same way today. What are ways God might reveal an attitude like this in our lives? What are ways God might reveal attitudes like this so we can be closer with Him—not just his blessings?

How do you know if someone is drifting from valuing the presence of God versus seeking the presents or blessings of God?

Jesus: the Great Debater

Jesus’ opponents try to trap him from multiple angles, yet he deftly maneuvers in this 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: The PHARISEES ask about Caesar and God

Again, imagine that this is a press conference. The religious leaders try to trap Jesus…

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26.]

(12:13) These two groups hated each other, but they hated Jesus even more (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend…”). Wessel writes, “The Herodians were as obnoxious to the Pharisees on political grounds as the Sadducees were on theological grounds. Yet the two groups united in their opposition to Jesus. Collaboration in wickedness, as well as goodness, has great power. Their purpose was to trip Jesus up in his words so that he would lose the support of the people, leaving the way open for them to destroy him.”[182]

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 are definitely buttering Jesus up, telling him how impartial and truthful that he is. But remember, they are trying to “trap” him.

Instead of asking a strictly theological question, they raise a political question. Ever since Rome initiated taxation of Judea in AD 6, the people reacted negatively (Josephus, Antiquities 5.1.21). Judas the Galilean had rebelled against this tax, because it was seen as blasphemous (Josephus, Antiquities 18.1.1; Acts 5:37). Different factions of Jews had different views on this topic. The Pharisees were waiting for the Messiah to overthrow Rome, so they tolerated the tax; the Sadducees were getting wealthy off of this arrangement, so they encouraged the tax; meanwhile, the Zealots wanted to war with the authorities, rather than paying taxes to Rome. In fact, the Zealots “would not handle or look upon any coin which bore an image.”[183] They were similar to those who were “zealous for the Law” in the days of the Maccabean Revolt.

Therefore, this was an extremely hot button issue in the first century! In fact, this topic was so heated that the religious authorities brought this up at Jesus’ trial (Lk. 23:2). If Jesus agreed to the tax, his messianic status would be questioned. After all, the Messiah was supposed to dethrone Caesar—not pay him taxes. But if he disagreed, then he would be viewed as a threat to Rome, which was a capital offense. Which horn of the dilemma would Jesus choose?

One of Jesus’ disciples—Simon the Zealot—was likely standing there. We wonder if this was a key turning point for his worldview. After all, Simon doesn’t stop following Jesus after this event. His politics were subservient to following Christ.

(12:15-17) Jesus could see through the trap. Mark calls their intentions “hypocrisy,” because they themselves wouldn’t be able to answer it. That is, this wasn’t just a tough question for Jesus, but for everyone to answer.

Jesus’ answer is absolutely 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 can interpret Jesus to be saying that we should pay taxes to Caesar, because that is his money (cf. Rom. 13:1-7). Or we can also see beneath his answer to a deeper conclusion: After all, what things belong to Caesar? Just money. But what things belong to God? Everything! (Ps. 24:1)

The word “image” (eikōn) is the same word used in the Septuagint to refer to humans being made in the “image of God.” While the coin belonged to Caesar, humanity belongs to God.

Debate #2: The SADDUCEES ask about the Resurrection

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-40.]

(12:18) Notice the present tense (“[those] who say there is no resurrection”). Those who date Mark after AD 70 have difficulty with this passage, because the Sadducees virtually disappeared after the Jewish Revolt (AD 66) and the Destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70). Furthermore, it would be hard to reconstruct the Sadducean beliefs after this time. Lane writes, “The sources describing the Sadducees are frequently conflicting in their reports and antagonistic in intention.”[184]

(12:19) Instead of a political trap, they offer 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) know 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) 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), so 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.” This line of argumentation was unknown in Judaism. Lane writes, “The greater part of commentary opinion denies to Ex. 3:6 even an implicit affirmation of the resurrection of the dead, and finds here a rabbinic type of argumentation that is without relevance for contemporary thought.”[185]

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). He quotes the Shema’, which was a prayer that faithful Jewish people would recite every morning and evening—even as early as the 2nd century BC (Letter of Aristeas § 160; Jubilees 6:14; Josephus, Antiquities 4.8.13).[186]

Our natural problem is that we love ourselves—not God and not our neighbor. The apostles picked up on this teaching as well (Rom. 13:8-9; Gal. 5:14; Jas. 2:8).

(12:32-33) The scribe approves of Jesus’ answer. The scribe omits the name of God, which was common at the time, and he adds that “there is no one else besides him” (citing Deut. 4:35).

(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. Lane states that this was “deliberately ambiguous and was undoubtedly intended to provoke reflection.”[187]

“After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” 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?

Notice that Jesus believed that these ideas seemed contradictory, and they needed to be harmonized.

(Mt. 22:41-46) Is Psalm 110 a prophecy of Jesus?

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. They were intoxicated with being religiously superior to others. Jesus gives several concrete examples:

  • “Walk around in long robes…” Lane writes, “White linen clothes were regarded as a mark of distinction, so that men of eminence (priests, Levites, scribes), or those who wished to parade their position, wore white and left bright colors to the common people.”[188]
  • “Like respectful greetings in the market places…” Lane writes, “Their words were considered to possess sovereign authority. When a scribe passed by on the street or in the bazaar people rose respectfully. Only tradesmen at their work were exempted from this display of deference.”[189]
  • “Chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets…” Lane comments, “The highest places were assigned to them, and the scribe was given precedence in honor over the aged, and even over parents.”[190]
  • “Devour widows’ houses…” This changes from religious sins of pride and self-admiration to sins of explicit commission. They wanted to deliberately misuse their power. Lane writes, “The extension of hospitality to them was strongly encouraged as an act of piety; it was considered particularly meritorious to relieve a scribe of concern for his livelihood. Many well-to-do persons placed their financial resources at the disposal of scribes, and it was inevitable that there should be abuses. The charge that the scribes ‘devoured widows’ houses’ refers to the fact that they sponged on the hospitality of people of limited means.”[191] Josephus notes that the scribes were venerated and that they specifically deceived women (Josephus, Antinquities2.4).
  • “For appearance’s sake offer long prayers…” Religious people typically drone on and on with their prayers. Jesus taught to teach simply and personally to God (Mt. 6:5ff).
The widow’s giving

[The parallel passage is found in Luke 21:1-4.]

As a person entered the Temple, they would drop their money in one of thirteen different trumpet-shaped money collectors (Mishnah, Shekalim 6.5).

(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, she trusted God with her safety, security, and sustenance.

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.

This is the longest teaching of Jesus in Mark’s gospel. Jesus said this before his death. He must have wanted his disciples to know about the future before they saw everything (seeming) to fall apart with the death of Jesus.

(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.[192] The Talmud records, “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has not seen a beautiful thing.”[193] Tacitus called it “a temple of immense wealth” (History 5.8).[194] The Temple’s courts and attached buildings were so vast that they covered about one-sixth of the city of Jerusalem.[195]

The fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction occurred in AD 70. Virtually all interpreters agree on this. Regarding the destruction of the Temple, Josephus recorded, “Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency… 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.”[196] Lane comments, “Isolated fragments of the substructures and of the old city wall which have been recognized by archeological research only confirm the degree to which Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled.”[197]

Jewish tradition held that the Romans destroyed the Temple because of Israel’s sin (The Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 119b, Testament of Levi 14:1; 15:1).

This is not an ex eventu prophecy (i.e. “after the fact”). Lane writes that Jesus’ “prophecy bears no trace of having come into existence after the event.”[198] Jesus doesn’t mention the destruction by fire (Josephus, Wars of the Jew, 6.4.7), and his prediction comes in the natural flow of the narrative being in and around the Temple. This was a fulfillment of Micah, where we read, “Therefore, on account of you Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest” (Mic. 3:12).

(Mk. 13:1-2) Why doesn’t Matthew (or Mark) mention the destruction of the Temple? (Mt. 24:2)

(13:3) Jesus and the disciples travelled out of the Temple, and they sat down on the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem. This would have given them a panoramic view of the geography of Jerusalem—an excellent place to teach on the subject.

Mark’s account states that Jesus spoke these things to his closest disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. These were Jesus’ first disciples (Mk. 1:16-20). Remember, John goes on to write the book of Revelation.

(13:4) The disciples ask two questions, while Matthew includes three questions.

(1) “When will these things be?”

(2) “What will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”

Matthew adds a third question: “What will be the sign… of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3)

False teachers

(13:5-6) “See to it…” is rendered “Watch out…” (NIV, NET). We see this imperative throughout the chapter (Mk. 13:9, 23 and 33). 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.

We should specifically watch out for people claiming to be representing Christ (“come in My name…”) or claiming to be Christ (“I am…”). Lane writes, “In the Semitic world the ‘name’ of a person denotes his dignity and power.”[199] These false teachers will be claiming Jesus’ authority. Regarding the statement “I am,” Lane understands this to be a claim to deity: “Jesus cautions his disciples that men will emerge in the crisis who will falsely claim to have the theophanic name and power of the Messiah and they will lead many astray.”[200]

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. Many messianic pretenders appeared after Jesus died (Josephus, Antiquities 20.5.1; 8.5-6, 10; The Wars of the Jews, 2.8.3; 17.8-9; 6.5.2; 7.8.1; 11.1).[201]

Wars, famines, and earthquakes

(13:7-8) Famines (Acts 11:28) and earthquakes (Acts 16:26) are recorded in the book of Acts. Lane writes, “The Roman historian Tacitus refers to earthquakes in Laodicea and Pompeii during the period just before Jerusalem was destroyed (Annals 14.27; 15.22).”[202] 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.”

“Birth pangs…” are often associated with judgment at the end of history in the OT (Isa. 13:8; 26:17; Mic. 4:9f.; Hos. 13:13; Jer. 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 49:22; 50:43).

Persecution

(13:9) This is similar to Matthew 10:17-22, rather than Matthew 24 (cf. Lk. 12:11). The disciples faced persecution like this in their lifetimes, but this could also point forward to the entire Church Age.

(13:10) This is the reason why the disciples would face persecution—namely, because of their testimony about Jesus. 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).

(Mk. 13:10) Does this predict the evangelization of the globe (as futurists claim) or the evangelization of the Roman Empire (as preterists claim)? (cf. Mt. 24:14)

(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.

(13:12) This further elaborates on the severity of the persecution. That is, the persecution would be so severe that family members would be betraying one another! This also shows that the Holy Spirit’s power would not necessarily result in avoiding suffering (see verse 11).

(13:13) We think this refers to being saved from death at the Second Coming.

(Mk. 13:13) Does this verse threaten eternal security? (cf. Mt. 24:13)?

(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).

Did Emperor Caligula perform the abomination? Lane holds a Preterist view on this passage. He holds the possibility that the “abomination of desolation” could refer to the fact that in AD 40 “Caligula laid plans to have an image of himself set up in the Jerusalem Temple (see Philo, Legatio ad Gaium; Josephus, Antiquities XVIII. viii. 2-9; Tacitus, History V. 9).”[203]

Response: The difficulty with this view is that Caligula never acted on this, as Jesus predicted.

Did Jewish Zealots perform the abomination? Lane argues that the “abomination of desolation” was committed by the Jewish Zealots, who occupied the Temple (War IV. iii. 7). These war criminals and murders were allowed to roam around the Temple (War IV. iii. 10; War IV. v. 4), and in the winter of AD 67-68, they created a “farcical investiture of the clown Phanni as high priest (War IV. iii. 6-8).”[204] The former high priest Ananus stated, “It would have been far better for me to have died before I had seen the house of God laden with such abominations and its unapproachable and hallowed places crowded with the feet of murderers” (War IV. iii. 10).[205]

Response: This doesn’t fit with Daniel 9:26-27, which predicts that it would be the Romans (“the people of the prince who is to come”) who would destroy the Temple. The text predicts, “On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate” (Dan. 9:27). This refers to a singular Roman—not a multitude of Jewish Zealots or a Jewish high priest.

(Mk. 13:14) Does this refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, as Preterist interpreters claim (cf. Mt. 24:15-16)?

(13:15-16) In Matthew’s account, the setting is in “Judea” as well (24:16; Mk. 13:14) 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 language is equivalent to 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. Lane comments that in the winter the “streams” would be “swollen by heavy rains” and they would be “impossible to cross.” Fitting with his Preterism, he writes, “It happened that during the spring of A.D. 68, due to recent rain storms, the Jordan River was too high and swift for Gadarene fugitives to cross from east to west to seek safety in Jericho (Josephus, War IV. vii. 5).”[206]

(13:19) The overwhelming horror of this event fits best with a Futurist reading—not a Preterist reading. In order to hold to his Preterist reading, Lane needs to call Jesus’ words “Semitic hyperbole.”[207] He cites OT examples of this (Jer. 30:7; Joel 2:2), but the problem is that Futurists hold that these passages are about the end of history! Other extrabiblical citations don’t fit with the language used by Jesus (Baruch 2:2; 1 Macc. 9:27). At most, this argument would show that this could be hyperbolic, but not necessarily that it is hyperbolic.

Lane agrees that Jesus’ expression is “virtually a citation”[208] of Daniel 12:1, which states, “There will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time.” Yet, Daniel places this time period at the general resurrection of the dead in the future! (Dan. 12:2)

(13:20) This language doesn’t fit with AD 70. Lane admits, “The idea of the shortening of the days of affliction there is no clear parallel in the OT and only one in later Jewish literature (III Baruch 9).”[209]

(Mk. 13:20) Is Jesus using hyperbole when he says “no life would have been saved” as Preterists claim? (cf. Mt. 24:22)

(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.”

Lane takes everything so far to be fulfilled by AD 70 (i.e. Preterism).[210] But he takes verse 24 and onward to refer to the future (i.e. Futurism). We admit it is hard to draw the line on what is future and what is past. However, two verses imply that Jesus was predicting a far future event—specifically verse 10 (“the gospel must first be preached to all nations”) and verse 14 (“when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be”).

(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.

Jesus doesn’t directly quote Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4, but these are quite similar. Joel 2:30 might also be in view.

(13:26) Jesus will literally return—just as he literally left (Acts 1:11).

(Mk. 13:26) Are the clouds symbolic for God’s judgment (as Preterists claim), or are they literal (as Futurists claim)? Also does the citation of Daniel 7:13 support Preterism (cf. Mt. 24:30)?

(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.

(Mk. 13:27) Is the gathering symbolic (as Preterists claim) or literal (as futurists claim)? (cf. Mt. 24:31)

(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.” Regarding Jesus’ parable of the fig tree, Lane comments, “The Mount of Olives was famous for its fig trees, which sometimes attained a height of 20 or 30 feet. Assuming that Jesus gave this instruction just before the Passover, the fig tree would be in the condition described in the parable, its branches tender, its leaves sprouting.”[211]

(13:30) This final generation of the human race should know when “these things” are occurring. Our failed experiment of human rebellion will almost be over.

In our estimation, a consistent Preterist would need to take everything mentioned so far to be the referent for “these things,” which would include the Second Coming! (vv.24-27) Lane sees the implications of this, and he contends that “these things” only refers to verses 5-23.[212] This is switching back and forth (arbitrarily) between the past and the future. It also doesn’t take seriously the use of the term “all” in verse 30 (“all these things,” not just verses 5-23).

(Mk. 13:30) Did Jesus make a false prediction about his second coming? (cf. Mt. 24:34)

(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.”

Application: Be ready!

(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 or utility of this attribute in his incarnation.

 (13:33) We can know the general time of Jesus’ return, but we cannot know the exact time of Jesus’ return. Since we can’t know the exact time, the best policy is to live in such a way that we are ready at all times.

(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)

(14:1) The parallel for these passages is Matthew 26:1-5 and Luke 22:1-2. The Passover started at sunset on the 14th of Nisan (April/May) and continued until sunrise the next morning. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted from the 15th-21st days of the month (Ex. 12:15-20; 23:15; 34:18; Deut. 16:1-8). Because they were so close together, they were often merged and called the Feast of the Passover.[213]

The religious leaders had wanted to kill Jesus for some time (Mk. 3:6; 11:18; 12:12).

(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. Many people swarmed into the city of Jerusalem during Passover. The “population of the city swelled from ca. 50,000 to 250,000 persons.”[214]

Why this waste?

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:2-8]

(14:3) Bethany was two miles from Jerusalem, and it was the last stop on the road from Jericho. John tells us that this woman was Mary—the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Jn. 12:3).

Nard was an expensive aromatic oil “from a root native to India.”[215] To preserve the oil, they placed the nard in an alabaster vial, which showed its value. Indeed, Pliny the Elder stated that “the best ointment is preserved in alabaster” (Natural History 8.3.19).[216] These alabaster flasks 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 (Mary) uses it on Jesus instead.

Mark and John mention that the vial was filled with “pure nard” (Mk. 14:3; Jn. 12:3). This was a very expensive perfume. The cost 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, reward, or profit. 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). It’s no wonder that Judas would initiate this viewpoint, because he ended up selling out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Is it a “waste” to invest in Jesus? From Judas’ perspective, it is. But not from Jesus’ perspective (vv.6-8). Spending our lives on Jesus doesn’t lead to waste, but to spiritual wealth.

(14:6) Jesus doesn’t consider our spending of our resources on him to be a waste. He calls this a “good deed.” What an understatement! This is the best thing we can do with our lives.

(14:7) This passage implies that we should normally use our money to help the poor (cf. Deut. 15:11).

(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) Jesus’ was right. Today, nearly 2,000 years later, we are still talking about what she did.

Conclusions

Imagine being this woman. Everything in your life (e.g. your money, your security, your future, etc.) filled that alabaster flask. Consider the courage it would take to break this open and expend it onto Jesus. We don’t find out what happened to her future, but after 2,000 years in heaven, she surely didn’t regret making such a bold move.

Judas bargains

[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). The religious leaders “had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him” (Jn. 11:57). So, it must have been difficult for them to find Jesus. Moreover, they wanted to arrest Jesus apart from the crowd (Lk. 22:6).

(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. We even sacrifice our families and relationships for our “30 pieces of silver.”

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.]

(Mk. 14:12) Does John contradict the Synoptics regarding the Passover meal? (cf. Jn. 13:1)

(14:13-16) 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; yet Jesus foreknew the circumstances of the owner, his house, etc. Lane notes that “ordinarily only women carried water in jars.”[217] So this would have been something unique to spot on their journey into the city. The man gave them a large and furnished upper room to eat (Mk. 14:15; Lk. 22:12). Mark never tells us who this man is or where he lived.

Passover meal

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:20-29, Luke 22:14-30, and John 13.]

(14:17) The Jewish people measured their days from sunset to sunset. So this would have begun the 15th of Nisan. The Passover meal needed to be eaten between sunset and midnight.[218] The celebration had a certain format:[219]

  • The head of the house gave a blessing over the festival and the wine (M. Pesachim 2).
  • The people drank the wine, and the food was brought in (M. Pesachim 3).
  • The son asked why this night was so special (M. Pesachim 4), and the head of the household would explain the Exodus.
  • They would sing the beginning of the Hallel psalms (Pss. 113-115), then they drank a second cup of wine.
  • The host blessed the bread (M. Berachoth 1). The people ate the bread, bitter herbs, and fruit. Finally, they ate the paschal lamb (M. Pesachim X. 9), and they drank the third cup of wine.
  • The people sang the rest of the Hallel psalms (Pss. 116-118), and drank the fourth cup of wine, officially ending the dinner (M. Pesachim 7).

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. Indeed, the disciples were quicker to implicate themselves, rather than Judas! They had a debate over who the betrayer would be, and they never implicated Judas (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). This practice relates to dipping the bread into “the bowl of stewed fruit when Jesus spoke of his betrayal.”[220] This is an allusion to Psalm 41:9, where David—a righteous sufferer—states, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

(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.

(Mk. 14:21) How did Judas fulfill this passage that was originally about David? (cf. Jn. 13:18)

(Mk. 14:21) Doesn’t this passage imply fatalism for Judas? (cf. Jn. 13:18)

(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).

Normally, the head of the household read from a liturgy to celebrate the Passover. The person would say, “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let everyone who hungers come and eat; let everyone who is needy come and eat the Passover meal.”[221] However, Jesus intentionally changes the content of the feast. Instead of telling people to “eat the Passover meal,” he says, “Take it; this is My body.” Moreover, the people would typically eat the bread in silence, but Jesus broke the silence to make this statement.

(Mk. 14:22) Does this statement support the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation? (cf. Mt. 26:26; Lk. 22:17-20; 1 Cor. 11:24-25)

(14:23-24) In the Passover, there was a supper between the breaking of bread and Jesus speaking about the wine (see 1 Cor. 11:25 “after supper”). So, the disciples would’ve been finishing their meal, when Jesus uttered these words. During this point, the people celebrating the Passover would state this liturgical prayer:

“May the All-merciful One make us worthy of the days of the Messiah and of the life of the world to come. He brings the salvation of his king. He shows covenant-faithfulness to his Anointed, to David and to his seed forever. He makes peace in his heavenly places. May he secure peace for us and for all Israel. And say you, Amen.”[222]

During this prayer, Jesus made the statement that the wine referred to his “blood of the covenant.” 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 son to substitute for all people (see comments on Exodus 12 for the prophetic fulfillment of the Passover supper).

The “many” doesn’t refer to Calvinistic Limited Atonement. In Jewish thinking, this would be a Semitism that would include Gentiles, as well as Jews. Far from limiting the atonement, this is expanding it far beyond what the disciples would’ve thought.

(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.

(14:26) They went back to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus had just finished giving his Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24-25). They sang the final Hallel psalms (Pss. 116-118).

[John includes chapters 13-17 before Jesus goes out to the Mount of Olives in verse 26…]

 (14:27) Jesus predicts that the disciples will all betray him, which later happens (Mk. 14:43-50) and which the OT predicted (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 didn’t help him at all. He would betray Christ that very night (Mk. 14:66-72). Jesus’ statement to Peter is “extremely emphatic.”[223]

(14:31) We shouldn’t be too hard on just 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, John 18:1, and Hebrews 5:7. This section passes the historical criteria of (1) multiple attestation and (2) embarrassment, because it depicts Jesus in abject fear and the disciples in sluggardly sleep…]

(14:32) Gethsemane was at the bottom of the Mount of Olives. The Hebrew term means “oil press,” which might imply that this area had an olive press.[224] This was a familiar place to Jesus and the disciples (Lk. 22:39; Jn. 18:2).

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. Jesus may have picked these three disciples because they boasted of “drinking the cup” with him (Mk. 10:38-40) or dying for him (Mk. 14:29, 31). Instead, the reverse was true—namely, Jesus would “drink the cup” of God’s wrath and “die” for them.

“Very distressed” (ekthambeo) is an “intense emotional state” (BDAG). It can be rendered as “appalled and profoundly troubled.”[225] It was right here that Jesus gained resolve about what he would do for humanity on the Cross. Lane writes, “Jesus came to be with the Father for an interlude before his betrayal, but found hell rather than heaven opened before him, and he staggered.”[226]

 (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). Lane writes, “When Jesus addressed God this way he did something new, for in the literature of early Palestinian Judaism there is no evidence of Abba being used as a personal address to God. To the Jewish mind the use of this familiar household term would have been considered disrespectful in prayer, and therefore inconceivable.[227]

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). Indeed, only God the Father understood what he was going through. Jesus’ fearful friends were clueless or cowardly.

(3) Jesus chose to submit 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 whole night in prayer? According to Jesus, 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.

Earlier, Jesus prayed that the “hour” would pass (v.35). Now, he says, “It is enough; the hour has come!” (NASB, ESV). It’s also permissible to render this as “it is settled.”[228]

(14:42) It’s too late for the disciples to pray now. They lost their opportunity. Judas had arrived!

Conclusion

Regarding the relationship between the first Adam and the second Adam, Lane observes, “Just as rebellion in a garden brought Death’s reign over man (Gen. 3:1–19), submission in Gethsemane reversed that pattern of rebellion and sets in motion a sequence of events which defeated Death itself (cf. Heb. 5:7–10).”[229]

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).

(14:48-49a) 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).

(14:49b-50) Jesus’ appeal to the veracity of Scripture is now fulfilled by the disciples abandoning Jesus (see v.27; Zech. 13:7; Isa. 53:12).

Jesus also requested that the guards would leave his disciples alone (Jn. 18:8).

(14:51-52) Who is this mysterious, naked, and fleeing man? Mark is the only gospel to record him. Some believe that this is the author of this gospel—Mark himself. Lane writes, “Several Fathers of the Church conjectured that the young man was Mark himself, who is known to have been a resident in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and in whose house, it was held by tradition, Jesus celebrated the paschal meal.”[230]

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).]

Critics argue that Mark doesn’t follow Sanhedrin court procedure. They claim that the Sanhedrin wouldn’t have held court for a capital crime before a feast day. This is attested in the rabbinical literature (M. Yom Tob V. 2; Tos. Yom Tob IV. 4; Philo, Migration of Abraham § 91),[231] and critics consider this historical very unlikely.

However, because biblical law taught that capital crimes were for the purpose of making a statement to the people (Deut. 13:12; 17:13; 21:21), the early rabbis taught this “to mean that the offender should be punished on one of the pilgrimage feasts (The Tosephta Sanhedrin XI. 7).”[232] Furthermore, and this is very important, the Sanhedrin could assess guilt or innocence, but they couldn’t carry out capital punishment. They needed to have the Romans perform the execution. Lane writes, “Jesus was sentenced by the Sanhedrin on the charge of blasphemy, but it was necessary to prepare a political charge ad hoc in order to secure the execution of the death sentence by the provincial praefect. The essential historicity of the Marcan account should be accepted.”[233]

(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.

Caiaphas was the high priest from AD 18-37. He must have been a strong leader to rule for 19 years, when “the average term of office was only four years.”[234]

(14:54) At this point, it appears that Peter is going to follow through on his dedication to Christ. After all, he followed him all the way here.

(14:55-57) 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 biblical law (Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Num. 35:30) and extra-biblical practice (M. Sanhedrin IV. 1; Josephus, Antiquities IV. viii. 15). Yet their “testimony was not consistent.” This carried serious problems in their legal system, because if witnesses “differed one from the other even in trivial details, they were inadmissible as evidence.”[235]

(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. Jeremiah was threatened with capital punishment for prophesying the destruction of the first Temple (Jer. 26). The Roman Empire took the destruction of religious temples seriously. Lane writes, “Throughout the Graeco-Roman world the destruction or desecration of places of worship was regarded as a capital offense.”[236] They later taunted him with this in Mark 15:29.

(14:59) The witnesses were contradicting each other.

(14:60-61) So far, they didn’t have an acceptable basis for finding legal guilt, because the witnesses were contradicting each other. This is when Caiaphas stepped forward. He probably thought that he could interrogate Jesus himself, and get him to confess. If he could pull this off, 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.

Jesus was required by law to answer questions, so this enraged Caiaphas and the rest of the Sanhedrin. They wanted an open and shut case, but they weren’t getting one. This prompted Caiaphas to directly ask if Jesus believed he was the Messiah.

(14:62) “I am…” Earlier, this statement (egō eimi) had connotations of Jesus being God (Mk. 6:50). However, in this context, Lane argues that this is simply the normal reply to Caiaphas’ direct question. That is, there may be some significance, but Caiaphas’ question “demands and receives the response ‘I am.’”[237]

“…and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 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. Lane writes, “There is evidence that contemporary Judaism also conceived of the Messiah as sitting at God’s right hand and coming in the clouds of heaven. The Sanhedrin would understand Jesus’ words as an unqualified claim to messianic dignity. The prophecy and the clear response “I am” are mutually supportive.”[238]

(14:63-64) Having heard Jesus’ confession, Caiaphas calls for the people to confirm this. They “all” uniformly condemned Jesus to death. Leviticus considered blasphemy a capital crime: “You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If anyone curses his God, then he will bear his sin. 16 Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death” (Lev. 24:15-16).

(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??”

Isaiah 11:2-4 states that the Messiah would judge without the use of his sight or hearing. Therefore, some rabbinic literature stated that the Messiah would judge through the use of smell! The Babylonian Talmud states, “He smells [a man] and judges, as it is written, ‘and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears, yet with righteousness shall he judge the poor’ (Isa. 11:3 f.)” (Sanhedrin 93b).[239]

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). Then, this happens…

(14:66-67) In verse 65, the crowd told Jesus to “prophesy!” to prove that he was the Messiah. What irony that these events occur at the same time! Lane write, “At the precise time when the court attendants were heaping scorn and derision upon Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the prophecy that Peter would deliberately deny him was being fulfilled.”[240]

It was dark at night, so 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 girl—just a “servant-girl.”

Denial #1

(14:68) Peter uses “the form common in rabbinical law for a formal, legal denial (e.g. M. Shebuoth VIII. 3).”[241]

(14:69) Again, the mighty Peter cannot even keep his vow to another little girl!

Denial #2

(14:70) Galileans had an accent (The Babylonian Talmud ‘Erubin 53b; Megillah 24b). Lane writes, “They were unable to distinguish between the several guttural sounds that are so important an element in Semitic languages.”[242] Lemke writes, “Galileans pronounced gutturals peculiarly and had a sort of lisp.”[243]

Denial #3

(14:71) Peter’s denials became more and more severe. In his second denial, he made an “oath.” Now he both “cursed” and “swore” that he didn’t know Jesus. The lack of a direct object in the Greek means that Peter was bringing down a curse on “himself if he is lying and those present if they insist on asserting that he is a disciple.”[244]

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. Lane writes, “It was like awakening from an evil dream that had begun with the failure to stay awake in Gethsemane.”[245]

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 broke Peter’s self-reliance through this episode. We don’t read about Peter in the rest of Matthew’s gospel. In Mark, we simply read that Jesus will appear to Peter (Mk. 16:7).

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 sent Jesus to Pilate, who most likely lived in the palace of the Herods.[246] At this point, Jesus had been up all night. He must’ve been exhausted.

The reason that they came “early in the morning” is because the Roman governors (like Pilate) would oversee legal cases first thing in the morning (see Seneca On Anger II. vii. 3).

The Sanhedrin could cast a vote for the death penalty, but they couldn’t carry it out, because they were under Roman’s authority. Lane writes, “Under certain circumstances it could pronounce a death sentence, but there is no definite proof that it could legitimately execute capital sentences.” Only the Roman magistrate could enact execution. “This was one of the most carefully guarded prerogatives of the Roman government and permitted no concessions.”[247] Pilate wouldn’t have had Jesus killed for blasphemy, but he would have him killed for treason (i.e. claiming to be the messianic king). This is why Pilate focuses his interrogation on this topic.

(15:2) The Sanhedrin must have told Pilate that Jesus claimed to be a treasonous messianic pretender, and this is why Pilate opens by asking Jesus if he is the Messiah. 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. This is why Jesus says, “You say.” This is intentionally enigmatic.

(15:3) Luke tells us that the religious leaders claimed that Jesus forbid the paying of taxes and claimed to be a king (Lk. 23:2).

(15:4-5) Pilate seems incredulous over the fact that Jesus wouldn’t defend himself (Isa. 53:7). Pilate was not a good man. Yet he was probably hesitant to crucify Christ, because it could start a riot. The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead, but they also 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 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”).

Critics argue that the releasing of a prisoner during the Passover (privilegium paschale, i.e. the release of a prisoner at Passover) was invented by the gospel authors, because we have no record of this practice. However, this argument (from silence!) doesn’t hold weight. Lane writes, “There is, however, a parallel in Roman law which indicates that an imperial magistrate could pardon and acquit individual prisoners in response to the shouts of the populace. This practice is illustrated by a papyrus document which may be dated A.D. 85, reporting the trial of one Phibion, who had locked up his alleged creditor and certain women of his household… Moreover, a provision in the Mishnah tractate Pesachim VIII 6a (‘they may slaughter for one … whom they have promised to bring out of prison …’), which is judged to belong to the earliest strata of the Mishnah, implies that the custom of releasing one prisoner or several at the Feast of the Passover must actually have existed in Jerusalem in the first century.”[248]

(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). We don’t know about this particular insurrection, but these were common during this time period (Lk. 13:1; Josephus, Antiquities XVIII. i. 1; iii. 2).

(15:8) The crowd was pressing Pilate for the annual custom of amnesty.

(15:9) By putting the decision to the crowd, 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 crowd make this decision, so that he wouldn’t be 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. The only reason that Barabbas lived was because Jesus died 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. Lane writes, “Mark’s description suggests a kind of grotesque vaudeville: Jesus, bruised and bleeding, is pushed among the coarse soldiers who gathered in the expectation of a few moments of entertainment.”[249]

(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) It was common for the condemned to carry their own cross (Plutarch, Moralia 554 A; Artemidorus, Oneirokritika II. 56). Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross—probably because of all of the blood loss. The soldiers must’ve thought that Jesus wouldn’t make it. This really shows the humanity of Jesus. He wasn’t like Clark Kent pretending to be human. He really truly was 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). Richard Bauckham argues that this points toward this being an eyewitness testimony. For one, Simon’s children are both mentioned (e.g. Alexander and Rufus). Why? Simon is a common name, but Mark already distinguished him from other “Simon’s” because he wrote, “Simon of Cyrene.” Matthew and Luke omit the names of the sons. Bauckham argues that these sons were known to Mark’s audience, and Lane agrees that they “seem to have been well known to his readers.”[250] However, they were later unknown to Matthew and Luke, they died, or they could’ve been in danger. Bauckham writes, “Mark is appealing to Simon’s eyewitness testimony, known in the early Christian movement not from his own firsthand account but through his sons.”[251]

(15:22) The Latin version of Golgotha is “Calvary.” It was common to crucify people outside of the city (Plautus, Miles Gloriosus II. iv. 6f.), even though it was “near” the city (Jn. 19:20).

(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.”[252] This was common for women to do this based on Proverbs 31:6-7 (see The Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a).

The Crucifixion

[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.

(Mk. 15:25) Was Jesus crucified on the third hour or the sixth hour? (cf. Jn. 19:14)?

(15:26) Rome would place a certificate of debt above the crucifixion victim, telling the passersby what they did to deserve death (Juvenal, Satires VI. 230; Pliny the Younger, Epistles VI. x. 3; IX. xix. 3; Suetonius, Life of Caligula 32; Life of Domitian 10). Yet 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. These weren’t mere “robbers,” because theft wasn’t a capital crime. John uses the term “robber” to describe Barabbas, who was an insurrectionist. Lemke writes, “Rebel or insurrectionist is probably a better translation than ‘robber.’ The nature of their crimes likely involved terrorism and assassination.”[253] Lane adds, “In Josephus it is constantly used for the Zealots, who committed themselves to armed conflict against Roman rule on the principle that God alone was sovereign in Israel.”[254]

(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 and Psalm 109:25.

(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. Notice 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).

Jesus dies

[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 (“sixth hour… ninth hour”). Darkness was a symbol in the OT for God’s judgment (Amos 8:9ff; Ex. 10:21), and Philo (the first century Jewish author) held that it represented “either the death of kings or the destruction of cities” (Philo De Providentia II. 50).[255]

Mark agrees with Matthew, Luke, and John 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 where Jesus doesn’t address God as his Father. This is a conspicuous change! 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! This was the price to “give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45).

“Why have you forsaken Me?” The term “forsaken” (egkataleipo) means “to separate connection with someone or someth., forsake, abandon, desert” (BDAG). 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.” Lane writes, “Later Jewish sources illumine the popular belief that Elijah will come in times of critical need to protect the innocent and rescue the righteous.”[256]

(15:36) They kept trying to feed Jesus “sour wine.” Why did they do this? Sour wine was considered a refreshing drink. Lane writes, “In Greek and Roman literature as well it is a common beverage appreciated by laborers and soldiers because it relieved thirst more effectively than water and was inexpensive (e.g. Plutarch, Cato Major I. 13; Papyrus London 1245, 9). There are no examples of its use as a hostile gesture.” Yet he adds, “the offer of the sip of wine was intended to keep Jesus conscious for as long as possible.”[257]

(15:37) Usually, crucifixion victims died of slow exhaustion and slowly passed out. Yet, Jesus went out with a bang! 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), thus fulfilling Psalm 31:5.

The Aftermath

[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 came to faith at the Cross. This shows 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. Lane thinks that the soldier could see that Jesus’ death was so unique that this caused him to believe: “The strength which he possessed at the moment of death was so unusual the centurion spontaneously acknowledged Jesus’ transcendent dignity. In Mark’s account the reason for the exclamation is unmistakably the manner of Jesus’ death, rather than any accompanying event.”[258]

(15:40-41) Mark notes that many women were watching these events. These women had been personally healed by Jesus (Lk. 8:1-3).

Salome was the mother of James and John (Mt. 27:56).

This is an interesting juxtaposition 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?

Is it plausible that Pilate would give Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimathea? When a person was crucified, they lost all of their rights to the state. Tacitus states that “people sentenced to death forfeited their property and were forbidden burial” (Annals VI. 29).[259] The burial depended on the governor’s mercy.

However, for one, Joseph of Arimathea must’ve had some clout and influence because Pilate allows him to take the body. Second, it was Jewish custom to bury the body of the deceased (cf. 2 Sam. 21:12–14; Tobit. 1:17–19; 2:3–7; 12:12f.; Sirach 7:33; 38:16). Josephus even state, “We consider it a duty to bury even enemies” (War III. viii. 5).[260] Third, this burial should occur before sundown (Deut. 21:23; cf. M. Sanhedrin VI. 6; TB Sanhedrin 46b, Baraitha).[261] Lane writes, “Although cursed of God, a body was not to hang on a cross after dark lest there be a defiling of the land, and it was considered unthinkable that burial should be denied to anyone, not even a convicted criminal.”[262] Fourth, we have examples of governors releasing the body of the crucified victim. For instance, Cicero allowed Catiline’s men to be buried, because he had mercy on their wives (Plutarch, Antonius 2; Cicero, Orationes Philippicae II. vii. 17).[263] Philo states that the bodies would be released because of a great festival (Against Flaccus X. § 83).[264] However, we should note that if a person was guilty of high treason, the body was not released for burial.

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). Typically, a person guilty of high treason wouldn’t be allowed burial. But, as we’ve seen, Pilate wasn’t convinced that Jesus was guilty of treason or sedition.

(15:46) Jesus wasn’t buried as a common criminal. He was placed in a “rich man’s tomb” (Isa. 53:9). John states that this tomb had never been used (Jn. 19:41). 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).

The “stone” could have been a boulder. However, since Joseph was wealthy, this was likely an “elaborate disc-shaped stone, about a yard in diameter, like a millstone, which was placed in a wide slot cut into the rock.”[265] Lane adds, “Only a few tombs with such rolling stones are known in Palestine, but all of them date from the period of Jesus.”[266]

(15:47) Two of the women at the crucifixion watched where Jesus was buried. Matthew records that the tomb was guarded closely (Mt. 27:61-66).

Mark 16 (The Resurrection)

 

Resurrection appearances

[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. These women had witnessed the crucifixion (Mk. 15:40, 47). The fact that they showed up to the tomb with anointing oils shows that they didn’t expect an empty tomb or a risen Jesus.

(16:2) This is Sunday morning. “Very early” usually refers to the time period between 3am and 6am (cf. Mk. 1:35), which is before sunrise—not after. Lane thinks that this is an error in textual transmission.[267]

(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 that some men would be there to move the massive stone.

(16:4) The movement of the enormous stone was the first sign of a supernatural event.

(16:5) This is likely an angel. For one, he is clothed in white which is “primarily the heavenly color and is mentioned almost exclusively in eschatological or apocalyptic contexts.”[268] Second, he had divine revelation into the resurrection. Third, the women were “amazed” at this individual, and only Mark uses this strong word (cf. Mk. 9:15).[269]

(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. Notice that the same person who died (“Jesus the Nazarene… has been crucified”) was also the same person who was raised (“Jesus the Nazarene… He has risen”).

(16:7) The mention of Peter and the disciples is an inclusio with Mark 1:36.

In Mark 14:28, Jesus had promised that he would rise from the dead and go ahead of the disciples to Galilee.

(16:8) The women were “afraid,” just as the disciples were afraid after the Transfiguration (Mk. 9:6).

(Mk. 16:8) Does Mark not mention the resurrection?

(Mk. 16:9-20) What happened to the end of Mark? Is this section Scripture or a scribal addition?

[1] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 172.

[2] No other Mark is mentioned in the Bible besides John Mark.

[3] See Kruger, Michael. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Wheaton, IL. Crossway. 2012. 185.

[4] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 175.

[5] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 175.

[6] 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.

[7] Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 28). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[8] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 177.

[9] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 9). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[10] 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.

[11] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 11). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[12] 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.

[13] Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 25). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[14] 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.

[15] Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 73). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[16] Gundry, Robert Horton. A Survey of the New Testament. 4th Edition ed. [Grand Rapids]: Zondervan Pub. House, 2003. 128.

[17] John Wenham, Redating Matthew, Mark, and Luke (InterVarsity Press, 1992).

[18] James G. Crossley, The Date of Mark’s Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity (T & T Clark, 2004).

[19] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 618). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[20] Becker, U. (1986). Gospel, Evangelize, Evangelist. L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther, & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 2, p. 107). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[21] Becker, U. (1986). Gospel, Evangelize, Evangelist. L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther, & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 2, p. 108). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[22] This is referred to as the Priene Inscription. Cited in Becker, U. (1986). Gospel, Evangelize, Evangelist. L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther, & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 2, p. 108). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[23] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. (p.47) Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[24] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 52). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[25] Cited in Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[26] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 51). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[27] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 55). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[28] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 622). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[29] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 57). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[30] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 62). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[31] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 61). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[32] This insight comes from William Lane’s lectures on Mark. Oddly, it doesn’t appear in his commentary on Mark. (It could be that he changed his mind since 1974.)

[33] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 61). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[34] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 67). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[35] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 71). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[36] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 74). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[37] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 74). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[38] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 73). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[39] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 86). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[40] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 87). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[41] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[42] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 91). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[43] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 632). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[44] Cited in Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[45] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 633). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[46] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 633). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[47] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 103-104). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[48] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[49] Emphasis his. Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 110). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[50] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 637). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[51] See footnote. Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 122). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[52] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 122). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[53] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 125). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[54] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 640). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[55] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 641). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[56] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 642). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[57] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 133). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[58] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 134). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[59] 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.

[60] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 643). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[61] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 644). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[62] See footnote. Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 138-139). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[63] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 141). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[64] Emphasis mine. J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [New York: Revell], 2:59. Cited in Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 646). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[65] 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.

[66] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 150). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[67] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 649). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[68] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 649). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[69] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 159). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[70] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 159). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[71] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 161). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[72] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 169). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[73] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 171). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[74] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 172). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[75] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 175). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[76] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 176). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[77] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 655). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[78] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 177). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[79] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 178). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[80] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 657). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[81] 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.

[82] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 657). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[83] Emphasis mine. Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 182). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[84] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 658). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[85] Craig Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Vol. 2, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), p.46.

[86] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 187). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[87] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 188). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[88] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 659). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[89] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 660). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[90] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 660). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[91] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 661). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

  1. The Mishnah

[92] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[93] 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.

[94] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 196). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[95] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 197). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[96] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 198-199). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[97] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 199). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[98] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 202). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[99] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 204). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[100] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 667). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[101] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 208-209). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[102] Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 174). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[103] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 669). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[104] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 213). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[105] 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.

[106] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 216). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[107] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 217). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[108] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 221). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[109] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 670). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[110] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 222). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[111] Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts (Chillicothe, OH: DeWard Publishing Co., 2017), Kindle Location 1552.

[112] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 674). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[113] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 231). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[114] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 234). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[115] France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (p. 569). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[116] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 235). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[117] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 676). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[118] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 343). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[119] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 236). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[120] 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.

[121] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 676). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[122] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 237). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 183). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[123] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 345). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[124] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 345). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[125] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 345). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[126] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 346). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[127] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 240). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[128] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 678). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[129] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 246). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[130] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 245). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[131] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 248-249). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[132] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 250). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[133] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 251). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[134] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 680). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[135] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 682). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[136] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 263). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[137] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 266-267). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[138] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 274). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[139] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 275). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[140] 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.

[141] Cited in Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[142] Cited in Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[143] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 285). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[144] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 285). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[145] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 285). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[146] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 288). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[147] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 289). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[148] Keener, C. S. (1997). Matthew (Vol. 1). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[149] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 692). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[150] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 304). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[151] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 307). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[152] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 306). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[153] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 697). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[154] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 697). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[155] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 697). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[156] Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 211). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[157] Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 212). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[158] Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 212). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[159] Journal Entry (Oct. 28, 1949).

[160] 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.

[161] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), p.9.

[162] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), pp.9-10.

[163] We are indebted to one of Tim Keller’s sermons for this insight.

[164] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 317). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[165] Cited in footnote of Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 325). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[166] 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.

[167] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 391.

[168] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[169] Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 229). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[170] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 349). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[171] Craig L. Blomberg. “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Celibacy: An Exegesis of Matthew 19:3-12.” Trinity Journal Volume 11 (1990), p.173.

[172] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 364). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[173] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 365). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[174] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 238.

[175] William E. Phipps, The Wisdom and Wit of Rabbi Jesus (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1993), 90.

[176] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 374). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[177] Ancient beggars would spread out this garment on the ground, and people would drop coins on the garment. Periodically, the beggar would use the garment to gather all of the money together. Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 388). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[178] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 397). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[179] Cited in Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 397-398). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[180] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 398). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[181] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 398). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[182] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 733). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[183] See footnote. Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 423). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[184] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 426). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[185] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 428). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[186] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 432). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[187] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 434). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[188] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 440). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[189] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 440). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[190] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 440). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[191] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 441). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[192] 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.

[193] Baba Bathra, 4a.

[194]  Cited in Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[195] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 451). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[196] Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 7:1:1.

[197] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 452-453). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[198] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 453). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[199] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 457). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[200] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 457). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[201] Cited in footnote. See Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 457). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[202] See footnote. Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 458). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[203] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 468). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[204] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 469). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[205] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 469). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[206] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 470-471). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[207] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 471). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[208] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 471-472). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[209] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 472). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[210] He writes, “The entire section is to be interpreted in the light of the events which occurred in the turbulent and chaotic period A.D. 66-70.” Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 466). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[211] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 479). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[212] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 478). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[213] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 489-490). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[214] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 490). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[215] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 492). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[216] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 492). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[217] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 499). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[218] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 500). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[219] Summarized from Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 501–502). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[220] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 502). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[221] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 505). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[222] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 506). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[223] See footnote. Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 512). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[224] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 515). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[225] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 516). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[226] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 516). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[227] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 518). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[228] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 522). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[229] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 522). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[230] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 527). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[231] Cited in Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 529). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[232] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 529–530). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[233] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 530). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[234] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 531). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[235] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 533). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[236] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 534). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[237] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 536). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[238] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 537). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[239] Cited in footnote. Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 540). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[240] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 541). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

  1. The Mishnah

[241] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 542). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[242] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 542). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[243] 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.

[244] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 542–543). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[245] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 543). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[246] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 548). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[247] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 547). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[248] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 553). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[249] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 559). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[250] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 563). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[251] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2nd Edition. Grand Rapid, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2017), p.52.

[252] 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.

[253] 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.

[254] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 568). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[255] Cited Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 571). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[256] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 573). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[257] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (pp. 573–574). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[258] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 576). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[259] Cited in Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 578). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[260] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 578). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[261] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 578). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[262] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 578). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[263] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 578). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[264] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 578). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[265] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 581). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[266] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 581). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[267] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 585). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[268] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 587). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[269] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 587). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.