Introduction to Mark

By James M. Rochford

Authorship

Who Wrote the Four Gospels? Critics contend that we do not know who really wrote the gospels. In fact, it is argued that the standard titles of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John weren’t added until a century later to give these documents apostolic authority. Does the evidence support the authorship of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

Date

Evidence for an Early Dating of the Four Gospels: Many historians and commentators date the Gospels between AD 70 and AD 100. This subject is surely up for debate. However, based on the manuscript evidence, the citation from the Church Fathers, the dating of the Book of Acts, and the early citations from Paul, we think there is good evidence for an early dating of the Gospels.

Table of Contents

What do we know about Mark?. 2

Audience: Rome?. 2

The Value of Mark’s Gospel 3

Mark 1 3

Mark 2. 20

Mark 3. 29

Mark 4. 39

Mark 5. 48

Mark 6. 60

Mark 7. 78

Mark 8. 87

Mark 9. 98

Mark 10. 112

Mark 11 125

Mark 12. 132

Mark 13. 143

Mark 14. 154

Mark 15. 172

Mark 16. 183

What do we know about Mark?

After God broke Peter out of prison, Peter showed up at Mark’s house (Acts 12:12). Mark later became a member of Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:5), but Paul refused to take him on his second missionary journey, because Mark had some sort of meltdown 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 as well, 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. He came from wealth, and he would be a good person to write this gospel. This only confirms Christian history which confirms that John Mark was the author, writing under Peter (see Who Wrote the Four Gospels?).

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, so it seems likely that Mark wrote from Rome and presumably to Rome.

Mark also feels the need to explain Jewish customs (Mk. 7:1-4; 15:42), translate Aramaic words (Mk. 3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 15:22),[1] and emphasize persecution and martyrdom (Mk. 8:34-38; 13:9-13). Less persuasive are the presence of “Latinisms” in Mark (i.e. 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 fast and frantic pace fits with the rapid rates of persecution in Rome. R. Alan Cole finds the destination of Rome “attractive,” but “not proven,”[2] and we would tend to agree. While we are inclined to see a Roman audience, the evidence is decidedly thin.

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, yet solid, skeleton of what he wrote. Since Matthew and Luke appreciated Mark’s work and quoted it frequently, why shouldn’t we?

Mark 1

Mark 1:1 (Thesis Statement: The good news of Jesus)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 3:1-6 and Luke 3:3-6.]

(1:1) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

“The beginning” (en archē) is the same language used in the Septuagint for Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning”). This implies that Mark’s biography “is a new beginning in which God reveals the Good News of Jesus Christ.”[3]

“Gospel.” Before the time of Jesus, Greco-Roman culture used the word “gospel” (euangelion) to announce an official proclamation of an important event in history. The word was used, for example, to speak of the Roman emperor’s “birth, coming of age, or enthronement, and also his speeches, decrees and acts.”[4] The Priene Inscription (9 BC) was a message of the Greeks in Asia regarding the birthday of August Caesar:

It is a day which we may justly count as equivalent to the beginning of everything… [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.… Providence (pronoia)… 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 [evangel] that have come to men through him… The reckoning of time for the course of human life should begin with his birth.”[5]

The “messenger of good news” (euangelos) was originally thought to be “one who brings a message of victory or other political or personal news that causes joy.”[6] Indeed, in secular history, the messenger would announce a military victory to the people waiting anxiously back home.[7] Allegedly, a messenger named Philippides ran 26.2 miles from the battle of Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the outnumbered Greeks against their Persian enemies (490 BC).[8] He announced, “Nike!” (i.e. “We overcame!” or “We won!). And then, he promptly died of exhaustion. Before Philippides brought his message, abject terror seized the Greek people—not knowing if the Persians were on their way to massacre Athens. But after? The message was “good news,” and they celebrated with joy.

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 human history, and Mark records what he said and did. 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? Cole[9] doesn’t believe this was in the original text, while Brooks does.[10] Indeed, 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 calls Jesus “the Son of God” at the end of the gospel (Mk. 15:39), which gives us bookends for Mark’s writing (or what scholars call an inclusio). Thus, from the very first verse, Mark’s gospel is “primarily a Christology.”[11] While the figures in the book debate who Jesus is, the reader knows from the very beginning.

Mark 1:2-8 (John the Baptist)

(1:2) Just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending My messenger before You, who will prepare Your way.”

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), and the second comes from Isaiah (Isa. 40:3). Since Malachi himself borrowed from Exodus 23:20, there is “exegetical ground [for] the conflation.”[12]

(Mk. 1:2) Why does Mark cite Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3?

(1:3) The voice of one calling out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!’”

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 OT citation.

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 appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

John the Baptist was preaching about repentance and forgiveness. Yet without Jesus, we can have no forgiveness. This is why Paul felt the need to rebaptize John’s disciples who weren’t believers in Jesus (Acts 19:5). Matthew (Mt. 3:1-6) and Luke (Lk. 3:3-6) give us more detail on the nature of John’s preaching.

John’s teaching contained a conspicuous absence. John states that there is forgiveness without animal sacrifice or visitation to the Temple! This was quite different from the Judaism of John’s day, which centered on the Temple. These religious leaders must’ve been shocked to see people turning their lives around out in the desert, rather than in the Temple. Yet, this was John’s method of operations. Indeed, John believed that Jesus was the Ultimate Sacrifice—not the animals found in the Temple: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29)

(1:5) And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

The “all” is hyperbolic (i.e. not every single person saw John). Yet, this shows how incredibly popular John was. There were so many people that Josephus even 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, with regard to the historical details, it gives a strikingly similar portrayal of John the Baptist.

(1:6) John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.

We have no doubt that John the Baptist was an eccentric man, considering his diet, clothing, and overall lifestyle. And yet, such statements are not utterly fantastic accounts. After all, the locust was a clean insect to eat (Lev. 11:21), and Elijah’s clothing was befitting of a prophet (Zech. 13:4). Indeed, John is very similar in appearance to the OT prophet Elijah (2 Kin. 1:8), and Mark makes this connection later in his book (Mk. 9:9-13).

(1:7) And he was preaching, saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to bend down and untie the straps of His sandals.”

Luke tells us that the people were wondering at this time if John the Baptist was the Messiah (Lk. 3:15). These questions prompted John to clarify his identity. In doing so, John gives us an incredibly high Christology: John the Baptist—an outrageously righteous man—felt that he was unfit to even touch Jesus’ feet (i.e. perform the actions of a slave!).

“After me One is coming…” This was “technical terminology for discipleship among the scribes and rabbis of the first century.”[13] 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 John. He could be communicating 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).[14]

(1:8) “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus’ baptism will blow John’s baptism out of the water! (pun intended) Matthew records that John explained that believers would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, while unbelievers will be baptized in the fire of judgment (Mt. 3:11-12).

Mark doesn’t include as much of John’s preaching as Matthew and Luke. Instead, he used a literary device called “telescoping,”[15] which means that he chose to focus on one part of the narrative, rather than another. In this case, Mark chose to focus on Jesus’ nature.

Discussion Questions

Read 1:1-8. Mark began with a title to his gospel (v.1), and then he opened his biography with John the Baptist. Why do you think Mark chose to open his gospel in this way?

If everyone was coming out to meet John (and John wouldn’t even consider himself a slave of Jesus), then what does this tell us about Jesus?

Mark 1:9-11 (John baptizes Jesus)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 3:13-17 and Luke 3:21-23.]

(1:9) In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

Jesus had humble origins. He came from the small town of Nazareth. This little town was so tiny that “it is not mentioned in the Old Testament, Josephus, or rabbinic literature.”[16] Josephus mentioned 45 cities in Galilee, but not Nazareth. It wasn’t until 1961 that we found extrabiblical evidence for Nazareth, when a mosaic inscription was found in Caesarea Maritima. Furthermore, in December 2009, archaeologists discovered a first-century house in Nazareth. To put this simply, Nazareth was so obscure that no one would expect the Ruler of the world to be born here. This is why Nathanael incredulously asked, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46)

Matthew adds that John felt uncomfortable baptizing Jesus, because Jesus was so much greater then him (Mt. 3:14). William Lane argues that verse 5 and verse 9 correspond with one another: While verse 5 mentions all the people, verse 9 mentions only one. From this, Lane sees that Jesus “identified himself with a rebellious generation in need of redemption.”[17]

The Jordan River is quite small. It is only 200 miles long (from Palestine to the Dead Sea), and even during flood season, it is only 100 feet across and 10 feet deep.[18]

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

(1:10-11) And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came from the heavens: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

God didn’t show up for “all” of the people from Judea coming for baptism (v.5), but he did show 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 a private vision? Wessel[19] and Brooks[20] believe that the opening of the heavens could’ve been a private vision given only to Jesus. Yet, John 1:32 states that John the Baptist saw this as well. The voice from heaven seems to have been definitely public.

What does it mean to descend “like a dove”? The short answer is… we’re not sure! Some speculate that this is an allusion to how the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters like a dove in Genesis 1:2.[21] 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.”[22] (The Babylonian Talmud: Hagigah 15a; Gen. Rabba 2; Yalqut to Gen. 1:2.)

“You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” This conflates two passages from the OT: the Messiah would be a Conquering King (Ps. 2:7), but he would also be a Suffering Servant (Isa. 42:1). This shows the “the double nature of the work of Jesus.”[23] Since we are in the “beloved” (agapētos) through spiritual identification with Jesus (Eph. 1:7), God deeply loves us and is “well pleased” with those who are “in Christ.”

Mark 1:12-13 (The temptation of Jesus)

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

(1:12) And immediately the Spirit brought Him out into the wilderness.

The same Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus with God’s love now sends him into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit “impelled” (ekballō) Jesus into the wilderness, which means to “force to leave, drive out, expel” (BDAG). This is different from Matthew and Luke who both use the softer word “led.” Because Mark’s tone communicates such a frantic speed of events, this fits his literary style. It also speaks of the “divine necessity” of the temptation, “not that Jesus was reluctant to go.”[24]

(1:13) And He was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving Him.

Is the number 40 significant? 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 event seems to serve as the backdrop for Jesus’ testing: namely, where Israel failed in their temptation, Jesus succeeded.[25] 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.”[26]

Mark’s account of the temptation is quite terse. Satan tempts Jesus during these forty days (cf. Mt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-13). Yet, Mark doesn’t get into the details of Jesus’ temptation. For instance, Mark doesn’t include Jesus’ victory over Satan or even the cessation of the temptation. Mark’s gospel “constitutes the explanation of the manner in which Jesus was tempted.”[27] 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 beasts, but Jesus faced them first!”[28] But frankly, this seems like a stretch. While the mention of “wild beasts” is ominous, 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.”[29]

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. Or, it could show that the Father had not forgotten or neglected his Son. While he allowed him to endure temptation, he comforted him afterwards.

Discussion Questions

Why would Jesus allow himself to be baptized alongside sinful people? What does this event tell us about what Jesus came to do?

Jesus suffered temptation and starvation. Why would the same Holy Spirit who descended on Jesus like a dove (Mk. 1:10) also be the same one to “impel” him into this suffering?

If Jesus faced temptations like this, and these were in God’s will, then what lessons can we learn about our own suffering and temptation?

Mark 1:14-15 (Preaching in Galilee)

(1:14) Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.

If you haven’t noticed yet, Mark is summarizing or skipping large swathes of Jesus’ life. For instance, he assumes that his audience knows about the arrest of John, and gives more detail on his imprisonment later in his account (Mk. 6:14-29). Moreover, Mark skips over Jesus’ Judean ministry that occurred before his Galilean ministry (Jn. 2-3), as well as Jesus’ ministry in Samaria (Jn. 4). Matthew and Luke also omit this from their accounts.

How could Jesus preach the gospel before his death and resurrection? When Mark refers to the “good news,” this refers to the good news about God’s kingdom, as verse 15 makes clear. Mark began his gospel describing the “gospel of Jesus Christ,” and here he describes the “gospel of God.”

(1:15) [Jesus was] saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark has this unique note that people should “repent and believe in the gospel,” whereas Matthew simply records that we should “repent” (Mt. 4:17). That is, we should have a change of mind about the good news, and trust in it. The Jewish people expected a powerful, earthly kingdom in the future, but Jesus was preaching a current kingdom in the moment. The reason that the kingdom of God is at hand” is because the King is here. Yet, we agree with Brooks that “a present, mystical kingdom does not rule out the possibility of a future, earthly one.”[30]

After this, Jesus heals the official’s son (Jn. 4:46ff).

Mark 1:16-20 (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) As He was going along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will have you become fishers of men.” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

The “Sea of Galilee” is more like a lake—only 13 miles from north to south, and 8 miles from west to east.

Why did Peter and Andrew “immediately” follow Jesus? Peter and Andrew had met Jesus before this event—sometime after Jesus’ baptism (Jn. 1:40-42). So, this was in fact the second time Jesus had met Peter and Andrew—not the first. This explains why they “immediately” chose to follow him.

Moreover, Luke records that Jesus taught in front of Peter and Andrew during this time (Lk. 5:3). After the teaching, Jesus told these men to go out and cast their nets (Lk. 5:4-5), and the catch was so enormous 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).

“They left their nets and followed Him.” This would’ve been equivalent to leaving their careers of being fishermen, which was relatively lucrative in ancient Israel. Though, this doesn’t mean that they liquidated their assets, because we find them fishing immediately after the resurrection (Jn. 21).

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. As Lane observes, these passages are “distinctly ominous in tone, stressing the divine judgment.”[31] 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. We agree with Brooks that these OT pictures was “to bring people to judgment,” but Jesus’ picture was to help people “escape judgment.”[32] The language of being “fishers of men” was a personal illustration for these men who were fishermen—not an OT allusion. That is, the nearest referent is the fact that these men were fishing.

(1:19) And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, who were also in the boat mending the nets.

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) Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and went away to follow Him.

This also explains why the Zebedee brothers were so quick to follow Jesus—namely, because they had just seen a miracle. They left behind their father, their business, and even the “hired men.” They had a lot to lose by choosing to follow Jesus.

Discussion Question

Read Jesus’ statement, “Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men’” (Mk. 1:17). List 20 insights that you see in this one verse. Here’s a few insights to help you prime the pump.

  1. Jesus was the one to call them.
  2. The way we grow into fishermen is to “follow” Jesus.
  3. If we follow him, he will “make us” fishers of men.
  4. Jesus will personally make us fishers of men (“I will make you…”). We don’t make ourselves fishers of men.

Consider the calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Once we include the parallel account in Luke 5:1-11, we discover that Jesus had already taught them and shown them miracles. What does this communicate to us about how God calls us to trust him and follow him?

Mark 1:21-28 (Healing a demon possessed man)

[The parallel account is Luke 4:31-37.]

(1:21) They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and began to teach.

Capernaum. The setting is in the synagogue on the Sabbath in Capernaum. Capernaum becomes a “home base” for Jesus’ preaching, and it was most likely the hometown of all four men: Peter, Andrew, James, and John.[33] The city was located on the northwest of the Sea of Galilee.

“He entered the synagogue and began to teach.” It was common for travelling rabbis to be invited to teach at local synagogues.[34]

(1:22) And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

“One having authority.” 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 have erroneously claimed. Indeed, just the opposite! 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 2:42!).

When Jesus would teach, he “neither quoted nor relied on any great rabbinic names as precedent for his teaching.”[35] 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) Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out.

This demon-possessed man was in the synagogue. Today, imagine having a Bible study where someone was demon-possessed. Worse yet, imagine that no one had the power to pray over the person to heal them! This would show an utter impotence of your religion, wouldn’t it?

This event shows that the religious authorities lacked spiritual power. Indeed, Capernaum was a city of massive unbelief (Mt. 11:23-24), and this could account for having demon-possessed people in the synagogues. Cole writes, “It is a strange commentary on the spiritual situation in Capernaum that a demoniac could worship in the synagogue with no sense of incongruity, until confronted by Jesus.”[36]

(1:24) [The unclean spirit was] saying, “What business do you have with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are: the Holy One of God!”

This demon possessed supernatural knowledge of Jesus, knowing him by name (“Jesus of Nazareth”) and by 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.[37] This further shows that this was no “ordinary sickness,” but what was indeed “demonic possession.”[38] After all, epilepsy doesn’t confer supernatural knowledge like this.

Far from being the one in malicious control, this demon is afraid of being “destroyed” by Jesus. He must realize that Jesus possesses unspeakable 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.”[39] 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) And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”

“Be quiet” (phimōthēti) literally means “be muzzled.”[40] This fits with the concept of the so-called “messianic secret.” Jesus was silencing this demon because his time had not yet come to reveal himself to the world. 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 (cf. Jas. 4:7).

(1:26) After throwing him into convulsions and crying out with a loud voice, the unclean spirit came out of him.

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) And they were all amazed, so they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

The crowds recognized that Jesus had authority over the demonic realm. Earlier, it was par for the course to have demon-possessed people in the synagogue. But now, there was a “new sheriff in town.”

(1:28) Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding region of Galilee.

Jesus’ reputation spread to Galilee and beyond. Despite his desire to keep this demon quiet (v.25), the people couldn’t help spreading the news.

Mark 1:29-34 (Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law and the crowds)

[The parallel accounts are found in Matthew 8:14-17 and Luke 4:38-41.]

(1:29) And immediately after they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

These four men had just begun to follow Jesus. After this event, they will be glad that they did.

(1:30) Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and they immediately spoke to Jesus about her.

Peter was married (“Simon’s mother-in-law”), and he took his wife on his missionary journeys alongside him (1 Cor. 9:5). But his mother-in-law was sick; indeed, Luke adds that this was a “high fever” (Lk. 4:38).

(1:31) And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she served them.

Jesus instantly healed this woman. The fact that “she waited on them” isn’t condescending. This shows that Peter’s mother-in-law was so fully healed that she could even serve others regularly.

By healing Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus made things easier for Peter at home. Imagine being Peter. You need to tell your wife that you’re leaving to follow Jesus around Galilee while he teaches and performs miracles. When would you return? How long would you be gone? What would your family do while you were away? You would be unable to answer any of these questions. Needless to say, this would create quite a rift in the relationship. Now, just imagine the firestorm of questions coming from your mother-in-law! Surely this woman would be upset at seeing her little girl abandoned like this.

By healing the mother-in-law, Jesus was not just being tender and kind to the family of his new disciple (though he certainly was doing just that). He was also making a statement to Peter’s entire family: following him was in the direct center of God’s will. All of the questions and suspicions would’ve evaporated when Jesus healed this old woman from death. The family would’ve never looked at Jesus the same way after this event. Indeed, from here on out, Mark will refer to this house as Jesus’ “home” (Mk. 2:1).

(1:32) Now when evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed.

Word must’ve spread quickly that a miracle worker was in town. But if so, why did they wait until “the sun had set” to bring Jesus the sick and demon-possessed? After all, if you had someone who was demon-possessed, would you wait until sunset to bring them to get healed? Mark explains this by the fact that all of this occurred on the Sabbath (Mk. 1:21), and it was illegal to carry people on the Sabbath because this was considered work.

While we might scoff at ancient people believing in demon-possession, these ancient people distinguished between illness and demon-possession as separate maladies (cf. Mt. 4:24; Mk. 1:32, 34; 6:13). This is a “further indication that primitive, unscientific understanding is not a sufficient explanation of the latter.”[41]

(1:33) And the whole city had gathered at the door.

The reference to the “whole city” is likely hyperbole.

(1:34) And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

“He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.” This also fits with the “messianic secret” (cf. Lk. 4:41).

Discussion Questions

Why don’t we see demon-possession as much today, as Jesus did during his ministry?

Why do you think Jesus chose to heal Peter’s mother-in-law? (HINT: Beyond Jesus simply being merciful, consider the fact that Peter would be travelling full-time and away from the home…)

Mark 1:35-39 (Preaching in Galilee)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 4:23-25 and Luke 4:42-44.]

(1:35) And in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and prayed there for a time.

Jesus worked hard, and he also prayed hard. After a powerful time of ministry, Jesus wouldn’t fall into lethargy. Instead, he would spend his time getting recharged with God the Father. Here is a good lesson for the Christian worker: The best way to recharge after a laborious stretch of ministry is to rest in prayer with the Father.

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 who were trying to seek him as a king, opting instead for 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.[42] This might be speculative, but we surely see it in John’s gospel, when we read, “Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone” (Jn. 6:15).

(1:36-37) Simon and his companions eagerly searched for Him; 37 and they found Him and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”

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) He said to them, “Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may also preach there; for this is why I came.”

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) And He went into their synagogues preaching throughout Galilee, and casting out the demons.

Again, Jesus is showing his power over Satan in the synagogues. This shows 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).

Mark 1:40-45 (Healing the leper)

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

(1:40) And a man with leprosy came to Jesus, imploring Him and kneeling down, and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

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 (Mishnah Negaʿim 13.12).

“If You are willing, You can make me clean.” The leper trusted Jesus’ power and ability to heal, but he wasn’t sure about Jesus’ desire. Would Jesus want to heal a social outcast like this?

(1:41-42) Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out with His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.

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.

Was Jesus “moved with compassion” or “moved with anger”? Some early manuscripts (primarily in the Western text) contain the words “moved with anger” (ojrgistheis), rather than “moved with compassion” (splanchnistheis). The textual evidence overwhelming favors the “moved with compassion” reading, but it’s inconceivable why a scribe would change the text from “compassion” to “anger.” This is why Brooks[43] holds to the “anger” reading. We’ll leave it to the textual critics to decide which reading was original. However, even if the original autograph used the word “anger” (ojrgistheis), this wouldn’t dramatically change our interpretation:

First, Jesus may have been angry with “the ravages of sin, disease and death which take their toll even upon the living, a toll particularly evident in a leper.”[44] Similarly, Jesus was angry and tear-filled at Lazarus’ tomb, because he was angry with death itself (Jn. 11:33-35).

Second, Jesus may have been angry at the unbelief of the religious leaders who didn’t help this man.[45]

Third, Jesus may have been angry at the fact that this would make him ceremonially unclean, and therefore, Jesus would be unable to enter cities because of this ceremonial Jewish law. Because the man disobeyed Jesus’ command to be quiet, Jesus “could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas” (Mk. 1:45). Incidentally, this is why Jesus was so stern with the man being silent about the miracle (Mk. 1:43), because it affected his plans for ministry. Hence, even the alternate reading isn’t inconsistent with what we know of the historical Jesus.

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

(1:43-44) And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, 44 and He said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

The procedure to show himself to the priest is from Leviticus 14:2 and Deuteronomy 24:8. 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.”[46] 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.”[47] 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) But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.

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

Are these events in chronological order? Not necessarily. It’s quite possible that Mark arranged his events topically, rather than chronologically. Luke follows Mark’s ordering of events (Lk. 5-6), but Matthew records these events in two separate chapters (Mt. 9 and Mt. 12). But Mark’s language doesn’t require a chronological ordering of events—each section begins with open-ended language. 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)

None of this language requires chronological ordering. We agree with Lane when he writes, “It is unlikely that these five incidents happened consecutively or even at the same period in Jesus’ ministry.”[48] Also, Brooks states that the “arrangement is almost certainly topical rather than chronological.”[49] Indeed, these stories were most likely topically arranged by Mark to explain related aspects of Jesus’ identity.

Mark 2:1-12 (Healing the paralytic)

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

(2:1) When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.

Jesus returns to Capernaum, after leaving to serve elsewhere (Mk. 1:38). “Home” doesn’t refer to Jesus’ home, but rather to Peter and Andrew’s home (Mk. 1:29).[50] This is a subtle confirmation that Peter supervised this gospel, because it is assumed that Peter’s home is the unnamed headquarters for the disciples.

(2:2) And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.

While Jesus spoke, it was standing room only. People were peeking their heads through the door to see and hear Jesus.

(2:3) And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men.

Four friends brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. In what follows, we see a description of Jesus’ later statement, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk. 2:17).

(2:4) Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.

“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).[51]

This is what we would call persistence! Instead of giving up, they literally tore the roof off of the house to get inside to see Jesus.

Did they dig through the “roof” or through the “tiles”? Mark states that these men dug through the mud-thatch roof (stegē, Mk. 2:4), while Luke describes the roof as “tiles” (keramos) or “ceramic.” Stein[52] understands Luke as using “contextualization” for Theophilus, who would be familiar with tiles—not mud-thatch. Liefeld agrees that Luke could be “adapting the terminology,” but he also insists that “tile was not unknown in Palestine; and Luke’s terminology may be even more suitable to the specific nature of the roof than we realize.”[53] Similarly, citing the New Bible Dictionary, Morris states that “the tiled roof… appeared before New Testament times.”[54] We hold this latter view that both mud and tile were likely used in creating the roof of this house.

(2:5) And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

This remarkable action was an act of faith (“seeing their faith”). Jesus saw the faith of all of the men, and this would include the paralytic as well. 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. After all, what if they dropped him? This could be a death sentence.

“Son, your sins are forgiven.” In rabbinical thinking, physical ailments (like paralysis) were considered to be caused by sin. Rabbi Ammi (AD 300) allegedly said, “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity” (Shabbat 55a).[55] Jesus doesn’t believe in this unbiblical teaching (Jn. 9:1-3; Lk. 13:1-5; cf. Ezek. 18; Jer. 31:29-30). However, this religious background becomes necessary for understanding this account.

(2:6-7) But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?”

This passage 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” to forgive this man’s sins. Rather, he simply declared that the man’s sins were forgiven by his own authority. Wessel writes, “In Jewish teaching even the Messiah could not forgive sins. That was the prerogative of God alone.”[56]

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, he gives us 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) Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?”

Jesus had supernatural insight into people’s hearts and minds. Who else can read someone’s mind but God?

(2:9) “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’?”

Clearly, it’s easier to simply say that your sins are forgiven. Such a statement isn’t empirically testable. By contrast, if the man was healed from paralysis, this would be quite 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.”[57] In other words, by doing the physical healing, Jesus demonstrated his ability to perform spiritual healing. Thus, the one form of healing verifies the other. On the rabbinic view, this man was paralyzed because he had sinned. Therefore, if he was physically healed, this would mean that he was spiritually forgiven by God. Again, Jesus didn’t believe in this cruel teaching, but he seems to be leveraging their own teaching against them.

(2:10-11) “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”

Jesus uses the title “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) And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

This is an archetypical example of a biblical miracle. Jesus was no flim-flam deceiver who was 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”).

Discussion Questions

How does the persistence of these four friends compare to the faith that we in modern Christian culture today? For instance, how does it compare to this common Christian trope? “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

The paralyzed man came to Jesus for physical healing, but Jesus forgave his sins first. What might this teach us about how God operates in prayer? Why might this teach us about how we naturally operate in prayer?

Mark 2:13-17 (Jesus reaches Matthew)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:9-13 and Luke 5:27-32.]

(2:13) And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them.

Why did Jesus teach by the sea so frequently? In our estimation, it’s likely that teaching on the sea would provide the best acoustics for a large crowd, and may have allowed for more seating on the beach. At the very least, these were highly populated regions “where many villages were clustered round the shore of the lake.”[58]

(2:14) As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

“Levi” is one and the same as Matthew (Mt. 9:9). Mark and Luke call him Levi the son of Alphaeus” (Mk. 2:14; cf. Lk. 5:27, 29). Levi was his Jewish name, while Matthew was his Greek name (Mt. 9:9). Luke adds that Matthew “left everything behind” to follow Jesus (Lk. 5:28). The name “Levi” could imply that he was from this priestly line, and consequently, he suffered a terrible moral fall by enlisting as a tax collector. For important historical context on tax collectors, see our article “Tax Collectors in Jesus’ Day.”

Why did Matthew follow Jesus so quickly? It could be that Matthew saw (or heard about) Jesus’ 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 badly.

(2:15) And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.

Matthew himself threw this party (Lk. 5:29). Matthew didn’t know much about how to follow Jesus, but he knew how to throw a party! So, he invited all of his friends to meet Jesus. What kind of person was Jesus like that wildly sinful people wanted him at their parties? He must have known how to have fun, how to crack jokes, and make people feel comfortable around him. Matthew’s conversion made it easy and accessible for the other “sinners” to approach Jesus. This term does not refer to generic sinners (i.e. all of humanity). Rather, in context, it could be understood to refer to “scum” (NLT), “outcasts,”[59] or the “well-known and despised classes among the people.”[60]

(2:16) When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?”

Earlier, the Pharisees were “reasoning in their hearts” (Mk. 2:6); now, they sent their scribes who were speaking aloud. The self-righteous religious leaders were outraged (or perhaps confused?) by the fact that Jesus would be eating with notoriously sinful people like this. Indeed, they accused Jesus of being a “glutton” and a “drunkard” for spending time with these immoral people (Mt. 11:19). Eating together didn’t imply just grabbing lunch, as we do today. Rather, in this culture, table fellowship “was one of the most intimate expressions of friendship.”[61] This practice was so instantiated in the culture that we see it arise throughout the NT church. Peter’s Christian friends challenged him when he ate with Gentiles (Acts 11:3), and Paul challenged Peter when he failed to do so (Gal. 2:12.

The scribes don’t have the courage to directly rebuke Jesus—only his disciples. They may have been too afraid to take on Jesus himself. Or perhaps, they were trying to pick off Jesus’ disciples while Jesus was teaching. We’re not entirely sure.

(2:17) And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Apparently, the scribes were speaking out enough for Jesus to overhear them. Jesus cited this well-known proverb about doctors being with the sick—not the well (see Mekilta to Ex. 15:26; Plutarch, Apophthegmata Laconica 230 f.).[62]

Jesus didn’t condone the lifestyle of the “tax collectors and sinners.” Indeed, he called them “sick.” Jesus didn’t approve of their lifestyles, but rather, he approved of loving them. In reality, everyone is sick, but the religious leaders couldn’t see this in themselves. Jesus came to “seek and save” people far from God (Lk. 19:10).

Discussion Questions

Matthew was a brand-new believer in Jesus when we meet him in this passage. What example might Matthew give to us if we are a brand-new Christian?

Mark 2:18-22 (Fasting)

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

(2:18) John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”

The scribes from earlier could still be the ones accusing Jesus. They must be following Jesus around, trying to find a flaw in his teaching or practice. Here, they point out that John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples were fasting, but Jesus’ disciples were not. This shows that many “holy men,” even from various traditions, considered fasting to be an essential to true spirituality. Indeed, we have early evidence that the Pharisees fasted twice a week—on Mondays and Thursdays (Lk. 18:12; Didache 8:1; Mishnah Taʿanith 1.4-5; The Babylonian Talmud Taʿanith 10a.). And yet, when we read our OT, this was only required for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31; 23:27-32; Num. 29:7).

(2:19-20) And Jesus said to them, “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.”

Why does Jesus compare himself to a groom in a wedding? This might foreshadow how Jesus is the “husband” of the Church—the Bride of Christ. Of course, when you’re at a wedding, this is not a good time to go on a diet. 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. Additionally, fasting was a sign of mourning—not rejoicing. Again, this would be a bizarre behavior at a wedding, where we are there to celebrate.

Jesus seems to be making a veiled jab at the Pharisees. After all, if you were discipled by a Pharisee, then maybe you really should be mourning! 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.”[63]

(2:21-22) “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. 22 No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

When old wineskins expanded, they would tear. Thus, the old leaky wineskins were spilling the wine, and Jesus’ point was that these old wineskins need to be replaced with fresh ones.

  • Old wine: This refers to the old covenant under Moses.
  • Old wineskin: Rabbinic teaching served as the human ideas to practically keep the covenant (e.g. Who can we eat with? How much should we fast? What constitutes work on the Sabbath?).
  • New wine: This refers to the new covenant.
  • New wineskin: When the new covenant arrived (at the death of Christ), believers needed to create ways to transfer and communicate God’s truth (e.g. Where should we meet? What should discipleship look like?). These “wineskins” will change according to the needs of the group, and the culture. But God’s timeless truth never changes (i.e. the “new wine”). The new covenant “cannot be confined to the old forms.”[64]

Jesus’ 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: Jesus himself. The earlier parable of the “bridegroom” points to the new covenant (v.19), as does Jesus’ being “taken away” (v.20).

Discussion Questions

Clearly define the difference between “wine” and “wineskins.”

List examples from Scripture of “wine” and “wineskins.”

List examples from your church of newer “wineskins” that you’ve tried. Which ones were successful? Which ones failed?

Respond to this objection: If the “wineskins” can change according to the culture and needs of the Christian community, does this mean that God’s truth is relative?

Mark 2:23-28 (Sabbath laws)

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

(2:23-24) And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

The OT law allowed the poor to take leftover food (Deut. 23:25). In the mind of the religious leaders, however, the picking of grain was technically considered “working on the Sabbath,” as was husking the shells of the wheat (Lk. 6:1). This “work” was outlawed by rabbinic teaching because it was thought to break the third commandment (m. Shabbath 7.2). Furthermore, because Jesus was travelling on the Sabbath, this would’ve been considered illegal as well (m. Sota 5:3). At the same time, if walking was illegal, then “one wonders what the Pharisees were doing in the cornfields themselves.”[65]

(2:25-26) And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?”

Put simply, 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. The event to which Jesus refers 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 feeding the hungry was 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) Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

This chiastic statement communicates 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”). Jesus was explaining “the basic principle that human need should take precedence over ceremonial laws.”[66] The disciples weren’t starving to death, but “Sabbath observance should not be reduced to legalistic restrictions.”[67]

(2:28) “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

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 would 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 does in chapter 3…

Discussion Questions

If God made people go hungry because of a ceremonial law, what might this communicate to us about his character?

[How would you respond to this question?] Does the concept of “prioritized ethics” make morality relative to the individual?

Mark 3

Mark 3:1-6 (Healing a man with a paralyzed hand)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 12:9-14 and Luke 6:6-11.]

(3:1) He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered.

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 hand that was “withered” (enraino) which refers to “some kind of paralysis”[68] or “to become dry to the point of being immobilized, be paralyzed” (BDAG).

(3:2) They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.

The Pharisees are the ones watching (v.6), and instead of getting the message, they try to trap Jesus (cf. Lk. 6:7). They didn’t care about a man being healed and a life being changed; instead, they only cared about Jesus being harmed and their reputations being upheld. Luke records that Jesus could read their minds (Lk. 6:8), and he knew their intent was to trap him. If Jesus truly broke the Sabbath, he would face death by stoning (m. Sanhedrin 7.4; cf. Ex. 31:14-17). The scribes allowed for helping a person from the immediate threat of death on the Sabbath (m. Yoma 8.6; cf. m. Shabbat 18.3.). However, this case wouldn’t apply, because the man was merely handicapped—not facing imminent death. Therefore, Jesus faces a dilemma: If he heals the man, he could be indicted by the religious authorities and face death. But if he doesn’t heal the handicapped man, he will be succumbing to religious pressure, resulting in a man’s needless suffering. What will he do? Will Jesus sacrifice his principles, or his life?

(3:3) He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!”

Jesus told the man to “get up and come forward.” This handicapped man was probably sitting in the crowd, and Jesus called him to “the front of the class.” In ancient synagogues, the seats were around the walls, and the speaker was in the middle. Thus, Jesus was literally telling the man to come to the middle of the room.[69] This must have been embarrassing. Cole writes, “To a sensitive person, such public display of a maimed limb would be a cup of shame, bitter to drink; but this costly confession of need Jesus often demanded.”[70] Indeed, it would’ve felt embarrassing to show his withered hand to a crowd of people, but just imagine how different the man felt after the miracle, when he was standing front and center.

(3:4) And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.

Instead of falling into their trap, Jesus gives them a dilemma of his own: If they answer that it is right to “do good” on the Sabbath, then Jesus would be justified in healing. But if they answer that it is not right, then they would be the ones who are indicted. How do they respond?

Silence. And their silence was deafening! The omission of the religious leaders showed that they were the ones in sin—not Jesus. After all, if Jesus healed the man, then he would be “doing good.” If he didn’t heal the man, then he would be “doing harm.” Thus, “a wrong deed would be a far greater ‘profanation’ of the sabbath than the good deed which they were scrupulously refusing to do.”[71]

From the 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) After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Jesus was both “angry” and “grieved.” They couldn’t affirm such a simple theological and ethical question. Clearly, they refused to answer because they had “hardened hearts.” It’s possible to be angry at sin, but also feel grief toward sinners. Very likely, he was also angry and grieved at the “entire system of legalism where the letter is more important than the spirit.”[72]

(3:6) The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

Jesus’ assessment that these men had “hardened hearts” (v.5) is demonstrated to be true. They witnessed a miraculous and compassionate healing, only to plan a plot to kill the Healer. Notice that they were 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 this group 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.”[73] 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.”[74]

Discussion Questions

The religious leaders would rather have seen this man remain physically handicapped, rather than break their rules regarding the Sabbath. What would this religious teaching have communicated about the character of God? In other words, what would it say about God if he discouraged healing a man, just because it was on the Sabbath?

Mark 3:7-12 (More teaching and healing)

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

(3:7-8) Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, 8 and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great number of people heard of all that He was doing and came to Him.

When Jesus left, the people followed him—not the religious leaders. The word about Jesus was spreading, even to the capital of Israel: Jerusalem itself.

(3:9-10) And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him; 10 for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him.

Jesus was getting so 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.”[75] It’s also possible that he had intended to teach from the boat, which would allow for good acoustics (see comments Mk. 2:13 above).

(3:11) Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, “You are the Son of God!”

There is a great irony that demons know who Jesus really was, while the people and the religious authorities are slow to understand. It wasn’t until Jesus’ crucifixion that a human being understood that Jesus was “the Son of God” (Mk. 15:39).

(3:12) And He earnestly warned them not to tell who He was.

This fits with the “messianic secret.”

Mark 3:13-19 (Calling the apostles)

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:12-16, and Acts 1:13. John doesn’t contain a list, but he does include the term “the Twelve” to describe the apostles in John 6:67, 70-71; 20:24.]

(3:13) And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him.

Jesus had a huge following at this point. From the crowd of followers, he selected 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.”[76] 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) And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to cast out the demons.

“He appointed twelve” uses the term “create” (poieō) for “appointed.” This is the root from which we get our term “poetry.” Jesus not only chose these men, but turned them into something beautiful.

Why twelve disciples? Commentators regularly recognize that Jesus picked this number to correspond to reaching the twelve tribes of Israel.[77]

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. Jesus doesn’t send these men until the Galilean ministry in Mark 6:7-13.

(3:16) And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter).

Simon Peter is named first, even though he was not the first to come to faith in Jesus. This likely means that he was “first among equals.”[78] Peter was “impulsive and ardent,” and his “great strengths were his great weaknesses.”[79] 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.”[80] Or, more likely, it describes what kind of person Jesus would create Peter to become. Jesus would change Peter from a wild and unstable man into a “rock.” From this point onward in Mark, the name Simon is dropped in favor of Peter.

(3:17) James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”).

James was probably older than John, because he is always mentioned first between the two. He became the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:2). James and John came from a fairly lucrative fishing business—at least successful enough to have “servants” working for them (Mk. 1:20). Their mom was one of the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ death (Mt. 27:55-56). James and John were aggressive (Lk. 9:54); so, Jesus called them the “sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17). These sons of Zebedee were business partners with Peter and Andrew (Mt. 4:18-21), and Peter and John remained friends for years to come (Lk. 22:8; Jn. 18:15; 20:2-8; Acts 3:1-4:21; 8:14; Gal 2:9).

Why did Jesus give James and John these nicknames? The name “sons of thunder” 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).”[81] Jesus was happy to work with strong-willed men.

(3:18) Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot.

Andrew was Peter’s brother. Did Andrew struggle with the fact that Peter (his biological brother) was picked as the leader, rather than him? After all, Andrew came to Christ before Peter, and yet, Peter took more of a leadership position than him. The fact that we never read about any jealousy speaks highly of Andrew’s character.

Philip is an old Macedonian name, and Jesus called him in John 1:43ff. He grew up in Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44), as did Peter and Andrew. Perhaps they all knew each other in that small town.

Bartholomew means “Son of Talmai.” He is often thought to be one and the same as Nathanael, whom we encounter in John’s gospel (Jn. 1:43-51; 21:2). Of course, it wasn’t uncommon to have two names. Indeed, Peter, Paul, and Matthew had more than one name. If Bartholomew is Nathanael, then Philip brought Bartholomew to Christ (Jn. 1:43-46). Consequently, it would make sense why Jesus would pair these two men together (“Philip and Bartholomew”).

Matthew is the Greek name for Levi—the tax collector—whom Jesus reached in Mark 2:14. Matthew explicitly calls him “the tax collector” (Mt. 10:3). 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 (Mt. 10:3). Moreover, Matthew mentions his own calling in Matthew 9:9. Apparently, he didn’t mind including the embarrassing detail that he had been a former low-life tax collector.

Thomas is mentioned throughout John (11:16; 14:5; 20:24ff; 21:2). He is typically cast as being merely a skeptical person—as if this was his only quality (i.e. “Doubting Thomas”). However, a more nuanced view reveals that he was also very courageous (Jn. 11:16).

James the son of Alphaeus is most likely the man mentioned in Mark 15:40. Matthew is the son of “Alphaeus” as well (Mk. 2:14). So, if this is the same Alphaeus, then Matthew and James were brothers—though, this is uncertain. Beyond these few conjectures, we otherwise “know almost nothing about him.”[82]

Thaddeus isn’t mentioned very much in the gospels (Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13). Carson speculates that this could be another name for Jude—the brother of James and half-brother of Jesus (Jn. 14:22).[83] Thaddaeus seems to be 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 would’ve been a violent man (cf. Lk. 6:15). These men were trying to politically and violently liberate Israel from her foreign, Roman oppressors. In fact, Simon the Zealout would’ve hated Matthew, because tax collectors were considered one of the worst forms of traitors in Israel at the time.

(3:19) Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.

Judas is given significant coverage throughout the NT. His name “Iscariot” was Hebrew for “man of Kerioth,” which was a city in either Judea or Moab (though most likely Judea). Thus, he was “the only non-Galilean of the Twelve.”[84] By including Judas, we see that even Jesus had unfaithful disciples. Here we have explicit foreshadowing of how Jesus will meet his end.

Discussion Questions

Consider this quote from Walter Wessel regarding the Twelve disciples: “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.”[85]

What do you find surprising about Jesus’ approach to picking disciples?

What do you find encouraging about his approach to picking disciples?

Mark 3:20-30 (The unforgiveable sin: claiming that Jesus was from Satan—not God)

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

(3:20) And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.

Jesus and the disciples were probably returning to Peter’s “home” (cf. Mk. 1:29; 2:1).[86] This description really implies mayhem—like a rock concert or a packed party. The people were overwhelming the area.

(3:21) When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”

“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). Moreover, 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 demonstrates that Jesus’ brothers did not follow him during his earthly ministry. Later, Jesus confirms this when he states that only those who “do the will of God” are his true family (v.35). And again, he states, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household” (Mk. 6:4). Moreover, John records, “Not even His brothers were believing in Him” (Jn. 7:5). This is all the more amazing when we realize that Jesus’ brothers only began to follow him after his death and resurrection (Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19). It took the resurrection to change the minds of Jesus’ disciples.

This statement is so embarrassing that early scribes removed it. In Codex D, we read, “he escaped from them,” but the scribes remove any mention of Jesus’ family; likewise, in Codex W, the scribes removed the references to Jesus’ insanity. Codex W reads, “Because they said that they were adherents of his,” or they were “dependent on him.’”[87] Thus, Mark was more honest with the facts than later scribes.

(3:22) The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

“The scribes who came down from Jerusalem.” Lane argues that the Sanhedrin was running an official investigation to see whether the city of Capernaum had become a “seduced city” and had become the “prey of an apostate preacher.”[88] Consequently, this is why they sent their scribes to investigate the case. There is historical precedent for this, according to Lane.

“Beelzebul” comes from the words “Baal” and “Zebub” (2 Kin. 1:2ff), which can be rendered “lord of flies.” This was a term used for Satan (Mt. 12:24; Lk. 11:15).

[They] were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” In the parallel accounts, Jesus had just healed a demoniac (Mt. 12:22; Lk. 11:14). They were, no doubt, jealous that Jesus could cast out demons, when they were unable to do so (cf. Acts 19:14ff).

This accusation is really a strong admission. Jesus’ enemies didn’t deny his miraculous power, but instead they denied its source. Likewise, extrabiblical (and even hostile) sources affirm that Jesus was a miracle-worker:

  • Josephus (AD 100) wrote that Jesus was a “worker of amazing deeds” (Antiquities3).
  • The anti-Christian philosopher Celsus (AD 150) argued that Jesus “served for hire in Egypt” and learned “certain miraculous powers” (Origen Contra Celsum38).
  • The Talmud (AD 400-600) stated that Jesus “practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy” (b. Sanhedrin 43a).

All of these hostile sources agreed on the effects of Jesus’ miracles, but not on the empowerment that caused them. The religious leaders had been raising this charge against Jesus for some time. Earlier they said, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons” (Mt. 9:34). Jesus was even aware of this accusation (Mt. 10:25), and if it was true, then this would be a capital crime (m. Sanhedrin 7:4). Jesus tolerated this nonsense for long enough. He finally decides to confront such a ludicrous accusation here.

(3:23-26) And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!”

Regarding the claim that he was insane: Jesus was so confident in his identity and sanity that he didn’t even feel the need to defend himself.

Regarding the second claim that Satan was empowering him: Jesus rationally picks this apart, showing that this claim is really self-defeating. After all, 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) “But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.”

Amillennialists argue that this refers to the binding of Satan at the Cross. Thus, when Revelation 20 speaks of Satan’s “binding” (deo), they would argue that Jesus had already bound him, and the Millennial Kingdom is actually the Church Age.

We reject this view. Look at the flow of Jesus’ argument: According to Jesus, the kingdom had already come upon the people—so much so that Jesus was healing demon possessed people. Of course, he said this before the Cross! In Matthew, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt. 12:28). This implies that the kingdom existed already to some degree, and “some sense of arrival seems inescapable.”[89] This means that the “binding” of Matthew 12 cannot refer to the Cross and Resurrection, because it occurs before those historical events. Hence, we hold that this refers to the power of believers to bind Satan under Jesus’ authority (cf. Mk. 3:15).

(3:28-30) “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin,” 30 because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

This passage is one of the strongest warnings in the NT, but it occurs alongside one of the greatest promises: One sin is unforgiveable, while all others are forgivable. Incidentally, this passage shows that a purgatorial interpretation of the parallel passage in Matthew 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. Moreover, the concept of mortal sins in Roman Catholic theology doesn’t fit with this passage, because Jesus claims that only one sin is unforgiveable—not a whole host of allegedly mortal sins.

We hold that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit refers to rejecting the drawing conviction of the Holy Spirit with regard to salvation (see comments on Matthew 12:32). It does not refer to cursing the Holy Spirit as a Christian, or committing any other sin as a follower of Jesus. Indeed, J.C. Ryle offers comforting words to the frightened believer, when he 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.”[90]

Discussion Questions

The Pharisees saw genuine miracles, but they still wouldn’t believe in Jesus. Instead, they thought Satan was empowering him. This shows that the concept of “seeing is believing” must not be true. What factors might affect our ability to come to faith besides evidence alone? In other words, do other factors influence our beliefs (or lack of beliefs)?

Mark 3:31-35 (Jesus’ true family)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21.]

(3:31) Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him.

Earlier, Jesus’ family thought, “He has lost His senses” (v.21). Jesus’ family had begun to travel to see him (v.21), and now, they had finally arrived. The reason that they were standing outside was because the house was packed with people (v.32).

(3:32) A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”

In this culture, family held 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 fires back with the same words: “Behold! My family is already here!” (v.34) Jesus is practicing what he will later preach (Mk. 10:28-30; cf. Ps. 22:22).

(3:33-35) Answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” 34 Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus overturns this cultural convention by saying that followers of God are his true spiritual family. Matthew adds 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.”[91]

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

Discussion Questions

How do we honor our father and mother, while also placing a high value on God’s people? What biblical principles can help us navigate how to do both?

Mark 4

(4:1) He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land.

The house was so packed (Mk. 3:20) and the crowds were so large that Jesus may have needed to be out on a boat so he could get good acoustics to teach.

(4:2) And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching.

What is a parable? The word parable (parabolē) literally means “that which is placed beside.” This is “presumably for the purpose of comparison.”[92] 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.”[93]

Mark 4:3-25 (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) “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow.”

Jesus uses a number of common examples that people could understand. Cole comments, “Jesus taught, not in some cloistered rabbinic school, but in familiar everyday surroundings: and for this teaching, he used homely illustrations drawn directly from that life, for teaching divorced from daily life has no support in the example or word of Jesus.”[94]

Who is “the sower” in the parable? Jesus? Believers? The text doesn’t say—only that the “sower sows the word” (Mk. 4:14).

Soil #1: Beside the road

(4:4) “As he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up.”

Soil #2: Rocky places

(4:5-6) “Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. 6 And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.”

Soil #3: Among the thorns

(4:7) “Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.”

Soil #4: The good soil

(4:8) “Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

(4:9) And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

In Jesus’ parable, the problem is not with the sower or with the seed. The problem is with the soil—namely, the human heart. The reason that people respond differently to Jesus’ teaching is because “the nature of the response is dictated by the nature of the heart that receives it.”[95] Thus, the people have ears, but will they listen? The problem isn’t that they can’t hear the words audibly, but that they don’t desire to understand.

Why parables?

(4:10) As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables.

The crowd must’ve been perplexed and simply went home at this point. We wonder if they said, “We heard all about Jesus of Nazareth… But then, 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 the “followers” of Jesus had a different response. Jesus’ teaching piqued their interest, and they wanted to know more. Once the crowds dispersed and they were “alone,” Jesus gave them more. This shows that those who want to know more will stick around to listen and learn. In fact, what we’re reading demonstrates the very message of the parable itself: namely, some are the good soil, and others are not.

(4:11) And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables.”

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) “So that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.”

Does teach that God blinds people from coming to the truth? Mark introduces his citation of Isaiah 6:9-10 with the words “so that” (hina). Sometimes,[96] this particle can simply refer to a consequence or a result. Indeed, this is a “well-established meaning.”[97] Hence, this could be rendered, As a result, while seeing, they may… not perceive.” In other words, Jesus chose to teach in parables, and this led to the result that the people didn’t perceive or understand him. But was that Jesus’ fault? Not at all. The context shows that the problem is not with the sower, but with the soil—not with God’s word, but with the human heart. Brooks writes, “Jesus did not speak in parables for the purpose of withholding truth from anyone; but the result of his parables, the rest of his teaching, and even his miracles was that most did not understand and respond positively.”[98]

Furthermore, this doesn’t mean that all people at all times cannot understand Jesus’ teaching. Rather, this refers to the “contemporary situation”[99] 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.”[100] Cole agrees that we should read Isaiah 6 in its original context, wherein “Israel’s blind condition is… culpable and a judgment which they have brought upon themselves… God has willed that those who so refuse to accept his truth shall remain blind: in this sense, it is all within his purpose, and we can justify the so that.”[101]

(4:13) And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?”

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? Consequently, this parable isn’t just first in order, but first in priority.

Explaining the PARABLE OF THE SOWER (vv.3-9 above)

(4:14) “The sower sows the word.”

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,[102] 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 still encounter similar responses to Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness.

Soil #1: Beside the road: EXPLANATION

(4:15) “These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.”

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). For those of us who share the gospel with our loved ones, we should pray immediately as people are hearing the gospel.

Soil #2: Rocky places: EXPLANATION

(4:16-17) “In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.”

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).

Soil #3: Among the thorns: EXPLANATION

(4:18-19) “And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

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.

Soil #4: The good soil: EXPLANATION

(4:20) “And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

These people produced a crop of 30, 60, or 100-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.

Discussion Questions

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. What concrete steps can we take to become the fourth soil, rather than the others? Try to draw these from the passage itself.

What does this parable tell us about God’s plan in trying to reach us?

What does it tell us about our expectations regarding how the kingdom of God will grow?

A lamp

(4:21-22) And He was saying to them, “A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? 22 For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.”

Ancient lamps were bowls filled with olive oil with a wick in the center.[103] Jesus’ point is not that putting a lamp like this under a bed would lead to a fire (though it surely would). His point is that a lamp is designed to shed light, and it can’t fulfill its design if it is being covered by an opaque bed.

Similarly, while Jesus’ truth is currently being concealed, it will later be revealed. In fact, Jesus is in the very process of revealing God’s truth about the kingdom to them.

(4:23) “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

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) And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.”

Building on verse 23, Jesus tells them to listen carefully (“take care what you listen to”). He’s telling them not to brush off his 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 already had. Put another way, you only get out of Jesus’ teaching what you put into it.

(4:25) “For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”

This passage is both a promise and a warning to the listener: If you listen carefully and understand Jesus’ teaching, you will get more. If you don’t, you will lose what was originally revealed.

Mark 4:26-29 (Parable of the SEED)

[This material is unique to Mark.]

(4:26) And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil.”

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) “He goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know.

Lane holds that the sower in this parable is Jesus himself, and the harvest refers to judgment.[104] The difficulty with his view is (1) the sower doesn’t understand how the seed grows and (2) the sower does cause the seed to grow. Neither fit very well with Jesus being sower! Instead, the sower is simply a “man” (v.26), and this parable speaks to the great 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 produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

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.

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

Mark 4:30-32 (Parable of the mustard seed)

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 13:31-35.]

(4:30-32) And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.”

The Jewish people expected the Kingdom of God to be big, powerful, and sudden. The Messiah would come on the scene to swiftly take over the Gentile nations. But here, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom will start small, unaggressive, and slow—like the slow growth of a treelike shrub. This herb eventually reaches “heights of ten to twelve feet” and a “thickness of three or four inches.”[105] Jesus’ point is that a small seed will grow quite large—just like his kingdom.

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 in order to let the little trees grow. Some understand this to mean that the nations (i.e. “birds”) will receive blessings from the tree (i.e. Israel). 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 he isn’t sure which one would’ve been understood by the original audience. Instead, Lane asserts that the purpose of the birds is simply to show the size, power, and protection of God’s kingdom.[106]

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

Summary of the Parables

(4:33-34) “With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.”

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…” This statement means that Jesus “adapted [his teachings] to the level of understanding that he found in his listeners.”[107]

Mark 4:35-41 (Calming the storm)

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

(4:35) On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.”

Jesus had been teaching from a small boat (Mk. 4:1-2), and this is likely the same one used in this account. Now, Jesus wants to depart from the crowds and go to the other side of the sea of Galilee.

(4:36) Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.

Apparently, other people still followed him on the water (“other boats were with Him”). Mark is the only gospel to mention these other boats.

(4:37) And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.

Ancient fishing boats were 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. No one claims that this was Jesus’ actual boat, but this does show us what these ancient boats would’ve looked like. It would be pretty scary to be in the middle of a storm in one of these little skiffs.

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.”[108]

(4:38) Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

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,[109] 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 this was because Jesus was utterly exhausted from doing so much ministry.[110] 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) And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.

Jesus is the Creator of the sea. So, the sea has to listen to him, as his subordinate.

“Hush, be still” can be rendered, “Silence, be muzzled.”[111] This is a similar to the rebuke that Jesus gave the demon-possessed man (Mk. 1:25).

(4:40) And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

“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.”[112]

(4:41) They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

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?

Why are they still afraid—even after the storm subsided? It could be that the description of being “afraid” (phobeō) refers to being in “awe” of Jesus (see comments on 1 Peter 1:17). However, in verse 40, Jesus refers to the disciples as “cowardly” or “timid” (deilos), which strongly implies that they were afraid. In our estimation, the only thing scarier than a massive storm is sitting next to a being who can stop it with a word. Their question leaves us hanging, demanding an answer: Who can control nature? Who indeed!

Discussion Questions

What does this narrative tell us about Jesus’ identity?

Why was Jesus so disappointed in the disciples’ faith? After all, they were in the middle of a dangerous squall? Why does he reprove them so sharply?

Mark 5

 

Mark 5:1-20 (The Gerasene Demoniac)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-39.]

(5:1) They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.

Did this event occur in the region of the “Gadarenes” or the “Gerasenes”? Matthew writes “Gadarenes,” while Mark and Luke write “Gerasenes” (Mk. 5:1; Lk. 8:26). “Gadara” was one of the cities of the Decapolis, and it was six miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee.[113] However, the city of Gerasa is 33 miles from the Sea of Galilee,[114] it rests on the eastern shore of Galilee.

One explanation is to say that Mark and Luke are referring to modern day El Kursi. The Arabic name “Kersa” is “possibly related to the Greek name Gerasa.”[115] The geography of Kersa fits with the account. For one, it is on the shore of Galilee. Second, there is an ancient graveyard nearby. Third, there is a steep cliff that runs directly into the Sea of Galilee. Mark Roberts,[116] Craig Blomberg,[117] James Brooks,[118] Walter Wessel,[119] and Steve Lemke[120] favor this explanation.

Another explanation is that Mark and Luke are referring to the general region of Gerasa. According to this view, the authors of the gospels were citing both Gadara and Gerasa because they were both parts of the Decapolis, a primarily Gentile area with a large Jewish population (Josephus, Wars of the Jews 1.155; cf. Antiquities 15:354). Indeed, Mark states that they were in the “region” (NIV, NLT) or “country” (NASB, ESV) of the Gerasenes, which would support this general geographical view. Craig Keener[121] and R. Alan Cole[122] favor this latter view.

Were there two demoniacs, or was there only one demoniac? Matthew consistently mentions two figures in his account: two demoniacs (Mt. 8:28ff), two blind men (Mt. 9:27ff), and two more blind men (Mt. 20:30ff). Does he contradict the other gospels?

This doesn’t give us serious difficulty. Mark and Luke do not write that there was only one demoniac or blind man. Instead, they use a literary device called “telescoping,” where they choose to focus on one figure, rather than two. To explain this, imagine if I said, “I went to a concert last year.” Does this statement imply that I went alone? Does the statement insinuate that the stadium was completely empty when I saw the concert? Surely not! Instead, I was simply choosing to focus on my own experience—not my friends or the other 20,000 people at the concert. As an older theologian wrote, “Silence does not equal affirmation.”

In Jewish law, a person needed two witnesses in court, and Matthew could’ve chosen to include both men in order to show that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be (compare with Mt. 26:60).[123]

(5:2-3) When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him. 3 He had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain.

Demons may be attracted to death. The possessed man was “dwelling among the tombs.” Jesus said that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). Are demons attracted to death in some way? We’re not sure. It’s possible that this confirms the fact that ancient people “believed that tombs were dwelling places for demons.”[124] It’s also possible that this “wretched man had probably been driven from ordinary society into the tombs.”[125]

(5:4) He had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.

Demon possessed people may have supernatural strength. This man could break “shackles and chains.” Apparently, the people in the town collectively tried to subdue this man, but they were unable because of his .

(5:5) Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.

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!

Demon possessed people may have insomnia. One aspect of demon possession involves sleeplessness (“Night and day…”).

Demon possessed people may demonstrate self-harm. Another aspect of demon possession includes self-harm (“gnashing himself with stones”). According to Luke, the man was completely naked (Lk. 8:27). Thus, he must’ve looked scarred and bloodied 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.”[126]

(5:6) Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him.

Demon possessed people cannot stand the presence or power or Jesus. This scary demon possessed man was forced to bow before the authority of Jesus. While he was running wild in verses 3-5, he tries desperately to gain “his composure in the presence of Jesus.”[127]

(5:7-8) And shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

Demon possessed people may have supernatural knowledge. In this case, this demon (or these demons) knew Jesus’ name and his title (“Son of God”). Even though this demon knew who Jesus was, it only caused him to “shudder” (Jas. 2:19).

Demon possessed people may use “scare tactics” to try to intimidate us. 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 try to intimidate us into backing down. Incidentally, Jesus doesn’t fall for such special effects!

This demon had been tormenting 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), which must be some sort of maximum-security prison for demons.

The demon 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. Consequently, the demon was appealing to these.

(5:9) And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”

Demon possessed people can have more than one demon in them. A Roman legion “consisted of over six thousand men.”[128] This may explain how 2,000 pigs could later be possessed (v.13).

(5:10) And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.

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). This seems like a more plausible reading of the text, and results in far less speculation.

(5:11-12) Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. 12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.”

Is there any significance to the fact that Jesus sent them into the pigs? Swine were “unclean” animals in Israel. So, Jesus’ decision to send the demons into the swine shows that these demons were fundamentally unclean beings.

(5:13) Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

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—and ultimately, suicide (v.5). Imagine the sound these shrieking animals would make as they stampeded over the cliff to their deaths. This would send a shrill and shiver up your spine to witness such an event.

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 by slaughter or by natural causes within a few years. Moreover, it speaks quite a bit to our modern objections that we care more about the demon-possessed pigs, than the demon-possessed person!

(5:14) Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.

This event no doubt led to the rumor mill starting in the nearby towns.

(5:15) They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.

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 interacted with 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 what Mircea Eliade called the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.”[129]

  • Mysterium refers to “wholly other.”
  • Tremendum refers to “awfulness, terror, awe.”
  • Fascinans refers to “attractiveness in spite of fear.”

Eliade states that 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.”[130]

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 himself? You’re intrigued and attracted, but you also sense your own 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?[131]

Third, they could have viewed Jesus as a mere magician, rather than the Messiah. Keener writes, “Magicians were generally feared and usually detested.”[132] 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 these pigs would have been their sustenance. In this case, they wanted Jesus to leave for materialistic reasons—namely, Jesus was bad for business! Levertoff states, “All down the ages the world has been refusing Jesus because it prefers its pigs.”[133] Indeed, the Gadarenes loved their pigs more than people.

(5:16-17) Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. 17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region.

This shows that miracles do not necessarily produce faith. These people saw an incredible miracle that healed a man, 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 Jesus gave them what they wanted. Cole agrees, “The saddest thing in the whole story is that Jesus granted their request, and left them. There are times when the worst possible thing for us is that the Lord should grant our prayer.”[134] Jesus won’t force himself on people. If they reject him, he will give them their freedom to do so (cf. Ps. 106:15).

(5:18) As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.

The demons were afraid and the people were afraid, but this man was unafraid. This miracle changed his 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 the language of discipleship (Mk. 3:14).[135]

(5:19-20) And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

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.[136] The “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.”[137] The Roman general Pompey had taken these cities from Jewish occupation in 63 BC, when he occupied Israel (Pliny the Elder, Natural History 5.18.74). The man’s testimony to his family wouldn’t incite or accelerate the wrath of the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Moreover, this passage supports the deity of Christ. The text shifts 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.

Mark 5:21-43 (Healing of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8:40-56.]

(5:21) When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so He stayed by the seashore.

It seems like Jesus went across the water just to heal this demon possessed man. Now, he sails back to the western shore[138] to heal more people.

(5:22) One of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up, and on seeing Him, fell at His feet.

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.”[139] Jesus has been healing multitudes of people in the synagogues, showing his power over the religious leaders. Here, a religious leader (Jairus) is recognizing that power and authority. Jairus falls at Jesus’ feet and implores him “earnestly,” displaying sincere faith. Not all men in Jairus’ position had such a high view of Jesus (Lk. 13:14), though it appears some were open to the message of Christ (Acts 13:15).

(5:23) [Jairus] implored Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.”

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) And He went off with him; and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him.

The crowd wanted to see Jesus do another miracle. So, they were following him to see the show.

Interruption! A hemorrhaging woman

James Brooks[140] holds that this isn’t an interruption in the narrative. Rather, Mark possessed two separate historical traditions, and he blended them together here. In essence, Mark’s account is topically arranged—not chronologically arranged.

Surely, we agree that the gospels have cases of topical, rather than chronological arrangement. However, we reject that assertion. For one, while the biblical author do topically arrange their material at times, the interpreter holding such a view shoulders the burden of proof. It seems that the norm is that events are chronological, unless we have good reasons to think otherwise.

The most evidence that Brooks adduces is a change in literary style from the repeated use of the conjunction “and” outside of this section in Mark (Mk. 5:25-34). Yet, we find differences in literary styles as considerably weak evidence. Authors use various vocabulary, style, and form throughout their compositions, and this is what we see here. Furthermore, if this argument is sound, it would mean that this this historical account (Mk. 5:25-34) is contrary to Mark’s entire gospel—not just this section. In our estimation, Mark could be slowing down the narrative intentionally to show that Jesus was not in a rush to heal Jairus’ daughter. This is painful to the reader who is worried about Jairus’ daughter, but it has a strong literary effect of slowly down the fast-paced narrative to a crawl.

Moreover, when Mark returns to the story of Jesus healing Jairus’ daughter, we read, “While He was still speaking…” (v.35). The text claims that Jesus was speaking to the hemorrhaging woman as the people came from Jairus’ house to give Jesus the bad news. If this is topical arrangement, it is misleading the reader to think that Jesus was speaking to the hemorrhaging woman when he heard the news, when he really wasn’t. For these reasons, we reject the topical view, and consider this section to be an interruption for Jesus as he was on the way to heal Jairus’ daughter.

(5:25) A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years.

The hemorrhaging of blood would’ve made this woman perpetually ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:25-30), because it was some sort of “uterine disease… that had persisted for twelve years.”[141]

(5:26) [She] had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse.

Imagine how this woman felt: She had spent all sorts of money on getting medical help, but nothing worked. It would’ve been particularly embarrassing as a woman to have the “leading medical doctors” at the time help her with her “uterine disease.” Yet, she still probably ran herself into debt getting medical help. But nothing worked. She was ostracized from the religious community for being impure, and she probably assumed that she would deal with this condition for the rest of her life.

(5:27-29) After hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. 28 For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” 29 Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

Why did Jesus perform this miracle through the touching of his cloak? Somehow, this woman knew that merely touching Jesus would bring healing (cf. Mk. 6:56; Acts 5:15; 19:12). This could be a physical demonstration that showed a substitution of 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).[142] Thus, this is a form of substitution: This unclean woman made Jesus unclean by touching him, and Jesus made the woman clean by touching her (cf. Mk. 3:10; 6:56).

(5:30) Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?”

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

(5:31) And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”

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) And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. 33 But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.

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—not to mention the fact that she needed to answer publicly for her actions.[143]

(5:34) And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”

“Your faith has made you well.” The key to being cured was not magic (i.e. touching Jesus’ cloak). “Faith” was the key. For the woman, faith meant getting close to Jesus, knowing he had the power to heal. Faith also meant overcoming 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) While He was still speaking, they came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?”

This interruption must’ve been hard for Jairus to stomach. His little girl had been “at the point of death” (v.23), and because of this unclean, hemorrhaging woman, Jairus’ daughter had died! Jesus was delayed by a bleeding woman—a condition she had managed for twelve years. Why couldn’t Jesus have told that woman to wait a little longer?

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) But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”

“Do not be afraid… believe.” Faith and fear are mutually exclusive. Apparently, Jesus delayed healing Jairus’ daughter in order to build this man’s faith.

(5:37) And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James.

Jesus only brought his “inner three” disciples with him.

(5:38) They came to the house of the synagogue official; and He saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing.

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.”[144] The weeping and wailing were a customary way for people to express grief. When the mourning subsided, these “professional mourners” would weep and wail and get people mourning again. It was common for even a poor person to hire at least “two fluteplayers and one professional mourner” (m. Ketubot 4.4). A synagogue-ruler would likely need to hire far more. At this point, the doctor had left, and the mortician had arrived. Everyone was accepting the death of this young girl.

(5:39) And entering in, He said to them, “Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep.”

Did Jesus believe the girl was merely in a coma? No. Jesus used the term “sleep” as a euphemism for death in John 11:11. The messengers (v.35) and mourners (v.38) believed she was medically dead. Later, the parents and three disciples were “astonished” (v.42) that she came to life. 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.”[145]

(5:40) They began laughing at Him. But putting them all out, He took along the child’s father and mother and His own companions, and entered the room where the child was.

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) Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, “Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).

“Taking the child by the hand.” Similar to the hemorrhaging woman, Jesus became unclean by touching this corpse. But Jesus didn’t seem to mind.

“Talitha kum!” This use of an Aramaism (and the need to translate it) shows that Mark’s audience wasn’t Jewish. This is also a signifier of early, eye-witness testimony. Cole writes, “The scene must have made such an impression upon the three apostles present that the actual words of Jesus were remembered long after.”[146]

(5:42) Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded.

Nobody expected this to happen—not the parents nor the disciples. Only Jesus knew what would happen in this miracle.

(5:43) And He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this, and He said that something should be given her to eat.

“No one should know about this.” 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.”[147]

“He said that something should be given her to eat.” Miracles are not in conflict with medicine: Jesus healed her, but she also needed food.

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about Jesus from this miracle?

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.”[148]
  • 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.

Is there any significance to the fact that the hemorrhaging woman was bleeding for twelve years (v.25) and the girl was twelve years old? (v.42) Or is this a coincidence that shouldn’t be read into?

Is there significance to the fact that Jesus touched both women in order to heal them? Or is this a coincidence that shouldn’t be read into?

Mark 6

 

Returning home

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 13:54-58.]

(6:1) Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him.

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

(6:2) When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands?”

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 possess. This distinctively showed that Jesus was greater than the other rabbis. Even though they are disparaging Jesus, they still admit that he has “wisdom” and performs authentic “miracles.”

(6:3) “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.

“Is not this the carpenter…?” 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. When the skeptic Celsus claimed that Jesus was an insignificant carpenter, even Origen (AD 250) denied that Jesus was indeed a carpenter, because this was so embarrassing to him.[149]

“The son of Mary.” Furthermore, while Mark never explicitly teaches the virginal conception of Jesus, this passage implicitly teaches it. It was customary to identify a person through the father’s line—not the mother’s line. Yet, Mark records that Jesus was the “son of Mary,” not Joseph.

“Brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” This speaks against the notion of the “perpetual virginity of Mary,” because Jesus had at least six siblings.

(6:4) Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”

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! Mark records that “James” was one of Jesus’ brothers (v.3), and he was a skeptic (Jn. 7:5). But later James came to Christ after the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19), along with his brothers (Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5). Jude (Judas?) also came to faith (Jude 1).

(6:5) And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.

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. (Of course, in John 2, he chose to do a miracle.) 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.”[150] Brooks concurs, “God and his Son could do anything, but they have chosen to limit themselves in accordance to human response.”[151]

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) And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching.

While the religious listeners were astonished by Jesus, he was also astonished by them. Jesus “wondered” (thaumazō) at their unbelief, which means to be “extraordinarily impressed or disturbed by something” (BDAG, p.441). 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).

Discussion Questions

Jesus wasn’t well received by his family or hometown friends. They rejected him because they knew his origins and remembered him as a kid. In what ways might this passage encourage those of us who have family and friends that don’t know Christ?

Mark 6:7-13 (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) And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

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?

Yes, this is case of “interlocking” between the gospels. 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 Matthew lists the disciples in pairs. 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) and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 9 but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.”

Were they supposed to take a staff or not? Mark records that they should bring “a mere staff,” but Matthew and Luke record that they shouldn’t take a staff (Mt. 10:9-10; Lk. 9:3). This could be harmonized by the fact that the people would provide supplies 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. In context, Jesus tells them to stay in the houses of people on their journey, so this would seem like the best explanation of this difficulty. We reject Brooks’ explanation that Matthew and Luke had Jesus’ words correct, while Mark “made some minor adaptations to make the conditions understandable to his Roman readers.”[152]

(6:10) And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town.”

If they were welcomed, then they should stay. They shouldn’t jump from house to house in order to receive hospitality from many people, mooching off of the people. One house is good enough, and they should be “content with their situation.”[153]

(6:11) “Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.”

“Shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” The practice of shaking off the dust of the feet refers to “the Jewish custom of removing carefully the dust from both clothes and feet before reentering Jewish territory.”[154] 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.”[155] 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 (cf. Acts 13:51; 18:6).

If the disciples were rejected, they were supposed to move on. There seems to be a principle for us today. There are so many people that are starving to hear about Christ that we shouldn’t force feed those who are hard hearted (cf. Mt. 10:13-14; Lk. 9:4-5).

(6:12) They went out and preached that men should repent.

Their message was the same as Jesus’ message: people should change their minds and turn back to God.

(6:13) And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.

Why did they anoint people with oil? This could be a spiritual symbol for God’s anointing on the people, as Cole[156] and Brooks[157] contend. Or it could be medicinal (see comments on James 5:14).

After he sent his disciples, Jesus himself went out to preach and teach in these same cities (Mt. 11:1). So, the disciples paved the way for him to enter these towns.

Discussion Questions

Read through this example of the disciples doing ministry (vv.7-13). Which principles of ministry might apply to us today? Which principles do not apply?

Mark 6:14-32 (Death of John the Baptist is recounted)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 14:1-12 and Luke 9:7-9.]

(6:14) And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.”

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 and affirmed Jesus as the Messiah.

(6:15) But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”

John called Jesus the “Coming One,” which would fit with Elijah (Mal. 3:1; 4:5). This could explain why there were rumors that Jesus was actually Elijah.

To summarize the view of the people, they thought that Jesus was at least a prophet, because all three examples mention prophets.

(6:16) But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!”

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.[158] Under this view, Herod was “disturbed by an uneasy conscience” and “disposed to superstition.”[159]

“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.”[160]

(6:17-18) For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

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.[161]

Herodias had been Herod’s sister-in-law through his brother Philip. Herodias was also Herod Antipas’ niece—the daughter of Aristobulus (Antiquities, 18.5.4). Josephus mentions that Herodias was married to Philip, but he fails to call Philip by his personal name (Antiquities, 18.5.1, 4).

Josephus (Antiquities 18.2) states that Herod locked up John in Machaerus, which was on the “southern tip of Perea” on the “northeast corner of the Dead Sea.”[162]

(6:19-20) Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.

Herodias wanted John killed for his “strict” moral views, but Herod was more sympathetic to John, so Herodias couldn’t harm him.

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). Josephus tells us that Herod was afraid of John the Baptist’s large public ministry, which could lead to a revolt (Antiquities, 18.118). Surely, both explanations are possible, and these are not mutually exclusive.

(6:21-23) A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” 23 And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.”

Our sex drive can lead us to do very foolish and evil things! Indeed, this is particularly disturbing because this female dancer (whom Josephus calls “Salome”) was Herod’s step-daughter (Antiquities, 18.5.4). She was only in her “middle teens at the time of her infamous performance.”[163] Her mom (Herodias) used Salome 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) And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

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.”[164] Salome was working with her mother to some degree, because she added the request “on a platter.” This is “black humor”[165] and a sickening request in the middle of a dinner party.

(6:26) And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her.

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

(6:27-28) Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.

Herod went through with the request.

(6:29) When his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.

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 (v.16). 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 apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.

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).

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about John the Baptist from this passage?

What do we learn about the Herod family from this passage?

Mark 6:33-44 (The 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.]

Jesus is in direct contrast with the reign of Herod depicted above. 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. 34:23; Jn. 10).

(6:33) The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.

The crowds came to him from all the cities.” While this is hyperbole, it seems like people were being attracted from a 360-degree radius. They were so eager that they beat the boats to the shore (“ran there together on foot… and got there ahead of them”).

(6:34) When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.

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. This concept of the people being “sheep without a shepherd” harkens back to Ezekiel 34. Jesus could see through their physical needs (i.e. being hungry) and discern their spiritual aimlessness.

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).

(6:35-36) When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

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

(6:37) But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?”

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 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?’”[166] This is another case of interlocking in the gospels, where the authors confirm each other without intending to.

(6:38) And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”

They only had a few loaves and fish. This was a small portion of food, barely enough to fill a grown man. Brooks writes, “The two loaves were much smaller and flatter than modern loaves. The fish were no doubt dried and salted.”[167] 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, and this is true. But Jesus can multiply what we have to meet massive needs. God isn’t concerned with our ability, but our availability.

(6:39) And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass.

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.”[168] This is a case of interlocking in the gospels that demonstrates the truthfulness of the accounts.

(6:40) They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.

Jesus probably had them sit down so that there wasn’t a mob mentality when the food started to be passed out. The Good Shepherd made them sit down. David writes, “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2).

(6:41) And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.

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.

“He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them.” 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) They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish.

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 provided more than enough for them when they were through. At the beginning of this account, 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.”[169] They would carry their lunches and any other personal items. This has led many scholars to debate whether or not a “man purse” is biblical. (Yes, that was a 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 five thousand men who ate the loaves.

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.

Discussion Questions

Why did Jesus tell the disciples to feed the people, when he knew that they didn’t have the resources? Why did he do this rather than just performing the miracle?

What lessons was Jesus trying to teach his disciples through this miracle?

The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels (with the exception of the resurrection). Why did the disciples place such a heavy emphasis on this miracle? In what ways was this miracle special or unique among Jesus’ miracles?

The disciples were thinking logically and realistically about how to provide food. Yet they weren’t factoring in Jesus’ power. But imagine if someone said, “We’ll just pray about God giving us food for 5,000 people… I’m sure it’ll work out.” Would you agree with this approach? How do we balance being realistic about ministry situations, while also having a high view of God’s power?

Mark 6:45-52 (Jesus walks on water)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 14:22-33 and John 6:14-21.]

Only Matthew records that Peter walked on the water with Jesus. Mark may have excluded this 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 us? 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, let alone 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 lethargy.

(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.”[170] Jesus likely wanted to “prevent them from getting involved in a messianic movement.”[171] Since the people just saw the disciples feed them, perhaps there was a temptation for the people to idolize them. Consequently, Jesus wanted them gone.

From Bethsaida 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.”[172] 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.”[173] That is, in each case, Jesus faced temptation 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” when the disciples started to feed the 5,000 (Mk. 6:35). At this point, they must be deep into the night.

These Galilean fishing boats were tiny. In 1986, the “Ancient Galilee Boat” or the so-called “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 they try to cross the sea at night.

The “fourth watch” was between 3-6 AM.[174] 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), which literally means “many stadia.”[175] 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 (as critical theologians claim). For one, both Matthew and John place this far from shore and in the middle of the sea (Mt. 14:24; Jn. 6:19). Second, seasoned fishermen wouldn’t be shocked to see a man walking in shallow water. They saw that every day. Third, after Peter sunk in the water, he yelled, “Lord, save me!” Of course, Peter wouldn’t be afraid to drown in a couple inches of 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. Indeed, the verse itself states that Jesus “came to them.”

What then does it mean that Jesus was intending to “pass by them”? In our estimation, this is the language of 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.[176] 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.”[177]

(6:49) “But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out.”

“Cried out” (anakrazō) is used of demon possessed people “crying out” (Mk. 1:23). This was not a cry of prayer, but a cry of fear. Given the scene, this must have been a shrill scream of terror. Apparently, the disciples were watching too much Scooby Doo (“It’s a g-g-g-g-ghost!”). But seriously, 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.

(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. The words “It is I” (egō eimi) is literally rendered “I am,” which echoes God’s name Yahweh in the OT (see especially the LXX; Ex. 3:14; Isa 43:10; 51:12). Wessel[178] doesn’t understand this to be a reference to Jesus being Yahweh. However, others like Lane,[179] Cole,[180] and Brooks[181] do see this a claim to deity. 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 happened 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). How do we harmonize these accounts?

For one, the term “astonished” (existēmi) simply means to be “confused” (BDAG) or even “amazed with joyful worship” (Lev. 9:24 LXX; Lk. 5:26).[182] Carson points out that the reaction of the disciples is “always with a mixture of misapprehension.”[183]

Second, in Matthew, the disciples probably called Jesus the “Son of God” with merely “superficial comprehension.”[184] After all, Peter confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). And yet, just a few verses later, Peter rebuked Jesus for choosing to die in Jerusalem (Mt. 16:21-23).

Third, Mark states that the disciples had “hardened hearts” (Mk. 6:52), but this likely refers to the fact that the disciples had already seen Jesus calm the sea (Mk. 4:35-41). Indeed, both Mark and Matthew depict the disciples as unbelieving and fearful (Mt. 14:26-27; Mk. 6:52). After all, if Matthew describes Peter as a man of “little faith,” then what would this imply about the other disciples?[185]

What do we learn from this account?

Read the material from Matthew 14:22-33 where Peter walks on the water with Jesus. Then consider these thoughts regarding the account.

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.

Mark 6:53-56 (Healing in Gennesaret)

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

(6:53-54) When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore. 54 When they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him.

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.”[186] The people “immediately… recognized Him” because of his miracles in Capernaum.

(6:55) [The people] ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was.

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 please)… Capernaum! These people must have seen this miracle (or heard about it), because Capernaum was only a couple miles from Gennesaret.

(6:56) Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.

This is similar to the hemorrhaging woman in Matthew 9:20-21 and Mark 5:25-34. Had these people heard about this miracle too? Where else did they get the idea of being able to receive healing from simply touching Jesus’ clothes?

Mark 7

Mark 7:1-23 (Truth over tradition)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 15:1-20 and John 7:1.]

(7:1-2) The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.

This hand washing was not for hygienic purposes. The religious thinking at the time was that sin could be transmitted by coming into contact with Gentiles or other “sinners.” Thus, the washing of the hands was not for hygienic purposes, but for religious purification. In fact, there was “an entire division of the Mishnah”[187] devoted to cleanliness laws (see m. Yadaim or “Hands”).

Simply washing one’s hands with a handful of water or immersing them to the knuckles was considered to be a sufficient ritual 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.

(7:3-4) (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)

This was an extrabiblical practice. 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.

The Pharisees believed that this oral law was passed down all the way from Moses (m. Aboth 1.1-3). Pious Jews would pray this prayer before eating meals: “Blessed [are You] O Lord, King of the universe, who sanctified us by [your] 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 (Babylonian Talmud Soṭah 4b; Shabbath 62b), and “this seems to have been a tendency already evident in Jesus’ day.”[188] 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.).

What are the 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 something 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.”[189] 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) The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”

This isn’t directed at Jesus, but at Jesus’ 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) And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. 7 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

Jesus cites the fulfillment of Scripture to show how they are breaking from Scripture. If only they had emphasized the authority of Scripture, they would have seen that they were in violation of it. Jesus cites Isaiah 29:13. This shows that the fulfillment of prophecy isn’t always a one-to-one fulfillment. That is to say, sometimes prophecy is generally fulfilled. In this case, Isaiah 29 is fulfilled in the religious hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes. Indeed, 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.”[190]

(7:8) “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

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 use tradition to break the Law

(7:9) He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”

“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 replacing Scripture with tradition.

(7:10) “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death.’”

The Pharisees believed that this oral law descended all the way back to Moses (m. Aboth 1.1-3). This is why Jesus cites two portions of the Pentateuch which were written by Moses himself. He cites the laws regarding honoring our father and mother (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16) and the consequence of capital punishment (Ex. 21:17; Lev. 20:9). This showed both the authority and the severity of this issue.

Did God say this or did Moses say this? Yes! This is an example of biblical inspiration in action. 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) “But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother.”

Jesus points to an example where the people were breaking God’s law (cited above) by appealing to oral tradition.

What was Corban? This practice of “Corban” (or Qorban) was used for the priests in the OT about 80 times (specifically Leviticus, Numbers, and Ezekiel).[191] It refers to “an offering made to God.”[192] 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.”[193] 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… I can’t give you any financial support.” Thus, the adult child could keep his money according to this invented legal loophole, and he could “continue to use and enjoy the property until death, at which time the remainder would presumably go to the temple.”[194] The Mishnah (AD 200) allowed people to annul their vow after their parent’s death and “undedicate” their possessions to God. Rabbi Eliezer said, “They unloose a vow for a person by [reference to] the honor of his father or mother” (m. Nedarim 9.1).

Thus, this very “legal” religious practice was ultimately ungodly and immoral! In effect, it contradicted the Law by dishonoring the parents in the family. The religious leaders began this encounter by charging Jesus with breaking the rabbinical laws, but Jesus charged them with breaking biblical laws. And, as Jesus points out, the penalty for dishonoring one’s father and mother was death (v.10).

(7:13) “Thus [you are] invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

Tradition cannot contradict Scripture in Jesus’ mind—especially in the case of a spiritual or ethical teaching like this. Jesus states that this was a common practice that affected “many things” in the ethical life. It’s interesting that this whole argument started with the Pharisees and scribes being indignant at Jesus’ disciples for not following tradition (v.5). Yet, it ends with Jesus showing that tradition leads to breaking God’s word and hurting people. This shows Jesus’ view on the outcome of man-made tradition.

Discussion Questions

Are all traditions wrong? Some husbands like to greet their wife with a kiss when they get home from work. This is clearly a tradition that the couple has. Does this make it wrong?

Imagine if someone said, “Don’t all Christians have traditions that they follow? After all, almost all Christians celebrate holidays annually, and all Christians have prescribed times to meet together for a Bible study. How is this any different than the traditions that Jesus is speaking against?” How would you respond to this statement?

Turning to the crowds

Jesus not only rejected the oral law, but he rejected the notion of ritual uncleanness.

(7:14) After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand.”

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

(7:15) “There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.”

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—not the hands. The Pharisees “assumed an initially pure state,”[195] but Jesus directly contradicted this view.

(7:16) [If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”]

This verse isn’t in early manuscripts. It was probably transposed from Mark 4:9, 23, and likely because of Mark 7:14.

(7:17) When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable.

Matthew states that Peter started this discussion (Mt. 15:15) when they went back to “the house” to talk in private. Jesus revealed his truth more fully in this “house,” rather than in a synagogue. For those of us who meet in home Bible studies, this is confirms our own experience: God can speak just as powerfully in a home as in a holy place. Indeed, in this case, Jesus spoke more powerfully in this house, than in the synagogue.

At this point, they might still be in Gennesaret, or maybe Capernaum (cf. Mk. 9:28, 33; 10:10).

(7:18-19) And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

Mark emphasizes how little the disciples themselves understood Jesus’ 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, rather than their lives.

Peter was the source 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.[196]

(7:20-23) And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

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 their traditions, their rituals, 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 is a “a general term for any kind of sexual relationship outside of marriage.”[197] It refers to all sexual acts performed outside of the “one man, one woman, one flesh, for one lifetime” paradigm (see Mt. 19; Mk. 10).

Discussion Questions

What might have happened to Christianity if Jesus didn’t publicly denounce these man-made traditions?

Why might people actually prefer to follow man-made traditions rather than what God says?

Mark 7:24-30 (The Syrophoenician Woman)

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 15:21-28.]

(7:24) Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice.

Tyre (modern day Lebanon) borders Capernaum. Historically, it was considered non-Jewish territory. Thus, Jesus is acting out what he just taught—namely, it isn’t the environment around you that matters, but what is within you that counts. Moreover, if all foods are clean (v.19), then so are all people (vv.24-30).[198] Incidentally, this is the same lesson that Peter learned when he received his vision of the unclean animals and later led Cornelius to faith in Christ (Acts 10-11).

“He wanted no one to know of it.” Why wouldn’t Jesus want people to know that he was there? Did he want some relaxation and rest? Time to pray and meditate? We’re not sure. Regardless of his motives, Jesus was willing to serve people when they sought him out with needs. Of course, we think it’s appropriate to draw boundaries in our lives for rest, reflection, and relaxation. But, like Jesus, we shouldn’t be rigid if emergencies in ministry arise to serve. This need would qualify because this girl was demon-possessed.

“He could not escape notice.” Jesus couldn’t get away from the crowds, and his popularity was immense. This was surely due to the fact that he had healed many people in this region (Mk. 3:8).

(7:25-26) But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

Syrophoenicians came from the territory of Phoenicia, which was in the larger territory of Syria (hence Syro-Phoencia). This was roughly the same place (Sidon) that Elijah had healed a widow’s little boy (1 Kings. 17:9ff). In a similar way, this Syrophoenician 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 ask a rabbi like Jesus to heal her daughter. Yet God deeply cares for the orphans and widows (Deut. 10:18; Ps. 146:9).

(7:27-28) And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.”

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.[199]

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

The woman acknowledged Jesus’ plan to reach the Jewish people first, but she was 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 anyhow.

(7:29-30) And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.

Jesus heals this woman’s daughter on the spot. Lane writes, “The irresistible confidence of the woman in Jesus delighted him.”[200] Jesus loves when we come to him in boldness—albeit with the empty hands of faith (Eph. 3:13, 20).

Discussion Questions

Read verses 24-30. What do we learn about biblical faith from this woman’s interaction with Jesus?

Mark 7:31-37 (Healing a deaf and mute man)

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 15:29-31, yet only Mark explains this miracle in detail.]

(7:31) Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis.

Jesus travels from Tyre to Sidon, which was 20 miles north. It’s uncertain if he also encountered Gentiles in Sidon, because there were Jewish settlements in this area. At the same time, Jesus landed in the “region of the Decapolis,” which was filled with Gentiles. If these people were Gentiles, this would reaffirm the notion that Jesus was showing that our environment doesn’t make us unclean.

(7:32-33) They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. 33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva.

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). In fact, the LXX (Isa. 35:6) uses the same word for “mute” (mogilalon) that we find here to refer to how the man “spoke with difficulty.”[201]

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. Jesus was “miming” to communicate “in a way which even a deaf mute could understand.”[202] Or it could be a way Jesus was “expressing concern”[203] through physical touch.

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.”[204] In other passages, Jesus uses spit to heal the blind (cf. Mk. 8:22-26; Jn. 9:1-7). At the same time, the text doesn’t state that Jesus spit on his hands and put his spit-filled hands into the man’s mouth. 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. Jesus could’ve been spitting as a kind of sign language to show the deaf man that he would heal his speech. We’re not sure.

(7:34) And looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!”

“Ephphatha!” 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 sake of the people around him. That is, the people would be able to see that Jesus was acknowledging the Father to perform this miracle (cf. Mk. 6:41).

(7:35) And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly.

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) And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it.

Jesus ordered the crowd (“them”) not to speak. This fits with the “messianic secret.” We see great irony once again: When Jesus tells us not to talk about him, we do; when he tells us to talk about him, we often don’t.

(7:37) They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

The crowds continued to build confidence in Jesus.

Mark 8

Mark 8:1-9 (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, and only one miracle occurred—not two. Critics argue that the events are quite similar, and the disciples do not mention an earlier feeding—even giving a similar unbelieving response (Mk. 8:4). Yet, we agree with Cole that “by no process of the imagination can the feeding of the four thousand be regarded as a mere ‘doublet’, or a variant account of the feeding of the five thousand.”[205] Indeed, we hold that this objection is erroneous, and indeed absurd, for several reasons.

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

Second, critics have 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).

Third, Jesus likely repeated this miracle for different ethnicities. The first feeding was likely for Israel, while the second feeding was for the Gentiles in the Decapolis.[206] These people in the Decapolis didn’t hear about Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, so Jesus repeated this miracle for them.

Fourth, 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). How odd that the author would record both miracles on the lips of Jesus if these two miracles really only reflected one miracle! Brooks notes, “Even the different words meaning basket are maintained”[207] in Mark’s recording of Jesus’ words. Surely this is meant to demonstrate two different events.

When trying to solve Bible difficulties, interpreters sometimes posit two separate miracles or events, rather than just one (e.g. cleansing of the Temple). Critics consider this an ad hoc hypothesis. But the feeding of the 4,000 shows that such a conclusion is unwarranted. Here, even the same author records similar miracles in the same book.

(8:1-2) In those days, when there was again a large crowd and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and said to them, 2 “I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat.”

Jesus cared for both their spiritual and physical needs. The meager resources of these people couldn’t last for three days. After all, it isn’t as though they could drive to Subway to grab some food. They had to pack their food for long travels in those days. It’s quite amazing that these people persisted in staying with Jesus for “three days” even when their food was slowly going away. This attitude is quite different from the people seeking a free meal after the feeding of the 5,000 (Jn. 6:26). These people were “seeking first His kingdom” (Mt. 6:33), and Jesus sought to provide for them.

(8:3) “If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance.”

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) And His disciples answered Him, “Where will anyone be able to find enough bread here in this desolate place to satisfy these people?” 5 And He was asking them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.” 6 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people. 7 They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well. 8 And they ate and were satisfied; and they picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces. 9 About four thousand were there; and He sent them away.

They were in a “desolate place,” (v.4) perhaps a desert. Jesus fed the people before sending them home (v.9).

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.

Mark 8:10-13 (Seeking signs)

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

(8:10) And immediately He entered the boat with His disciples and came to the district of Dalmanutha.

The scene shifts to Dalmanutha, which may be the region of Magdala, but is currently unknown.[208] Matthew calls this “the region of Magadan” (Mt. 15:39). So, perhaps these “regions” or “districts” overlapped to some degree.

(8:11) The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him.

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.”[209]

(8:12) Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

“No sign will be given to this generation.” In Matthew, 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 (i.e. the Pharisees), because Jesus performed many miracles to the people in Israel. Perhaps, Jesus was holding back miracles intentionally from the religious leaders, because of their hardened hearts.

(8:13) Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side.

Because these people had no sincerity, Jesus had nothing to give to them. He got up and left.

Mark 8:14-21 (Hypocrisy of the religious leaders)

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

(8:14) And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them.

The disciples had major food issues. They forgot to bring bread (v.8), but 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) And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

“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. “Leaven” was sometimes used to refer to corruption (see Babylonian Talmud Berachoth 17a; Plutarch, Moralia II, 659 B).[210] This “leaven” can be identified with the teaching of the Pharisees (Mt. 16:12) and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Lk. 12:1). In Mark, Jesus identifies the “leaven” with the unbelief of the Pharisees and Herod.

Herod Antipas had his capital in Tiberias, so this would incline us to believe that Dalmanutha 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?

The disciples had seen so much, but they still didn’t understand the meaning of Jesus’ miracle. 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) They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread.

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) And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?”

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).

(8:18-21) “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember, 19 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?”

“Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?” Jesus alludes to Jeremiah 5:21, Ezekiel 12:2, and Isaiah 6:9ff.

One of the keys to changing a hardened heart is to “remember” what God has done for us. It isn’t that the disciples had amnesia. Instead, they had chosen to minimize the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000. The disciples may have had the attitude, “Yeah, that was then… But what has Jesus done for us lately?” A hardened heart distorts our perception of history, reality, and our relationship with God. While the disciples could cognitively answer Jesus’ questions, 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.

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

Discussion Questions

If you are developing a hardened heart, what are some ways to turn this around? What are concrete steps could you take to stop your heart from being hardened?

Mark 8:22-26 (Healing a blind man)

[This miracle is unique to Mark.]

(8:22) And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him.

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.).[211] Moreover, this was the same region where Jesus fed the 5,000 (Mk. 6:45).

(8:23) Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?”

“He brought him out of the village.” Jesus led this man by the hand all alone. He must’ve wanted this to be a quiet miracle, and “probably to avoid the gaze and clamor of the crowd.”[212]

Why does Jesus spit 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.”[213] This was not used for “therapeutic effect.” Rather, “it was simply an acted parable, to draw the man’s attention to what Jesus was about to do.” Moreover, “touch means more than sound to a blind man, and only by touch could the meaning of Jesus be conveyed.”[214] Likewise, in John 9:6, Jesus spit into the clay and applied this mixture of mud to a blind man’s eyes.

(8:24) And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.”

Why doesn’t Jesus heal the man immediately? 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.[215] It seems that “the man’s sight was restored only gradually and with difficulty.”[216] 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, because he seems to understand what “trees” are. Of course, if the man’s blindness was congenital, he could have known trees from physical touch.

(8:25) Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.

Why does Jesus touch the man twice in order to heal him? Surely, Jesus didn’t lack the ability to heal. Indeed, this is the only example of a “two-fold miracle” in Jesus’ life, where he acted twice to accomplish the miracle.[217] Rather, it’s more likely that the man had a lack of faith. Once Jesus healed the man partially, this may have bolstered the man’s faith in Jesus to be completely restored. We’re simply not sure.

(8:26) And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

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.

Discussion Questions

Do you think there is any symbolism in the fact that the blind man needed to be healed in two-stages, rather than one? How do you react to these comments from James Brooks regarding this healing? Brooks writes, “Equally important is the symbolism of the two-stage healing. The disciples, like the blind man, had been “touched” by Jesus and had received a preliminary blessing. Their spiritual insight, however, was far from complete. They too needed a second touch.”[218]

Mark 8:27-33 (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.[219] 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 character demand us to come to terms with who Jesus is. Here, we see a great revelation from Peter, when he declares, “You are the Christ” (v.29).

(8:27) Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?”

Caesarea Philippi was 25 miles north of Bethsaida (Mk. 8:22), 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 Matthew 2). Herod the Great built a “temple in honor of the emperor near a grotto consecrated to the Greek god Pan.”[220] Herod also rebuilt the village of Paneas and renamed it after Caesar. Caesarea Philippi “was as pagan a territory as one could find,” and the people here worshipped “the Greek God Pan.”[221] Josephus speaks of this territory numerous times (Antiquities 15.363-64; Jewish War 1.404-6; 2.168; 3.509-15).

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. In other words, Jesus was moving directly into Pagan territory, where it would be common for people to declare 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 (!). Like usual, Jesus was asking questions 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. 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) They told Him, saying, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.”

Why was Jesus compared to John the Baptist? We already heard this claim from Herod (Mk. 6:14, 16). 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 just being called 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) And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

Jesus switches the discussion from the abstract to the personal. The “you” is emphasized in the Greek: “Who do you say that I am?”

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 identified Jesus before Peter were the demons (!!).

(8:30) And He warned them to tell no one about Him.

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 Q & A session 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).

Jesus predicts his death for the FIRST time

(8:31-32) And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

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

“[Peter] began to rebuke Him.” 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) But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

Peter did a good job identifying Jesus (v.29), and now he wants to go further and 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.

“Get behind Me, Satan.” What a stern rebuke! Mark notes that this was in front of the other disciples (“seeing his disciples”), so Jesus publicly rebuked Peter.

This rebuke doesn’t necessarily mean that Peter was necessarily demon-possessed. Rather, Peter 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.”[222] 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. Cole comments, “Satan’s suggestion is not blasphemous or obviously evil: it is smooth, attractive and ‘natural’, appealing to all ‘natural’ human instincts. That is why it is so dangerous.”[223] If Peter did not grasp this teaching regarding Jesus, then he would be unable to grasp the subsequent teaching regarding discipleship to Jesus.

Incidentally, this exchange passes the criterion of embarrassment (i.e. why would Mark include the fact that Jesus called Peter Satan?) and the criterion of Aramaisms (i.e. Jesus uses the Aramaic language of “Satan” (Sātānâ), rather than “devil” (diabolos).

Mark 8:34-38 (Jesus speaks to the cost of discipleship)

(8:34) And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

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.”[224] But even though this teaching is unimaginable difficult, we need to remember that 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[225] and Wessel[226] 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) “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

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

Does losing our lives refer to eternal damnation? Wessel argues that “saving his life” refers to renouncing Christ in front of the Roman executioners.[227] 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.”[228] We disagree with this view for several reasons:

First, the context is self-denial in general—not exclusively 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?

Third, it’s true that the word “lose” (apollymi) can be rendered “destroy,” but it can also be translated “ruined” (BDAG). Consequently, we agree with R. Alan Cole that Jesus is referring to a lifestyle of living “jealously and selfishly.”[229] When a person lives for self, they paradoxically lose their lives.

(8:36-37) “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

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.”[230] Again, we disagree: 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.”[231] 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. 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 anyway 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 famous words of missionary Jim Elliot who wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”[232] Elliot died on January 8, 1956, sharing the message and love of Christ with the people of Ecuador.

(8:38) “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Since Jesus is addressing the crowds (“whoever”), 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 feels 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

 

Mark 9:1-10 (The Transfiguration)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36.]

(9:1) And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

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) Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them.

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 during this time. Others think that this was Mount Hermon[233] or Mount Meron.[234] The importance isn’t the mountain, but what happened on the mountain—namely, the transformation and revelation of Jesus. Similarly, it didn’t matter which bush was burning when God revealed himself to Moses (Ex. 3). The more important issue was God’s revelation—not the specific location.

Was it “six days” or “eight days”? 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. Second, the reference to “eight days” is “based on a Greek way of speaking and means ‘about a week later.’”[235] Third, the trek up the mountain could’ve taken an extra two days, and Luke may be including these extra two days of travel.

Why do Matthew and Mark emphasize six days? This likely reflects Moses’ mountaintop experience with God (Ex. 24:15-18), which we will explore more below. Whereas, Luke may have emphasized historical accuracy for the entire trip, including the travel.

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. Biblically, however, extra revelation usually means extra suffering, and all three of these men seriously suffered and died for Christ.

(9:3) His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

Just like movies have previews, this is a little sneak peek of Jesus’ true nature. The Greek term for “transfigured” (metamorphoō) which is the root for our modern term “metamorphosis.” Mark adds that his clothes were white “as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mk. 9:3). He sounds like he is advertising for an OxiClean infomercial! Luke adds that Jesus was in prayer when the Transfiguration took place. While Moses reflected God’s glory in his face (Ex. 34:29-30), Jesus generated God’s glory.

(9:4) Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus.

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).[236] 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. Instead, we hold that Moses and Elijah were chosen because this scene was meant to be a theophany (or an “appearance of God”). Both Moses (Ex. 33:19, 22) and Elijah (1 Kin. 19:11) had experiences of God, where he revealed 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 awoke to this overwhelming light being generated by Jesus himself.

(9:5-6) Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.

Like a lot of people having a “mountain top” experience, Peter didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay forever—held tightly by this incredible experience. Mark adds that Peter “did not know what to answer” because he was “terrified” (Mk. 9:6). Luke adds that Peter didn’t realize what he was talking about (Lk. 9:33). Peter must have been on sensory overload! Just as Peter is talking about giving three equal tabernacles to each person, God the Father interrupts Peter’s blabbering to say, “Listen to [Jesus]!” In other words, these are not three equals! Jesus is the final revelation of God—as God incarnate.

Why did Peter want to build tabernacles? A “tabernacle” is a tent. Because Peter saw the glory of God, a good Jewish man like Peter must have thought that it was appropriate to build a tent. However, Cole’s comment is insightful: “Peter did not realize that the shekinah-glory, the manifestation of God’s presence, was already ‘living in a tent’ on earth, in the body of Christ (John 1:14).”[237]

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.[238] They call this the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.”

  • Mysterium refers to “wholly other.”
  • Tremendum refers to “awfulness, terror, awe.”
  • 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.”[239]

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 himself? You’re intrigued and attracted, but you also sense your own 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?[240]

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) Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!”

“A bright cloud overshadowed them.” Only Matthew mentions that the cloud was “bright,” which is “reminiscent of the shekinah glory.”[241] Indeed, in the OT, God usually revealed himself in the form of a cloud (Ex. 24:15-18; 40:34-38). Luke records that they “entered the cloud” (Lk. 9:34), which must symbolize coming into the very presence of God.

The content of God the Father’s message is identical to Jesus’ baptism, but he adds another thought that they should “listen to Jesus.” He doesn’t tell the disciples to listen to Moses or Elijah (though they certainly should); instead he tells them to listen to Jesus—the ultimate revelation of God. Indeed it was Moses who predicted a future prophet to whom the people should listen (Deut. 18:15).

(9:8) All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.

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 and… Poof! Batman is gone!

God came into the world to direct these disciples to Jesus. In Matthew’s account, we read that 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 in the world is to be 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. Lane writes, “The transfiguration scene develops as a new ‘Sinai’ theophany with Jesus as the central figure.”[242]

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 arrived at the peak, 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 the teachings of religious leaders as similar to God’s very own inspired words. 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 these had infallible authority. What a tragic mistake! God tells us unequivocally: Listen to Jesus! This means that we should study 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 him? 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 heard 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.

(9:9) As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead.

This fits with Mark’s emphasis on the “messianic secret.” 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) They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.

Clearly, the disciples couldn’t grasp what Jesus was saying. They were so focused on the Messiah liberating Israel from her foreign occupiers that they could fathom a dying Messiah. They may have thought that he was speaking of the general resurrection of the dead at the end of history, which would make sense of their subsequent question about Elijah.

Mark 9:11-13 (Elijah and the End Times)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 17:9-13 and Luke 9:36.]

(9:11-13) They asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.”

This question is interesting—especially since it comes on the heels of Elijah himself actually appearing to Jesus (Mk. 9:4). Malachi predicted, “I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD” (Mal. 4:5). Consequently, many 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 the rabbi cites Mal. 4:5.]” (Sifré Deut. § 41).[243]

Jesus affirmed that Elijah would return in the future (Mal. 4:5), but he argued that John the Baptist was a figurative type of 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 further comments on (Mt. 11:14) Could John the Baptist be a figurative Elijah?

Mark 9:14-29 (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) When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them.

Other Jewish exorcists existed during this time. Some were successful (Mk. 9:38; Mt. 12:27), while others were not (Acts 19:14). The “scribes” were likely challenging the credentials of Jesus by pointing out that his disciples couldn’t heal this young boy. These theological critics took their opportunity to scorn the apostles for their failure while their rabbi was away on a mountain-top retreat.

(9:15) Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.

The crowd wasn’t persuaded by the religious leaders. Instead, they came to Jesus.

(9:16) And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?”

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

(9:17-18) And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”

Can you imagine seeing your little boy possessed by a demon? Despair, agony, and grief must have filled this father’s heart.

This demon produced self-harm and convulsions in this boy (cf. Mark 5). From this short passage, we learn several aspects of demon possession.

First, the demon shut the boy’s mouth. He couldn’t speak, but this would’ve stopped him from praying as well. Demonic oppression likely tries to keep us from prayer.

Second, some periods of possession are worse than others (whenever it seizes him”). We shouldn’t think of spiritual oppression as constant. It apparently waxes and wanes over time.

Third, symptoms of seizure are associated with some forms of demonic possession.

Fourth, this demonic oppression lasted since the boy’s childhood, so it could be lifelong (v.21). Moreover, Satan doesn’t hold back from attacking kids.

Fifth, self-harm is associated with possession (v.22).

Sixth, demons can leave temporarily and return later (v.25).

(9:19) And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!”

Jesus felt frustration with the unbelief of his own disciples. When we experience frustration, we might 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) They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth.

The demon reacted violently to merely seeing Jesus in the flesh. The reaction of the demon is “the impotent rage of the defeated enemy.”[244] Jesus seemed to make things worse before things got better. The exorcising of a demon can be a violent process. This could scare an oppressed person from wanting to proceed with prayer or an exorcism.

(9:21-22) And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

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!” But all of that changed when Jesus arrived.

“How long has this been happening to him?” 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. Jesus’s cool and calm demeanor must have had a soothing effect on this hysterical father.

(9:23) And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”

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) Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Jesus did not say, “Well, why don’t you come back when you have better faith than that!” Instead, 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) When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

“Do not enter him again.” Why did Jesus need to add this last part? This must imply that demons can reenter people. Luke adds that the demon would “maul” the young boy when it left him, but it would come back (Lk. 9:39). Jesus didn’t want this demon to return ever again.

(9:26) After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!”

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) But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.

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) When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

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). But that was then, and this was now. The disciples may have been “resting on their laurels,” lapsing into complacency. As one author wrote, “Yesterday’s faith won’t fight today’s battles.” Brooks comments, “Spiritual power is not something which once possessed will always be available. It must be maintained and renewed. Disciples then and now must constantly learn and relearn this lesson.”[245]

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).

Discussion Question (vv.14-29)

What does this section teach us about demon possession?

What does this section teach us about biblical faith?

Mark 9:30-32 (Jesus predicts his death for the SECOND TIME)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 17:22-23 and Luke 9:43-45.]

(9:30-32) From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. 31 For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

Jesus returns to Galilee. Again, his words relate to the messianic secret (“He did not want anyone to know about it”). The “it” refers to his teaching regarding 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.

Mark 9:33-37 (Who is the greatest?)

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

(9:33-34) They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.

Jesus returns to “the house” in Capernaum, which seems like his base of operations (cf. Mk. 1:29). When they are inside, Jesus addresses their pride and competitive attitude. The desire of the disciples for greatness was likely springing from their insecurity and failure to heal the demon-possessed boy (vv.14-29), and it 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 collapses when we come into the presence of true righteousness. We are like elementary school kids boasting about their athletic abilities, until they come into the presence of an Olympic athlete.

(9:35-37) Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”

Jesus sat down to teach this lesson. Perhaps Jesus was literally showing them that they need to get lower to the ground like a child, instead of standing over others. He claims that the humility and dependence of children is true greatness, rather than the pride and self-righteousness which is so common to adults.

“Taking him in His arms” is literally “holding him in the crook of his arm.”[246] So, this must have been a baby or perhaps a little toddler.

The ancient view of children was quite poor. Jesus’ audience must have been shocked to see Jesus extol children (cf. Mk. 10:13-16). In the ancient world, kids were looked down upon. For instance, the Mishnah states, “Morning sleep, mid-day wine, chattering with children and tarrying in places where men of common people assemble, destroy a man” (m. ‘Abot 3:10). 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.”[247]

Discussion Questions

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). See comments on Matthew 18:3 for more detail.

It is NOT the selfishness of children. Kids are born with a sin nature like everyone else, and sometimes children show this in more obvious ways 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 receive gifts, our admission of needing help when we can’t handle overwhelming situations, and our instinct to come to our parents for protection and emotional stability. Kids never say, “I couldn’t never accept this gift from you.” Instead, their eyes light up with excitement. Children 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. Indeed, the chief virtue of the Christian life is humility (see “Humility”).

Mark 9:38-40 (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 said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is for us.”

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, because of their failure to exorcise the demon from the boys (Mk. 9:14-18). Yet, here is a man—not even associated with Jesus—who was outperforming the disciples. Perhaps John as jealous or simply being territorial in ministry.

The gospels never tell us who this Jewish exorcist was. We do know that this was not a Jewish exorcist that was denying Christ, because Jesus said, “There is no one who will perform a miracle in My name.” So, apparently, this exorcist was using Jesus’ name. However, the disciples were angry that he wasn’t part of Jesus’ following. After the birth of the Church (in Acts 2), we see Jewish exorcists using Jesus’ name without being true believers, and they fail miserably (Acts 19:14).

Does this statement contradict Matthew 12:30? Not at all. This construction (v.40) is different than Jesus’ statement in Matthew: “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Mt. 12:30). Mark emphasizes being “not against” Jesus, while Matthew emphasized being “not with Me” Jesus. Mark states that the person is not actively opposing Jesus, while Matthew states that they are actively rejecting Jesus. They are describing two different attitudes regarding Jesus.

Discussion Questions

Some people claim that this passage supports the need to work closely with Christians of various denominations. Do you agree that this passage supports working together with Christians from various denominations? Do you agree that we should work with Christians of various denominations? Why or why not?

Mark 9:41-50 (Stumbling blocks)

(9:41) “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”

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) “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”

John interrupted Jesus’ flow of thought about the children (v.37). Here, Jesus returns to the subject of 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).[248]

(9:43) “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.”

This is identical to Matthew 5:30 and 18:8, which implies that Jesus often repeated this teaching. There 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 adults to stumble. Stumbling and going to hell is so serious that it’s actually worse than being physically maimed. If this is true, then hell must be a place beyond all human imagination or conception.

(9:44) [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]

This verse is identical to verse 48, but it is not in our earliest manuscripts, and it is likely a case of dittography.

(9:45) “If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell.”

Again, this is similar to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:30).

(9:46) [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]

This verse is identical to verse 48, but it is not in our earliest manuscripts, and it is likely a case of dittography.

(9:47) “If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell.”

This is identical to Matthew 5:29 and 18:9 (see comments on verse 43 above).

(9:48) “Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

Jesus cites Isaiah 66:24. Matthew calls this “eternal fire” (Mt. 18:8).

(9:49) “For everyone will be salted with fire.”

What does it mean to be “salted with fire”? Many manuscripts of Mark 9:49 state, “Every sacrifice will be salted with salt,” but this reading has not received a lot of support from textual critics. This could be an allusion to the sacrifices made in the OT (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24; cf. Ex. 30:35). Like the ancient sacrifices, the disciples should be purified by symbolically being “powdered with salt and consumed by fire.”[249] Perhaps a way to understand this verse is in the concept of the bema seat (1 Cor. 3:13), which is accompanied by fire.[250] In this view, 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.”[251]

(9:50) “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

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.

Discussion Questions

What does this passage teach us about the reality of judgment?

Mark 10

In Mark’s account, Jesus’ Galilean ministry is now complete. From here, Mark focuses his biography on Jesus’ ministry in Judea and specifically Jerusalem. Luke gives supplementary material that occurred before Jesus came to Judea (see Luke 9-16). Mark simply omits this additional material from Luke.

Mark 10:1-12 (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) Getting up, He went from there to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan; crowds gathered around Him again, and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them.

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 was frequently teaching.

(10:2) Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife.

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: Regarding divorce, the school of Shammai was strict, while the school of Hillel was very loose (m. Gittin 9.10). To remember these schools, 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 theological dilemma, where he would either offend one school of thought or the other.[252] Jesus splits the horns of the dilemma and offers a unique view instead.

(10:3) And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”

Jesus takes them back to Scripture, rather than rabbinical debate.

(10:4) They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

The Pharisees cite a case law in Deuteronomy 24:1, but Jesus takes a different approach.

(10:5) But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.”

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) “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, 8 and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

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) “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

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”).

(10:10-12) In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. 11 And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

As usual, the disciples wanted to know more. 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 divorce—not rabbinical teachers.

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.” According to rabbinical law, wives could commit adultery against their husbands, and men could commit adultery by sleeping with a married woman. However, Brooks notes, “A husband could not commit adultery against his own wife by being unfaithful to her. By insisting that a husband could commit adultery against his own wife, Jesus greatly elevated the status of wives and women in general.”[253]

“If she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.” It wasn’t common for wives to divorce their husbands (Antiquities 15.7.10).

Why does Mark lack the exception clause? Mark doesn’t include the fact that divorce is permissible in the case of adultery, as Matthew does (Mt. 19:9). However, Mark’s account is “by no means a full treatment.”[254] Mark chose to include or omit what he wanted. For instance, Mark includes wives divorcing their husbands, while the parallel in Matthew 19 omits this. 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.[255] Moreover, Matthew had already mentioned both men and women with regard to divorce (Mt. 5:31-32). We can’t speculate too much about why Mark chose to omit the exception clause. Mark chose to include what he thought was pertinent to his gospel.

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

Mark 10:13-16 (Children)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 20:17-28 and Luke 18:31-34.]

(10:13) And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.

Were the disciples rebuking the parents or the kids? The NLT states that they rebuked the parents for allowing the kids to come to Jesus: “The disciples scolded the parents for bothering him” (NLT).

(10:14-16) But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”

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

Incidentally, these children stand in stark contrast to the rich young ruler in the very next section.

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

Mark 10:17-31 (The rich young ruler)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30.]

(10:17) As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

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.” Even though he was wealthy and powerful, he recognized that he was missing something. Cole writes, “Even if outwardly self-satisfied, he realized inwardly that he still lacked something. Otherwise, he would not have come to Jesus seeking eternal life, and asked the question which he did.”[256]

The man “ran” to Jesus and “knelt” before him. He must have respected Jesus to have this reaction. He showed Jesus “the deference reserved for revered teachers of the Law.”[257] We don’t read that he was trying to trap Jesus or come to him under false presumptions. He seems like a genuine seeker.

“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. Thus, this man is already off to a bad start. Jesus had just taught that we need to “receive the kingdom of God like a child” (v.15). But this man didn’t understand any of this: He wanted to work for eternal life like a competent adult, rather than receive it like a child.

(10:18) And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”

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.”[258] Jesus never denies that he is good or that he is God. Jesus seems to be asking, “If only God is good, then do you realize what you are saying?”

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

(10:19) “You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”

Jesus tells the man to keep the Ten Commandments—specifically commandments 6, 7, 8, 9, and 5. “Do not defraud” may refer to the 10th commandment of covetousness.[259] 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) And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”

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

(10:21) Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

“One thing you lack.” This rich young ruler must have been hanging on these words: After all, he was young, wealthy, and powerful. He lacked nothing, but nothing was the one thing he didn’t possess! He came to Jesus with his wealth and his works, when he needed to come with the empty hands of faith. Jesus reveals that he lacked a relationship with Christ (“Come, follow Me.”).

“Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Jesus didn’t say this because he was angry or disappointed with 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 when we call people out of the insidious snare of materialism.

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

(10:22) But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

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.” Indeed, this is the language of a funeral! But for this man, it was the death of his “moral achievement project.” He is the only man in the entire NT who is said to leave Jesus’ presence “saddened” and “grieving.”[260] The man was asked to give up his wealth, but he gave up Jesus instead. Brooks comments, “This verse has been described as the saddest in the Bible.”[261]

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, because 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: moral perfection.

(10:23) And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

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

(10:24) The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!”

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

(10:25) “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Was the “needle’s eye” a gate entering Jerusalem? Bible teachers 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.”[262] The problem with this interpretation is that it is demonstrably false! No such gate exists. Cole writes, “The ninth century AD is the earliest reference that Schweizer can find for this interpretation: it therefore reads like a pious late fabrication.”[263]

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, of course, you had a really large blender!!).

(10:26) They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”

The disciples were realizing the incredible, crushing weight of the Law (v.19). In this culture, wealth was associated with being blessed by God. To a Jewish person, “honestly gained riches were a sign of God’s blessing (Prov. 10:22).”[264] So, if anyone would make it to heaven, it would be the rich and powerful. Thus, if those people weren’t going to make the cut, then who would?

(10:27) Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

If it was up to us, no one would get into heaven. The term “saved” (v.26) implies that we are the passive recipients, and someone else needs to do the saving. We cannot save ourselves, “all things are possible with God.”

(10:28) Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.”

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.

(10:29-30) Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

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 that we hold dear. 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 as some sort of religious manipulation.

The conjunctions demonstrate this concept powerfully. Jesus states that we will give up this “or” that “or” something else. But we will receive houses “and” brothers “and” sisters. In other words, we might give God one thing or another, but he will give us everything we can ever want and more.

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). Health and wealth preachers fail to quote this part of the verse for some reason. 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) “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

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.

Discussion Questions

Why do you think Jesus took this approach in explaining eternal life to the rich young ruler? Why didn’t he take a different approach instead?

Mark 10:32-34 (Jesus predicts his death for the THIRD time)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 20:17-19 and Luke 18:31-34.]

(10:32-34) They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, 33 saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. 34 They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”

Jesus makes a third prediction of his death (cf. Mk. 8:31; 9:31), and it is the most specific. 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 sound to first-century Jewish listeners. Jesus wanted them to be prepared.

Lane[265] 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. (If Jesus will die, then what would this mean for them?) Moreover, if Jesus had already cleansed the Temple in John 2, the disciples would have been afraid to return to Jerusalem, because the religious leaders would have been hostile toward Jesus.

Mark 10:35-45 (Who is the greatest?)

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 20:20-28.]

(10:35) James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”

In one of the most embarrassing moments in biblical history, Matthew reports that James and John brought their mom with them to pester Jesus (Mt. 20:20-21). Mark simply says that James and John were asking Jesus this question, but Matthew gives more detail.

Interestingly, 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) And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

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 the implications of their prayer.

(10:37) They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”

Jesus’ glory was… the Cross! At best, this request was 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 6.11.9).

(10:38) But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

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.

We should yearn for leadership (1 Tim. 3:1). But do we realize what we want? The way of leadership is not the road to self-glorification, but the road to increased suffering (e.g. betrayal, lack of appreciation, failure, frustration, Satan, agony for others, exhaustion, etc.). Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t add that it is all worth it!

(10:39) They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.”

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).[266]

(10:40) “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

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) Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.

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. 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.

Incidentally, Jesus was quite gentle with the ambitious and self-glorifying attitude of James and John. (Indeed, he gave them kinder treatment than the other ten disciples.) Jesus was patient with the arrogant ambition of these two young men, knowing that their pride would eventually be purged from them as they followed him over the years. Their desire for self-glorification was sinful, but Jesus knew that he would deal with this sin over time. Prideful glory is not dealt with in a day.

The other ten disciples were quick to cut down the self-glorifying attitude of James and John. Yet, ironically, they did this out of their own jealousy and selfish ambition—not out of humility. By being “indignant,” they simply revealed a different species of pride. This is why Jesus corrects both the two and the ten together. Both groups of men were prideful, the “reaction of the ten is no more commendable than the arrogance of the two.”[267]

(10:42) Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.”

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) “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.”

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) “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Here is the ultimate Servant Leader. Jesus hid his divine identity from the masses, and took the form of a servant (Phil. 2:5-11). 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,” which was a “guilt-offering” (Isa. 53:10).

Application

How would you know if God was calling you to lead right now? Pray for God to take you down a path toward making you into a person that is ready for leadership.

We don’t control the conditions, the timeframe, etc. We do control whether we’re going to agree to God’s call and follow his leadership.

Mark 10:46-52 (Healing a blind man: Bartimaeus)

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

(10:46) Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.

This is the final healing miracle in Mark’s account. Mark gives more information about this blind man than the other gospels. He gives us both his name (“Bartimaeus”) and his heritage (“the son of Timaeus”).

Jericho was 20 miles northeast of Jerusalem,[268] 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 person, rather than both.

Bartimaeus posts up here because the people were on their way to the Passover. They were in the “holiday spirit,” and they were ready to give.

(10:47) When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

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). Usually, Jesus tells the people who accurately identify him to be quiet (because of the messianic secret), but here, Jesus doesn’t quiet him.

(10:48) Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

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. Indeed, they probably thought he was blind because of sin (Jn. 9:1-3).

This man overcame the peer pressure of the crowds to come 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) And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.”

Jesus responds to seekers and the marginalized.

(10:50-51) Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!”

“Throwing aside his cloak…” likely refers to using his outer garment to collect money—almost like a tin can used today.[269] 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) And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

Many of the people that Jesus healed did not follow him. Bartimaeus was the only healed man to follow Jesus. 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).

Discussion Questions

How did this blind man show his faith in this account? What barriers did he need to overcome?

Mark 11

Roughly 38% of Mark’s gospel was devoted to the final week of Jesus’ life (chs. 11-16), and roughly 20% of the gospel is devoted to Jesus’ death (chs. 14-15).[270] This is called “Passion Week.” The “passion” of Christ comes from the Latin term passio, which means “suffering.” Thus, Passion Week refers to the final suffering of Jesus. Mark’s Gospel has been described as “a passion-narrative with an extended introduction.”[271] This is exaggerated to be sure, but it does show a large emphasis on Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Mark 11:1-11 (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) As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples.

Bethany and Bethphage are near Jerusalem (~two miles away). The Mount of Olives is where he gives his famous “Olivet Discourse” (see Mk. 13). This mountain is directly east of Jerusalem. Bethany was the final stop before entering Jerusalem.

(11:2) And said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here.”

By instructing his disciples to get a colt from the nearby village, Jesus was fulfilling 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) “If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.”

Jesus prepares his two disciples for objections from the people there. 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) They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. 5 Some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission.

Jesus’ predictions came true, and the disciples brought the colt. We might consider this as theft. But such a charge against Jesus doesn’t fit with this text, nor with the rest of biblical teaching. For one, the people freely gave them the colt (“they gave them permission”). Second, everything belongs to God (Ps. 24:1), and we merely manage his property. Thus, everything is on loan from God—the Ultimate Owner. Furthermore, if God takes something from us, it is for a good purpose. Third, they returned the colt (“send it back here”). So, at most, they were only borrowing the animal for its limited use.

(11:7) They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it.

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. We hold that Jesus only rode on the colt—not both animals. For one, Matthew never says that Jesus rode both animals. While the donkey and colt both had coats on them, Jesus could’ve merely ridden on one—not both. This would be similar to saying, “My car has leather seats, and my friend said how much he liked riding on the leather seats.” By saying this, it is not required that my friend needed to sit in all five seats in the car! He merely needed to sit on some part of the leather seat. Moreover, Mark records a detail absent from Matthew that could very well explain this difficulty—namely, the young colt had never been ridden before (Mk. 11:2). So, it’s possible that they had the wisdom to bring the colt’s “mother… to reassure it among the noisy crowd.”[272]

(11:8) And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields.

Imagine how serious you would need to be to spread your personal coat on the dirty and dusty street below the feet of Jesus’ donkey. Two hundred years earlier, Simon Maccabaeus received similar treatment, being treated as a king (1 Macc. 13:51). Thus, this was a symbol of welcoming a king (see Jehu in 2 Kin. 9:13). 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) Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

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.”[273] The rabbis understood this as a psalm about the return of David and “final redemption” (Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 119a; m. Tehillim to Ps. 118, § 22, 244a).[274]

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

(11:10) “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!”

They were expecting the “coming [messianic] kingdom.”

(11:11) Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

With all of this build up, we might expect for Jesus to launch his takeover as the Messiah and King of the World, finally ushering in his messianic kingdom!

But instead, he merely looks around, and goes to sleep…

Jesus got a full view of the hypocrisy in the Temple, but it was too late at night for him to clear the Temple (“it was already late”). Jesus and the disciples had travelled from Jericho (v.1) which was roughly 18 hours away.[275] 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!”[276]

Discussion Questions

How does Jesus compare to a regular king? What differences do you see between him and regular kings?

Commentator Darrell Bock refers to this as Jesus’ “untriumphal entry.” Why might he label Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in this way?

Mark 11:12-14 (The fig tree)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:18-19 and Luke 19:45-48.]

(11:12) On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry.

Jesus was truly human. In his divine nature, he did not hunger, but in his human nature, he “became hungry.”

(11:13-14) Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.

Jesus curses this poor, innocent, and defenseless fig tree. How could he?? (We hope our sarcasm is evident!) Many skeptics treat this as an unforgiveable sin on Jesus’ behalf. The reader will need to decide for himself.

(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)

Mark 11:15-18 (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) Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.

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 are in the stadium, you’re forced to pay exorbitant prices if you want a cold beverage. Similarly, once people travelled to the Temple, they couldn’t go back and get another lamb from home. They were forced to get scammed by the people in the Temple.

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) And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.”

Jesus cites Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.

Isaiah 56. Regarding Jesus’ citation of Isaiah 56, Cole comments, “It is noteworthy that Jesus here quotes only the clause in Isaiah about prayer, and omits that about offering sacrifice, for he himself was soon to be the sacrifice that would unite Jew and non-Jew in one.”[277]

Jeremiah 7. In context, Jeremiah rebuked the religious people of his day, and he later predicts the destruction of Solomon’s Temple (Jer. 7:14).

(11:18) The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.

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).

Discussion Questions

Jesus was clearly angry because of the graft of the poor and the hypocrisy in the Temple. Clearly, not all anger is unrighteous. What then is the difference between righteous anger and unrighteous anger?

Mark 11:19-26 (The fig tree dies)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:19-22 and Luke 21:37-38.]

(11:19) When evening came, they would go out of the city.

Jesus was in the city (or maybe even the Temple) until nighttime.

(11:20) As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up.

This is the sequel to seeing the fig tree earlier on (vv.13-14).

(11:21) Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.”

In Matthew’s account, the disciples ask Jesus how this was possible (Mt. 21:20). Jesus uses this event as a way to encourage the disciples during a time of religious and political turmoil. Earlier, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple and the nation. Now, they needed to cling to God himself. “Trust God,” Jesus says, “Not the Temple” (v.22). Brooks comments, “The sayings also indicate that the disciples were not to let the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple upset their faith and that they were to believe that God would continue to work out his purpose through his new people. Instead of finding any satisfaction in the judgment upon Israel, they were to learn from Israel’s experiences and take heed lest a similar thing happen to them… Faith and prayer and not the temple are now the way to God.”[278]

(11:22) And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God.”

Jesus is pointing out their lack of faith by asking this question. Consequently, he confers this same power of prayer to the disciples.

(11:23) “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.”

A key to prayer is to trust in the One to whom you’re praying. This “mountain” was “sometimes a symbol of difficulty.”[279]

(11:24) “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”

When we are praying in God’s will, we can securely bank on the fact that he is going to answer (1 Jn. 5:14-15).

(11:25) “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”

This shows that our forgiveness toward others should be unconditional. Jesus uses absolute language (“whenever… anything… anyone…”). This couldn’t be more all-encompassing. He gives this teaching on forgiveness alongside his teaching on prayer. This implies that we should not hold contempt in our hearts for others when we pray, which would only poison our prayers. Instead, we should empty this out of our souls in order to connect with God and move the world.

(11:26) [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”]

Early manuscripts do not contain this verse. 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).

Mark 11:27-33 (Debating the religious leaders)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:23-32 and Luke 20:1-8.]

(11:27-28) They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?”

Jesus reenters the Temple. This time the religious leaders are waiting for him. They are trying to trap him into giving away his identity, charging him with blasphemy by getting him to reveal his identity. But Jesus sets a trap of his own…

(11:29-30) And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.”

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 carried such popularity. The fact that they were huddling together showed that they were afraid of the consequences, and that this was a classic case of “groupthink.” To them, the answer was not about truth, but safety.[280] That is, they gave the answer that would give them the best pragmatic results. Which option do they choose?

(11:31-33) They began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

They chose agnosticism (“We do not know”), but this isn’t a fair answer. Often, people say, “I don’t know” thinking that this is the safe position. In reality, however, 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. If reason won’t convince a person, then perhaps reason isn’t his problem.

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

Mark 12:1-12 (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) And He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.”

This concept of a vineyard Owner and wicked tenants comes from Isaiah 5:1-7. We don’t want to over-interpret every detail in this parable. For instance, “No attempt should be made, however, to identify the wall, the pit, or the tower as the law, the altar, and the temple, respectively, as did the medieval church in its excessive allegorical interpretations. They simply are part of the apparatus of the story.”[281]

Rather, the main point is that the Owner gave a precious commodity into the hands of tenants to watch over. Similarly, God gave the religious leaders the authority to oversee the Temple and the nation of Israel, but these religious men rejected God in the process.

(12:2-5) “At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. 3 They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others.”

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. The beatings only escalate—from mistreatment to murder—over time. The messengers received worse treatment as time went by. 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.

(12:6) “He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’”

The Owner believes that the key problem is that they don’t “respect” these slaves, but they were surely “respect” his son. Right?

(12:7-9) “But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ 8 They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others.”

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 (v.6), they see this as an opportunity to kill him and illegally seize the vineyard. 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). While Isaiah addresses the entire nation (Isa. 5), Jesus focuses his indictment on the leadership.

(12:10-11) “Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; 11 this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

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) And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

The religious leaders got the message, understanding that they were the villains in the story. Instead of staying for another verbal lashing, they flee from Christ.

Summary

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. God often reveals such a self-seeking attitude to us. 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.

In the ensuing narrative, it’s almost as if the religious leaders called a public press conference to grill Jesus with questions. They aim to skewer Jesus with theological traps and loaded questions. Yet, their plan backfires: Jesus answers their questions flawlessly, and he also scores some points of his own…

Mark 12:13-17 (Debate #1: The PHARISEES ask about Caesar and God)

Imagine that this is a press conference. The religious leaders try to trap Jesus with the relationship between the “Church and State.”[282]

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

(12:13) Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement.

The Pharisees and Herodians hated each other, but they hated Jesus even more. This seems to be a case of “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.”[283]

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 came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?”

They are definitely buttering Jesus up, telling him how impartial and truthful that he is. They were trying to get Jesus “to relax his guard and to ruin him at another point.”[284] Then, they very abruptly drop a bomb on him: “Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” The “poll-tax” (kēnsos) is a transliteration of the word “census.” This was a standard tax across the land of Israel.

Instead of asking a strictly theological question, they raise a political question. Ever since Rome initiated taxation of Judea under Archelaus in AD 6, the Jewish people reacted negatively (Josephus, Antiquities 5.1.21). Judas the Galilean had rebelled against this tax, because the people considered foreign taxation as blasphemous (Josephus, Antiquities 18.1.1, 6; Jewish War 2.8.1; Acts 5:37). Though the tax was only a denarius per year, it “was a symbol of foreign domination and because it had to be paid with a coin that bore an image of the emperor and an offensive inscription.”[285] 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.
  • 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.”[286] 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 with the tax, his messianic status would be questioned, and the people would reject him. After all, the Messiah was supposed to dethrone Caesar—not pay him taxes. But if Jesus disagreed with the tax, 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) “Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” 16 They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 17 And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.

“Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” They wanted to pigeon-hole Jesus, forcing him into a black and white answer. But Jesus would have none of it, seeing 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.

“Bring Me a denarius.” Since the tax was one denarius per year (see comments above), Jesus’ request fit with this cultural question.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 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. Brooks writes, “The coin that was minted by the emperor and had his image stamped on it was considered to be his personal property even while it was in circulation. Therefore it was proper for Jews and (later) Christians to return it to him.”[287] 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 sort of things belong to Caesar? Money. But what sort of 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. While the coin contained the words “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus [i.e. ‘son of god’],”[288] Jesus lumped Caesar in with the rest of humanity.

Discussion Questions

What can we learn about how Jesus debated from this passage? What insights from his example can we see?

How much can we learn about a Christian’s relationship with the government from this passage? Is Jesus describing unqualified obedience? Or something else entirely?

Mark 12:18-27 (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) Some Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection) came to Jesus, and began questioning Him.

Mark uses the present tense (“[those] who say that 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.”[289]

(12:19) [They were saying,] “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves behind a wife and leaves no child, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother.”

Instead of a political trap, they offer a theological trap. They cite Deuteronomy 25:5 (and the concept of levirate marriage), which told the Jewish people to marry a widowed woman.

(12:20-23) There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died leaving no children. 21 The second one married her, and died leaving behind no children; and the third likewise; 22 and so all seven left no children. Last of all the woman died also. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”

They are using an argument ad absurdum. Under this approach, a debater adopts the premise of his opponent, and carries 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. If their argument was sound, the concept of resurrection “would be laughed out of court.”[290] (Of course, the real question is why seven men would marry such an unlucky and deadly woman!)

(12:24) Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?

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) “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

Marriage lasts until “death do we part” (cf. Rom. 7:2; 1 Tim. 5:14). Moreover, we will not get remarried in heaven. Thus, Jesus answers their objection by appealing to a faulty premise in their logic.

(12:26-27) “But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.”

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 held such a high view of Scripture that he makes his argument on the verb tenses. Exodus 3 doesn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham.” Rather, 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.”[291]

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about how Jesus maneuvered in debate from this interaction with the Sadducees?

What do we learn about Jesus’ view of the inspiration of Scripture from this passage?

Mark 12:28-34 (Debate #3: A SCRIBE asks about the Law)

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 22:34-40.]

This man may have been a genuine seeker. As he listened to Jesus debate, he observed his wisdom and insight. This caused him to ask a question of his own…

(12:28) One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

Mark’s account is slightly different. He places a “scribe” asking this question, rather than the Pharisees in general (Mt. 22:34). However, since the scribes and Pharisees are so tightly linked, we should consider Mark and Matthew as complementary accounts—surely not contradictory.

This was a quite significant theological test because rabbinical thinkers argued over how to accurately systematize the OT law. The scribes identified 613 law (365 were positive and 248 were negative).[292]

(12:29-31) Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

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).[293]

Our natural problem is that we love ourselves—not God nor our neighbor. The apostles picked up on this teaching as well (Rom. 13:8-9; Gal. 5:14; Jas. 2:8). We wholeheartedly agree with Brooks, when he writes, “The statement “as yourself” does not justify the self-love advocated by modern psychology as necessary for a healthy self-image. It merely acknowledges that human beings do love themselves—far too much in fact—and that God deserves as much—actually far more.”[294]

(12:32-33) The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

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) When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

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

Jesus doesn’t say that this scribe was in the kingdom, because he was citing law—not grace. Yet, Jesus says that this man was 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.”[295]

“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? Most likely, 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. Their central problem was not intellectual or theological, but moral and spiritual. Cole writes, “The lawyer had weighed and appraised the answer that Jesus had made; but to his surprise…, he found that, even as he was answering, Jesus had been appraising him. When humans dare to sit in judgment on the claims of Christ, they find instead that Christ is sitting in judgment on them.”[296]

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.

Mark 12:35-37 (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) And Jesus began to say, as He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself said in the Holy Spirit, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet.”’ 37 David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; so in what sense is He his son?” And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him.

Jesus doesn’t feel satisfied just defending his convictions. Rather, he goes on the offensive in the debate. Now it’s time for his opponents 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? Brooks comments, “The crowd was delighted no doubt because Jesus put the scribes to shame.”[297]

(Mk. 12:35-37) Is Psalm 110 a prophecy of Jesus? (cf. Mt. 22:41-46)

Mark 12:38-40 (Jesus rebukes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 23:1-39 and Luke 20:45-47.]

(12:38-40) In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, 39 and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”

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…” This was the tallith, which was “a shawl worn during formal prayer and other religious acts in the synagogues.”[298] 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.”[299]
  • “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.”[300]
  • “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.”[301]
  • “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.”[302] Josephus notes that the scribes were venerated and that they specifically deceived women (Josephus, Antiquities2.4).
  • “For appearance’s sake offer long prayers…” Religious people typically drone on and on with their prayers. Jesus taught that we should speak simply and personally to God (Mt. 6:5ff).

Regarding these religious leaders, Cole comments, “Greater knowledge and greater opportunities only bring greater responsibility, which can, if rejected, bring greater condemnation.”[303]

Mark 12:41-44 (The widow’s giving)

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

This woman stands in stark contrast to the wealthy and greedy religious leaders.

(12:41) And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.

As a person entered the Temple, they would drop their money in one of thirteen different trumpet-shaped money collectors (m. Sheqalim 6.5). Jesus observed that wealthy members of society were giving “large sums” of money.

(12:42) A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.

A poor woman only gave a single “cent” by comparison. This “small copper coin” (a lepton) was 1/64 of a denarius (or a day’s wage). Mark compares these “coins” (lepta) to a “cent” (kodrantēs), which was the Latin word for an equivalent currency.[304]

(12:43) Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury.”

In God’s economy, the widow gave more than all the contributors” that day. What does Jesus mean by this? He continues…

(12:44) “For they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”

Presumably, this poor widow gave her offering in faith. Knowing that she was poor, she trusted God with her safety, security, and sustenance. Cole comments, “God measures giving, not by what we give, but by what we keep for ourselves.”[305]

Mark 13

Mark 13:1-37 (The Olivet Discourse)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. John doesn’t contain the Olivet Discourse, but he does have an entire 22-chapter book dedicated to the end of human history: the book of 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 mere days before his death. So, he must have wanted his disciples to know about the future before they saw everything seeming to fall apart when Jesus died.

(13:1-2) As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

The Jewish Temple was as beautiful as it was enormous. Josephus writes that the stones were 40 feet long, 18 feet deep, and 12 feet tall.[306] The Talmud records, “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has not seen a beautiful thing.”[307] Tacitus called it “a temple of immense wealth.”[308] The Temple’s courts and attached buildings were so vast that they covered about one-sixth of the city of Jerusalem.[309]

“Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” The fulfillment of this 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.”[310] 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.”[311] Interestingly, 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.”[312] Jesus doesn’t mention the destruction by fire (Josephus, Wars of the Jew, 6.4.5-7), 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) As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately.

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), and John went on to write the book of Revelation which gave more insight into the end of human history.

(13:4) “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”

The disciples ask two questions in Mark, while Matthew includes three.

(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) And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.”

“See to it…” can also be rendered, “Watch out…” (NIV, NET). We see this imperative throughout the chapter (Mk. 13:9, 23 and 33). Jesus opens up this discussion on the end times by warning about false teachers. Two millennia later, many false teachers have flocked to end times prophecy like flies to feces, fulfilling Jesus’ warning.

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.”[313] These false teachers will be claiming Jesus’ authority. Indeed, regarding the statement “I am,” Lane states that this will 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.”[314] Brooks agrees that this could be “an allusion to the divine name.”[315] This corresponds with Paul who writes that the Antichrist “takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:4).

Is Jesus referring to this time period or to the end of human history? Preterists might very well be correct in seeing this period as referring to the history leading up to AD 70, because many messianic pretenders appeared after Jesus died. Consider several examples of false prophets and false messiahs:

  • Theudas (AD 45) led a number of people to the Jordan River, claiming he was a prophet and claiming the ability to divide the water like Moses. Josephus states that “many were deluded by his words.” Fadus sent a troop to kill these people, capture Theudas and decapitate him (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.97-99).
  • An Egyptian impostor claimed to be a “prophet,” and he “advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives.” This unnamed Egyptian predicted that “the walls of Jerusalem would fall down,” and “he promised that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down.” Felix sent in the cavalry and the army to annihilate 400 of these people, taking 200 alive. The Egyptian escaped from this fight and disappeared (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.169-172). This is an expanded account of the brief mention in Acts 21:38.
  • A certain impostor promised the people deliverance, “If they would but follow him as far as the wilderness.” However, Festus sent in the military and “destroyed both him” and those he had “deluded” (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.188).
  • Manahem (the son of Judas) led the revolt during the Jewish War at Masada. When he was eventually found, they publicly “tortured him with many sorts of torments,” and then they “slew him” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.448).
  • Other examples include Theudas, who is different from the man mentioned above (Acts 5:36-37), as well as a couple others (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.448; 6.285-287).

This theme of false teachers comes up throughout the NT. Therefore, we hold that these examples above are the beginnings of a process that continues throughout the entire Church Age. Paul writes, “Let no one in any way deceive you” (2 Thess. 2:3). John writes, “Just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 Jn. 2:18). Then, he writes, “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you” (1 Jn. 2:26). In his second letter, he writes, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 Jn. 7).

Wars, famines, and earthquakes

(13:7-8) “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”

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).”[316] Thus, this could also refer to the first century world—not the end of history. But, once 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). We agree with Cole, who writes, “It is to be noted that neither the ‘primary’ nor ‘continuous’ interpretation rules out a final eschatological fulfilment in addition.”[317] Brooks agrees when he writes that the primary reference of the Olivet Discourse is the destruction of Jerusalem in AD, but this is a “double reference to things in the near future and things in the far future.”[318]

Persecution

(13:9) “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.”

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 (Acts 8:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:16-17), but this could also point forward to the entire Church Age.

(13:10) “The gospel must first be preached to all the nations.”

This is the reason why the disciples would face persecution: their testimony about Jesus. This seems to refer to the Church spreading the gospel to all nations. It’s also possible that this could 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) “When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.”

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. This is a “prohibition against anxiety, not against preparation.”[319] Peter supervised Mark’s gospel, and he likely remembered the fulfillment of this promise, when the Holy Spirit filled him and spoke through him when he stood before the authorities (Acts 4:8).

(13:12) “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.”

This further elaborates on the intensity and severity of the persecution. That is, the persecution would be so horrific that even family members would betray one another! This also shows that the Holy Spirit’s power would not necessarily result in avoiding suffering (see verse 11).

(13:13) “You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”

We think this refers to being saved from physical death at the Second Coming. Since Jesus will quell human rebellion at his return, believers will be physically saved from death at that moment.

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

The Abomination of Desolation

(13:14) “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.”

Matthew makes it clear that Jesus is referring to the book of Daniel, and most likely Daniel 9:27 (Mt. 24:15). In fact, the language of “let the reader understand” fits with Daniel 9 as well: “Give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision… You are to know and discern” (Dan. 9:23, 25).

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, 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).”[320]

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

Did Jewish Zealots perform the abomination? Lane argues that the “abomination of desolation” could have been committed by Jewish Zealots, who occupied the Temple (Jewish Wars 4.3.7). These war criminals and murders were allowed to roam around the Temple (Jewish Wars 4.3.10; 4.5.4), 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).”[321] 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).[322]

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. Moreover, the text predicts that a single individual would destroy the Temple: “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.

One of the key problems with a Preterist reading is that we cannot find a reasonable fulfillment of this event in the first-century. Consequently, a Futurist reading seems more reasonable.

(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) “The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; 16 and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat.”

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 told to flee urgently. 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) “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!”

This would be an especially bad time to have children.

(13:18) “But pray that it may not happen in the winter.”

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 in such conditions. 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).”[323]

(13:19) “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.”

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.”[324] He cites OT examples of this (Jer. 30:7; Joel 2:2), but the problem is that Futurists hold that these OT passages are also 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, his argument would only show that this could be hyperbolic, but not necessarily that it is hyperbolic.

Lane agrees that Jesus’ expression is “virtually a citation”[325] 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). Of course, all orthodox Christians—including Lane—hold that the resurrection has not occurred yet. Therefore, a Preterist interpretation simply cannot consistently bear the weight of the text.

(13:20) “Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.”

“No life would have been saved.” 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).”[326]

“For the sake of the elect.” This doesn’t fit without AD 70 either because “following the flight of the church, few of the ‘elect’ were still in the city.”[327]

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

More false messiahs and false prophets

(13:21-22) “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.”

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 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) “But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.”

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).[328] 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 strongly 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”). We hold that Jesus must be referring to the end of history after verse 10.

The Second Coming

(13:24-25) “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.”

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) “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

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) “And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.”

Jesus will use angelic agency to gather believers at this time. These believers just escaped the final world war—a war that would’ve ended all life on Earth (Mt. 24:22). Thus, they will be in bad shape and in desperate need of rescue.

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

Parable of the fig tree

(13:28-29) “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”

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.”[329]

(13:30) “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

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.[330] But 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). If verses 24-27 are excluded, then Jesus should have said “some of these things…”

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

(13:31) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Jesus’ predictions seem hard to understand and perhaps 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.” Indeed, Jesus places his words on par with Yahweh’s words in the OT (Isa. 40:8).

Application: Be ready!

(13:32) “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

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) “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.”

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) “It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 35 Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”

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. This is for “all” Christians, not just Jesus’ immediate audience.[331]

Discussion Questions

People often say, “Studying the end times is a waste of time. We should focus on the here and now—not prophecies about the end of the world.” How would you reply to this oft-repeated objection?

Define the words Preterism and Futurism? What are the key differences between these two views?

In your mind, what are some of the hardest passages for a Preterist to interpret in the Olivet Discourse? What are some of the hardest passages for a Futurist to interpret? Both schools have difficulties, but which view makes better sense of the text overall?

Do you think it’s wrong to speculate about the Bible’s picture of the events at the end of history? What are ways to guard us from becoming fanatical about our speculations?

In their book The Underground Church (2014), Bach and Zhu note that the Chinese government will not let “official churches” teach about the Second Coming of Christ. (As a result, many Chinese Christians have gone “underground” into unofficial house churches.) Why do you think the Second Coming of Christ would be such a controversial doctrine? In your opinion, how important is this doctrine to the Christian faith?

Mark 14

(14:1-2) Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; 2 for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.”

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 the sunrise of 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.[332] The religious leaders had wanted to kill Jesus for some time (Mk. 3:6; 11:18; 12:12).

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, and the “population of the city swelled from ca. 50,000 to 250,000 persons.”[333]

Mark 14:3-9 (Why this waste?)

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

(14:3) While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head.

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). The home may have been owned by Simon the leper, while the children lived there (e.g. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus).[334]

Nard was an expensive aromatic oil that came “from a root native to India.”[335] 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). These alabaster flasks couldn’t be open and closed like Tupperware. Once they were broken, the contents of the vial needed to be used. Because of their very high value, women usually owned these for their dowry or their retirement. This woman (Mary) used 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, which was roughly a full year’s salary (Mk. 14:5; Jn. 12:5).

(14:4-5) But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her.

The disciples considered this woman’s offering to be wasteful. They were even “scolding” her. In a 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. Moreover, this makes sense of why Mark follows up this narrative with Judas leaving to betray Jesus (vv.10-11).

Is it a “waste” to invest in Jesus? To begin, we should define the term “waste.” A good working definition of “waste” would be spending our resources on something that doesn’t have any benefit, reward, or profit. From Judas’ perspective, Jesus didn’t have any value, and so, this was a wantonly wasteful act on Mary’s behalf. After all, she just dumped a year’s salary on Jesus’ feet. What a waste of resources!

Mary may have second-guessed herself: Was what she did a waste? Not at all. Jesus comes to her defense…

(14:6) But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me.”

Jesus doesn’t consider Mary’s act to be a waste at all. In fact, he calls this a “good deed.” Spending our lives on Jesus is the best investment we could ever make.

(14:7) “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.”

This passage implies that we should normally use our money to help the poor (cf. Deut. 15:11). Indeed, Jesus’ earlier teaching on helping the Christian poor (Mt. 25:31-46) implies that caring for the poor is caring for him.

(14:8) “She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.”

Jesus was thinking about his death on the Cross when he saw this happen. Since Joseph of Arimathea took the body and prepared it for burial, the women didn’t have an opportunity to anoint him with oil beforehand.

(14:9) “Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

Jesus’ prediction came true: Today, nearly 2,000 years later, we are still talking about what she did.

Conclusions

Imagine being Mary. 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.

Discussion Questions

It makes sense that Judas would consider living for Christ to be a waste. But the disciples also held this view. We still see this today. How could a genuine Christian consider commitment to Christ to be a “waste”? What might lead them to hold such a perspective?

Mark 14:10-11 (Judas sets a plan in motion to betray Jesus)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:14-16 and Luke 22:3-6.]

(14:10) Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them.

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. Like Mary, Judas was making a cost-benefit analysis of his own, and he wanted to cash-in on his relationship with Jesus before it was too late. 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). Judas realized that he could profit off of this situation because he was one of Jesus’ close followers.

(14:11) They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.

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, status, or achievement. Indeed, we will even sacrifice our families and relationships for our measly “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?

Mark 14:12-16 (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)

(14:12-16) On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 13 And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 15 And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” 16 The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

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.”[336] 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.

Mark 14:17-31 (The Passover meal)

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

(14:17) When it was evening He came with the twelve.

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.[337] The celebration had a certain format:[338]

  • 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) As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me.” 19 They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?”

Judas must have been a very keen liar and hypocrite. After all, the disciples were quicker to implicate themselves, 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) And He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl.”

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 a bowl that contained “a sauce consisting of dried fruits, spices, and wine or vinegar.”[339] 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) “For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

God predicted that the Messiah would be betrayed, but Judas had the freewill to choose this. Consequently, Judas is clearly in hell, demonstrating that universalism is false. After all, if Judas 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) While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.”

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.”[340] 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) And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

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.”[341]

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 is a Semitism that would include Gentiles, as well as Jews.[342] Far from limiting the atonement, this is expanding it far beyond what the disciples would’ve thought (cf. Mk. 10:45).

(14:25) “Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

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 would not drink wine again until the kingdom is inaugurated.

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

(14:26) After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

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).

(14:27) And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.’”

Jesus predicts that the disciples will all betray him. This was also an OT prediction (see Zechariah 13:7), and it came to fulfillment just as Jesus claimed (Mk. 14:43-50).

(14:28) “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

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. The angel confirms the fulfillment of this prediction at Jesus’ empty tomb (Mk. 16:7).

(14:29) But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.”

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) And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.”

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.”[343]

(14:31) But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also.

Peter’s boasting couldn’t even be stopped by Jesus’ prediction (v.30). He just kept right on going with his oaths and promises. At the same time, we shouldn’t be too hard on just Peter, because “all” of the disciples were making similar boasts.

Discussion Questions

What should we learn from Peter’s example of making an oath to never betray Jesus? Is the lesson that we should never make oaths?

Mark 14:32-42 (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 while the disciples are sleeping. This is why the “historicity of the account is rarely questioned.”[344]]

(14:32) They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.”

Gethsemane was at the bottom of the Mount of Olives. This is a transliteration of two Hebrew words that mean “oil press,” which might imply that this area had an olive press.[345] John is the one who tells us that this prayer took place in a “garden” (Jn. 18:1), and it was a familiar location to Jesus and the disciples (Lk. 22:39; Jn. 18:2). While we don’t know the exact location, it was “almost certainly it was on the lower slopes of the western side of the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley (John 18:1) and opposite the temple area.”[346]

Jesus 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) And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.”

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,”[347] or “horror and anguish overwhelmed him.”[348] 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.”[349]

“Keep watch” (grēgoreite) is later used by Peter in his first letter: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert” (1 Pet. 5:8). Peter failed to stay alert in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, but he later learned this lesson.

(14:35-36) And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

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 the most 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.[350]

Jesus saw no contradiction with the idea that God loves us like a Father, and yet he calls on us to suffer. The “cup” refers to the wrath of God.

(2) It isn’t sinful to ask God to spare us from suffering. Jesus prays this multiple times (v.42, 44).

(3) Jesus 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) And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

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) Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words.

Jesus kept praying until he was sure of the answer.

(14:40-41) And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 And He came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

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. The disciples were so obviously “busted” for their lack of prayer and support that even Peter was at a loss for words (“they did not know what to answer Him”).

Earlier, Jesus prayed that the “hour” would pass (v.35). Now, he says, “The hour has come!” (NASB, ESV). Moreover, when Jesus said, “It is enough,” this can also be rendered, “It is settled.”[351] Jesus knew that his fate was sealed, and he goes out to face it bravely.

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).”[352]

(14:42) “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

It’s too late for the disciples to pray now. They had their opportunity and lost it. Judas had arrived with a cohort of troops behind him!

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about prayer from Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Mark 14:43-52 (Judas betrays Jesus)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:47-56, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:2-11.]

(14:43) Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.

Jesus couldn’t finish these words before Judas walked up in the middle of the night, surrounded by guards. Mark states that a “crowd” appeared. This could be his way of describing the Temple police (Lk. 22:52) and the Romans soldiers (Jn. 18:3). Or, perhaps this was a crowd of people that accompanied the official authorities.

(14:44-45) Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” 45 After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

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 (or what theologians call the “noetic effects 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) Even Jesus seemed surprised to some degree regarding Judas’ hypocrisy. It is a terrible testimony to human depravity that “Judas could live so close to Jesus for three years, and yet could steel his heart against him like this.”[353]

(14:46) They laid hands on Him and seized Him.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus calls him, “Friend” (Mt. 26:50). Why doesn’t he call him “Liar!” or “Hypocrite!”?

(14:47) But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.

John tells us that this was Peter who struck the slave (Jn. 18:10). This is really a pitiful attempt to show loyalty and fidelity to Christ. After all, there is a massive assembly of guards. John records that Judas brought a “Roman cohort” with him (Jn. 18:2), and all Peter can do is cut the ear off of a single slave! He couldn’t even kill the poor guy—just maim him.

Luke adds that Jesus rebuked Peter for doing this: “Stop! No more of this” (Lk. 22:51). Luke also adds that Jesus healed the slave on the spot (Lk. 22:51).

(14:48-49) And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 49 Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.”

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).

The term “robber” (lēstēs) more likely refers to a “revolutionary, insurrectionist, guerrilla” (BDAG, p.594). While the term can refer to a thief, the context favors the interpretation that Jesus was being treated as some sort of violent and dangerous zealot. Mark later uses this word to clearly refer to a violent insurrectionist (Mk. 15:7), as does Josephus (Wars of the Jews, 2.254).

(14:50) And they all left Him and fled.

Jesus’ appeal to the veracity of Scripture is now fulfilled by the disciples abandoning Jesus (see v.27; Zech. 13:7; Isa. 53:12). At this moment, Jesus also requested that the guards would leave his disciples alone (Jn. 18:8).

(14:51-52) 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.

Who is this naked and fleeing man? Mark is the only gospel to record this mysterious “streaker.” Some believe that this is Mark himself, the author of this gospel. 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.”[354] However, this isn’t likely. For one, this is merely conjecture, because the person is never explicitly named. Second, Papias (AD 130) stated that Mark “neither heard the Lord nor followed him” (Church History, 3.39.15). Third, other Church Fathers conjectured that this was John the apostle or James the half-brother of Jesus (see Ambrose and Epiphanius). Therefore, there was definite disagreement as to who this figure was.

Whoever it was, the young man likely darted from a nearby house in the middle of the night when he heard the news that Jesus was being arrested. This would explain why he only had a sheet wrapped around his body.[355]

Mark 14:53-65 (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).]

Is Mark’s courtroom scene historically unreliable? Critics argue that Mark doesn’t follow Sanhedrin court procedure. They claim that the Sanhedrin wouldn’t have held a court case 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),[356] and therefore, critics consider this NT account to be very unlikely historically. According to Jewish procedure:

  • Trials were not held at night (m. Sanhedrin 4.1).
  • Trials could not be held before a Sabbath or festival day (m. Sanhedrin 4.1).
  • Trials could not be held in the palace of the high priest (m. Sanhedrin 11.2).

However, there are multiple problems with this claim. For one, all of this material comes from the Mishnah, which was completed in AD 220. The Mishnah contains “a miscellaneous collection of traditions from various rabbis during the three previous centuries” and “dating individual traditions is difficult and even impossible.”[357] Therefore, it’s difficult to know if these laws were instantiated in Jesus’ day (~200 years earlier).

Second, even if these laws were in use, there is no reason to firmly state that they were being followed.

Third, Mark is describing an informal trial—not a formal one. Consequently, “none of the prescriptions of the Mishna would be applicable.”[358] The Sanhedrin could only assess guilt or innocence, but they couldn’t carry out the punishment itself. For this, they needed to send the guilty person to the Romans to 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.”[359]

Fourth, other rabbinical teaching held that an offender could and should be punished before a festival. 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 that “the offender should be punished on one of the pilgrimage feasts (The Tosephta Sanhedrin XI. 7).”[360]

(14:53) They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together.

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, fulfilling Mark 8:31.

Caiaphas was the high priest from AD 18-37 (Mt. 26:57). He must have been a strong leader to rule for 19 years, when “the average term of office was only four years.”[361]

(14:54) Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire.

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. He was “warming himself at the fire,” because Jerusalem is roughly 3,200 feet above sea level and the spring mornings are quite cold.[362] Peter was likely shivering from the cold (as well as from his nerves).

(14:55-57) Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. 57 Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him.

This was a witch hunt. They didn’t care about the truth; they just wanted Jesus dead. But Jesus was so squeaky clean that they couldn’t even find false witnesses to accuse him coherently. They needed at least two witnesses to have Jesus killed according to biblical law (Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Num. 35:30) and extra-biblical practice (M. Sanhedrin 6.1; Josephus, Antiquities 4.8.15). 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.”[363]

(14:58) [They were] saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’”

Mark doesn’t record this original claim from of Jesus, but John does (Jn. 2:19). Incidentally, this shows further interlocking between these texts. Indeed, without the reference in John, we would “be at a loss to explain the charge except as a pure fabrication.”[364]

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. Indeed, 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.”[365] Jesus’ mockers later taunted him with this in Mark 15:29.

(14:59) Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.

The witnesses were contradicting each other. Mark is further demonstrating that this was a kangaroo court.

(14:60-61) The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 61 But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

So far, they didn’t have an acceptable basis for finding legal guilt, because the witnesses were contradicting each other. Jesus didn’t feel the need to defend himself from such inconsistent and flimsy charges.

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. After all, 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 his silence 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) And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

“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.’”[366]

“…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. Moreover, Jesus’ use of the self-designation “Son of Man” is clearly being lifted from Daniel 7—not the book of Ezekiel or anywhere else. 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.”[367]

(14:63-64) Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

“Tearing his clothes.” This was a way to show grief, shock, or alarm (Gen. 37:29, 34; 2 Kin. 18:37; 19:1; Jer. 41:5; Acts 14:14). But it was also an official act that showed the guilt of the accused (m. Sanhedrin 7.5).

Having heard Jesus’ confession, Caiaphas calls for the people to confirm Jesus’ guilt. They “all” uniformly condemned Jesus to death. Leviticus considered blasphemy to be 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) Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.

Because Jesus was “blindfolded,” they were sadistically asking him to “prophesy” who hit him (cf. Isa. 50:6). To paraphrase, 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).[368]

Mark 14:66-72 (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 public image, Peter actually fails even harder than before. In fact, this is the worst fall of Peter’s entire life. 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) As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.”

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.”[369]

It was dark at night, so once they kindled the fire, the girl began to recognize Peter (Lk. 22:56). 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) But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the porch.

Peter uses “the form common in rabbinical law for a formal, legal denial (e.g. M. Shebuoth VIII. 3).”[370]

(14:69) The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!”

Again, the “mighty Peter” cannot even keep his vow to another little girl!

Denial #2

(14:70) But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.”

“He denied it.” The use of the imperfect tense means that Peter “kept on denying it.”

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.”[371] Lemke writes, “Galileans pronounced gutturals peculiarly and had a sort of lisp.”[372]

Denial #3

(14:71) But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!”

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 is bringing down a curse on “himself if he is lying and [on] those present if they insist on asserting that he is a disciple.”[373]

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.”[374]

Luke adds that they were transporting Jesus through the courtyard at this time, and Jesus “turned at looked at Peter” (Lk. 22:61). Jesus must have heard Peter deny him, but Jesus didn’t say a word. He just silently stared at Peter. But the look on Jesus’ face was surely worth a thousand words.

(14:72) Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep.

Peter remembered Jesus’ prediction (v.30), and he wept bitter tears. God broke Peter’s self-reliance through this episode. We don’t read about Peter again until we hear the prediction that Jesus will appear to Peter after his resurrection (Mk. 16:7).

Discussion Questions

What is your reaction to these insights from Miles Stanford? Stanford writes, “It is more than comforting to realize that it is those who have plumbed the depths of failure to whom God invariably gives the call to shepherd others. This is not a call given to the gifted, the highly trained, or the polished as such. Without a bitter experience of their own inadequacy and poverty they are quite unfitted to bear the burden of spiritual ministry. It takes a man who has discovered something of the measures of his own weakness to be patient with the foibles of others. Such a man also has a first-hand knowledge of the loving care of the Chief Shepherd, and His ability to heal one who has come humbly to trust in Him and Him alone. Therefore he does not easily despair of others, but looks beyond sinfulness, willfulness, and stupidity, to the might of unchanging love. The Lord Jesus does not give the charge, ‘Be a shepherd to My lambs … to My sheep,’ on hearing Peter’s self-confident affirmation of undying loyalty. But He gives it after he has utterly failed to keep his vows and has wept bitterly in the streets of Jerusalem.”[375]

Mark 15

[Judas hangs himself at this point in Matthew 27:3-10. Mark excludes this narrative]

Mark 15:1-15 (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) Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate.

After gaining their conviction, they sent Jesus to Pilate, who most likely lived in the palace of the Herods.[376] At this point, Jesus had been up all night, and he must’ve been absolutely exhausted.

The reason that they came “early in the morning” is because Roman governors like Pilate would oversee legal cases first thing in the morning (see Seneca On Anger 2.7.3).

The Sanhedrin could cast a vote for the death penalty, but they couldn’t carry it out, because they were underneath Roman 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, and “this was one of the most carefully guarded prerogatives of the Roman government and permitted no concessions.”[377] Pilate wouldn’t have had Jesus killed for blasphemy, but he would have had him killed for treason (i.e. claiming to be the messianic king). This is why Pilate focuses his interrogation on this topic.

(15:2) Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “It is as you say.”

“King of the Jews.” This is a title that a foreigner like Pilate would use.[378] The Jews themselves would use the title “King of Israel” (v.32). This shift in language demonstrates Mark’s accuracy.

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.” Jesus is being intentionally enigmatic, because Pilate is asking such a loaded question: “Jesus was a King, not in the political sense that the Jews and Pilate understood but in a spiritual sense.”[379]

(15:3) The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly.

At this point in the account, Luke tells us that the religious leaders began to claim that Jesus forbid the paying of taxes and claimed to be a king (Lk. 23:2).

(15:4-5) Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!” 5 But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.

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

[Luke adds that Jesus meets Herod Antipas at this point. See 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) Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested.

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”).

Did the governor release a prisoner during Passover? 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… 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.”[380]

(15:7) The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection.

What do we know about Barabbas? Matthew simply says that he was a “notorious prisoner” (Mt. 27:16). Mark adds that he was an “insurrectionist” 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 which insurrection Barabbas participated in, but these were common during this time period (Lk. 13:1; Josephus, Antiquities 18.1.1; 3.2).

(15:8) The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them.

The crowd was pressing Pilate for the annual custom of amnesty.

(15:9) Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”

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) For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.

Pilate wasn’t friendly to the Jewish people. In fact, history tells us that he was fiercely anti-Semitic (Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.1-2; 4.1-2; War 2.9.2-4; Philo, Embassy to Gaius 38). He didn’t want to cause a riot simply because the religious leaders wanted a man dead.

(15:11) But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead.

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) Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” 14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!”

Again, Pilate wants the crowd to publicly make this decision, so that he wouldn’t be responsible for the consequences. It’s quite likely that some of these same people were calling out “Hosanna! Hosanna!” just days earlier.

(15:15) Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

This is a picture of substitution: A “notorious prisoner” is released from judgment, and Jesus is killed in his place.[381] 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”).

Discussion Questions

Some argue that Pilate wasn’t responsible for the death of Jesus, and he was forced into this by the pressure of the religious authorities and the crowds. How would you respond to this claim?

Mark 15:16-20 (Mocked by the military guards)

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 27:27-30.]

(15:16) The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort.

The Praetorium wasn’t a fixed place, but rather, it was “wherever a high Roman official held court and conducted other business.”[382] It could be one of the buildings in Jerusalem or even an outdoor court. Wherever it was, it was the residence and office of Pontius Pilate. Traditionally, Jesus’ trial is held to be at the fortress Antonia on the northwest side of the Temple.[383] However, it’s more likely that Pilate stayed in Herod’s palace, rather than with the soldiers in a fort (Wars of the Jews, 2.14.8; 15.5). If this is the case, then the trial occurred on the western side of the city.

After his scourging, Jesus faced a Roman cohort and suffered public 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.”[384] The Romans would’ve desired to mock Jesus to show the Jewish people what happens if a “king” should arise to challenge Caesar. Cole writes, “Jewish nationalism led to the arrest of Jesus and Roman nationalism to his mockery and his cross: so deep in all things human is the ‘old nature.’”[385]

(15:17-19) They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; 18 and they began to acclaim Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him.

The Romans most likely stripped Jesus naked before putting this robe on him. Being stripped naked is always publicly disgraceful, but it is especially embarrassing in such a modest culture. Then, they placed a purple robe over his shoulders, creating a twisted macabre theater to humiliate Jesus. This humiliation was a follow up to the treatment Jesus had already received from the religious leaders (Mk. 14:65). All of this fulfilled Jesus’ predictions about the future (Mk. 10:34).

(15:20) After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.

Luke adds that a group of women followed him (Lk. 23:27).

Mark 15:21-32 (The Crucifixion)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:31-34, Luke 23:26-33, and John 19:16-17.]

(15:21) They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.

It was common for a condemned person to carry his own cross (Plutarch, Moralia 554 A; Artemidorus, Oneirokritika 2.56). Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross—probably because Jesus’ body couldn’t take 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 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 eyewitness testimony. For one, Simon’s children are both mentioned (e.g. Alexander and Rufus). Why? We might think that Mark added his sons names to distinguish who Simon was, but Mark already did this by calling him “Simon of Cyrene.” It’s more likely that Mark added the names of the sons because these two were well known to Mark’s audience, and Lane agrees that they “seem to have been well known to his readers.”[386] However, Matthew and Luke omit the names of the sons, which could imply that they were later unknown to Matthew and Luke. This is speculation to some extent, but the omission of the names of Simon’s sons could either be because these sons died in that time, or that the sons were 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.”[387]

(15:22) Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.

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) and “outside the gate” of the city (Heb. 13:12).

(15:23) They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it.

What is the “wine mixed with myrrh”? 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.”[388] This was common for women to do this for crucifixion victims 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) And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take.

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) It was the third hour when they crucified Him.

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) The inscription of the charge against Him read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

Rome would place a certificate of debt above the crucifixion victim, publicly communicating to the passersby what they did to deserve death (Juvenal, Satires 6.230; Pliny the Younger, Epistles 6.10.3; 19.3; Suetonius, Life of Caligula 32; Life of Domitian 10). Yet Jesus committed no sin. In a great moment of irony, 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) They crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left.

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.”[389] 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.”[390]

(15:28) [And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with transgressors.”]

Early manuscripts do not contain this verse from Isaiah 53. Indeed, Matthew follows Mark very closely in this section, and he skips over this verse.

(15:29) Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.”

This fulfilled Psalm 22:7 and Psalm 109:25. The words “hurling abuse” is literally to “blaspheme” Jesus.

(15:30) “Save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”

Jesus’ statement about the Temple was being misused against him (Jn. 2:19-21), but this really shows how seriously the Jewish people venerated the Temple. Of all the things Jesus claimed, this is the claim that they brought up so frequently when he is on the Cross.

(15:31) In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.”

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. But in their insults, they affirm a key truth about Jesus: They affirmed that Jesus did indeed “save others” through his ministry of miracles. Thus, even by insulting Jesus, they inadvertently paid him a compliment.

(15:32) “Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.

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.

“Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.” 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 later changed his mind and came to faith in Christ at the very last moment of his life (Lk. 23:40-43).

Mark 15:33-41 (Jesus dies)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:45-50, Luke 23:44-46, and John 19:28-30.]

(15:33) When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.

The darkness occurred from noon until 3pm (“sixth hour… ninth hour”). Mark agrees with Matthew, Luke, and John that the darkness occurred from noon until 3pm (Mk. 15:33; cf. Lk. 23:44).

What is the meaning of the darkness? Darkness was a symbol for God’s judgment in the OT (Amos 8:9ff; Ex. 10:21), and Philo (a first century Jewish author) held that it represented “either the death of kings or the destruction of cities” (Philo De Providentia 2.50).[391]

 (15:34) At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

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! It implicitly means that Jesus was giving up his Father, so that we could have his Father. It means that God gave up his Son, so that we can become his sons. This was the price Jesus paid to “give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). This prayer is as shocking as it is breathtakingly beautiful.

“Why have you forsaken Me?” The term “forsaken” (egkataleipo) means “to separate connection with someone or something, forsake, abandon, desert” (BDAG). At the Cross, Jesus became sin, so that we can be declared righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).

(15:35) When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.”

They made this false inference because Jesus was calling out to “Eloi, Eloi.” They may have also inferred this from the fact that Elijah was expected to precede the Messiah (Mk. 9:11). Lane adds, “Later Jewish sources illumine the popular belief that Elijah will come in times of critical need to protect the innocent and rescue the righteous.”[392]

(15:36) Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.”

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… 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.”[393] This was a fulfillment of Psalm 69:21.

(15:37) And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.

Usually, crucifixion victims died from slow, agonizing exhaustion, resulting in their body failing and losing consciousness. 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. Jesus was even in control of his death itself (Jn. 10:17-18).

The Aftermath

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:51-56 and Luke 23:45-49.]

(15:38) And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

This demonstrates that the way to God had been opened (Heb. 10:20), and the barriers between humans had been removed (Eph. 2:14). 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 also contain this note that the Temple veil was torn in two (Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45).

(15:39) When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

While the religious leaders rejected Christ, this pagan Roman centurion came to faith. This shows that even one of the killers of Christ could become a follower of Jesus. This is an inclusio with the opening of Mark’s gospel (Mk. 1:1).

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.”[394]

(15:40-41) There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. 41 When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

Many women were watching these events. This is an interesting juxtaposition because the male disciples had fled in fear. These women had been personally healed by Jesus (Lk. 8:1-3). Salome was the mother of James and John (Mt. 27:56).

Mark 15:42-47 (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 evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.

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 6.29).[395] Thus, burial depended on the governor’s mercy. Yet, we should keep several other factors in mind.

For one, Joseph of Arimathea must’ve had some clout and influence as “a prominent member of the Council,” 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 states, “We consider it a duty to bury even enemies” (Wars of the Jews 3.8.5).[396]

Third, Jewish burials should occur before sundown (Deut. 21:23; cf. M. Sanhedrin VI. 6; TB Sanhedrin 46b, Baraitha).[397] 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.”[398]

Fourth, we have examples of governors releasing the body of crucified victims. For instance, Cicero allowed Catiline’s men to be buried, because he had mercy on their wives (Plutarch, Antonius 2; Cicero, Orationes Philippicae 2.7.17). Philo states that the bodies would be released because of a great festival (Against Flaccus 10. § 83).[399] However, we should note that if a person was guilty of high treason, the body was not released for burial.

Mark notes that Joseph was a “prominent member of the Council [i.e. the Sanhedrin]” (Mk. 15:43; cf. Lk. 23:50). Luke adds that Joseph of Arimathea “had not consented to their plan and action” (Lk. 23:51), and John explains that Joseph was a “secret disciple of Jesus” (Jn. 19:38). Nicodemus also helped to bury the body (Jn. 19:39).

(15:44-45) Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.

The Romans had mastered the art and science of execution. Jesus was surely dead when they took him down from the Cross (see “The Execution of Jesus”). Typically, a person guilty of high treason wouldn’t be allowed burial. But, as we’ve seen, Pilate wasn’t convinced that Jesus was a person guilty of sedition.

(15:46) Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

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—namely, the criterion of embarrassment. Why would Christians place the story of the burial of Jesus in the hands of a Sanhedrinist, when the Sanhedrin voted to have Jesus killed (Mk. 14:55). Brooks writes, “The historicity of the account is firm. The early church would not have invented a story about Jesus being buried by a Jewish leader, who at most was a secret disciple, rather than his family or close disciples. Nor would invention have made women the chief witnesses of the event.”[400]

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.”[401] Lane adds, “Only a few tombs with such rolling stones are known in Palestine, but all of them date from the period of Jesus.”[402]

(15:47) Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid.

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

 

Mark 16:1-8 (Jesus is risen!)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 28:1-8, Luke 24:1-8, and John 20:1.]

(16:1) When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.

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. John records that Nicodemus wrapped the body with 75 pounds of spices (Jn. 19:39-40). Their desires to anoint the body of Jesus surely “indicates that the woman did not expect a resurrection.”[403]

(16:2) Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

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.[404]

(16:3) They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

The women wanted to anoint Jesus’ 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) Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.

The movement of the enormous stone was the first sign of a supernatural event. The women likely had goosebumps as they walked toward the tomb in the dark morning light.

(16:5) Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.

This is “young man” is 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.”[405] Second, he had divine revelation of the resurrection. Third, the women were “amazed” at this individual, and only Mark uses this strong word (cf. Mk. 9:15).[406] Fourth, the other gospels report the appearance of angels at the tomb. Fifth, extrabiblical literature uses the term “young man” (neaniskos) to refer to an angel (2 Macc. 3:26, 33; Antiquities 5.8.2).

(16:6) And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.”

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) “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’”

The mention of Peter and the disciples is an inclusio with Mark 1:36. Moreover, in Mark 14:28, Jesus had promised that he would rise from the dead and go ahead of the disciples to Galilee.

(16:8) They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

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] 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). R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 59.

[2] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 73.

[3] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 618.

[4] U. Becker, “Gospel, Evangelize, Evangelist,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 108.

[5] U. Becker, “Gospel, Evangelize, Evangelist,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 108.

[6] U. Becker, “Gospel, Evangelize, Evangelist,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 107.

[7] Plutarch, Pompey, 66; Heliodorus, of Emesa.

[8] Lucian, Pro Lapsu inter Salutandum, 3; Pausanias, the Periegete.

[9] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 104.

[10] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 39.

[11] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 39.

[12] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 47.

[13] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 52.

[14] Cited in William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974).

[15] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 51.

[16] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 42.

[17] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 55.

[18] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 42.

[19] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 622.

[20] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 43.

[21] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 108.

[22] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 57.

[23] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 108.

[24] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 44.

[25] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 110.

[26] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 62.

[27] Lane William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 61.

[28] 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.)

[29] Lane William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 61.

[30] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 47.

[31] Lane William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 67.

[32] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 48.

[33] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 71.

[34] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 50.

[35] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 114.

[36] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 114-115.

[37] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 74.

[38] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 74.

[39] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 73.

[40] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 115.

[41] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 52-53.

[42] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 53.

[43] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 55.

[44] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 86.

[45] See footnote. R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 118.

[46] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 87.

[47] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 88.

[48] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 91.

[49] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 57.

[50] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 632.

[51] Cited in William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974).

[52] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 176.

[53] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 882.

[54] Emphasis mine. Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 137.

[55] Cited in Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p.425.

[56] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 633.

[57] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 633.

[58] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 123.

[59] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 62.

[60] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 103-104.

[61] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 62.

[62] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974).

[63] Emphasis his. William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 110.

[64] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 637.

[65] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 129.

[66] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 66.

[67] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 66.

[68] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 68.

[69] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 68.

[70] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 132.

[71] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 133.

[72] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 68.

[73] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 125.

[74] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 640.

[75] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 641.

[76] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 642.

[77] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 133.

[78] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.237.

[79] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.238.

[80] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 134.

[81] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” in Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 67.

[82] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.239.

[83] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.239.

[84] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.170.

[85] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 643.

[86] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 644.

[87] See footnote. William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 138-139.

[88] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 141.

[89] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.202.

[90] Emphasis mine. J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [New York: Revell], 2:59. Cited in Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 646.

[91] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” in Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 81.

[92] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 77.

[93] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 150.

[94] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 149.

[95] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 150.

[96] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 151.

[97] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 83.

[98] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 83.

[99] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 159.

[100] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 159.

[101] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 152.

[102] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 161.

[103] See footnote. James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 84.

[104] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 169.

[105] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 85.

[106] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 171.

[107] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 172.

[108] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 175.

[109] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 176.

[110] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 655.

[111] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 177.

[112] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 178.

[113] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 89.

[114] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.166-167.

[115] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 89.

[116] Mark Roberts, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), p.153.

[117] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.150.

[118] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 89.

[119] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 657.

[120] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” in Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 87.

[121] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.282.

[122] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 158.

[123] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.167.

[124] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 90.

[125] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 657.

[126] Emphasis mine. William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 182.

[127] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 90.

[128] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 658.

[129] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), p.9.

[130] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), pp.9-10.

[131] We are indebted to one of Tim Keller’s sermons for this insight.

[132] Craig Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Vol. 2, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), p.46.

[133] P. P. Levertoff, St. Matthew (1940), p. 26. Cited in R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.169.

[134] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 162.

[135] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 187.

[136] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 188.

[137] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 659.

[138] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 660.

[139] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 660.

[140] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 92.

[141] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 661.

  1. The Mishnah

[142] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974).

[143] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 164.

[144] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” in Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 90.

[145] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 197.

[146] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 168.

[147] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 198-199.

[148] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 199.

[149] Origen appealed to an errant textual variant of Mark and Matthew 13:55 to state that the NT never calls Jesus a carpenter (Against Celsus 6.36). See William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 202.

[150] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 204.

[151] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 100.

[152] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 101.

[153] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 102.

[154] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 667.

[155] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 208-209.

[156] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 174.

[157] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 102.

[158] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 669.

[159] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 213.

[160] 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.

[161] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 216.

[162] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 217.

[163] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 221.

[164] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 670.

[165] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 222.

[166] Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts (Chillicothe, OH: DeWard Publishing Co., 2017), Kindle Location 1552.

[167] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 109.

[168] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 674.

[169] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 231.

[170] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 234.

[171] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 110.

[172] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), p.569.

[173] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 235.

[174] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 676.

[175] 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.

[176] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 236.

James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 111.

[177] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” in Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 99.

[178] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 676.

[179] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 234.

[180] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 183.

[181] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 112.

[182] 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.

[183] 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.

[184] 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.

[185] 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.

[186] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 240.

[187] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 678.

[188] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 246.

[189] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 245.

[190] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 248-249.

[191] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 116.

[192] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 250.

[193] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 251.

[194] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 117.

[195] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 188.

[196] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 680.

[197] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 118.

[198] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 120.

[199] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 682.

[200] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 263.

[201] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 123.

[202] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 194.

[203] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 123.

[204] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 266-267.

[205] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 195-196.

[206] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 274.

[207] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 130.

[208] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 275.

[209] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” in Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 107.

[210] Cited in William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974).

[211] Cited in William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974).

[212] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 133.

[213] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 285.

[214] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 203.

[215] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 285.

[216] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 285.

[217] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 204.

[218] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 133.

[219] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 288.

[220] William Lane, The Gospel of Mark: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p.289.

[221] Craig Keener, Matthew (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), in loc.

[222] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 304.

[223] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 210.

[224] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 307.

[225] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 306.

[226] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 697.

[227] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 697.

[228] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 697.

[229] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 211.

[230] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 212.

[231] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 212.

[232] Jim Elliot, Journal Entry (Oct. 28, 1949).

[233] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 141.

Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.112.

[234] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.263.

[235] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.384.

[236] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 142.

[237] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 215.

[238] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), p.9.

[239] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), pp.9-10.

[240] We are indebted to one of Tim Keller’s sermons for this insight.

[241] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.385.

[242] William Lane, The Gospel of Mark: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p.317.

[243] Cited in footnote of William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 325.

[244] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 220.

[245] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 147.

[246] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 225.

[247] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 391.

[248] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974).

[249] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 154.

[250] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 229.

[251] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 349.

[252] Moreover, Herod Antipas had just had a recent divorce and remarriage with Herodias (Mk. 6:17-18), and Jesus’ answer would likely get him in hot water with the authorities.

[253] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 158.

[254] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 234.

[255] Craig L. Blomberg. “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Celibacy: An Exegesis of Matthew 19:3-12.” Trinity Journal Volume 11 (1990), p.173.

[256] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 238.

[257] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 364.

[258] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 365.

[259] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 162.

[260] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 240.

[261] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 163.

[262] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 238.

[263] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 242.

[264] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 240.

[265] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 374.

[266] John implies that he lived a long time (Jn. 21:21-23), and he was exiled in Patmos (Rev. 1:9). Tertullian (AD 200) wrote, “The Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile!” (On the Prescription of Heretics, 36). This seems like a case of hagiography, but perhaps there is a historical core to this account, because it comes in the context of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, which are multiply attested (cf. 1 Clement 5).

[267] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 169.

[268] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 172.

[269] 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. William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 388.

[270] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 176.

[271] This comes from Martin Kähler, and it was applied by him to all the Gospels. Martin Kähler, The So-called Historical Jesus and the Historic Biblical Christ (Chicago, 1964, transl. of 1896 edition), p.80.

[272] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.302.

[273] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 397.

[274] Cited in William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 397-398.

[275] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 398.

[276] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 398.

[277] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 260.

[278] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 182.

[279] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 183.

[280] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 263.

[281] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 190.

[282] Of course, this is anachronistic—the Church didn’t arrive until Pentecost. But we use this to illustrate what this sort of question would’ve been like.

[283] Walter W. Wessel, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 733.

[284] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 192.

[285] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 192.

[286] See footnote. William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 423.

[287] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 193.

[288] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 193.

[289] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 426.

[290] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 269.

[291] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 428.

[292] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 197.

[293] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 432.

[294] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 198.

[295] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 434.

[296] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 273.

[297] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 201.

[298] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 202.

[299] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 440.

[300] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 440.

[301] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 440.

[302] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 441.

[303] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 276.

[304] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 203.

[305] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 276.

[306] 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.

[307] Baba Bathra, 4a.

[308] History 5.8.

[309] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 451.

[310] Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 7:1:1.

[311] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 452-453.

[312] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 453.

[313] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 457.

[314] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 457.

[315] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 209.

[316] See footnote. William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 458.

[317] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 280.

[318] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 212.

[319] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 210.

[320] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 468.

[321] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 469.

[322] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 469.

[323] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 470-471.

[324] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 471.

[325] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 471-472.

[326] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 472.

[327] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 213.

[328] 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.” William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 466.

[329] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 479.

[330] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 478.

[331] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 218.

[332] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 489-490.

[333] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 490.

[334] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 291-292.

[335] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 492.

[336] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 499.

[337] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 500.

[338] Summarized from William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 501-502.

[339] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 228.

[340] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 505.

[341] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 506.

[342] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 230.

[343] See footnote. William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 512.

[344] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 233.

[345] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 515.

[346] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 233.

[347] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 516.

[348] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 234.

[349] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 516.

[350] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 518.

[351] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 522.

[352] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 522.

[353] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 305.

[354] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 527.

[355] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 307.

[356] Cited in William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 529.

[357] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 240.

[358] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 241.

[359] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 530.

[360] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 529-530.

[361] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 531.

[362] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 308.

[363] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 533.

[364] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 311.

[365] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 534.

[366] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 536.

[367] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 537.

[368] Cited in footnote. William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 540.

[369] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 541.

  1. The Mishnah

[370] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 542.

[371] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 542.

[372] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” in Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 198.

[373] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 542-543.

[374] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 543.

[375] Miles Stanford, The Complete Green Letters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1983), pp.19-20.

[376] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 548.

[377] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 547.

[378] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 316.

[379] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 250.

[380] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 553.

[381] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 252.

[382] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 253.

[383] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 253.

[384] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 559.

[385] R. Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 320.

[386] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 563.

[387] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2nd Edition. Grand Rapid, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2017), p.52.

[388] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” in Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 208.

[389] Steve W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” in Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 209.

[390] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 568.

[391] Cited in William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 571.

[392] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 573.

[393] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 573-574.

[394] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 576.

[395] Cited in William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 578.

[396] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 578.

[397] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 578.

[398] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 578.

[399] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 578.

[400] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 265.

[401] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 581.

[402] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 581.

[403] James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 269.

[404] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 585.

[405] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 587.

[406] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 587.