THE GOSPEL OF SAINT MARK
It is generally agreed that this Gospel was written by Mark who, in the New Testament, is known as John Mark. Both he and his mother, Mary, were highly esteemed in the early Church and his mother’s house in Jerusalem served as a meeting place for believers. Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas when they returned to Antioch from Jerusalem. He next appears as a ‘helper’ to Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. But, at Perga, he deserted them and returned to Jerusalem. Paul was deeply disappointed and it took some time for Mark to regain Paul’s confidence. But he did, and by the end of Paul’s life Mark had fully regained Paul’s favour. Mark was closely associated with Peter and his writings are traditionally attributed to have come about through hearing Peter preaching. If that is correct then we are reading the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles.
Accepting that Mark’s Gospel was the first to be written we look at a date of between 55A.D. and 70A.D. but, as with Matthew, before the destruction of Jerusalem. It was probably written in Rome for gentiles and its purpose is to show the Romans that Jesus is the Saviour, and that he is divine. To this end he attends more to the miracles of our Lord than to his sermons, giving only a few of the parables at length. However, Mark gives in some detail the events he narrates, and leaves the impression of an eyewitness. His language is simple, and yet earnest and full of charm.
1. Mark starts with a most important statement: ‘The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ Mark 1:1.
John the Baptist.
2. Next quotes from the Old Testament (Malachi 3:1 & Isaiah 40:3.) They refer to John the Baptist: ‘a messenger……who will prepare your way’. Early in his Gospel Mark uses the word ‘repentance’. ‘John is preaching a Baptism of repentance.’ The importance is that God always grants forgiveness to those who repent. Mark 1:2-4.
John’s effect on the Israelites.
3. John has an effect on the population. ‘The whole of Judean countryside…… ’ For centuries Israel had had no prophet. John was accepted but his importance as ‘a messenger’ was not immediately recognised. Mark 1:5.
John’s Spartan Way of Life.
4. John wore camel’s hair………….leather belt, also worn by Elijah (2 Kings 1:8.) and other prophets. His life is one of sacrifice ‘……he ate locusts and wild honey.’ He is granted the gift of prophecy ‘After me will come one…………..whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.’ John
also tells the difference between his mission and that of Jesus. ‘I baptise with water, but he will baptise you with the ‘Holy Spirit.’ (Matthew, at the end of his Gospel, told us of the Trinity. Mark, in the first few chapters of his Gospel, also tells us of The Trinity. ‘Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ 1:1. ‘………he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’ 1:8. How can some deny the Trinity when it is so clearly stated?) Mark 1:6-8.
Jesus Baptised by John.
5. Now Mark brings Jesus into his Gospel. He comes to John who baptises him. Then the voice from Heaven is heard: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit, which had descended on Jesus at the end of his Baptism, now leads him into the desert where he stays for forty days and is tempted by the devil. ‘…..and the angels attended him.’ (Mark commences chapter 1:12 with the words: ‘At once’. In his Gospel he uses those words 47 times it is a characteristic of his writing.) Mark 1:9 ‑13.
The Baptists Imprisoned.
6. John the Baptist is taken into prison. As John’s voice is silenced Jesus commences his ministry. The message is ‘The kingdom of God is fulfilled. Repent and believe the good news.’ (The interpretation of ‘fulfilled’ implies a continuity between stages of God’s plan. When the last of these stages begins the time is fulfilled [Romans 3:26; Hebrews 1:2] God brings to completion not only the scriptures but also the whole purpose of the old covenant.) Mark 1:14-15.
Jesus Call His First Disciples.
7. Jesus calls Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew who were fishermen. “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” ‘At once’ they left their nets and followed him. The same happens with the brothers James and John the sons of Zebedee. ‘They left their father with the hired men’. (Matthew’s Gospel does not include the words ‘with the hired men’ making it appear that their father was left by himself.) When we are called we must leave everything. Mark 1:16-20.
Jesus Teaches in the Synagogue in Capernaum.
8. Jesus goes, with his new disciples, to Capernaum and to the synagogue. (Synagogues came into being during the exile. Prior to that there was only the Temple in Jerusalem and that is still the only place where ‘sacrifice’ can take place; except that since 70A.D. there has been no Temple. Therefore, today, Jews have to be content with praying in their synagogues.) The people were ‘amazed’ because Jesus teaches with authority – his authority was directly from God. (Mark often uses the word ‘amazed’.) Mark 1:21-22.
Jesus’ First Cure. A Demon is Exorcized.
9. Now Mark tells us of Jesus’ first cure. A demon in a man shouts at Jesus. The demon knows who Jesus is and calls him “Jesus of Nazareth – the Holy One of God.” Jesus commands the demon to “Be quiet!” and “Come out of him!”. The demon obeyed. The effect on the people was one of amazement. (The title ‘Holy One of God’ is used only twice more in the Gospels: Luke 4:34 and John 6:69. It points to Christ’s divine origin rather than to his Messiahship.) It is not surprising that news of Jesus spread quickly. Mark 1:23-28.
Peter’s Mother-in-Law is Cured..
10. Jesus and the disciples go to Peter and Andrew’s house. We hear of Peter’s mother-in-law so we know that Peter was married. They would have gone to the house for a meal which was served after the synagogue service. Peter’s mother- in-law is ill, so Jesus cures her ‘and she began to wait on them’. Mark 1:29-31.
Jesus Cures all Who Come.
11. It is after sunset when people start bringing (carrying) the sick to Jesus. This is because they had to wait until after the Sabbath (after sunset) before carrying anything (See Jeremiah 17:21-22). The whole town gather at the door and Jesus heals the sick and drives out demons ‘but would not let (them) say who he was (Jesus wanted to show by word and deed the kind of Messiah he was and would not allow the demons to alter his plans.) Mark 1:32-34.
12. Jesus often went to pray by himself: ‘to a solitary place’. The disciples find him. He travels through Galilee ‘preaching and driving out demons.’ Mark 1:35-39.
A Leper is Cured.
13. A man with a skin disease asks Jesus to make him clean. In his compassion for the man Jesus touches him. By Mosaic law Jesus, by touching someone unclean, brought defilement on himself (See Leviticus 5:2). The ‘touch’ included the words “be clean” and the man was cured. Jesus tells the man not to tell anyone. (See Matthew Page 11 Paragraph 32.) But the cured man went about telling everyone. Because of this, Jesus’ popularity with the people and the increasing opposition from Jewish leaders, meant that Jesus had to stay out of towns and stay in lonely places. ‘Yet the people still came to him’. Mark 1:40-45.
The Cure of a Paralytic.
14. Jesus is in Capernaum and due to his popularity the place where he is preaching is packed with people. Some men bring a paralytic to Jesus but they can’t get near. So they lower the paralytic down through the roof (they
must have been very good friends to go to that trouble, and they must have had complete faith in Jesus’ ability to perform a cure.) Initially, instead of curing the man, Jesus attracts the criticism of the teachers of the law (they were always there seeing how they could catch him out) by forgiving the man’s sins (Isaiah 1:18). In doing so Jesus was treating the man’s deepest need. In their thoughts the teachers were accusing Jesus of blasphemy. But Jesus could read their minds so he said “Why are you thinking these things? Which is it easier: to say……….’Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’” (Jesus’ point was that neither was ‘easy’. Both are impossible to men but easy for God.) Jesus says to the paralytic “………take up your mat and go home.” To the amazement of all ‘the man got up……..and walked out in front of everyone.’ Mark 2:1-12.
Matthew the Tax Collector is Chosen to be an Apostle.
15. Jesus passes by the tax collector’s booth and says to Levi, “Follow me.” Levi gets up and follows him. (Levi is Matthew which means ‘gift of the lord’. Was this name given to Levi by Jesus? Luke 3:12 tells us that tax collectors had gone to John to be baptised. Perhaps Levi was one of those who had been baptised.) By choosing a tax collector the other disciples must have queried Jesus’ sanity. He was playing straight into the hands of the Pharisees who never missed a chance to discredit this man who was thought to be the long awaited Messiah. Mark 2:13-14.
The Pharisees Criticise Jesus.
16. Jesus is eating at Matthew’s house when the Pharisees ask the disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (To the Pharisees, to eat with a person was a sign of friendship.) Jesus hears and replies “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick……..” Mark 2:15-17.
Jesus is Compared to John the Baptist.
17. Jesus is asked why John the Baptist and his disciples are fasting while he and his disciples are not doing so. To answer, Jesus compares himself to a bridegroom. The guests do not mourn while the bridegroom is still with them. When the bridegroom is taken from them, then they will mourn. In that way Jesus was foretelling his death. But what is his reason for mentioning the new patch on an old garment and the new wine into old skins? The answer is that Jesus is ‘the new patch’ and the ‘new wine.’ He brings a newness which cannot be confined in the old forms. Mark 2:18-22.
The Pharisees Criticise the Apostles.
18. When the disciples pick ears of corn on the Sabbath, the Pharisees see an opportunity to criticise. (There was nothing wrong with the action itself which came under the provision of Deuteronomy 23:25) In defence Jesus quotes the Bible to them. (1 Samuel 21:6 & Numbers 28:9-10.) The quotation from Numbers refers to the Temple. Jesus continues “……one greater than the Temple is here.” Jesus is referring to himself. Jewish tradition, with its six hundred and thirteen precepts, had made the burden for keeping the Sabbath intolerable. Jesus emphasised the God-given purpose of the Sabbath – for spiritual, mental and physical restoration. There is an anomaly
between The New Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. The Bible states that the disciples were ‘making a path by plucking ears of corn.’ ‘Making a path’ would be work which was not allowed
on the Sabbath. The Jerome Commentary only mentions: ‘His disciples began to pluck heads of grain’. A problem of translation? Mark 2:23-28.
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath.
19. A man with a withered hand gives the Pharisees the chance to try and trap Jesus. They watch closely to see whether Jesus will heal on the Sabbath. Jesus knows what they are thinking. This took place in a synagogue and he gets the man to stand up in front of everyone. Then he asks the Pharisees whether it is lawful to do good or evil on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill. The Pharisees remain silent. Jesus was ‘deeply distressed’ at their stubborn hearts. (One wonders whether, individually, they would have accepted Jesus’ argument. But together, they were like a pack of dogs, unyielding and too embarrassed to withdraw from their false principles.) So Jesus cures the man’s hand and the Pharisees take sides with the Herodians, who they are normally opposed to. So as early as Chapter 3 in Mark’s Gospel the Pharisees and Herodians join forces in planning to destroy Jesus. (Herodians were Jews who actively supported Herod’s dynasty and enjoyed his favour.) Mark 3:1-6.
Large Crowds Come to be Cured.
20. Jesus is hemmed in by a large crowd, enthusiastic due to Jesus having healed many. People with diseases were pushed forward so that they could touch him. Evil spirits fell down and cried out “You are the son of God.” But Jesus told them not to say who he was. (See Page 11 Paragraph 32.) Mark 3:7-12.
Jesus Chooses the Twelve.
21. On a mountainside Jesus chooses the twelve who he calls ‘Apostles’ which means ‘to send’. The twelve are 1 Simon, who Jesus called Peter. 2 James the son of Zebedee. 3 John, James’ Brother (Jesus called James and John ‘Sons of Thunder’). 4 Andrew. 5 Philip. 6 Bartholomew. 7 Matthew 8 Thomas. 9 James, son of Alphaeus. 10 Thaddaeus. 11 Simon the Zealot. 12 Judas Iscariot. The number ‘twelve’ was as the tribes of Israel had been. Mark 3:13-19.
Jewish Teachers Say that Jesus Casts Our Devils by Beelzebub.
22. Things seem to be getting out of hand. Jesus and his apostles are so harassed by the crowd that they can’t get to eat. This brings Jesus’ family, presumably from Nazareth some thirty miles away, hoping to take charge of him saying “He is out of his mind.” At the same time the teachers of the law are suggesting that Jesus casts out Demons through Beelzebub. Jesus uses various parables to point out that if the teachers are right then Satan would be set on a suicide course. Mark 3:20-27.
Severe Warning Against Blaspheming Against the Holy Spirit.
23. “I tell you the truth,” (another of Mark’s frequently used expressions) “all the sins and blasphemies will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” (See Matthew Page 16 Paragraph 60). Mark 3:28-30.
“Here are my Brothers and Sisters.”
24. “Your mother and brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you.” Jesus’ reply was intended to shock – ‘Raising his hand, almost in an act of ordination, he points to his disciples: “Here are my brothers and sisters……”. Jesus is making the point that the bond between those who respond to God is stronger even than family ties. The word ‘brother’ was used to indicate cousins of the same family. Mary was ever a virgin. (See Matthew Page 5 Paragraph 4.) Mark 3:31-35.
Jesus Teaches in Parables.
25. Whilst the Synoptic Gospels include about thirty parables there are seven which appear in them all. (Synoptic Gospels: The Gospels of Matthew Mark and Luke.) The three main ones are the Sower, the parables of the Mustard Seed, and the Rented Vineyard. When Jesus spoke in parables his enemies could find no direct statements to use against him. Because the parables used every day events from nature and human life it was easier for the people to understand the basic points which was Jesus was teaching. The crowds must have been very great for Jesus to use the unorthodox method of speaking from a boat. The parable of the Sower was calculated to appeal to a rural audience of workers. That some seed lands on good soil and flourishes gives hope and encouragement. Mark 4:1-9.
Jesus Explains the Parable to the Apostles.
26. The disciples ask for an explanation. Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9-10) and in so doing likens his preaching in parables to the teaching of Isaiah which, while it gained some disciples (Isaiah 8:16), was also to expose the hard-hearted resistance of the many to God’s warning and appeal. Mark 4:10-20.
27. In mentioning the lamp ‘under a bowl’ Jesus is referring to himself. Jesus is the light of the world and is destined to be revealed. Mark 4:21-23.
28. ‘Whoever has will be given more.’ The more we accept the truth the more we will receive in the future. Conversely if we do not accept, then we will not profit from what little we already know. Mark 4:24-25.
29. The parable of the Growing Seed is only recorded by Mark. This parable differs from the parable of the Sower which requires the use of good soil. The parable of the Growing Seed shows the seed as having its own mysterious power. The gospel message contains that power. Mark 4:26-29.
30. The parable of the Mustard Seed can be interpreted as the kingdom of God, having small beginnings with Jesus and his twelve apostles, but it will grow to come to its true greatness and power. Mark 4:30-32.
31. Jesus spoke in parables to illustrate truths and to stimulate thinking. When alone with his disciples Jesus taught more specifically. Mark 4:33-34.
Jesus Calms the Storm.
32. Mark’s report of Jesus calming the storm has the added human touch of mentioning that Jesus had his head on a cushion. When he calms the storm the apostles are amazed: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Jesus was obviously wanting to clear up any doubts in their minds as to who he was.) Mark 4:35-41
The Demonic is Cured and the Demons Sent into the Pigs.
33. More healings with a man possessed whose demon was sent into the pigs. Matthew mentions two demoniacs. Mark and Luke only one. Differences such as this indicate a possible misunderstanding when the story has been conveyed. They also indicate a lack of collusion. (Also see Page 12 Paragraph 34.) “My name is legion…….” suggests that the man was possessed by many demons. The demon begs “not to send me out of the area….” The demons were fearful of being sent into eternal punishment. The people of that district plead with Jesus to leave. Despite the cure of the possessed man the loss of the pigs was probably uppermost in their minds as it represented a financial loss to the owner. Before leaving Jesus tells the cured man to “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…..” This is in contrast to other occasions when he had specifically told the cured person: “Tell no-one”. The difference is that this healing happened in gentile territory (hence pigs were farmed) where there was little danger that Messianic ideas about Jesus might circulate. Mark 5:1 ‑20.
The Woman with a Haemorrhage is Cured.
34. Matthew’s story of the little girl who is already dead is told differently by Mark who tells that Jesus is approached by a synagogue ruler named Jairus asking him to heal his daughter who is dying. (A synagogue ruler was a layman with administrative responsibilities.) As Jesus is on his way to Jairus’ house Mark tells the story of the woman who was ‘subject to bleeding.’ Mark’s story is more compassionate than that of Matthew and includes the apostles wondering how Jesus could have felt the woman touch him when they were surrounded by crowds. (Jesus, possessing every gift of the Holy Spirit, could feel the power going out of him. The woman was frightened not only from a sense of shame but also because the complaint involved legal impurity Leviticus 15:25.) Jesus wanted to identify the woman so that he could assure her that her faith was rewarded and that she was permanently cured. He tells her to “Go in peace……” Mark 5:21-34
The Bringing Back to Life of Jarius’ Daughter.
35. Before they reach Jarius’ house some men come saying that the little girl is dead. (We are left wondering why Jarius had left his daughter when she was in such danger of death. Surely the answer is that he had great faith and knew that Jesus would be able to save his daughter. He had probably spent some time trying to find Jesus and, in the meantime, his daughter had died.) Jesus tells Jairus: “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” At the house the traditional mourners and musicians were wailing and lamenting. Jesus is laughed at when he tells them that the girl is not dead but only asleep. (Jesus meant that she was not permanently dead.) He took the girl by the hand and said “Talitha kum!” (Jesus’ native Aramaic language. Only Mark uses the original Aramaic words.) The little girl got up. Once again Jesus asks them not to let anyone know; then, in a practical act (the family were probably standing around dumbfounded), he tells them to give her something to eat. Mark 5:35 ‑43.
The People of Nazareth do Not Accept Jesus.
36. Jesus goes, with his disciples, to Nazareth and he teaches in the synagogue. The people were amazed at what they heard but they did not believe because to them Jesus was a local carpenter. (Matthew says that Jesus was called ‘the carpenter’s son.’ But Mark refers to him as ‘a carpenter’.) They recognised his wisdom and knew of his miracles but they did not have faith so Jesus could only cure a few people….…..and he was amazed at their lack of faith. (Jesus being ‘amazed’/’astonished’ is only mentioned twice in the Gospels. Here and in Luke 7:9.) Mark 6:1-6.
The Disciples are Sent Out Two By Two.
37. The disciples are sent off ‘two by two’. The purpose may have been to give mutual support but also to be able to increase the credibility of their testimony, having more than one believer. With ‘no bread, no bag, no money’, they had to rely on the hospitality of those to whom they testified. ‘No spare tunic.’ (The spare tunic was used as a covering for sleeping out in the cold. They had to trust in God to provide lodging every night.) Mark 6:7-11.
The Disciples Drive out Demons.
38. ‘They drove out many demons.’ This was the start of the disciples’ ministry and they ‘anointed many sick people with oil.’ (In the ancient world olive oil was used as a medicine. See Isaiah 1:6.) Mark 6:12-13.
Herod Kills John the Baptist.
39. When writing of Herod, Mark uses the word ‘King’. Perhaps he was using this sarcastically. Herod was not a king but a tetrarch. John the Baptist had spoken out clearly at Herod’s unlawful marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. (Leviticus 18:16). She was angered by his words and wanted to kill him. Her opportunity came when her daughter entranced Herod by her dancing (and probably by too much wine) and he swore an oath to give her whatever she asked. Her mother told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a plate. Because the people called John ‘a prophet’ Herod respected him and was distressed by the request but he could not withdraw his promise so John was beheaded. John’s disciples took the body and laid it in a tomb. (Herod’s words to Salome: “I will give you half my kingdom” were not to be taken seriously. Such a saying would be a great compliment but no more than that. It would be similar to our saying “It’s raining cats and dogs!” We know that it doesn’t mean what it says!) Mark 6:14-29.
The Disciples Return From Their Healing Mission.
40. When the apostles return from their mission they are anxious to tell him all that they have been doing but they are kept so busy by many people coming that they don’t even have time to eat. Jesus feels compassion for them and wants to take them to a quiet place where they can get some rest. Mark 6:30-31.
Jesus and The Apostles Cross the Sea of Galilee.
41. Jesus and the apostles set off in a boat but the people guess where they are going and are so anxious to be near Jesus that they run around the shore and arrive before the boat. (It is a long way on foot but perhaps the boat was held up by a strong headwind.) Mark 6:32-34.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand.
42. The apostles ask Jesus to send the crowd away to where they can buy food. In a gesture which is a prophecy of what is to come, when he will feed us with his own body, Jesus feeds them with five loaves and two fish. Five thousand were fed. (Bread was regarded by Jews as a gift of God, and it was required that scraps which fell on the ground be picked up.) Twelve baskets of scraps were collected. Mark 6:35-44.
Jesus Walks on the Water.
43. Jesus sends the crowd away. (John suggests that the people were ready to take Jesus by force and make him king.) As he so often did, Jesus went to a quiet place to pray having first sent the apostles off in the boat. During the night Jesus came walking on the water. The apostles were terrified. Jesus made as if to pass them by. Then he spoke to them and they recognised him and he got into the boat. (Mark makes no mention of Peter walking towards Jesus. Mark was writing at Peter’s instruction so Peter would not want to appear to praise himself by mentioning his, even brief, ability to walk on water!) The walking on the water was a special display of the majestic presence of power of the Lord, who rules over the sea. (See Psalm 89:9; Isaiah 51:10,15; Jeremiah 31:35). Mark 6:45-51.
44. The apostles were awed, they had not understood about the loaves. (Perhaps being with Jesus, who was so often performing miracles, made them lacking in understanding of the enormity of what he had done. Had they
understood that miracle then ‘walking on the water’ would not have seemed so impossible.) But ‘their hearts were hardened.’ Mark 6:52.
They Reach Land and the Crowds Gather.
45. As soon as they reach land the crowds start to gather and the sick are brought to Jesus. Those who even touched the edge of his cloak were healed. Mark 6:53-56.
Jesus Derides the Pharisees for Their Precepts and Especially for the Corban.
46. Some Pharisees come from Jerusalem to question Jesus. They had probably been sent purposely which shows the level of concern regarding Jesus and his ministry. They ask Jesus why his disciples do not carry out the traditional washing before they eat. This ‘washing’ was one of six hundred and thirteen precepts which had been passed down orally from one generation to another. Jesus quotes from the Old Testament:
“These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
Their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29:13. Jesus also derides the Pharisees for their acceptance of the Corban. (By making a Corban oath a man could dedicate his earnings to the Temple rather than support his parents. The Corban allowed children to circumvent the clear responsibility to parents as prescribed in the law.) Jesus is telling the Pharisees that their six hundred and thirteen precepts are ‘rules taught by men,’ and the Corban breaks the command of God ’Honour your Father and your Mother.’ Mark 7:1-13.
Jesus Speaks to the Crowds Regarding the Precepts.
47. Jesus spoke to the crowds against the precepts: “Nothing outside a man can make him unclean.” Jesus is declaring that all foods are clean. “But what comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For it is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil these things come from within and make a person unclean.” Mark 7:14-23.
Jesus Can’t Find a Quiet Place.
48. Since his feeding of the five thousand Jesus’ fame had spread even further. He goes to Tyre on the sea coast hoping to find a quiet place. (He was probably wanting a quiet time to teach his apostles.) But his fame has preceded him. Mark 7:24.
A Gentile Woman Pleads for Her Daughter.
49. The woman pleads with Jesus to cure her daughter who was possessed. Jesus’ reply indicates that he has come only for the Jews. His reply seems harsh:“…..it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” If he was testing her faith then she rose to the occasion: “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Jesus sends her home: “the demon has left your daughter.” Mark 7:25-30.
Jesus Moves to Sidon.
50. The next chapter tells of Jesus’ travels to Sidon, then to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of Decapolis. This route might have been made so as to avoid the territory of Herod Antipas who had killed John the Baptist and also to avoid the area where, after the feeding of the five thousand, many wanted to take Jesus by force and make him king. Mark 7:31.
Jesus Cures a Deaf Mute.
51. After looking up to heaven and saying the word “Ephphata!” (which means “Be opened!”) Jesus cures a man who is deaf and can hardly talk. Mark, writing for the gentiles, takes care to translate the word. The cured man and his friends are told “not to tell anyone.” But the more Jesus did so the more they kept talking about it. Mark 7:32-37.
Jesus Feeds Four Thousand.
52. In an act similar to the feeding of the five thousand (See page 47 Paragraph 42) Jesus feeds four thousand from seven loaves and a few small fish. Mark 8:1-10.
The Pharisees Ask for a Sign.
53. Pharisees come and ask Jesus for a sign. They were probably wanting some sort of physical miracle other than the healing of the sick. Jesus, who, through the Father, had the power to carry out any miracle he desired, refused because the request came from disbelief. (In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus mentions ‘the sign of Jonah’. As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days so Jesus will be in the tomb.) Mark 8:11-13.
Jesus Compares Yeast With the Evil Disposition of Herod.
54. When Jesus said “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod” the apostles thought he was commenting on the fact that they had only brought one loaf with them. But Jesus was using ‘yeast’ as a symbol of evil and the evil disposition of Herod Anitpas and the Pharisees who asked for a sign as proof of Jesus’ divine authority. During this discourse Jesus is teaching on a spiritual plane, but the disciples remain on a material plane. Hence Jesus’ words: “Do you still not understand?” Mark 8:14-21.
Jesus Heals a Blind Man.
55. The healing of the blind man at Bethsaida is an occasion where Jesus had to perform healing twice to give the man back his full sight. On the first occasion the man sees dimly what look like trees (he was probably used to walking into trees and on his first sight of people they looked like many trees). Jesus put his hand on the man a second time and his sight is fully restored. Why twice? Perhaps the man’s faith was not strong enough to effect a complete healing the first time. If we compare this healing with that of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) we note that in both cases Jesus dismisses the men but Bartimaeus ‘followed Jesus along the road’ (Mark 10:52.) He had a stronger faith than the man at Bethsaida. (These healings fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 35:5.) Mark 8:22-26.
Jesus Asks “Who do you say I am?”
56. Peter replies to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” with the reply, “You are the Christ.” The apostles are told ‘not to tell anyone about him.’ Mark 8:27-30.
Jesus Prophecies that He Will Suffer Many Things.
57. Jesus’ most common title for himself is ‘Son of Man’. He used it eighty-one times in the Gospels. It was never used by anyone else. He teaches ‘that the Son of Man must suffer many things.’ Jesus details what is to happen to him. But the apostles are still thinking of an heroic King and expect Jesus to be able to perform a miracle to bring about the release of the Hebrews from the power of Rome. That is the Messianic King which the Jews were waiting for. Suffering had no place in Peter’s idea of the Messiah but his rebuke is met with a far harsher rebuke from Jesus. Mark 8:31-33.
The People are Told to ‘Take Up the Cross.’
58. Jesus tells the crowd that to follow him they must ‘take up the….………cross.’ The crowd knew what this meant: carrying the cross beam on which a man is crucified. Jesus is clearly stating the way in which he is to die. By not taking ‘up the cross’ our physical life will be saved but our eternal life will be lost. Conversely, by following Jesus, our physical life may be lost but what is that compared to gaining eternal life? Mark 8:34-38.
“Some here will Not Taste Death………”
59. For an interpretation of 9:1 ‘I tell you…….some…………here will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power,’ (see Page 21 Paragraph 82.) Mark 9:1.
60. Whilst Mount Tabor is usually given as the place of the Transfiguration it is also possible to have been Mount Hermon. This is because Mount Hermon is much nearer to Caesarea Philippi which they had just left. Matthew tells us that Jesus had chosen Peter to be the “rock on which I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18), so Peter would need a quick boost to his morale especially after being rebuked and told “get behind me, Satan!” Travelling to Mount Tabor for the Transfiguration would have taken much too long. Jesus is Transfigured and is joined by Elijah and Moses. We get an example of Peter’s impatience and unpredictability. The occasion calls for silence but he speaks up: “Let us put up three tents…….” Mark 9:2-8.
”Tell No-one until the Son of Man has Risen From the Dead.”
61. Coming down the mountain Jesus tells them to tell no-one ‘until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’ They didn’t understand what ‘risen from the dead’ meant. Jesus is asked about Malachi’s prophesy regarding Elijah …….(Malachi 3:23). He explains that Elijah came in the form of John the Baptist. As Elijah had ministered in the days of Jezebel so John the Baptist had done
so in the days of Herodias and was made to suffer as the “Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected.” Mark 9:9-13.
A Demon Who the Apostles Could Not Drive Out.
62. A boy possessed with a demonic spirit is brought to Jesus. His apostles couldn’t drive it out. The boy’s father asks Jesus “.….if you can do anything, take pity on us?” Jesus’ reply is that “everything is possible for him who believes.” The man said the words which we often repeat: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus commands the evil spirit to leave the boy. The apostles ask, “why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus’ reply indicates that the disciples had taken for granted the power given to them or believed that it was now inherent in them. Lack of prayer indicated that their power over demonic spirits was from Jesus. Mark 9:14-29.
The Apostles do Not Understand Jesus Words.
63. Jesus is teaching his apostles and tells them of his death and that “…after three days he will rise.” The apostles didn’t understand and were afraid to ask. Mark 9:30-32.
Who is the Greatest?
64. ‘Who is the greatest?’ Positions of rank were important in Jewish groups. So the apostles’ argument would be considered normal. Jesus knew what they had been discussing but when he asks them they are embarrassed and remain silent. Mark 9:33-34.
He Who Wants to be First Must Put Himself last.
65. Positions of rank were not considered important by Jesus. His teaching is the exact opposite. (Note that 9:35 says ‘Sitting down…’ This was the usual position for Jewish teachers. So when he sat and spoke the apostles would expect that it was a time to learn.) Jesus uses a child as an example and also ‘takes the child into his arms’ showing the complete love we must have. Mark 9:35-37.
A Man Driving Out a Devil Uses the Name of Jesus
66. A man who is not an apostle or disciple is able to drive out demons. The apostles had told him to stop. Was this a case of professional jealousy? But the man was obviously a believer and had been granted the gift of healing. He should not have been stopped. (There is a parallel here with Eldad and Medad who were prophesying without being registered. Numbers 11:26-30.) Mark 9:38-40.
Generosity Shown to Christ’s Disciples.
67. God remembers even the smallest acts of kindness given to believers because they are believers. Mark 9:41.
On leading Others Astray.
68. Causing ‘little ones to sin.’ Jesus’ point is clear: to cause those who might be the least of believers to sin will bring serious judgement. ‘Cut it off’, an exaggerated figure of speech to make the serious point. Sin can be conquered by radical ‘spiritual surgery’. Better to undergo that surgery than be ‘thrown into hell’ where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ (Isaiah 66:24.) Mark 9:42-48.
The Salt of the Earth.
69. ‘Everyone will be salted with fire’. This may mean that every Christian in this life can expect to undergo the fire of suffering and purification. ‘Salt is good’ is comparable to Matthew 5:13: ’You are the salt of the earth’. ‘Have salt in yourselves’ alludes to hospitality and friendship among Jesus’ followers. Mark 9:49-50.
The Question of Divorce.
70. Jesus went into the area which was ruled by Herod Antipas who had beheaded John the Baptist. When Herod heard of Jesus and the wonders he performed he said: “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the Dead!” (See Matthew 14:1.) Some Pharisees come to test Jesus “Is it lawful………to divorce?” Before answering their question Jesus asks, “What did Moses command you?” Jesus knows the answer and is wanting to put the matter right. When the Pharisees mention Moses’ divorce certificate Jesus states that it was due to the ‘hardness of their hearts’ that this was allowed. So what was allowed by Moses was an intermediary stage leading to indissoluble marriage which was God’s intention from the time of Adam and Eve. (As Mark was not writing for the Jews as Matthew was so he does not mention the dispute between the Shammai & Hillel Rabbis. See Matthew Page 23/24 Paragraph 96.) Mark 10:1-9.
71. Later the apostles question Jesus about divorce. He reaffirms what he told the Pharisees: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.” (This does not rule out separation.) But Jesus continues “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery.” (Mentioning ‘woman’ reflects Roman Law, for Jewish law permitted only a husband, not a wife, to divorce.)
Mark 10: 10-12.
Jesus and the Children.
72. Perhaps the apostles thought that Jesus was tired and needed some peace and quiet which made them stop the children going to him. Mark tells us that ‘Jesus was indignant.’ Jesus once again emphasises that, to obtain heaven, we must be like little children. Mark 10:13-16.
The Rich Young Man.
73. ‘The rich young man’. Luke calls him ‘a ruler’: probably a court official. His act of kneeling shows his acceptance of Jesus’ authority. He claims eternal life through righteousness. But Jesus points out that eternal life is a gift of God. Mark 10:17-18.
Jesus’ Words Make the Young Man Sad.
74. Jesus enumerates the commandments which must be kept and the man says that he has kept these ‘since I was a boy’ probably since he was thirteen which was the Jewish age of personal responsibility for obeying the
commandments. ‘Jesus loved him.’ (Those beautiful words are ones we all yearn to hear.) Jesus recognised the man’s earnestness. But Jesus’ words, “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor” made the man sad. (In Judaism wealth was often taken as a sign of divine favour with an obligation to give alms to the poor. What was so hard in this man’s case was the invitation to forego even the privilege of almsgiving for the sake of sharing Jesus’ life-style of dependence on God while proclaiming the coming of his kingdom. His possessions probably included property and financial benefits accruing from it – not as easy to dispose of as one’s every day material possessions. Other family members may be dependent on the man’s ability to look after the estate.) The man had asked the question, but Jesus’ answer was too hard for him. Mark 10:19-22.
The Problems of Wealth.
75. Jesus’ description of the camel and the eye of a needle seem to make it impossible for a rich man to enter heaven. ‘The disciples were astounded’. Wealth and prosperity were considered signs of God’s favour. The disciples ask “In that case, who can be saved?” Jesus replies “…..with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:23-27.
Peter’s Words “We Have Left Everything.”
76. Peter seems to speak from the heart when, on behalf of all the apostles and disciples, he says, “we have left everything to follow you!” Following the rich man’s departure Peter wants some sign of security. Jesus assures everyone who has left all to follow him that they will be repaid a hundred fold. Mark is alone among the Synoptic Gospels in mentioning ‘persecutions’ as part of the price to be paid for following Jesus. Mark 10:28-30.
The Rewards of Discipleship.
77. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” The rewards of discipleship surpass its sacrifices now and in the future. Mark 10:31.
Fear as They Go Towards Jerusalem.
78. Jesus leads the way towards Jerusalem. Mark describes the scene as frightening. ‘The disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.’ All who followed knew of the danger which Jesus was walking toward, which was the cause of their astonishment and fear. Mark 10:32.
Jesus Third Prediction of His Persecution.
79. For the third time Jesus predicts his persecution. The word ‘crucify’ does not appear in any of the passion predictions in Mark’s Gospel. But the statement that Jesus would be handed over to the gentiles and be killed by them suggests crucifixion, since it was the usual means of Roman execution of non-Romans. Mark 10:33.
80. Jesus gives explicit details of his passion and resurrection – they will “mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Mark 10:34.
The Sons of Zebedee Make Their Request.
81. The brothers, James and John, ask Jesus, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” Jesus answers, “can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I shall be baptised?” The words, ‘drink the cup I drink’, were a Jewish expression that mean to share someone’s fate. (In the Old Testament the cup of wine was a common metaphor for God’s wrath against human sin and rebellion. Therefore, the cup Jesus had to drink refers to divine punishment of sins, which he bore in place of sinful mankind. To be baptised is, for Jesus, ‘to be immersed [Greek: bapitzein] in suffering.’) Jesus tells James & John that is it not for him to grant who will sit on his right and left. Mark 10:35-40.
Indignation against James and John.
82. In respect of the other apostles’ response to James and John’s request, Mark uses the same word as Matthew: “They were indignant.” Jesus uses this opportunity to teach the apostles that they must be like servants, just as he has come to serve. Mark 10:41-45.
The Healing of Bartimaeus.
83. The healing of the blind man. Mark mentions only one man and names him Bartimaeus. (Matthew’s Gospel mentions two men [see page 25 paragraph 104.] When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is passing by he shouts out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Despite his disability he had obviously heard about Jesus and his healing. (This is the only occasion in Mark’s Gospel where the term ‘Son of David’ is used. It is a Jewish term for the long awaited Messiah.) Mark explains in some detail how Bartimaeus is told to “Cheer up!” and came to Jesus who immediately recognises his faith and heals him. Unlike the blind man at Bethsaida, (Page 49 Paragraph 55) who needed Jesus to pray twice, Bartimaeus is healed at once. He had a strong faith and although Jesus tells him “Go” he ‘followed Jesus along the road.’ Mark 10:46-52.
The Triumphal Entry.
84. The Triumphal Entry. Jesus sends two apostles to fetch a colt ‘which no-one has ever ridden.’ Unused animals were regarded especially suitable for religious purposes. (See Numbers 19:2 & Deuteronomy 21:3.) ‘If anyone asks you…………….’ gives the impression of supernatural knowledge which, compared to miraculous cures, is not surprising. Mark 11:1-10.
Jesus Enters Riding on a Donkey.
85. Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on the donkey. The people spread their cloaks in the road which was an act of royal homage (See 2 Kings 9:13). They went ahead of him shouting “Hosanna” (A Hebrew expression meaning ‘Save’ which became an exclamation of praise), “Blessed in the name of Yahweh is he who is coming”. (See Psalm 118:26). Mark, in his clear and descriptive way, tells us that ‘Jesus went to the Temple. He looked around at everything but, since it was late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.’ (As far as is known from the scriptures Jesus never spent the night in Jerusalem. He either went to Bethany or spent the night on the Mount of Olives.) Mark 11:11.
Jesus and the Fig Tree.
86. Mark’s gospel now moves into Passion Week. Jesus and the fig tree: this is symbolic because as Mark tells us ‘it was not the season for figs.’ The tree would be full of leaves but the fruit wouldn’t come for another two months. We see the fig tree as a symbol of the Temple which, for all its ritual, is spiritually barren. Also symbolic were the Pharisees who were also ‘barren’ of the true knowledge of God. By now the apostles would understand Jesus’ use of symbols. But if they were in doubt then his parables the next day, specifically addressed to Israel, would make sense of his action towards the fig tree. Mark is careful to record Jesus’ actual words: “May no-one ever eat fruit from you again” and, as if to reinforce what happened, Mark continues: ‘And his disciples heard him say it.’ Mark 11:12-14.
The Clearing of the Temple.
87. The clearing of the Temple was the only time that Jesus showed violence. Mark is the only one of the three synoptic Gospels to make special
mention of ‘and would not allow them to carry merchandise through the temple courts.’ Apparently the temple area was being used as a short cut from the city to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew, Mark and Luke have Jesus’ clearing the Temple towards the end of his ministry . John has it at the beginning. The possible reasons for this discrepancy will be examined in John’s Gospel. See Page 110 Paragraph 17.) Mark 11:15-16.
‘You Have Made My House a Den of Robbers.’
88. To warrant his action in clearing the temple Jesus quotes from the Old Testament:- ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.’ Isaiah 56:7. But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ Jeremiah 7:11. These happenings made the priests and teachers of the law determined to kill Jesus. He was threatening their authority and their whole way of life. (The words ‘for all peoples’ have been added to Isaiah’s text. By so doing Matthew foretells the world-wide worship of the messianic age.) Mark 11:17-18.
At Night Jesus Never Stayed in Jerusalem.
89. ‘When evening came they went out of the city.’ Yet another comment that Jesus never stayed the night in Jerusalem. (Paragraphs 86 to 89 happened on Monday in Passion Week.) Mark 11:19.
The Withered Fig Tree.
90. Jesus and the apostles are on their way back into the city when they pass by the fig tree which, under Jesus’ curse, has withered. Peter draws Jesus’ attention to the tree. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach that if we have a firm belief in our hearts then our faith can move mountains. (The mountain he is referring to is the Mount of Olives and the sea is the Dead Sea.) Mark 11:20-23.
Jesus Teaches How to Pray.
91. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” But first we must reconcile with everyone. “….if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:24-25.
Forgive and You Will Be Forgiven.
92. Chapter 11 verse 26 is not to be found in some manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel. It may have found its way into Mark’s text from Matthew 6:15. It emphasises the absolute necessity of forgiveness. Mark 11:26.
The Authority of Jesus.
93. As Jesus arrives in the Temple the chief priests, teachers and elders were waiting for him and they immediately come to him and question him. They want to know who gave Jesus his authority. They were hoping that Jesus would make a statement which would bring action from the Roman officials which would result in Jesus being removed from contact with the people. Jesus answers with a question of his own. If they can answer his question he will answer theirs. He asks the chief priests where John’s Baptism came from. This puts the priests in a quandary. If they say that John’s Baptism came from heaven then why didn’t they believe him? If they say it came from men then they will anger the people, who would know how false that statement was, and who saw John the Baptist as a great Prophet. They take the easy way out and tell Jesus that they “do not know. ” Jesus, therefore, does not have to answer their question. (It is obvious that Jesus and John the Baptist derived their authority from the same source.) Mark 11:27-33.
Parable of the Wicked Tenants.
94. Most of Jesus’ parables fit into the times in which he lived. This is so in the case of the parable of the tenants. Large estates were put into hands of local peasants working as tenant farmers. This parable exposed the planned
attempt on Jesus’ life, and God’s judgement on the planners. The tenants are the Jews or their leaders. The servants represent the Old Testament prophets, many of whom were killed. The son represents Christ, who was condemned to death by the religious leaders. (Jewish law provided that a piece of property unclaimed by an heir would be declared ‘ownerless’, and could be claimed by anyone.) The ‘others’ are gentiles to whom Paul turned when the Jews, for the most part, rejected the Gospel. By the second century the church was composed almost entirely of gentiles. Mark 12:1-9.
The Chief Priests and Pharisees Want to Arrest Jesus.
95. The chief priests and Pharisees realise that Jesus is referring to them and would have had him arrested but they were afraid of the crowd. Jesus quotes from the Psalms:
‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone (cornerstone);
the Lord has done this
and it is marvellous in our eyes.’ Psalm 118:22-23.
Pharisees and Herodians Plan Against Jesus.
96. Now the plans to destroy Jesus gathered momentum. The Pharisees were afraid of losing their position as spiritual leaders. The Herodians were afraid that Jesus might have an unsettling political influence on the people. Normally they wouldn’t co-operate with each other. But when faced with a common ‘enemy’ they were happy to do so. In putting the question regarding ‘paying taxes to Caesar’ they are certain that they will have trapped Jesus. If Jesus says “No” then the Herodians would report Jesus to Herod. If he said “Yes” then the Pharisees would denounce him to the people as being disloyal to the nation. It seemed to be a plan which could not fail! Mark 12:13-15.
On Tribute to Caesar.
97. Jesus’ power of discernment meant that he knew the Pharisee’s and Herodions evil intent. So when they asked him the question he asked to be shown a denarius. Then he said “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” They replied “Caesar’s.” Jesus responded, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Jesus hadn’t been forced into saying “Yes” or “No”. Their trap hadn’t worked ‘and they were amazed at him.’ Mark 12:16-17.
The Resurrection of the Dead.
98. The Sadducess do not believe in the resurrection so, to prove their point, they attempt to make a mockery of ‘resurrection’ by asking Jesus about ‘relationships’ at the resurrection when, following the teachings of Moses (Deuteronomy 25:5-6), a woman might have been married several times. Jesus tells them that at the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. “They will be like angels.” (The reason the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection is because their faith is based on the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, which, by their interpretation, makes no mention of the resurrection.) Jesus’ reply shows them that God’s words to Moses (Exodus 3:6) signify that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob continue their relationship with God. The Sadducees’ lack of belief in the resurrection is false. (Jesus could have challenged the fact that they only believed in the first five books of the Old Testament. Instead he kept to those books, the Pentateuch, and yet still confounded their belief.) Mark 12:18-27.
The Greatest Commandment of All.
99. The Jewish teachers were frequently discussing the six hundred and thirteen precepts and which were the most important. A teacher asks Jesus: “Of all the commandments which is the most important?” In response Jesus commences by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which is the first of three texts recited twice daily by pious Jews and which to this day begin every synagogue service. (For Jews 6:4 is known as the Shema which is Hebrew for the first word ‘Hear’. The three texts are Deuteronomy 6:4-9 & 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41.) Jesus was only asked for ‘the most important’ but, without equating it with the first, he gives a second answer: “The second is: Love your neighbour as yourself.” Then he continues: “There is no commandment greater than these.” The impression is that Jesus needed to mention both before the final words “….There is no commandment greater than these” Mark 12:28-31.
No-one Dared Ask Him Any More Questions.
100. The teacher agrees with Jesus. In saying that loving God and neighbour were ‘more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices’ the teacher was not condemning the sacrificial system but was echoing 1 Samuel 15:22 and Hosea 6:6. Jesus tells the teacher that he has spoken well. The wisdom of Jesus in answering all their questions silences his opponents: ‘And from then on no-one dared ask him any more questions.’ Mark 12:32-34.
The Messiah, Lord of David.
101. The scribes took the prophecy that the Messiah would be the son of David literally, as a matter of physical descent. Jesus shows that David’s own messianic psalm makes that impossible. The psalm is 110:1.
The Lord declared to my Lord:
“Take your seat at my right hand
till I have made your enemies
Jesus asks “If David calls him ‘Lord’ how then can he be his son?” Jesus is showing that the Messiah was more than a descendant of David – he was David’s Lord. This discourse took place in the temple courtyard where crowds were gathered. ‘The large crowd listened to him with delight.’ Jesus’ opponents would see this and it would make them the more determined to silence him. But Jesus adds ‘fuel to the fire’ by his remarks regarding the teachers of the law and their ostentatious way of ‘flowing robes’, ‘greeting in the market place’ & ‘having the most important seats’. Mark 12:35-39.
Exploitation of Widows.
102. The words, ‘They devour widows’ houses….’ refers to lawyers who, instead of charging a fee, could get a share of the estate. Lawyers with a reputation of piety could take advantage of this arrangement at the expense of the widow. Another explanation is that the teachers of the law were not paid a regular salary and were dependent on the generosity of patrons. This was open to abuse and widows were especially open to exploitation. Mark 12:40.
The Widows Offering.
103. The thoughts expressed in the last paragraph are borne out by ‘The Widow’s Offering.’ Jesus purposely watches as offerings are put into the trumpet-shaped receptacles placed there for offerings. He doesn’t need his powers of discernment to realise that the widow had given everything she had. Her poverty would be clearly apparent. Her offering of what amounted to only a penny was, comparatively, worth more than those who gave from their wealth. Mark 12:41-44.
Destruction of Jerusalem and the End of the World.
104. The fact that Jesus’ attention is being brought to the Temple buildings adds some credence to Mark’s chronology that this was Jesus’ one and only visit to Jerusalem. The disciples ask Jesus about the end of time. Jesus’ discourse falls into five sections. 1 Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple and the questions of the apostles. Verses 1-4. Jesus’ response regarding the destruction of the Temple which took place in 70A.D. fulfils the prophesies of Jeremiah 26:18 and Micah 3:12. 2 Warnings against deceivers and false signs of the end. Verses 5-23. Jesus exhorts the apostles to ‘Take care that no one deceives you’, ‘Be on your guard’. 3 The coming of the Son of Man. Verses 24-27. ‘…they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.’ 4 The lesson of the fig tree. Verses 28-31. As the fig tree ripens in the right season so will Jesus’ words come to pass when his predictions are seen to happen. 5 Exhortation to watchfulness. Verses 32-37. ‘That day’ was an Old Testament expression for the day of the Lord’s appearance. The words ‘…in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn’ were the four watches of the night, each lasting three hours, which were used by the Romans. Jesus’ final exhortation is “Stay awake!”. Mark 13:1-37.
The Conspiracy Against Jesus.
105. The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away. The chief priests and teachers were wanting to find a way to arrest Jesus and kill him. But they decided not to do so during the Feasts. They knew Jesus’ popularity with the people and were afraid they might riot. They were not aware that Judas was about to betray Jesus. That betrayal would change their plans. Mark 14:1-2
The Anointing at Bethany.
106. The evening of the same day Jesus and his apostles are in the house of Simon the Leper (John’s Gospel has this occurrence taking place before Passion Week. The Gospel writers were not necessarily writing chronologically. The importance was what happened – not when it happened.) A woman, recognised by John as Lazarus’ sister, Mary, pours expensive perfume over Jesus’ head. The disciples were indignant. They suggest that the ointment, nard, which was an expensive extract of an Indian aromatic plant, could have been sold and the money given to the poor. (It was a Jewish custom to give gifts to the poor on the evening of the Passover.) Jesus answers them “Leave her alone….” But this seems to have been the turning point for Judas Iscariot. (In John we read about Judas Iscariot, ‘He was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.’ [John 12:6]. Judas’ action could also have been motivated by the fact that Jesus did not live up to Judas’ expectations as the ‘Messiah’. Some expected the Messiah to be more like one of the Maccabees, someone who would organise the nation into a fighting force which would rid them of their Roman masters.) Mark 14:3-9.
Judas Plans Jesus’ Betrayal.
107. Judas went to the chief priests: ‘they were delighted to hear his promise (to betray Jesus) and gave him money.’ (Paragraphs 90 to106 happened on the Tuesday of Passion Week. The gospels do not mention the Wednesday of Passion Week.) Mark 14:10-11.
The Institution of the Eucharist.
108. Mark gives a more detailed account than Matthew of the preparation of the ‘upper room’ for the Passover recording that the room was ‘furnished and ready’. Judas’ betrayal is made the more odious by the fact that he ‘dipped his hand into the bowl’ at the same time as Jesus. (In Middle East culture to eat with someone was, and still is, a sign of friendship.) The Passover was eaten reclining rather than sitting. In those days it was the recognised way of eating. Jesus uses the Passover to institute the changing of bread and wine into his own body and blood -The Eucharist. (The word Eucharist is derived from the Greek word for ‘give thanks’.) Mark 14:12-26.
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denials.
109. They are on their way to the Mount of Olives and Jesus is preparing them for the fact that they will all disown him and flee. He quotes from Zechariah 13:7. ‘I shall strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ Peter is adamant that if all fall away he will not. But Jesus predicts Peter’s three denials. Mark 14:27-31.
110. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus commences his Passion. (Though he was sinless he accepted the sins of the whole world for all time and understands that by his Crucifixion he will be redeeming mankind from all its
sin. His humanity rebels against the pain he knows he will have to suffer.) He prays “Abba, Father.” (Abba: an affectionate term between children and their father.) “Take this cup away from me. But let it be as you, not I, would have it.” The three apostles who have accompanied him are drowsy after the food and drink; they go to sleep. Jesus exhorts them to stay awake. “Could you not watch with me one hour?” Twice more he prays and again finds them asleep. Mark 14:32-42.
111. Judas comes with a crowd including the chief priests, teachers and elders. (A kiss was the usual token of respect with which disciples greeted their Rabbi. This made Judas’ kiss the more reprehensible.) Jesus contrasts the fact that they have come to arrest him with swords and clubs whereas he was teaching every day in the Temple and was not arrested “but the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Jesus is referring to Isaiah 53:7-12 which commences: ‘Ill treated and afflicted…..…….….….like a lamb lead to the slaughter-house.’ and finishes: ‘whereas he was bearing the sin of many and interceding for the rebellious.’ M ark 14:43-50.
The Young Man Runs Away Naked.
112. Only Mark mentions that ‘A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.’ The only person likely to know that would be the young man himself. So the young man is confidently thought to be Mark. Mark 14:51-52.
Jesus Before the Sanhedrin.
113. Jesus is taken before the Sanhedrin with Peter following at a distance. Witnesses’ testimony did not agree and Jesus stayed silent until the high priest asks him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus replies “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven." ‘The high priest tore his clothes.’ This was something which he was normally forbidden to do (See Leviticus 10:6 & 21:10) but was allowed in these highly unusual circumstances because, to the Sanhedrin, Jesus was guilty of blasphemy. They condemn him to death. The cruelty begins. He is spat upon, blindfolded, struck with fists. Then the guards ‘took him and beat him.’ (Foretold by Isaiah 50:6) Mark 14:53-65.
114. On three occasions Peter is recognised as one of Jesus’ followers. But every time he denied it and on the last occasion did so with curses and swore “I don’t know the man.” Then the cock crowed – and Peter ‘broke down and cried’. (Paragraph 107 Page 61 up to this Paragraph happened on the Thursday of Passion Week ‘Holy Thursday.’) Mark 14:66-72.
Jesus Before Pilate.
115. The Roman working day started at dawn so it would be early on Good Friday morning that Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate. The Jews could condemn someone to death but only Pilate could enforce the death penalty. (But see Page 125 Paragraph 89). It was soon apparent to Pilate that Jesus had been condemned due to envy and that he did not warrant death. Jesus does not answer Pilate’s questions. Under Roman Law making no defence would be taken as guilt and Pilate would have to pronounce against him. Pilate was amazed at Jesus’ silence. Mark 15:1-5.
Jesus is Scourged.
116. Although Jesus’ silence meant that Pilate could have immediately condemned him to death he did not do so. He was no friend of the chief priests. Was he hoping to be able to undo their evil, set this man free and by so doing show his power over them? His first attempt at releasing Jesus fails when the crowd ask for Barabbas to be freed and Jesus to be crucified. Pilate asks the crowd “Why? What crime has he committed?” The crowd do not answer Pilate’s question. Instead, encouraged by the chief priests, they continue to shout “Crucify him. ”So Pilate had Jesus flogged. (This was a Roman flogging. There was no limit to the number of strokes and victims of Roman floggings did not always survive.) Then Pilate had Jesus handed over to be crucified. Mark 15:6-15.
The Crowning with Thorns.
117. Before he commences his journey to Calvary Jesus is mocked by the Roman soldiers who place a crown of thorns on his head, strike him and spit at him. (These soldiers were a long way from home and to them Jesus was a diversion from their normal routine. Unlike Pilate they had not had the opportunity to realise that Jesus was not guilty of any crime.) Mark 15:16-20.
Simon Helps To Carry the Cross.
118. Mark not only mentions Simon from Cyrene but also tells us that his sons are Alexander and Rufus. They were doubtless known to the circle in which Mark wrote his Gospel. (It is thought that this might be the same Rufus as in Romans 16:13.) Mark 15:21.
119. Jesus is crucified. This was a Roman method of execution which was intended for slaves and the basest of criminals who were not Roman citizens. They offered him wine which would have dulled the pain but Jesus refused it. Those carrying out the crucifixion had the right to divide the victims’ clothes amongst them. Mark 15:22-24.
Three Hours On the Cross.
120. Mark tells us ‘It was the third hour when they crucified him’. (The third hour is 9.00a.m. which, if Jesus didn’t die till 3.00p.m., means six hours on the cross. This is a contradiction of John’s account which tells us that it was ‘about the sixth hour’ 12.00noon when Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. Various hypotheses have been proposed to reconcile these two statements. One suggestion of Biblical scholars is that Mark’s gospel contains a copyist’s error because the Greek numerals for three and six can be confused. Or it may be that Mark was using Roman time, in which case the appearance before Pilate would have been at 6.00a.m. and the crucifixion at 9.00a.m. But, although they started their days very early by our ways they would still need much time for all that was to happen. As well as Jesus being before Pilate he was also sent to Herod. Then there was the flogging, the time spent being crowned with thorns and been made fun of by the soldiers and the slow journey to Calvary. It would seem the more likely that Jesus was crucified at 12.00noon, the sixth hour, and was on the cross for three hours until 3.00p.m, the ninth hour, when he died. The church has usually accepted ‘three hours’ as Jesus’ time on the cross. Also see Page 125 Paragraph 89 regarding crucifixion versus stoning.) Mark 15:25.
‘The King of the Jews’.
121. It was traditional to have a sign over the cross telling of the charge. This had previously been carried ahead of the criminal on the way to Calvary. The four gospel writers have slightly different wording. But, within their words, were contained THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one either side, thereby intending to show that the one in the middle was the worst offender. Those passing by hurled insults at Jesus and the chief priests and teachers mocked him. Mark tells us that ‘those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.’(Some manuscripts have a Verse 28 which reads ‘……being counted as one of the rebellious………....’ Thereby fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12.) Mark 15:26-32.
The Death of Jesus.
122. Mark sets a frightening scene: ‘At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.’ Jesus cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Psalm 22:1) Bystanders hear the word “Eloi” and think Jesus is calling for Elijah. They wait to see if Elijah will come but Jesus cries out with a loud voice and breathes his last. The frightening scene continues: ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.’ The whole scene had an immense affect on the Centurion who had been in charge of the crucifixions. When he saw how Jesus had died he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” At a distance stood a group of women ‘who had followed him and cared for his needs.’ Mark 15:33-41.
The Burial of Jesus.
123. There was haste to get the body of Jesus down from the cross before Friday sunset when the Sabbath began. When Joseph of Arimathaea asked for the body of Jesus ‘Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead.’ (This gives even more credence to the ‘three hours on the cross’ rather than ‘six hours’. Surely after the brutal scourging and other injuries inflicted on Jesus, Pilate would not have expected Jesus to survive six hours.) Joseph takes Jesus’ body, wraps it in linen cloth and places it in a nearby tomb. Mark 15:42-47.
The Women Come to the Tomb.
124. The Sabbath finished at about 6.00p.m. on the Saturday. Then women brought spices to the tomb. Embalming was not practised by the Jews. The spices were brought as an act of devotion and love. The women, who were obviously not expecting the Resurrection, intended to anoint the body of Jesus. Mark 16:1-3.
‘Go Tell the Disciples…………..’
125. They find the stone rolled away. The women’s first thoughts must have been that the Roman soldiers had taken Jesus’ body. But in the tomb they find a ‘young man dressed in white’ (Identified by Matthew as an angel 28:5). They learn that Jesus has risen from the dead. They are instructed to ‘…...go, tell his disciples and Peter.’ Mark 16:4-7.
The Women Fled the Tomb.
126. Mark tells us that the women fled from the tomb ‘Trembling and bewildered’ and ‘They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.’ (Early manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel finish with this verse. Perhaps because it was considered too terse an ending it has been added to by verses 16:9-20. Whilst the ending is not that of Mark it has been added with the best intentions and is included in all modern Bibles.) Mark 16:8.
The Risen Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene.
127. After he had risen Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene. When she told the others who were weeping they did not believe her. Mark 16:9-11.
On the Road to Emmaus.
128. Jesus next appeared ‘in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. (This is a shortened account of the two men going to Emmaus.) ‘They returned but they were also not believed .’ Mark 16:12 ‑13.
Jesus Appears to the Eleven.
129. Later Jesus appeared to the eleven and rebuked them for their lack of faith in not believing those who had seen him after he had risen. Mark 16:14.
Jesus Final Exhortation.
130. Jesus’ final exhortation – “whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” He goes on to detail the various signs which will accompany those who believe. Mark 16:15 ‑18.
Jesus is Taken Up to Heaven.
131. Jesus is taken up into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. His disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them.’ Mark 16:19-20.