Chapter1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Mark's Gospel leads readers through a series of events, with little interpretation, apparently in the hope that the readers will gradually form their own opinions of who Jesus is, as did the people who were there are the time. The demons knew him at once; the common people were open-minded and regarded him as a prophet; but the powerful rejected him. Thus human power and faith appear to be in tension.
The disciples make many misguided remarks and questions; it is possible that these are rhetorical, giving context to responses by Jesus that reveal information that we would otherwise lack.
This Gospel is brief yet tells us more tiny details than other contemporary records, showing that it is based on eye-witness testimony. The recollection of Jesus saying the word "Ephphatha" in Mark 7:34 is accompanied by a translation, indicating that the Gospel was written for an audience that did not understand Aramaic. These details show that healing is not a magic wand being waved and all being well immediately, but a process involving struggle. But this is only a hint at a deeper problem, the struggle to proclaim the gospel. In the early chapters of the book, Jesus acquires a reputation for healing which obstructs his freedom to teach. He counters this by appointing disciples (Mark 1:16f), whose task is to learn from him, and forbidding those who have been healed from publicising the fact (Mark 1:44).
The disciples are called (Mark 1:16f), chosen (Mark 3:13f) and sent (Mark 6:7f) — "classic steps in discipleship"; and Jesus shows increasing frustration at the disciples' failure to understand, in Mark 4:13, Mark 6:52, Mark 7:18, and Mark 8:17–18 [2 p.45–46]. Mark might emphasise the disciples' failures in order to goad the reader into trying to understand better than they did. This book announces in the first verse that Jesus is the Son of God, but never explains what that means or what difference it makes. The struggle is laid before every reader.
The author only seems interested in accurately portraying when things happened during Holy Week (p53). He reports John the Baptist's death (Mark 6:14) before Jesus had healed blindness for the first time (Mark 8:23), which John asked about from prison (Matthew 11:5). Others disagree, saying that its apparent simplicity is actually carefully crafted.
Jesus announces the Good News as "the kingdom of God has come near". Both Jesus's teaching (the first half of the book) and passion (the second half) enable us to be reconciled to God.
The gospel according to Mark is now reckoned by many to be the earliest account, and is thought by some to have been influenced by St Peter. Its factual content is therefore held to be most reliable, but the interpretation of the facts is primitive. For example, when the women visited the tomb early on Easter Sunday, they found "a young man" according to Mark, whereas Matthew's Gospel is quite definite that they saw angels rather than humans. The other Gospel writers are thought to have had Mark's Gospel before them when they wrote, so it is instructive to examine the differences and consider why they were made. See comment on Mark 13:4.
The style of writing implies that the author thought in Aramaic[2 p.39]. He emphasises suddeness, using the word "immediately" frequently, as if he was keen to show that Jesus fulfilled Malachi 3:1–5.
Some theologians say that Mark's was the first Gospel to be written (ignoring Paul's fragment in 1 Corinthians 11). Mark gives no instructions about Christian worship: he omits the Lord's Prayer, the command to repeat communion, and the command to baptise is limited to the missions of the twelve and seventy. Perhaps Mark wrote when Christians were still worshipping with the Jews in the synagogues.
Fowke says that the author was a "focussed" person of the type who lives very much in the present and is keenly observant, as shown by his mention of the grass being green at the time of the feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:39).
The first eight chapters have a different emphasis from the last eight; at first Jesus is portrayed as a dynamic leader who teaches the general public and performs miracles, but later he seems more passive and things are done to him, witnessed only by his followers, who hear his explanation. The change occurs at the Transfiguration in chapter 9, which is something that happens to Jesus rather than his own action.
Jesus only performs two healing miracles (9:20 and 10:46) in the second half of the gospel, compared with 22 recorded and many more hinted at in the first half. These miracles are dominated by various kinds of healing of individuals. In many cases it is possible to discern that the miracle not only confirms Jesus's power and authority, but also symbolises something that is happening. So for example the crowds of 5000 (6:38) and 4000 (8:1) stay listening to Jesus long enough to become hungry, because they give priority to their hunger for God; the feeding of the multitude (6:38) and subsequent walking on water (6:49) both fulfilled Old Testament expectations of God; the cursing of the unfruitful fig-tree (11:14) parallels the cleansing of the temple, and the healing of Blind Bartimaeus (10:46) illustrates the blindness of the audience.
Chapter 1 sets a scene of expectation arising from the Old Testament and the words of John the Baptist; chapters 2–7 show Jesus in a dynamic ministry, demonstrating increasing power (from curing a fever to raising the dead, and from calming a storm to walking on water) until he is recognised; the focus then shifts to suffering, and Jesus becomes less in control and increasingly manipulated. Finally the resurrection is announced, leaving us in what Mark saw as the present age.9:4
Three other witnesses confirmed who Jesus was (Elijah, Moses and God). We are not told how the disciples knew who these people were, and it seems futile to speculate. Moses and Elijah discussed with Jesus his imminent "departure" (Greek exodos, slang for death, but hinting at connections with the Old Testament Exodus). The Jews wanted to obey both the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:36–40); Moses gave the law, and Elijah was regarded the greatest prophet. Both had met God on mountains (Exodus 3 and 19; 1 Kings 19). Moses and Elijah confirmed that Jesus's death was part of God's plan. Both made their own "departure" before their work reached fulfilment; Moses died before the people entered the Promised land, and Elijah was caught up to heaven. Peter should stop trying to tell Jesus that it was not God's will for him to suffer and die; the disciples needed to study their bibles (the Law and the Prophets) to understand what was going on around them. William Barclay says that Jesus also needed confirmation from the Law and the Prophets that going to Jerusalem to die was the Father's will. So do we, so that we understand that his death ensured our salvation.9:5
"three shelters" — a weird thing to say! God spoke to Moses from a cloud, firstly on the mountain (Exodus 24:16) and later in a tent (Exodus 33:7–9). Perhaps hearing God's voice from the cloud made Peter think that something like Exodus 24:16–18 was happening, which involved a lot of waiting around. His response seems to echo our tendency to "busy-ness"; he felt that he should be doing something. Also we may have a tendency to try to make a good thing permanent (like taking a photo); cf. the desire of to put God in a temple (2 Samuel 7:6–16) or to provide for a prophet (2 Kings 4:10). Jesus is not interested; he apparently ignores the offer of three shelters. Peter should just watch and do nothing.9:6
They were right to be afraid in the presence of God — see Exodus 33:20. Evidence of God's power also frightened the shepherds when the nativity was announced (Luke 2:8–9), and those who visited the empty tomb after the Resurrection (Mark 16:8). Commentaries dismiss Peter's statement in verse 6 as babble, but recognise a possible connection with the Tent of Meeting of Exodus (booth or tabernacle meaning the same as tent).9:7
The statement about a cloud inhabited by God reinforces the possibility that Peter was recalling the cloud visiting Moses at the Tent of Meeting in Exodus 33:7–9. Also God both appeared in dazzling light and spoke from a cloud in Exodus 24:16, cf. Psalm 18:9–11.
God's words on this occasion are similar to those at Jesus's baptism (Mark 1:11) but are addressed to the disciples nearby (and indirectly to us) rather than to Jesus. They confirm the statements in Mark 1:1, 3:11 and 15:39.
Peter in particular might have perceived the command "listen to him" as a rebuke for arguing in Mark 8:32 with Jesus about his coming death. One could regard this entire event as confirmation that what Jesus was about to undergo was the Father's will.9:9
It must be no coincidence that the transfiguration immediately follows Peter's identification of Jesus with the Messiah (Mark 8:29) and Jesus trying to get the disciples to understand what that meant in terms of his suffering (Mark 8:31 to Mark 9:1). The connection seems to be confirmed by the command after Peter's answer (Mark 8:30), repeated here after the transfiguration, to keep Jesus's true identity secret cf. Matthew 13:11 and "I do not call you servants..." (John 15:15).9:10 9:11–12
See comments on the equivalent passage in Matthew, Matthew 17:10–12.9:33–34
The disciples' desire for greatness was directly opposed to the self-giving example set by Jesus, and led to the rejection of the ministry of others in verses 9:38–41 below. For a list of verses describing the qualities of great people, see Index G, Greatest Person.9:35
See comment on John 13:1–17.9:38–41
There is a connection between this and verses 33–34 above; the disciples hope that they would have greatness would naturally lead them to keep such privileges to themselves, rather than accept others joining the group or setting up parallel groups. This could be seen as the first signs of the schisms that divide Christianity today.9:48
cf. Isaiah 66:24.10:2f
The question was meant to be a trap: if Jesus took one side, the other would condemn him. So he took neither. But he did criticise the liberal divorce laws, the consequences of which can be guessed at from John 4:6f.10:4–12
See comment on Deuteronomy 24:1. The NRSV is said to be misleading here; AV is a more literal translation. Jesus does not support divorce, as verses 11 and 12 make clear. Jesus condemns separation without due process, which would be cheap and easy for a hard-hearted husband (verse 5), but would leave the wife destitute. Also, without a proper divorce any future marriage is adulterous. Nevertheless Jesus's answer shows that God is prepared to be flexible in dealing with human weakness.10:8
C S Lewis[9 p.93] says "one flesh" means "a single organism" and he compares the concept with a violin and bow representing one instrument, or a key and a lock, neither of which is complete without the other.
My wife Lynn believes that Jesus's reasoning is based on the idea that Adam was at first a hermaphrodite (see Genesis 2:7) before Eve was taken from his side in Genesis 2:21; the completeness that Adam originally had is restored when a man and a woman are united in marriage. Two conclusions follow from this: first, the chief purpose of marriage is not reproduction but completeness; second, same-sex relationships, though valuable, cannot be classed as "marriage" because they do not restore the gender completeness.
Thus Jesus gives Genesis priority over Deuteronomy, supporting the idea that Deuteronomy was a late interpretation.
The conclusion that sex is not essential to marriage fits in with the marriage vows, which are ended by death, not the onset of infertility in old age.
There is a deeper significance, in that the dual nature of a marriage partnership is a "type" of the dual nature of Christ; Origen hinted at this.10:9
See comment on 1 Corinthians 7:10.10:11
See comment on Matthew 19:9.10:13–16 10:19
The inclusion of fraud in this list suggests that Jesus was not simply reciting the Ten Commandments but indicating where the man needed to change his ways.10:21 10:22
The man's desires to be right with God and wealthy at the same time co-existed happily until Jesus challenged him to choose between them. The same tension may be present in us.10:25 10:30 10:31
cf. Genesis 25:22–28, Matthew 19:30, Luke 13:30.10:32 10:35
cf. Matthew 20:20 where it is the brothers' mother who does the speaking, and comments there. Mark places this incident next to another request to Jesus in verses 46 onwards, presumably leading us to compare them. The brothers made a selfish request, and received nothing more than words, while Bartimaeus asked what he really needed, and his prayer was answered.10:43
For a list of verses describing the qualities of great people, see Index G, Greatest Person.10:45
Jesus adopts Isaiah's job-description of the Messiah as a "suffering servant" (Isaiah 53:11); he pays a ransom of suffering for us. If Jesus was paying the ransom to set us free from our sins, how can that be just?
This question has two facets: how was it just for him to suffer when he was innocent, and how is it just for us to go free when we are guilty?
Jesus could take responsibility for our sins firstly because he was active in creation and can take responsibility for his creations, and secondly because he has adopted us into his family, so he has assumed responsibility for us. God, the ultimate judge, has the power to declare those who sin but repent in faith (Genesis 15:6) not guilty.
Thus we may go free because, though we have been sinful, we repent and accept the work of the Holy Spirit making us increasingly holy.10:46
Jesus was passing through Jericho on his way from Galilee (Mark 8:22) to Jerusalem (Mark 10:10; two of the three routes from Galilee to Jerusalem passed through Jericho; the other route was hilly). As he left both Galilee (Mark 8:22f) and Jericho (Mark 10:46f) Jesus healed blind people, implying that many understood his mission, though the disciples often seemed blind to it during this journey. See also the comment on Jesus's arrival in Jerusalem in Mark 11:11.
cf. Matthew 20:29–30 where it says that there was also a second, unnamed, blind man. "Bartimaeus" means "son of Timaeus" so it is odd that Mark writes both; perhaps he was writing for an audience that was unfamiliar with Jewish culture. Before the advent of the Welfare State, anybody unable to earn their living had to rely on the generosity of their neighbours for survival (Deuteronomy 15:7).
John Proctor draws attention to Bartimaeus addressing Jesus as "Son of David" (a royal title) and comments "Blind Bartimaeus? I think not. This man saw some important things very clearly indeed". Perhaps the healing of a blind man drew attention to the blindness of many to who Jesus is and what God was doing.10:47
Bartimaeus had apparently heard enough about Jesus to respond to the news that he was nearby. The phrase "Jesus of Nazareth" appears so many times in the New Testament, including Pilate's statement on the cross (John 19:19), that "of Nazareth" seems to be used simply as Jesus's surname, signifying no more than which Jesus is meant. "Son of David", however, is a rare instance of a Messianic title used publicly[22 p.619] — so the gradual revelation of Jesus's identity through Mark's Gospel [22 p.597] is almost complete — harking back to the military hero and king who established the nation, perhaps implying a hope that Jesus would follow in his ancestor's footsteps and re-establish its independence. Perhaps Jesus would have passed by if Bartimaeus had not shouted, as in Mark 6:48–49.10:48
Perhaps the shouting of the beggar seemed an unnecessary interruption to those straining to hear Jesus's words as he walked along. But Bartimaeus could tell that Jesus was leaving Jericho (v.46) perhaps never to return, so attracting his attention was urgent. The crowd wanted to hear Jesus teaching (Mark 11:18), and discouraged Bartimaeus's shouting, inadvertently testing his faith[3 p.245]. It seems he was not valued as a full member of the community, or the crowd was too selfish to be willing to share what they were enjoying.10:49
Certain Old Testament characters were terrified when they were asked for healing (2 Kings 5:7), but Jesus is greater, calmly coping with all demands. Jesus forces the crowd to encourage the beggar, challenging their uncharitable attitude.
This story is as much about calling as healing[22 p.619]. Bartimaeus was blind and helpless until Jesus called him to be a whole person and a disciple[23 p.908]. He invited Bartimaeus to take a step of faith toward him; if this invitation had been refused, it is hard to see how Bartimaeus would receive anything.10:50
Bartimaeus moved energetically at Jesus's call, throwing off hindrances; his cloak, though useful, was insignificant compared with sight. Beggars used their cloaks as a receptacle for alms, so Bartimaeus left behind his earlier means of financial support[6 p.253]; he was symbolically leaving his old life behind. The portrayal of speed and energy is typical of Mark's portrayal of the Gospel as something urgent[2 p.36–37].10:51
Jesus made Bartimaeus say what he wanted — made him "pray". Like Mary at Cana (Luke 2:3), Bartimaeus wisely stated the problem (indicating trust), leaving the detailed solution to Jesus.
Aveyard[17 p.35] says that some disabled people have a vested interest in staying disabled and do not want to be healed, but Bartimaeus's request ("again" implying that at one time he could see) seems genuine.
Mark presents Jesus as a teacher[2 p.41] and reports Bartimaeus using that word, as well as a miracle-worker[22 p.597]. Jesus made no comment, consistently with the way his identity is generally kept secret in Mark.
Faith is consistently connected with healing in Mark[3 p.80]. "My" suggests that Bartimaeus was prepared to receive Jesus's teaching as well as healing, which again is consistent with whole-hearted faith in a Jesus who teaches and performs miracles, leading to discipleship[23 p.908], all themes of Mark.10:52
Jesus's word was effective, like the voice of God (e.g. Genesis 1 and Psalm 29. Healing by word alone is untypical in Mark; usually Jesus carries out symbolic actions when healing[20 p.267]. Perhaps as his identity becomes known he can more overtly act as God does, and expect those being healed to show corresponding faith by accepting his word alone.) However, Matthew 20:34 says that Jesus touched him, contradicting this point.
Mark emphasises the importance of faith for receiving healing[3 p.80]. "Mark wrote his Gospel to deepen the faith of the members of his community" and "his healings appear as anticipations of what life in God's kingdom will be like" [22 p.597].
Burridge[2 p.52] paraphrases this verse to clarify the Greek pun on "the way" which Isaiah prophesied would be made straight, in that the blind man was healed "straightaway" and then walked "on the way". This pun suggests that the healing of physical blindness illustrates the healing of spiritual blindness, leading to a changed life. Paul (who had himself been blinded on the road to Damascus) uses a related analogy in 2 Corinthians 3:16.
The passage demonstrates the effect of Jesus's ministry on those it touched: it transformed Bartimaeus's life, made the selfish crowd help the beggar, and glorified Jesus.11
Chapter 11 is in five sections arranged in nested pairs to convey meaning:[2 p.39]
a) who Jesus is (:1–11);
b) the fig tree (:12–14);
c) cleansing the Temple (:15–19);
d) fig tree again (:20–25);
e) who Jesus is again (:26–33);
and the beginning of Chapter 12 gives Jesus's explanation.
Section (a) identifies Jesus as King, perhaps intent on destruction, and in (b) he is uncharacteristically judgmental. Then the subject of his destructive anger becomes clear: it is the Temple, and particularly the things done there. Jesus's actions and words foretold the utter destruction of the Temple and its system, fulfilled in 70 CE[16 p.417].
This chapter explores the question of who Jesus is, and particularly his relationship with King David; thought-provoking references to David, explicit or implicit, are scattered throughout the chapter[8 p.25]. See also Mark 12:35–37 where Jesus raises the same point.11:1f
Jesus fulfils Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11, but attracts emotional worship that had no depth of commitment (see comment on Proverbs 14:30 concerning emotion.). They happily shout various Old Testament quotations (e.g. Psalm 118:26), but a few days later they will be shouting "release for us Barabbas" and "crucify". Isaiah 63:8–10 was thereby fulfilled also; cf. Malachi 4:5–6.11:2
Jesus travels in the same way as Mary did when travelling to Bethlehem when pregnant. cf. Matthew 21:2–7, Luke 19:35, John 12:12–16. Jesus tells the disciples what to expect when they untie the animal, and the disciples believe him and obey, showing that they already trust him as master and prophet[3 p.247].11:7
Successfully riding an untrained animal is a miracle that is easily overlooked. Jesus's humility in riding everyday animals echoes his humility in being born as a powerless baby.11:8
The crowd made the road pretty and perhaps level, but not straight (Isaiah 40:3). They were not ready to allow Jesus to be the sort of king he wanted to be.11:9
See comment on Matthew 21:9.11:11
This verse marks the end of a journey that started in Galilee in Mark 8:22, going by Jericho in Mark 10:46. cf. Isaiah 39:4–6. The visiting King who sees everything will come back and remove everything.
The mention of the end of the day suggests that the end of the day of temple worship, the end of an era, had come.11:12–21
= Matthew 21:18f. It seems out of character for Jesus to curse a fig-tree. To understand this event, compare it with Psalm 37:35–36, Jeremiah 8:13, Micah 7:1, Joel 1:12 and Luke 13:6–9. The cursing of the fig tree for bearing no fruit out of season must be a symbol of the cursing of Judah for bearing no fruit out of season. They should have borne fruit but did not. Are we God's servants whether it suits us or not? Judah's actions were incompatible with God's will so they were rejected. The destruction seems absolute and permanent.
Also, the two mentions of the fig tree bracket the cleansing of the temple, implying that the temple has been judged also[2 p.39]. Jesus's violent action foretells the utter destruction of the temple system.
The fig tree incidents are in turn bracketted by questions about Jesus's identity and authority, at the beginning and end of this chapter, linking all these ideas into a thought structure.11:15
The Messiah had been expected to start restoring Judah by evicting gentiles from the Temple, but instead Jesus evicted the traders from the Court provided for gentiles to worship[16 p.78].
Some commentators point out that Mark places the cleansing of the temple soon after Jesus declares that he will give his life as a ransom for many (10:45), and argue that Mark sees the cleansing as Jesus rejecting the temple sacrificial system, in order to replace it with his own sacrifice.11:17
The traders were profiting from changing Roman coinage into the special money with which sacrifices had to be purchased, and selling animals reared for sacrifice, a process which typified a materialistic relationship with God[16 p.154].
Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. This should call to mind the result of such behaviour in Jeremiah 7:14: like the ancient shrine at Shiloh, the Lord would depart (Psalm 78:60) and the place where he used to meet with people would become a mere memory.11:20–25
Several prophets had used fruitlessness as an allegory for God's people's failure to please him. It is apparent from the structure of chapter 11 that the cursing of the fig tree for fruitlessness must show that Judah is cursed for bearing no fruit, and the result will be the total destruction of the Temple.11:21
The disciples seem surprised that Jesus's curse on the tree was effective quickly. Jesus wants them to learn from this that spiritual power, both for doing miracles and for receiving forgiveness, depends on faith. He also connects receiving forgiveness with being forgiving, as in the Lord's Prayer, particularly the wording in Luke 11:4.11:22
Hudson Taylor said that Jesus's words in this verse should be translated "Hold the faithfulness of God". The distinction is important because the essential faithfulness is God's, not ours (cf. Isaiah 9:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:24).11:23 11:25 11:26–33
Jesus's action leads to conflict with the Temple authorities, and they ask him to explain himself. Asking about authority seems peculiar at this point, and Jesus's evasive response implies that he thought it was devious. The parallel passage Luke 19:47 adds that they were looking for a way to kill Jesus, presumably by getting him to say something blasphemous.12:1–11 12:10
cf. Psalm 118:22–23 (quoting the version in LXX where it is numbered Ps 117). The change of subject from a son (ben) to a stone (eben) is justified by similarity of the Hebrew words, making a pun. See comments on Luke 24:25–27 and Acts 4:11–12.12:12
Verse 12 shows that this parable was understood at the time as prophesying the destruction of the Jewish authorities in some way, and yet they show no sign of repentance.12:13–17
We are citizens of earthly countries and of Heaven. We have duties to each (Romans 13:1–7). However if the authorities try to contradict God then we must obey God rather than men (Acts 4:18–20, Acts 5:29).
Herodains: see Appendix 2 Essenes.12:16
By drawing attention to the image of Caesar on the coin, Jesus might be indicating that it did not meet Jewish law (Exodus 20:4), and was thus not something for a Jew to cling to.12:28–31 12:31 12:34b
cf. Job 42:3: when we get the opportunity to question God we discover we are totally out of our depth. This verse must mean that nobody thereafter questioned Jesus publicly; the disciples continued to ask questions privately, as in Mark 13:3.12:35–36 12:40–44
Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams is quoted as saying that this incident shows "You don't have to make every kind of difference, but you do have to make the difference that only you can make". cf. Jesus's costly anointing in Mark 14:3–6.12:41–42
The widow's mite = Luke 21:1–2. This brief incident teaches more than one moral: the widow's genosity (as a proportion of her resources) pleased God, but the pressure from the authorities that led to her giving all she had must be questioned; "people like her continue to be ground down by those who should protect them" .13 13:2
The temple looked solid and permanent, but had a very limited life-span. Similarly the religion focussed on it was temporary.13:4
The fact that Mark in his fairly short Gospel relates the question about when the Temple would be destroyed shows that he wrote it before the event happened in 70 C.E., while Matthew 24:3 makes the question refer to the Second Coming, so it seems he was writing after 70 C.E.[4 p.202].13:14
=Matthew 24:15; cf. Ezekiel 8:3–6, 1 Maccabees 4:36.13:20
Since it will be necessary to shorten the tribulation to save God's people, they will not have already been taken to heaven beforehand.13:24
Sun and Moon: cf. Isaiah 13:10, Joel 2:10, 3:4 and 4:15. Stars falling: Isaiah 34:4.13:26–27
cf. Zechariah 2:6, Daniel 7:13. There has been much debate about whether Jesus was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 or the end of the world. His reference to "this generation" in 13:30 suggests the former, but Jesus's use of the third person word "they" suggests that he knew that the end would not come within the lifetime of the people he was speaking to.
The vision resembles that when Elijah was taken up into heaven, seen by Elisha (2 Kings 2:11); perhaps only those who will inherit God's kingdom will see the arrival of his Son. This might remove some of the apparent contradictions in the descriptions of the "Rapture".13:35
Watches: see Appendix 2: Watches.14:3–6
Since "Messiah" means "anointed", it was appropriate that the woman should anoint Jesus. cf. Matthew 26:8–9, John 12:3. Breaking the jar was traditionally done after the person had died; it is an irrevocable action, and indicates that none of the perfume has been held back. We should yield everything we have to God; cf. the widow's mite in Mark 12:40–44.
In Matthew 26:7 and Mark 14:3 the ointment is poured onto Jesus's head (soon to be disfigured by the crown of thorns), but John 12:3 emphasizes the anointing of his feet, suggesting a link with the coming washing of the disciples' feet in John 13. See also Appendix 1 Mary Martha and Lazarus.14:8
Psalm 23:5–6 seems to say that the righteous are blessed, but other interpretations are possible; Jesus was anointed "for burial" while surrounded by opposition and evil, as implied by the earlier verses of Psalm 23. This is unexpected, because we might expect Jesus to be anointed as a priest or king.14:13
= Luke 22:10. See comments on Mark 14:42.14:22
This passage parallels Matthew 26:26, 1 Corinthians 11:24, and Luke 22:19 which has additional detail. Jesus is likely to have used the traditional words "Blessed are you, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth". Notice that Mark says "take..." requiring response; other accounts lack this. Mark's account preserves the asymmetry between the statements about the bread and the wine — see comments on 1 Corinthians 11:24 and 1 Corinthians 11:25.
There has been much debate over the years about whether this means that the bread and wine actually change substance becoming the flesh and blood of Jesus ("transubstantiation"). Thomas Cranmer wrote "He be transubstantiate in us" implying that it is as we digest the bread and wine that they become the body and blood of Jesus.[26 p.131]14:23
= Matthew 26:27, Luke 22:17, 1 Corinthians 11:25. The Passover celebrations involved four ceremonial cups; it is not clear which one is referred to. It may be that the similar passage in Luke 22:17 actually refers to a different episode within the same meal.14:27
cf. Zechariah 13:7.14:28
Jesus's reference to his resurrection seems to go in one of the disciples ears and out of the other; they ignore it in the following verses. It seems they simply couldn't get their heads around what he was saying.14:33 14:35 14:36
=Matthew 26:39, Luke 22:42. Jesus clearly had a will that was independent of his Father's. Perhaps he hoped a last-minute reprieve like Isaac (Genesis 22:13).14:42 14:45
Judas's greeting "Master, master" resembles "Lord, lord" in Matthew 7:21–22 and Luke 6:46.14:46
The phrase "laid hands on" may be a deliberate reference to Leviticus 16:21 where the laying-on of hands passes the consequences of sin to the scapegoat.14:51–52
It has been suggested that the young man was Mark[3 p.22].14:53
This was not a formal trial according to Essene, though Luke disagrees.14:54–72
In these verses one episode (Jesus's trial) is deliberately "bracketted" by another (Peter's denials) to guide readers to consider the relationship between them[2 p.39].14:61
See comment on Isaiah 53:7, and cf. Psalm 38:13. Perhaps the High Priest's question recognises Jesus's silence as fulfilling messianic prophecy.14:62 14:63
The High Priest was forbidden to tear his clothes by Leviticus 21:10.14:72
We now associate Jesus's dreadful remark in Mark 14:21 with Judas, but at the time it might have seemed that it applied equally to Peter.15:15
"Just as Gollum in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has been reduced to a thin, wretched creature through his longing to possess the ring ('my own, my precious'), so Pilate's political ambitions and need for power have reduced him to little more than a puppet, pulled by the strings of public opinion. The man who stands before him, a prisoner, bound and beaten, is yet more free than Pilate can ever be."15:17
Exodus 28:38 indicates that wearing something on the forehead indicates that sin is being dealt with. Jesus bore our sins and the crown of thorns (also related in Matthew 27:29 and John 19:2) meant that his forehead was stained with his own blood. Perhaps the crown of thorns symbolises the way Jesus was bearing our sins — or the punishment due for them.15:21
=Matthew 27:32, Luke 23:26. It is interesting that the names are recorded; Simon is a Jewish name but Rufus and Alexander are not, suggesting that sometime in Simon's lifetime the family was converted from Jewish to Christian.15:26
See comment on John 19:19.15:32
There are people who claim that the evidence for Christianity's truth is insufficient, because in reality they have no intention of taking the required leap of faith, and are looking for excuses to justify their choice. The Centurion (:39) seems to have been more open-minded. Open-mindedness does not say "I require this proof" (because coming down from the cross was not God's will, so the fact that Jesus did not do it is a proof rather than a denial of his divinity), but examines the available evidence.15:33
See comment on Matthew 27:45.15:34
cf. Matthew 27:46. Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1 expressing his distress. It is interesting to look at the end of Psalm 22 to see the hope that kept him going. See also the comment on Genesis 15:9–17. Deuteronomy 31:5 indicates that God does not actually forsake anyone.
See comment on Luke 24:25–27.15:38
Hooker[6 p.19] argues that the tearing of the curtain was a portent of the coming destruction of the whole temple, but it can also be seen as the inauguration of the priesthood of all believers (Revelation 1:6), because the barrier between the place where worshippers went and where only priests could go was broken down.15:39 15:43f
See comment on Luke 23:51.15:47
Matthew 27:61 explains how the women "saw where he was laid" here and in Luke 23:55, which confims that the tomb that was found empty was the correct one.16:7
This verse implies that Peter, having denied that he knew Jesus, was no longer considered to be one of his disciples.16:8
This is the end of the shortest, and possibly original, version of the Gospel. It seems reasonable to suppose that other endings were added because "they were afraid" seems a bad ending. It has been suggested, however, that the word translated "afraid" should be read as something like "awe-struck", and perhaps the Gospel was originally written in Aramaic and the ending read well in that language. The account doesn't come to a final and satisfying ending, from which one walks away and carries on ordinary life, but ends with movement and feeling and unresolved business, urging further action.16:12
Could this be an oblique reference to the appearance to Cleopas and his partner (Luke 24:13f)?16:13
© David Billin 2002–2020