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You may read an introduction to the “Gospel of Mark” and find an outline, here.

A prayer from the Book of Common Worship, to use before your reading,

God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out upon us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that, being taught by you in Holy Scripture, our hearts and minds may be opened to know the things that pertain to life and holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

III. 8:22-10:52 Jesus Begins His Journey to Jerusalem Where as the Son of Man He Will Give His Life as a Ransom for Many

D. 10:1-31 Interlude: Teaching to Crowds Across the Jordan

10:1-12 Teaching on Divorce: Some commentators (Perkins) believe that this question from the Pharisees may have had political overtones in it’s background about the marriage of Herod Antipas. (See Mark 6:17-19, Herod divorced his wife to marry his brother’s former wife. Commenting on this marriage resulted in John the Baptist’s death.)  Jesus answers the question, not by detailing when divorce is permitted but by talking about the purpose of marriage.

10:13-16 Receiving Children: Recall that in the ancient world, children were powerless, marginalized persons with no legal rights.Children were radically dependent on their father. A father had authority over his children even when they were adults.

10:17-31 The Rich Young Man and Teaching on Wealth: This is the only case where someone refuses Jesus call to follow. In the ancient world, wealth was considered a sign of God’s favor. Certainly wealthy people possessed power, unlike children. “Eternal life” is another way of talking about participation in the kingdom/reign of God. Notice fathers are mentioned in verse 29 but not in verse 30. What might this omission mean?

E. 10:32-45 The Third Passion Prediction Unit

10:32-34 The Third Passion Prediction: Verse 32 presents a striking picture.

10:35-40 The Request of James and John: This is an amazing request in light of  verse 32- 34. How difficult it was for the disciples to give up their conception of what a Messiah ( and his followers) would be. The cup will be an important part of the passion story.

10:41-45 The Indignation of the Other Disciples and Jesus’ Example of True Discipleship: While children and wealth are not mentioned, the theme of powerlessness continues.

10:46-52 Transitional Giving of Sight Story: This is the second sight giving story that frames this portion of the gospel. Notice this time, sight is immediately restored, Jesus does not need to touch Bartimaeus but heals by his word. This time the healed man travels with Jesus. This is the first time in the gospel that Jesus has been identified as the royal messiah/king.

IV. 11:1-13:37 The Messianic Actions and Teaching of Jesus in Jerusalem The Temple takes a central role in this section of the gospel. There are no more healings. Now there is teaching which leads to increasing conflict with the religious authorities.

A 11:1-12:44 Ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem, Conflict of Kingdoms

11:1-26 Entry into Jerusalem, Cleansing of the Temple, and Cursing of the Fig Tree. Mark’s readers would be familiar with triumphal entries into Jerusalem. Particularly, perhaps associated with Jewish revolutionaries and Roman conquerors during the First Jewish- Roman War. Mark’s gospel was written after the events of the Jewish revolt (66-70 CE). Notice the crowds acclamation is on the way to Jerusalem and not into Jerusalem. Jesus goes to the Temple, looks around and leaves.

The cursing of the fig tree is the only “miracle” in the passion narrative. The story of the cleansing of the Temple is sandwiched into the fig tree story. Certainly, given Jesus feeding of the people, he does not need a fig tree to provide his food. Rather this is a commentary on the Temple.

While Christians commonly refer to the “cleansing” of the Temple, Mark’s readers would not that Jesus’ actions do not restore purity to the Temple.  Jesus’ actions are more like the actions of a prophet.

Often we read verses 22-25 removed from their context. Does your understanding of these verses change when you consider Jesus’ critique of the religious institution of the Temple? What is the role of forgiveness in prayer?

11:27-12:12 The Center of the Jerusalem Ministry: Jesus, the Rejected Son, Teaches with Messianic Authority:The next day, the religious leaders are waiting for Jesus. They challenge Jesus’ authority and Jesus challenges them with a parable.

12:13-34 In Controversy with Jerusalem Leaders, Jesus Offers a Compendium of Belief: There are three questions in this section. Two are hostile, asked by Jesus major opponents- Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees. Often the first question (v13-17 paying taxes to Ceasar) is used as justification to separate life into a “religious” realm and a “secular” realm. Remember, however, that in the Roman Empire there was no modern division of church and state. Jesus responds to their question in a way similar to his answer to the earlier question about divorce. He does not give a “ruling”, rather he talks about the larger picture, to whom do ‘things’ belong? The emperor or God?

In response to the second question (v18-27) again, Jesus does not offer a “ruling” but speaks about the “big picture”, who God is and what God will do.

The third question is not a hostile question. This scribe stands in contrast to the scribes in 12:38-40. Not all scribes are in conflict with Jesus. Jesus reply comes from Duet 6:5-6 and Lev 19:18. The scribes response cites Hos 6:6.

12:35-44 The Temple Teaching of Jesus: Now Jesus has a question for the crowd about the Scribes teaching. The Messiah is more than just a king. The actions described in verse 38-39 are typical of the aristocracy. Recall Jesus previous warning against seeking honor and power. Note the mention of widows in verse 40 and then the story of the widow in verses 41-44. Recall also the earlier story of the rich young man.

B. 13:1-37 The Apocalyptic Testament of Jesus: In all the Gospels, at the end of Jesus’ public ministry there is a private discourse from Jesus to the disciples. In Mark, this address is often called an “apocalypse”. An apocalypse is a revelation or a revealing and is a particular type of literature.  Apocalyptic writings or sayings contain symbolic images. Typical of apocalyptic writing of the time, chapter 13 is a mix of warning and admonition. A persecuted community is assured that they will ultimately be vindicated and their oppressors defeated. Typically apocalyptic sayings are for the reading/hearing communities present concerns even though the sayings are, via the text, located in the past.

13:1-4 The Introduction: Prophecy, in the Bible, is not future telling but rather truth telling. Prophetic statements are made to encourage repentance and reform, the prophetic statement comes true if the warning is ignored.

13:5-13 The Beginning of the Tribulation: Instead of answering the disciples question, Jesus gives the disciples instructions for how to act during times of persecution. The disciples future will not be different than Jesus’ future, handed over to authorities and persecuted.

13:14-23 The Desolating Sacrilege and the Great Tribulation: What or who the “desolating sacrilege” or “abomination that causes desolation” was seems to have been clear to Mark’s readers. Today there are different opinions about it. Some think this is a reference to Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11, where it refers to the desecration of the Temple by a pagan altar. Some think a person is being referred to, the Emperor (or his statue), a Roman military leader, or perhaps a zealot leader.   Remember that this gospel is likely written just after the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. (see the link at 11:1-26) Again there is a warning about false leaders and prophets.

13:24-37 The Return of the Son of Man: Verses 24 and 25 quote Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 which refer to the destruction of Israel’s and God’s enemies. This language is not necessarily meant to be taken literally but is an attempt to convey a sense of turmoil and radical upheaval and change. The “Son of Man coming in clouds…” is an allusion to Daniel 7:13-14. This is a way of talking about God ruling over creation.We are cautioned against speculation and inactivity. God alone is in charge of the future. The faithful need to be faithful.

V. 14:1-16:8 The Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of the Son of Man in Jerusalem The Passion accounts in the Gospels are not simply historical records but are theological statements which interpret the events with the goal of helping the reader understand the deeper meaning.

A. 14:1-52 From the Plot to Kill Jesus to the Arrest 

14:1-11 The Plots Against Jesus and the Anointing: The story of the woman who anoints Jesus is located in between the plotting of the chief priests and teachers of the Law and Judas betrayal. The disciples still do not completely understand Jesus’ mission and so misunderstand the woman’s action. Notice the actions of women in the passion story, compared to the actions of the disciples.

14:12-31 The Passover with the Disciples: As with the donkey for the entry into Jerusalem, Jesus tells the disciples what will happen. Jesus also predicts Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. What do these statements by Jesus, along with his words in verses 22-25 tell us about the Passion?

14:32-42 The Prayer in Gethsemane: In the previous verses, Jesus is in control of events. But in Gethsemane, Jesus relinquishes control. Peter, James and John were with Jesus when Jairus’ daughter is brought back to life and were at the transfiguration. Peter has just declared he will not “fall away” (v29) but falls asleep. James and John have asked to sit in places of honor with Jesus (10:37-39) and to drink of the same cup. Yet all fall asleep in spite of Jesus reminder in 13:36-37 to stay awake.

14:43-52 The Betrayal and Arrest: A kiss was a sign of friendship, but is used here to betray Jesus. The violence of cutting off a servants ear and trying to seize a young man who is so frightened he runs off naked along with the fleeing of the disciples highlights the dangerous, hostile situation.

B.14:53-16:8 The “Handing Over” of Jesus to Death and to God’s Power

14:53-72 The Trial Before the Sanhedrin and the Denial of Peter: Mark interweaves the story of Jesus’ trial and Peter’s denial. How does each story illuminate the other?  Mark’s telling of the trial highlights its injustice.  The reader knows Jewish leaders have been trying to arrest Jesus for some time. But their witnesses cannot get their stories straight. Jesus identity, hidden earlier in the Gospel is now made clear.  Jesus’ passion predictions come to pass. Peter denies Jesus, as predicted, with each denial becoming stronger.

Read More About It:

Donahue, John R. “Mark” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.

Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 7 “The Gospel of Mark”

Perkins, Pheme, “The Gospel of Mark: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII, Leander E. Keck,ed. (Nashville, Abingdon Press)1994.

Tilden, Elwyn E., Bruce M. Metzger, “Mark” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.

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