Context of Mark
Traditionally John Mark, traveling companion of Paul and “interpreter” for Peter in Rome. The writer does not identify himself in the Gospel text, and scholars, unable to verify the late-second-century tradition of Markan authorship, regard the work as anonymous.
About 66-70 CE, during the Jewish Revolt against Rome.
Place of composition:
Rome or Syria-Palestine.
Primarily oral tradition. Many scholars believe that Mark possibly used a few written sources, such as a collection of Jesus’ parables (ch. 4), a compilation of apocalyptic prophecies (ch. 13), and, perhaps, and older account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution (chs. 14-15).
Gentile Christians suffering persecution.
Structure of Mark
Prelude to Jesus’ Public Ministry (1:1-13)
The Galilean Ministry (1:14–8:26)
The Journey to Jerusalem (8:27–10:52)
The Jerusalem Ministry (11:1–14:11)
Mark’s Passion Narrative: Jesus’ Trial and Crucifixion (14:12–15:47)
Postlude: The Empty Tomb (16:1-8)
Later Additions to the Postlude (16:9-20)
Themes of Mark
Jesus as a “hidden Messiah” who was misunderstood and devalued by his contemporaries.
Jesus as both “Son of Man” and “Son of God.”
Jesus as servant.
Jesus came to suffer and to die.
The triumph of Jesus through submission to the will of God.
Jesus as revelator of things to come.
Jesus as teacher of the mysteries of the Kingdom.
Prelude to Jesus’ Public Ministry (1:1-13)
John the Baptist Prepares the Way (1:1-8)
“The beginning of the good news” (1:1) unique to Mark’s Gospel
Opens with quote from Isaiah 40:3…
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
John appears in the wilderness and preaches a baptism of repentance.
Many people are baptized by John in the Jordan River.
Mark describes John as wearing clothing made of camel’s hair and a leather belt, this is supposed to remind the reader of Elijah.
John eats locusts and wild honey.
“After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John the Baptist according to puppets…
The Baptism and Testing of Jesus (1:9-13)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 3:13–4:11
Jesus is baptized by John and then led into the wilderness to be tempted.
Jesus being with the wild beasts during temptations (1:13) unique to Mark’s Gospel.
Mark also says Jesus was attended by angels.
The Galilean Ministry (1:14–8:26)
Jesus Announces the Good News (1:14-15)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 4:12-17
John gets arrested.
Jesus goes to Galilee and preaches.
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Jesus Calls His First Disciples (1:16-20)
Covered more thoroughly in Luke 5:1-11
Jesus sees Simon and Andrew fishing on the Sea of Galilee and calls to them to follow Him so He can teach them to fish for people.
They follow without hesitation.
James and John do the same, leaving their father and his boat behind.
Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit (1:21-28)
Jesus teaches at the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath.
The people are impressed with Jesus’ knowledge.
A man with an evil spirit starts screaming at Jesus.
He says, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus tells the demon to shut up, and casts it out of the man.
The demon shrieks and shakes the man as it leaves him.
After this, news about Jesus begins to spread all around the region of Galilee.
Jesus Heals Many (1:29-34)
Jesus and his disciples leave the synagogue and go to Simon and Andrew’s house.
Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed, and Jesus takes her by the hand, heals her, and helps her out of bed.
She then feeds them all as people begin to show up at the door to be healed.
Jesus casts out even more demons and refuses to let them speak.
Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place (1:35-39)
Jesus gets up before sunrise to go pray by himself.
Simon and the others find and say, “Everyone’s looking for you!”
Jesus decides they need to move on to other towns for awhile, so they do.
Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy (1:40-45)
A man with leprosy comes to Jesus and says, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus says, “I am willing.”
Jesus heals him tells him not to tell anyone and simply to go fulfill the Mosaic Law’s requirements for healings.
Instead, the man goes out and tells everyone he meets.
Jesus can no longer stay in towns because of this, and from now on he and his disciples sleep outside in “lonely places.”
Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man (2:1-12)
Jesus returns to Capernaum and preaches in a house.
The Paralyzed Man according to puppets…
The house is filled to overflowing, so that people cannot get to Jesus.
Some men cut a hole in the roof and lower their paralyzed friend down so that Jesus can heal him.
Jesus says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
The teachers of the law didn’t care for that statement, and thought Jesus was being blasphemous.
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and says to them which is easier to say – “Your sins are forgiven” or “Get up and walk”?
He then heals the man just to prove that He has the authority to forgive peoples’ sins.
Jesus Calls Levi and Eats with Sinners (2:13-17)
Jesus is walking by the lake with crowds following him when he sees Levi sitting at the tax collector’s booth.
He calls Levi, and Levi follows him.
He later eats dinner at Levi’s house and the Pharisees disapprove of him eating with “sinners.”
Jesus turns their views on their heads, saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus Questioned About Fasting (2:18-22)
Covered more thoroughly in Luke 5:33-39
Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath (2:23-28)
Jesus and is disciples are walking through a grain field on the Sabbath, and the disciples start picking heads of grain.
The Pharisees accuse them of breaking Mosaic Law.
Jesus reminds them that even King David broke the Law by eating the sacred bread when he and his men were starving to death.
Jesus turns again turns their views on their heads, saying, “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, so the Son of Man is lord of Sabbath.”
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath (3:1-6)
Jesus goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath and sees a man with a shriveled hand
The Pharisees were watching to see if He would heal on the Sabbath.
Jesus has the man stand in front of everyone, and asks them all “Which is better, to save life or to kill?”
Nobody says anything.
Jesus becomes angry, and he turns and heals the man.
The Pharisees then go out and plot Jesus’ death with the Herodians.
Crowds Follow Jesus (3:7-12)
Jesus and his disciples withdraw to the Lake, and crowds from all over follow them.
He heals people and casts out demons.
The demons would say, “You are the Son of God.” But Jesus would order them not to speak about that
Jesus Appoints the Twelve (3:13-19)
Calling disciples to mountain to preach, and cast out demons (3:13-15) unique to Mark’s Gospel
These are the twelve:
Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter)
James, son of Zebedee
John, brother of James
James and John being given the name “Boanerges", meaning "sons of Thunder” (3:17) unique to Mark’s Gospel
James, son of Alphaeus
Simon the Zealot
Judas (who betrayed him)
Jesus Accused by His Family and by Teachers of the Law (3:20-35)
Jesus and his disciples go to house, and so many people show up that they can’t even eat.
Jesus’ family thinks he’s crazy, and come to take charge of him.
Jesus’ family trying to restrain him (3:20-21) unique to Mark’s Gospel
The teachers of the Law arrive from Jerusalem and they accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul.
Jesus begins to speak in parables:
“How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
Someone interrupts Jesus to let him know that his mother and brothers have arrived to take him home.
Jesus responds, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
He then identifies those sitting in a circle around him – the ones who do the will of God – as his true family.
The Parable of the Sower (4:1-20)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 13:1-23
A Lamp on a Stand (4:21-25)
“Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.”
This parable can also be used to explain the confusing idea of the “Messianic secret.” All secrets are ultimately intended to be revealed – including the secret of Jesus as Messiah.
“With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
The Parable of the Growing Seed (4:26-29)
The Parable of the Mustard Seed (4:30-34)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 13:31-35
Jesus Calms the Storm (4:35-41)
At the end of a long day, Jesus and his disciples sail across the Lake away from the crowds.
Jesus falls asleep.
A storm quickly comes upon them, but Jesus sleeps through it.
Jesus being asleep on a cushion during storm (4:38) unique to Mark’s Gospel
As the waves are breaking over the boat, the disciples wake Jesus up, saying, “Don’t you care if we drown?”
Jesus gets up and tells the wind and the waves to shut up.
Jesus saying, “Peace, Be still” to the storm (4:39) unique to Mark’s Gospel
The storm immediately stops, and Jesus asks the disciples why they were so afraid, and what happened to their faith.
The disciples are terrified, and they wonder who this man could be… because they just don’t get it.
Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man (5:1-20)
They cross the Lake and arrive in the region of the Gerasenes.
The text says that when Jesus got out of the boat, a man with a demon came running out of the tombs towards him.
The text describes the man as living in the tombs, and one who was unable to be restrained, even by chains.
The text says that he would break his chains, and would stay at the tombs at night crying out and cutting himself with stones.
Details about strength of Gerasene demoniac (5:4-5) unique to Mark’s Gospel
Jesus commands the demon to come out of the man.
The man falls at his knees in front of Jesus, screaming, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”
Jesus asks, “What’s your name?”
He responds, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
He begs over and over for Jesus not to send them out of the area.
The demons request to be relocated to a nearby heard of pigs.
Jesus gives them permission, and they all leave the man and go into the pigs.
The pigs go crazy, and the whole heard jumps off a cliff and drowns in the Lake.
The Lake was also referred to as “the pit” by the people who lived near it, and they believed it was where Satan himself lived in chaos and darkness.
So when the pigs jump into the Lake, the text is implying that even these “unclean animals” understood that these “unclean spirits” belonged in hell.
The man is restored to his right mind, and puts on some clothes.
The pig farmers are afraid of Jesus, and beg him to leave the area.
The people now acts as the demons, begging for Jesus to leave them alone.
The man now healed begs to go with Jesus, but Jesus tells him he should go home and tell his people just how much Jesus had done for him... which is quite the opposite command of the Messianic Secret that we normally see from Jesus when he's among his fellow Jews.
The man begins to preach in The Decapolis (The Ten Cities) about Jesus.
Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman (5:21-43)
Jesus crosses the Lake again and the crowds are waiting for him.
A man named Jairus, a synagogue leader begs Jesus to come heal his sick twelve year old daughter.
On the way, Jesus is pressed by the large crowds.
A woman is in the crowd who had been bleeding for twelve years.
She believes that if she could only touch the “corners” or “wings” of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed.
This thought refers back to the prophet Malachi, who said, “The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.”
She touches the “wings” and is healed.
Jesus suddenly stops, knowing something is different.
He asks, “Who touched my clothes?”
The disciples think he’s being weird, and respond, “You’re in a crowd. Everyone’s touching your clothes.”
Jesus being aware that power had gone from him when healing woman with bleeding (5:30) unique to Mark’s Gospel
The woman comes forward and fearfully confesses.
Jesus says to her, “Your faith has healed you.”
While Jesus is talking, someone shows up and informs Jairus that his daughter just died.
Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Jesus takes his closest friends, Peter, James, and John, with him to Jairus’s house.
There is a large crowd wailing, and Jesus tells them to stop wailing because the girl is “only asleep.”
The crowd laughs at Jesus and Jesus sends them away.
Jesus goes in to see the girl, takes her by the hand, and tells her to get up, and she does.
The parents and the disciples are shocked, and Jesus tells them to feed the girl, and to not tell anyone about what had just happened – it must be a secret.
A Prophet Without Honor (6:1-6a)
Covered more thoroughly in Luke 4:14-30
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (6:6b-13)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 10:1-42
Jesus teaches in various villages.
Sends his disciples out in twos to go do what he’s been doing.
John the Baptist Beheaded (6:14-29)
Mark lets his readers know that King Herod heard about everything Jesus and his disciples were doing.
Some people were saying that Jesus was really John the Baptist come back from the dead, but Herod would have none of that nonsense.
Mark then backtracks here and tells his readers the story of how Herod had killed John the Baptist.
Herod had married his brother Phillip’s wife, Herodius, and John had told him that was a wicked thing to do, so Herod locked John up in prison.
Herod enjoyed listening to John preach, but Herodius hated John.
When Herod’s birthday came, he had a big party, and Herodius’s daughter Salome danced for everyone.
Herod was so “pleased” by her that he promised to give her anything she wanted.
Salome discussed this with her mother, and her mother sent her back to request for the head of John the Baptist to be served on a silver platter.
Herod didn’t want to kill John, but also didn’t want to look bad in front of his guests for breaking his oath, so he had John beheaded.
John’s disciples placed John’s body in a tomb.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand (6:30-44)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 14:13-21
Jesus Walks on the Water (6:45-56)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 14:22-36
That Which Defiles (7:1-23)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 15:1-20
Jesus Honors a Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith (7:24-30)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 15:21-28
Departure to Tyre, and entering a house, not wanting anyone to know he was there (7:24) unique to Mark’s Gospel
Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man (7:31-37)
Jesus has been traveling with his disciples through pagan territory.
He leaves Tyre and Sidon and goes to the Decapolis (Ten Cities).
People beg him to heal a deaf and mute man.
“Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ’Ephphatha!’ (which means ’Be opened!’). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.”
Jesus keeps telling people to stop spreading the word about him, but they keep doing it anyway.
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand (8:1-13)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 15:29-39
The Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod (8:14-21)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 16:5-12
Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida (8:22-26)
Jesus and his disciples arrive at Bethsaida and the people bring him a blind man.
Jesus secretly spits on the man’s eyes and asks him what he sees.
The man says he says people that look like walking trees.
Jesus tries again and this time the man can see everything clearly.
Jesus tells him to keep this a secret and not to even avoid going back into town.
The blind man can represent the people, who even after having seen the Messiah do not understand what they are looking at… but who will one day understand fully.
This is one possible reason why Jesus insists on a temporary Messianic secret. Because the people don’t really know what a messiah is, and with their confused and ecstatic words they have been spreading a false gospel about Jesus.
The Journey to Jerusalem (8:27–10:52)
Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah (8:27-30)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 16:13-20
Jesus Predicts His Death (8:31-33)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 16:21-28
The Way of the Cross (8:34–9:1)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 16:21-28
The Transfiguration (9:2-13)
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain.
His appearance changes in front of them and his clothes become bright white.
Suddenly Moses and Elijah of long ago appear out of nowhere and begin speaking with Jesus.
Peter doesn’t know what to say and he interrupts the conversation and volunteers to build three huts for them.
Mark writes, “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’”
Luke’s version puts it this way: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
This is a direct reference to three different passages from the three different sections of the Hebrew Bible – The Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Khetuvim – showing that Jesus is the focal point all of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) …and even the poets.
Through the poets God declares in Psalm 2:7, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.”
Through the prophets God declares in Isaiah 42:1a, “Here is my servant, whom I support, my chosen one, in whom I take pleasure.”
And through the Law of Moses God declares in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”
Moses and Elijah are gone and Jesus tells Peter, James, and John not to tell anyone what they saw until after He was raised from the dead.
They are confused about what he meant by rising from the dead… proving that they were not yet ready to spread the true Gospel of Jesus.
They also ask about Elijah’s return and Jesus’ opinion on that biblical teaching. Jesus responds with a question, “Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?”
He then indicates that Elijah already came back and the teachers of Law did whatever they pleased with him.
Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit (9:14-29)
They come down the mountain and meet up with the other disciples who are in the middle of an argument with the teachers of the Law over a demon-possessed boy.
The crowd is amazed when Jesus arrives, and Jesus just wants to know what the ruckus is all about.
The boy’s father explains his son’s condition – how the demon tries to throw the boy into fire or water to kill him ever since he was a child, and how he “foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid.”
The disciples were unable to help the boy, so that man asks for Jesus’ help if Jesus is able to help.
Jesus is like, “‘If’? What do you mean ‘if I can help’? Everything is possible for the believer!”
The father quickly changes his attitude, declaring, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
A crowd is running over to watch, so Jesus starts chewing out the demon, commanding it to leave and never return.
The demon shrieks and violently shakes the boy and then comes out.
The crowd thought the boy was dead, but Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up.
Later, the disciples wanted to know why they couldn’t drive out the demon, and Jesus tells them that this kind can only come out by prayer and fasting.
Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time (9:30-37)
Jesus walks his disciples through Galilee and teaches them.
He tells them “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”
But they didn’t understand and were afraid to ask what he meant.
When they arrive at Capernaum, Jesus lets them know that he overheard them arguing about which one of them was the greatest.
He sits down and once again turns everything on its head by saying, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
He holds a child and says to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Whoever Is Not Against Us Is for Us (9:38-41)
John tattles to Jesus about some folks he saw driving out demons in Jesus’ name, saying they told them to stop.
Jesus is like, “Why did you tell them to stop? We’re on the same team!”
Causing to Stumble (9:42-50)
Jesus goes back to the child, saying, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”
He then goes on to say if their hand or their foot or eye causes them to sin, they should cut it off and get rid of it. Because it’s better to be crippled and live, than to have two feet in hell (or Gehenna).
Some observations about Gehenna from this passage:
“All of Jesus’ references to gehenna are made to religious people, and are made in reference to sinful behavior. None of them are spoken to unbelievers or in reference specifically about unbelievers – and for that matter, none are made in reference to one’s lack of belief or orthodoxy.”
“All of the references to gehenna can be reasonably viewed as references to the literal location – a burning garbage dump, where bodies are filled with maggots (worms that, to the ancients, appeared to have come from nowhere and do not die – transforming, instead, into flies) and are consumed in the flames.”
|The Hinnom Valley (Gehenna) today|
“If we look specifically at the passage from Mark, which is the one most often quoted by those supporting a view of gehenna as a place of eternal, conscious punishment, Jesus refers to it as “where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” This is a direct quote from Isaiah 66, where the prophet describes the view of the fallen Assyrian army (in the Hinnom Valley… or ‘Hell Valley’ in rough English) ‘And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.’ It is a view of dead bodies on a funeral pyre, full of maggots, being burned to ash.”
Jesus then says, “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 19:1-12
The Little Children and Jesus (10:13-16)
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus didn’t like this and said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Jesus being indignant when disciples sent children away (10:14) unique to Mark’s Gospel
The Rich and the Kingdom of God (10:17-31)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 19:16-30
Blessings include persecutions for those who give up everything (10:30) unique to Mark’s Gospel
Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time (10:32-34)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 20:17-19
The Request of James and John (10:35-45)
Covered more thoroughly in Matthew 20:20-28
Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight (10:46-52)
Jesus and his disciples go to Jericho and the crowds follow them.
A blind man named Bartimaeus (or “the son of Timaeus”) hears that jesus of Nazareth has arrived and he begins calling out to him, “Son of David! Have mercy on me!”
Jesus stops and has the man brought to him.
The man stands up and leaves his cloak behind him as he goes to Jesus.
Jesus asks him what he wants, and he says, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
Jesus says, “Go, your faith has healed you.”
The man’s sight was restored immediately and he followed Jesus down the road.
Lyons, Christopher. What the Hell? Fishing the Abyss, 2011.