Return to Gospels

A Reader’s Introduction to the Gospel according to Mark
Gary E. Schnittjer
Copyright 2012

From the first verse the readers have more information and a different perspective than any of the human characters in the book.  Mark’s frequent narrative explanations for the reader maintain a sense that both narrator and reader stand apart from the faith-challenged characters within the story. Yet, the ironic and enigmatic development of the suffering of the Son of God combined with the rejection of the biblically-educated and failure and weakness of the followers raises the tension and frustration from beginning to end.
The characters' responses poignantly contrast the expected and proper responses which the reader should have. The responses of the characters to the Christ’s death and resurrection in the last three chapters sharply contrast the manner in which the reader is to respond––sleeping instead of praying, running away instead of standing fast, denying instead of proclaiming, watching from a distance, hiding and silent instead of finding Jesus and telling his followers. The narrative startles and challenges readers to express their faith in a diametrically different manner than those within the story itself.  (Click here for diagram of the perception gap between the upper and lower level.)

In some ways Mark’s Gospel is the strangest and most difficult of the four. Among the challenges are the ending, mystery, the problems of the followers, and the nature of Messiah.
The Beginning
            Mark’s Gospel is straightforward in its style. It appears that it announces its plan and significance in the opening lines––“The beginning of the good news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” (1:1 translation mine). Mark’s Gospel, first, claims to offer only “the beginning” of the good news. Throughout the course of the story several matters are raised which, according to Jesus, would come to pass; namely, his followers will follow him in his suffering (10:39), the temple would be destroyed (13:2), the gospel would be preached to the nations (13:10), the son of man will come on the clouds (13:26), the woman’s gift would be remembered everywhere as the gospel is preached to the nations (14:9), and Jesus would go ahead of his disciples to Galilee (16:7). Since he was right in predicting his death and resurrection, readers trust his word regarding these other things which would take place after the end of the story. Second, it is said to be “good news.” Third, it is the good news of “Jesus.” Fourth, Jesus is “the Messiah.” Fifth, Jesus the Messiah is the “Son of God.” In my view, the five elements of the opening are significant and basic to the theology of Mark’s narrative.
            As can be seen in the various conventional translations (e.g., NIV, NRSV, ESV, NAS), the Gospel ends in 16:8, yet later manuscripts contain one or both of the shorter ending or longer ending (16:9-20), and in some cases a different version of the long ending. In other words, Mark’s Gospel was so difficult for readers that three or more Christian scribes, at different times and places, supplied different endings. According to the oldest Greek manuscripts, namely Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, the Gospel according to Mark ends in 16:8. If one compares the longer ending (16:9-20) with the other Gospels the sources of this ending seem apparent––Mk 16:9 = Jn 20:11-18; Mk 16:12 = Lk 24:13-35; Mk 16:15 = Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:19-20 = Acts 1:9-11.
            The added endings heighten the question for readers of Mark––what is so disturbing in Mark that caused more than one person to attempt to fix the ending?
            One of the most characteristic features of Mark is irony or enigma. Perhaps a better term is mystery. Perhaps Mark 4:11 represent a broader pattern in the narrative––And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret [mystery] of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables’ (NRSV). Even here, ironically, the disciples fail to understand and need to have the parable explained to them. The mystery, even when revealed, remains beyond reach.[1]
            With a single exception, only God and demonic forces recognize him as God’s Son. The exception is ironically a roman centurion who watched his execution. Regarding his messiahship, he was recognized as such by Peter in 8:29, yet, the disciples proceeded to demonstrate that they had a wrong understanding of what it meant for Jesus to be Messiah. They continued to think in terms of power and prestige and misunderstand his repeated statement of humiliation and death.
            Also, strangely, Jesus often challenges those who recognize him to keep it a secret (see 1:44-45; 5:43; 7:24, 36; 8:26). This attempt to conceal his identity seems to run counter to the proclamation of the good news, yet aligns itself well with Jesus as mystery in Mark. The messianic secret becomes an enigmatic irony when placed alongside the book’s gospel theme.
The Followers
            The followers offer an important aspect of the significance of the story. In a few places they are regarded positively––they respond to his call immediately without any explanation (1:17, 20); they are specially appointed (3:14); they are given the mystery (4:11); they recognize him as Messiah (8:29); they see his glory (9:2-8); they are privately instructed on the coming judgment (13:1-37). In spite of these few positive actions, the disciples are regarded negative––they do not understand (4:13, 41; 6:52; 7:18; 8:21); they reject a suffering messiah (8:32); they seek honor and glory (9:34; 10:37); Judas betrays him for money (14:10-11); when asked to stand watch they sleep (14:32-42); their last group appearance in Mark is running away (14:50); Peter is the only follower to be mentioned after the arrest, and what is told is his denial (14:66:72).[2] The only followers to be seen after Jesus’ arrest are some women followers, but only to watch his death at a distance (15:40) and to run away scared and silent when hearing of his resurrection (16:8).[3]
            Because the reader naturally identifies with the disciples, and the reader knows more from the beginning (1:1), there is a growing sense of astonishment and frustration at the hard-hearted character of the followers. Indeed, indictment of outsiders not hearing or seeing in the quote from Isaiah 6 (Mk. 4:12) is applied to the disciples by the narrator (6:52) and Jesus (7:18; 8:17-18, 21). In short, the failure of the followers causes a tension and challenge for the readers––it may partially explain why some wrote new endings for this book.
The Son of God
            Mark begins straightforwardly by stating that his narrative concerns Jesus, the Messiah the Son of God (1:1).[4] Yet, ironically, Jesus’ divine sonship is recognized by only one human character––a gentile executioner (see discussion of mystery above). The narrative includes key statements acknowledging him as the Son by God (1:11; 9:7; 15:38; cf. rip used only in 1:11 and 15:38), asked by the high priest (14:61), by a roman soldier (15:39), and as the Holy One by demonic forces (1:24).

            The main characters of the narrative aptly portray some of the major themes of human life in the redemptive context.[5]
            Jesus is presented as the Messiah with authority. Yet, as the narrative continues he is portrayed increasingly as the servant, serving in loneliness. The development of solitude heightens in the final scenes of the narrative as he is betrayed, deserted, beaten , and mocked by the concentric circles of characters while on the cross. Finally, he is alone utterly as he cried out the prayer from Psalm 22 (15:34).
            The Religious Leaders are presented as the hateful enemies of Jesus. There is no small irony in the way they began to plot to kill him (cf. 3:1-6). This hatred which culminated in Jesus’ death was not based out of misunderstanding but understanding (cf. 12: 12).
            The Disciples are perhaps the most interesting characters in Mark. For although they began well as the followers of Christ (1:16-20), they consistently misunderstood him, and were often admonished for a lack of faith or hardness of heart. Oddly, the Gentiles and marginal individuals (e.g., children, widows) outrank both the disciples and the religious leaders in faith in the Messiah.

         Sets of three––three seed parable (4:3-32); popular opinions about John (6:14-15); opinions about Jesus (8:27:28); predictions of passion (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). The close of the book is especially dominated by threes––predictions (14:27:31); praying/sleeping (14:32-42); denials (14:66-72); responses to crucifixion (15:29-32); hours (15:33); responses to his death (15:38-41); days (16:1).
         Aramaic expressions are translated (3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 9:43; 10:46; 14:36; 15:22, 34). These are among the common narrator’s direct explanation of details to readers. Latin terms are used rather than Greek equivalents (5:9; 6:27; 12:15, 42; 15:16, 39).
         Mark is simple and straightforward on the surface.
          The book is headed by it theme––the good news of Jesus the Messiah (1:1). This theme is restated in Peter’s confession at the top of the second major section of the narrative (you are the Messiah, 8:29). Also see 1:1, 11; 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 13:32; 14:36, 61-62.
          The language is less elaborate and more popular than Luke or Matthew.
          Mark uses "and" a lot.
          Mark uses the historical present over 150 times making Jesus a contemporary of those reading (narrative tells what happens, not simply what happened).
          Mark uses detail in his narrative to heighten the sense of being there (names, pillow in the boat, wild beasts in the wilderness, nicknaming of James and John, etc.).
          Mark puts his readers in the scene where they may visualize and feel what the evangelist has described, especially by making parenthetical statements (13:37; 4:41; etc.).
         The tone of Mark is one of urgency––immediately used forty-two times; two times the text mentions that there no time for a meal; Mark emphasizes the vividness and excitement of the action.
          Mark emphasizes Jesus’ action more than his teaching (eighteen miracles and four parables). Jesus has sovereign power over all: disease, disability, demons, nature. This is evidence that Jesus’ kingdom had come near to those people.
         Mark’s implied audience has a working knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures. Mark uses several quotations and allusions with no explanation regarding the nature of the passages, etc. Simply put, these scripture uses presume a significant level of competency with the biblical texts.[6]
         There is a dominate movement of Jesus toward the cross. From Mark 8:31 onward Jesus and his disciples were on the way (9:33; 10:32) from Caesarea Philippi in the north through Galilee to Jerusalem in the south. The rest of the narrative (thirty-six percent) is devoted to events of the Passion Week (11:1-16:8). Mark has been called a passion story with an introduction.
            Mark’s Gospel presents the story using an omniscient point of view. Readers constantly have privileged and private information. Readers know where Jesus is and what he is doing even when no one knows where he is or what he is doing. The storyteller even discloses what characters are thinking. The substantial gap between the view points of readers and characters creates the irony and tension which drive the book’s negative implications (see “overview” above).

Broad Overview of Mark
The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus the Messiah! (1:1)
The Preparation (1:2-13)
The Proclamation and Recognition and Rejection and Retreat of the Messiah (1:14-8:21)
I           The Preaching of the Good News of God (1:14-3:12)
II         The Summoning of Those He Wanted (3:13-6:6a)
III        Going Around to the Villages Teaching (6:6b-8:21)
Hinge––Partial Sight––The Two-Stage Healing of the Blind Man (8:22-26)
You are the Messiah! (8:29)
The Recognition and Rejection and Execution and Resurrection of the Messiah (8:27-16:9)
IV        The Son of Man in the Shadow of his Coming Sacrifice (8:27-10:52)
Hinge––Full Recognition of the Son of David
                        -- The Healing of the Blind Beggar (10:46-52)
                        -- The King Enters Jerusalem (11:1-10)
V         The Tree and the Temple (11:11-26)
VI        The Confrontations in the Temple (11:27-12:44)
VII      Discourses on the Mount of Olives (13:1-37)
VIII     Loyalty and Faithfulness and Betrayal––the Passover (14:1-25)
IX        Good Intentions and Weakness and Betrayal and Desertion and Accusation (14:26-72)
X         The Delivery, Death, and Resurrection of the King (15:1-16:8)


Detailed Overview of Mark[7]

The Beginning of the Good News of Jesus the Messiah! (1:1)

The Preparation (1:2-13)

1:2-3 Offer a mixed quotation from Exod. 23:20; Mal. 3:1; Isa. 40:3 with the use of you which draws it toward God’s direct address to you (Jesus) in 1:11.

A         John (1:3-7)

            a voice (v. 3)
                        setting-wilderness (v. 4)
                                    results (v. 5)
                                                proclaims (vv. 6, 7a)
                                                            proclamation (v. 7b)

B         Jesus and John (1:8-10)

            water, Spirit (v. 8)
                        Jesus, John (v. 9)
            water, Spirit (v. 10)

A’        Jesus (1:11-15)

            a voice (v. 11)
                        setting-wilderness (v. 12)
                                    results (v. 13)
                                                proclaims (vv. 14)
                                                            proclamation (v. 15)


The Proclamation and Recognition and Rejection and Retreat of the Messiah (1:14-8:21)


I           The Preaching of the Good News of God (1:16-3:12)[8]

A         The calling of disciples––Simon, Andrew, James, John (1:16-20)[9]

1          Underway (1:16a)

2          Jesus sees the brothers (1:16b)

3          . . . calls them, and . . . (1:17)

4          . . . immediately they go after him (1:18)

1          Underway (1:19a)

2          Jesus sees the brothers (1:19b)

3          . . . calls them, and . . . (1:20a)

4          . . . immediately they go after him (1:20b)

B         Proclamation and Healing with Authority (1:21-45)

1          (Public) authority––Capernaum synagogue teaching/ healing (1:21-27)

            1’         Summary (1:28)

                        2          (Private) Healed Peter’s mother-in-law (1:29-31)

1          (Public) the whole city came in to him in evening (1:32-33)

            1’         Summary (1:34)

2          (Private) he went out to a lonely place while it was still dark (1:35-38)

1:35 Jesus is alone in the beginning and progressively at the end of Mk. 1:12-13, 35; chaps 14-15.

1’         Summary––throughout all Galilee (1:39)

1          (Public) the leper cleansed (1:40-44)

            1’         Summary––everywhere (1:45)

C         Authority Confirmed and Contested (2:1-28)

1          The Healing of the Paralytic and Challenge of Scribes (2:1-12)

a          Summary (12:1-2)

b          Paralytic––sins forgiven (2:3-5)

c          Dispute with scribes (6-10a)

b          Paralytic––healed (2:10b-12)

2          Feasting and Fasting and the Challenges of the Pharisees (2:13-28)

a          Summary (2:13)

b          Feasting with the tax-collectors and sinners––Conflict with the Pharisees (2:14-17)

c          Fasting of the Pharisees (and John’s disciples)––Conflict with the Pharisees (2:18-22)

b          Eating with the disciples––Conflict with the Pharisees (2:23-28)

D         Climax––Rejection and Recognition (3:1-12)

1          The healing of the man with the withered hand on a Sabbath (3:1-6)

a          Jesus ministers while being watched by the Pharisees

b          The Pharisees and Herodians plot to destroy him (see 12:13)

2          Summary of withdraw, pursuit, and healings (3:7-12)

a          Jesus ministers to pursuers while withdrawing

b          The unclean spirits recognize him as the Son of God


II         The Summoning of Those He Wanted (3:13-6:6a)

A         The Choosing of the Twelve (3:13-19)

B         The true family of Jesus (3:20-35)

1          Relatives seek him (to take custody of him because he has lost his senses) (3:20-21)

2          Accusation #1––possessed by Satan (3:22a)

3          Accusation #2––acts by Satan (3:22b)

4          A question and answers on Satan (3:23-26)

3          Response to accusation #2 (3:27)

2          Response to Accusation #1 (3:28-29)

1          Relatives seek him––true relatives do the will of God (3:31-35)

C         Teaching with Parables (4:1-34)

1’         Summary (4:1)

2          The sower (4:2-20)

a          (Public) the parable (4:2-9)

b          (Private) the interpretation (4:10-20)

i.          . . . of parable sayings (4:10-12)

ii.         . . . of the parable of the sower (4:13-20)

3          Light and listening (4:21-25)

a          The teaching (4:21-23)

b          The interpretation (4:24-25)

4          The kingdom of God (4:26-32)

a          The parable of crop and harvest (4:26-29)

a          The parable of the mustard seed and growth (4:29-32)

5’         Summary––public parables and private interpretations (4:33-34)

C         Testing with Miracles (4:35-5:43)

1          Power to calm (4:35-5:21a)

a          Boat journey (4:35-36)

b          Fear––storm calmed (4:37-41)

1          Crisis (4:37-38)

2          Calms the sea (4:39)

3          Rebuked and they became afraid by his calming of winds and sea (4:40-41)

b          Fear––demoniac calmed (5:1-20)

1          Crisis (5:1-7)

2          Calms the man (5:8-13)

3          Frightened by the calming of the man––man commissioned for service (5:14-20)

a          Boat journey (5:21a)

2          Power to heal (5:21b-43)

a          Jarius’ requests healing for his daughter (public) (5:21-24)

b          Healing of a woman with blood issue (touched cloak) (public) (5:25-34)

a          Jarius’ daughter healed (private) (5:35-43)

B         Rejection by his home-town and family––climactic astonishment, rejection, and unbelief (6:1-6a)


III        Going Around to the Villages Teaching (6:6b-8:21)

A         Summary (6:6b)

B         The Disciples and John (6:7-31)

1          The twelve sent out to preach (public) --Jesus instructs them (6:7-13)

2          The forerunner and the pre-figurement of the passion (focus on Herod) (6:14-29)

Note Herod’s responses to rumored resurrection of John––Herod . . . kept saying, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has risen!’ (v. 16); to John’s teachings––perplexed (v. 20); to John’s execution––sorry (v. 26).

a          Rumors of a resurrection of John (6:14-16)

b          Recounting of the death of John (6:17-28)

c          Summary of the burial of John by his disciples (6:29)

1          The twelve return to rest (private)––they report to Jesus (6:30-31)

C         Jesus teachings and miracles and responses (6:32-8:21)

1          Signs (6:32-8:10)

a          Boat trip (6:32)

b          Five-thousand fed (public) (6:33-44)

c          Sea miracle (private––away from multitudes)––disciples astonished and hearts hardened (6:45-52)

d          Summary statement of healings (public)––people of Gennesaret recognized and touched the fringes of his cloak (6:53-56)

e          Issues of defilement (7:1-23)

-- Summary of Pharisees coming to challenge (7:1-2)

• Aside from narrator reader on the tradition at issue (7:3-4)

-- Pharisees challenge Jesus (7:5)

• Jesus Condemns Pharisees––public (7:6-13)

• Jesus teaches the multitudes––public (7:14-16)

• Jesus teaches the disciples––private (7:17-23)

d          Healing a Syrophoenician woman’s child (private)––dogs feed on the children’s crumbs (7:24-30)

c          Deaf and dumb man healed (private––away from multitude)––astonished and said he has done all things well; he makes the even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak (7:31-37)

b          Four-thousand fed (public) (8:1-9)

a          Boat trip (8:10)

2          No sign (Pharisees) (8:11-12)

3          Climactic rehearsal (disciples)––boats, bread, believing, and blindness (8:13-21)

a          Disciples forgot to bring bread in boat (8:14)

b          Jesus warned . . . (8:15)

. . . of the leaven of the Pharisees

. . . of the leaven of Herod

8:15 Notice the reverse order in the warning compared to the preceding narrative: Herod (6:14-29), Pharisees (7:1-23), warning concerning Pharisees and Herod (8:15).

a          Disciples discuss forgetting bread (8:16)

b          Jesus rebukes disciples (8:17-21)

i           Six rhetorical questions (8:17-18)

. . . why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread

. . . do you not yet see or understand?

. . . do you have a hardened heart?

. . . having eyes, do you not see?

. . . having ears, do you not hear?

. . . do you not remember?

8:17-18 Note that six of these seven rhetorical questions verbally recall the preceding narrative and the fourth or central rhetorical question foreshadows the immediately subsequent miracle: #1––6:33-44; 7:28; 8:1-9; #2––4:12; 7:18; #3––6:52; #5––4:12, 23, 33; [7:16]; 7:31-37*; #6––esp. 6:33-44; 8:1-9, 19, 20. And #4 while reflecting on 4:12 and 7:18 perhaps also sets up the two-part miracle of sight in 8:22-26. It should finally be stressed that this series of questions both rehearses and suggests and intimate relationship between the various teachings and miracles of Jesus and highlight the disciples lack of appropriate response. This passage along with the following two-part miracle and the confession of Peter are significant and pivotal and central in Mark’s narrative as a whole––both structurally and thematically.

ii          Jesus’ question and the disciples’ answer concerning bread and the 5,000 fed (8:19)

ii          Jesus’ question and the disciples’ answer concerning bread and the 4,000 fed (8:20)

i           A seventh rhetorical question (8:21)

. . . do you not yet understand?


Hinge––Partial Sight -Full Sight ––Healing the Blind Man and Peter’s Confession (8:22-30)

                        -- The Two-Stage Healing of the Blind Man (8:22-26)[10]


A         They came to Bethsaida and he is entreated to touch a blind man (8:22)

B         Stage one (8:23-24)

1          Took him by the hand out of village; spit on and laid hands on eyes

2          He asked, do you see anything?––man looked and answered, I see men, for I am seeing them like trees walking about

8:23-27 This two-part miracle is an anomaly among the recorded miracles of Jesus in any of the Gospels. It is particularly unusual in Mark’s narrative because of how careful he is to show the reader the immediate and dramatic results of the miracle described (see table below).

B         Stage two (8:25-26)

1          Again laid his hands on eyes

2          Looked intently and began to see everything clearly

A         Jesus sent him home and entreated him not to enter the village (8:26)


Table regarding 8:23-27, note the pattern of miracle-result up to this point in the narrative:
Deliver demoniac in synagogue 1:21-28 demon left him
Heal Peter’s mother-in-law 1:29-31 rose and waited on
Cleanse leper 1:40-45 leprosy left him at once
Heal paralytic 2:1-12 rose and walked
Heal withered hand 3:1-5 stretched out restored hand
Still storm 4:35-41 storm stopped, immediate calm
Deliver demoniac at Gadara 5:1-20 clothed, in right mind
Heal woman with issue of blood 5:25-34 flow immediately dried up
Raise Jarius’ daughter 5:22-43 rose and walked
Feed 5,000 6:32-44 12 baskets extra
Walk on water 6:45-52 still storm
Deliver demoniac daughter of Syrophoenician woman 7:24-30 demon departed
Heal deaf and dumb 7:31-37 heard and spoke
Feed 4,000 8:1-9 7 baskets extra


You are the Messiah! (8:29)

-- The Recognition of Jesus as Messiah (8:27-30)

A         Setting (8:27a)

B         (Partial sight) (8:27b-28)

1          Jesus questions disciples, Who do people say that I am? (8:27b)

2          They answered: John, Elijah, a prophet (8:28)

8:28 Note the correspondence to 6:14-16 esp. in the order of the mistaken identities––first John, then Elijah, then a prophet––also the intersection again with the passion (death and resurrection) (cf. 8:31). Also see 1:6; 9:2-13; 15:35-36.

B         (Sight) (8:29)

1          Jesus questioned them, But who do you say that I am? (8:29a)

2          Peter answered, You are the Messiah (8:29b)

8:29 Note the verbal parallel to the inscription of the gospel (1:1)––i.e., this statement heads the second section of the narrative. While Peter’s confession is of especial importance in Mark’s gospel, the role, dialogue, and responses of Simon Peter generally are also very significant––on Peter being the spokesman for the disciples see 8:29-30, 32-33; 9:5-6; 10:28; 14:31, 37-38; on Peter as being typical of the disciples see 1:16-18 with 10:28; 8:29-30; 14:29 with 14:50; 14:31 with 14:54, 66-72. Also see 1:29, 30, 36; 3:16; 5:37; 11:21; 13:3; 16:7-8. See also Kingsbury, Conflict, 123, n. 37.

A         Jesus admonished them to tell no one (8:30)


The Recognition and Rejection and Execution and Resurrection of the Messiah (8:27-16:9)


IV        The Son of Man in the Shadow of his Coming Sacrifice (8:27-10:52)

A         Passion prediction cycle #1––Caesarea Philippi (8:27-38)

1          Identification (8:27-30)

2          Passion prediction––Son of Man (8:31)

8:31 The title Son of Man plays a significant role in the narrative, especially occurring in each of the three prediction of passion passages––8:31; 9:31; 10:33.[11]

3          Misunderstanding––Peter’s denial and rebuke (8:32-33)

4          Cross––teaching on service (8:34-37)

5          Judgment and coming (8:38)

B         Passion prediction cycle #2––Galilee (9:1-50)

1          Identification––transfiguration (9:1-29) [12]

9:1- 29 See note on 8:28 (Elijah, etc.) above. Although usually referred to when discussing a passage from the writings of Moses, notice the prominence of Moses in various passages of the narrative––1:44; 7:10; 9:2-8; 10:3, 4; 12:19, 26.


2          Passion prediction––Son of Man (9:30-32)

3          Misunderstanding––dispute concerning greatness (9:33-34)

4          Child––teaching on servanthood (9:35-37)

5          Judgment (9:38-50)

C         Passion prediction cycle #3––Judea and beyond Jordan (10:1-45)

1          Identification––a leader like Moses (10:1-31)

2          Passion prediction––Son of Man (10:32-34)

3          Misunderstanding––James and John request for honor (10:35-41)

4          The Son of Man as servant––giving his life as a ransom for many (10:42-45)


Hinge––Full Recognition of the Son of David

                        -- The Healing of the Blind Beggar (10:46-52)

                        -- The King Enters Jerusalem (11:1-10)


V         The Tree and the Temple (11:11-26)

A         Temple surveyed (public) (11:11)

B         A fig tree surveyed and cursed (private) (11:12-14)

A         Temple judged (public) (11:12-19)

B         Fig tree withered (private) (11:20-26)


VI        The Confrontations in the Temple (11:27-12:44)

C         The question of authority (chief priests, scribes, elders)––Jesus’ and John’s––from heaven or human (11:20-33)

A         Judgment––the parable of the vineyard (12:1-9)

B         Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22, 23 on the corner stone––reaction of religious leaders (12:10-12)

C         The question of allegiance (Pharisees and Herodians)––to government (financial) and God (personal)––they were amazed (12:13-17)

12:13 Within the story of Mark, the Herodians appear to be thought of as agents of Herod Antipas (cf. 3:6 and 12:13 with 8:15) who nonetheless function in effect as ‘religious authorities’ because of their close association with the Pharisees. With the Pharisees, the Herodians both plot Jesus’ death (3:6) and engage him in debate (12:13-17) (Kingsbury, Conflict, 123, n. 45).

D         The question of the resurrection (Saducees)––failure to understand the writings or the power of God (12:18-27)

12:26 Compare tradition in 4 Maccabees 7:19 ... as our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died not, but live to God (first century ce). 12:18-27 The Sadducees only accepted the Torah and were likely well prepared to dismiss a theology of resurrection based on Dan. 12:2; Isa. 26:19; etc. Jesus masterfully defeats their challenge by basing his view of resurrection on Exod. 3.

C         The question of priority (a scribe)––love to God and neighbors––no one would venture to answer any more questions (12:28-34)

B         Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 on David’s Son and Lord––the reaction of the crowd (12:35-37)

A         Judgment––the warning about the scribes (12:38-40)

C         An observation of allegiance to and priority toward God (financial and personal)––the widow’s gift (12:41-44)


VII      Discourses on the Mount of Olives (13:1-37)

A         Introduction––he is going out of temple, disciples gather; stones pass away; end of age (13:1-4)

B         Warning (13:5)

C         False Messiahs (13:6)

D         Crisis (13:7-8)

E          Persecution (13:9)

F          Gospel preached to all nations (13:10)

E          Persecution (13:11-13)

D         Crisis (13:14-20)

C         False Messiahs (13:21-22)

B         Warning (13:23)

A         Conclusion (13:24-37)

1          Son of Man coming in clouds and saints gathered (13:24-27)

            2          Parable of the fig tree––word not pass away (13:28-32)

3          Parable of the man on a journey––end of age (13:24-27)


VIII     Loyalty and Faithfulness and Betrayal––the Passover (14:1-25)

A         Introduction––Passover coming; chief priests and scribes planning to seize and kill him (14:1-2)

B         Anointing of Jesus at Bethany (14:3-9)

A         Judas Iscariot plots to betray Jesus with chief priests (14:10-11)

B         Jesus and disciple prepare for the Passover (14:12-16)

A         Jesus predicts his betrayal by one of the twelve (14:17-21)

B         Partaking of the bread and the cup––body and blood (14:22-25)


IX        Good Intentions and Weakness and Betrayal and Desertion and Accusation (14:26-72)

A         Predictions and Pledges (14:27-31)

1          Jesus predicts the disciples will scatter (14:27-28)

            2          Peter makes a pledge (14:27-29)

1          Jesus predicts a three-fold denial by Peter

            2          Peter makes another pledge (14:30-31)

B         Three-fold sleeping while Jesus prayed (14:32-42)

C         Betrayal and arrest (14:43-49)

D         All desert him (14:50-52)

14:51-52 The fleeing of the naked youth has drawn a lot of attention. Note the similar use of “linen garment” (sindona) in 10:50 (contrast); 14:51-52; 15:43, 46 (possible comparison) (see Jackson, Why, 273-89). Also compare young man in white robe in 16:5

C         Trial before the council (14:53-65)[13]

1          14: 53-59

Setting (vv. 53-54)

Death (vv. 55-59)

            attempted to find a testimony to condemn

2          14:60-65

            Question (v. 60)

                        no reply (v. 61a)

            Question (v. 61b)

14:61 For the first time in the narrative a human being puts together what readers have known from the first verse—Jesus is the messiah, the son of God. Ironically, this revelation and rejection leads directly to the death of Messiah.

                        reply (v. 62)

14:62 Jesus alludes passages he has explained by means of catch words to (Ps 110 in 12:35-37 “right hand”; Dan 7 in 13:26-27 “son of man … coming on the clouds of heaven”). While the first of these teaching is public and the other private, readers and presumably the high priest understand Jesus’ implications.

B         Three-fold denial by Peter (14:66-71)

A         The cock crowed and Peter remembered . . . (14:72a)

1          . . . Jesus had said Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times (14:72b)

            2          Peter began to weep (14:72c)


X         The Delivery, Death, and Resurrection of the King (15:1-16:8)

A         Introductory summary (15:1)

B         Trial before Pilate––three-fold question of King of Jews? (15:2-15)

1          15:1-5

            Question (v. 2a)

                        reply (v. 2b)

            Question (v. 4)

                        no reply (v. 5)

2          15:6-15

            Setting (vv. 6-8)

            Death Sentence (vv. 9-15)

                        attempted to find a way to release

C         Humiliation of the King (King 3x) (15:16-32)

1          The King is mocked by the Romans (15:16-20)

2          The King is crucified (15:21-28)

1          The King is mocked (15:29-32)

a          . . . by passers-by (15:29-30)

b          . . . by chief priests and scribes (15:31-32a)

c          . . . by the criminals crucified along with him (15:32b)

D         The death of Jesus (15:33-41)

1          Three hours of darkness (15:33)

2          Jesus cried out My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1) (15:34)

             15:34 In twenty-one of Jesus’ twenty-two recorded prayers Jesus addresses God as “my Father.” This prayer upon the cross is the only exception (see Johnson, “Death,” 1968).

3          The response of the bystanders (15:35-36)

2          Jesus cried out and breathed his last (15:37)

1          Three responses to his death (15:38-41)

a          The veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom (15:38)

15:38 Note the verbal parallel with (rip) in 1:10 when the sky was ripped open, etc. (see Rhoads, Mark, 46).

b          The centurion said, This is the Son of God (15:39)

c          Women, who had followed and ministered to him in Galilee, looked on from a distance (15:40-41)

E          The burial of Jesus (15:42-47)

            1’         Setting (15:42)

1          15:43

            a          . . . Joseph of Arimathea came (15:43a)

b          . . . who was waiting for the kingdom of God (15:43b)

c          . . . gathered up courage to go in before Pilate and spoke to him (15:43c)

2          Pilate wondered if he was dead––the centurion confirmed Jesus’ death (15:44-45)

3          He was wrapped in a linen cloth and laid in the tomb (15:46a)

4          He rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb (15:46b)

5          Mary Magdalene and Mary were looking to see where he was laid (15:47)

F          The resurrection of Jesus (16:1-8)

                        1’         Setting (16:1a)

5          Mary Magdalene and Mary brought spices to anoint him (16:1b)

4          The women are concerned about the stone but they found it rolled away already (16:2-4)

3          They entered the tomb, saw a young man sitting and wearing a white robe (16:5a)

2          The women were amazed––the man told them not to be afraid because Jesus had risen! (16:5b-6)

            1          16:7-8

                        a          . . . go tell his disciples and Peter (16:7a)

b          . . . he has gone into Galilee where you will find him as he said to you (16:7b)

c          . . . they went out and fled with trembling because of astonishment and told no one––for they were afraid (16:8)

[1] Mystery in the singular in Mark 4:11 can be notably contrasted to the significance of mysteries plural in the context of Matt 13:11 (see Johnson, Writings, 2d ed., 168-69).
[2] See, for example, Johnson, Writings, 2d ed., 169.
[3] Women in Mark typically perceive Jesus more ably than his male followers––5:28; 7:25; 14:8-9; 15:40-41.
[4] See NA27 for text variants; I favor the reading with this title in verse 1. Also see Metzger, 2d ed., 102ff.
[5] For a significant treatment of the characters in Mark see Kingsbury, Conflict. Also see Rhoads and Michie, Mark; Edwards, Authority, 217-33; Tannehill, Disciples, 386-405; Malbon, Disciples, 104-29; Malbon, Jewish, 259-81.
[6] The evidence regarding religious matters can be interpreted either way. Juel suggests that the careful distinguishing of sects––Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees––and discussion regarding insider issues like clean-unclean assumes a Judaic audience with vested interest in such matters. See Donald H. Juel, A Master of Surprise: Mark Interpreted (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1994), 133-42. Conversely, the brief explanations that the narrator provides for readers regarding Judaic issues are often understood as written to outsiders who require an explanation. See, for example, HarperCollins Study Bible, Mk. 7 n.
[7] Based on my own reading, and also indebted to Laurence F. Brett, Suggestions for an Analysis of Mark’s Arrangement, 174-90, in Mann, Mark; Kingsbury, Conflict; Lane, Gospel According to Mark; Rhoads and Michie, Mark.
[8] 1:16-3:19 Brett suggests:
Call of four disciples
Sequence of cures, last involving a conflict
Call of Levi
Sequence of conflicts, last involving a cure
Choice of the Twelve
Although this symmetrical suggestion is meritorious, perhaps the categories of cures and conflict are less compelling than the rhetorical (literary) devices mentioned in the outline above. It seems better to see the call of four (1:16-20) and the choice of twelve (3:13-19) as heading these two segments––1:16-3:12 and 3:13-6:6a ––respectively.
[9]Kingsbury takes this double structure of the first calling as significant to the meaning and pattern of discipleship in Mark (see Conflict, 90-91). Kingsbury introduced some of the major issues of plot and conflict between Jesus and the disciples: Jesus also enters into conflict with the disciples The tenor of this conflict, however, is altogether different [from that with the religious leaders], for the disciples are not Jesus’ enemies, but his followers. Still, to note that this conflict is different is not to suggest that it is trivial. On the contrary, it revolves around the disciples’ remarkable lack of comprehension and their refusal to come to terms with either the central purpose of Jesus’ ministry or the true meaning of discipleship. The resolution of the conflict is not narrated by Mark; instead, he leaves it to the reader to project its outcome. To assist the reader in this, however, Mark provides him or her with important clues [cf. 14:28; 16:7] (89-90). See Kingsbury’s discussions on discipleship in Mark (esp. viii, 89-117).
[10] For a similar look at the parallel structure of 8:22-26 and 8:27-30 see Lane, Mark, 287, n. 54.
[11] Also see 2:10, 28; 8:38; 9:9, 12; 10:45; 13:26; 14:21, 41, 62. Lane suggests that Son of Man is used in the following pattern (see Mark, 298-99):
                A             2:10         authority to forgive sins
                                2:28         Lord of the Sabbath
                B             8:31         prophecy of passion
                                9:31; 10:33 (same)
                C             9:9           resurrection
                                9:12         sufferings
                                10:45       his life as a ransom for many
                                14:21       goes (to death), betrayed
                                14:41       betrayed
                D             8:38         will come in glory
                                13:26       will come in clouds
                                14:62       will come in clouds
[12] Regarding this broad section––8:30-10:52––Brett suggests:
P 8:31
M 8:32
T 8:34-9:1
I 9:2-10
Elijah section
P 9:30-32
M 9:33-34
T 9:35-37
I 9:38-50
Moses section
P 10:32-34
M 10:35-41
T 10:42-44
I 10:45
(Key: P = prediction of passion; M = misunderstanding by disciple/s; T = teaching to correct misunderstanding; I = insight into role of Messiah)
[13] Note the inverted rhetorical pattern between the trial of the council (14:53-65) and the trial of Pilate (15:1-15).
For further reading, and full details of sources cited in notes see New Testament bibliography.  Also see bibliography on the use of scripture in scripture.

Copyright 2012-2015

Return to Gospels