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Mark Chapter 9

Mark Chapter 9

Jesus transfigured

And Jesus said to the crowd, “This is the truth. Some of you standing here will not taste death until you have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” [This would be partially fulfilled by the transfiguration of Jesus and fulfilled in a greater way when the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost.] Six days later Jesus took with him Peter and James and John to a high mountain alone by themselves, and there he changed his appearance before them. [The mountain was likely Mount Hermon, the highest peak of Israel, which is only a short distance northeast from Caesarea Philippi.]

His outer garments became intensely bright, whiter than any bleach found on earth could possibly make them. And Elijah and Moses also appeared, and they were talking with Jesus. [Luke 9:30-31 tells us they were talking about how Jesus was going to depart from the world. It is not unusual for people who are about to die to be visited by those from the other side as a reassurance. For Jesus, it was a reassurance to experience the glory that he was returning to before he had to go through the tremendous pain of taking on the sins of all men.]

As they came down from the mountain, Jesus instructed them to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They obeyed this instruction, even as they discussed what he meant by “the Son of Man rising from the dead”. [It made no sense to them that Jesus would have to die and rise from the dead.] 11 And the disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?” 12 And he replied to them, “In fact, Elijah does come first, just as it is written [Malachi 4:5]. How then is it written [Isaiah 53:5, Daniel 9:26, Zechariah 13:7] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be treated terribly? 13 I’ll tell you, [it’s just like when] Elijah came and they treated him as they wished, as was written about him [1 Kings 19:2-4]”.

[The disciples had just seen Jesus with Elijah and Moses. As Jesus talked about death, the disciples remembered the scriptures say that Elijah must return before the Judgment. They perhaps thought that when Jesus talked about being killed and rising again, he was referring to that judgment. So, they asked the question about Elijah. But Jesus explained that there was a pattern set by Elijah coming, being mistreated, and then Israel being judged. John the Baptist was the current generation's Elijah. First, he restored divine order through his preaching, then he was mistreated and killed, but that heralded a move of God just as in the time of Elijah. Now, Jesus was about to follow in the footsteps of both Elijah and John the Baptist.]

Healing the deaf and mute boy

14 When Jesus [along with Peter, James, and John] got to where [the rest of] his disciples were [at the foot of the mountain according to Matthew 17:14], they saw a great crowd, and the teachers of the Law were arguing with the disciples. 15 When the people saw him, they were amazed, and came to him and were happy to see him.

[The disciples were wrapped up in an argument that they didn't know how to win, and now the man everyone recognized as having true authority showed up at just the right time, which surprised and delighted the crowd. Likely, part of their amazement was that there was also glory from the transfiguration still remaining on him.] 16 And Jesus asked the teachers of the Law, “What were you arguing about?” 17 A man from the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, and he has a demon of muteness. 18 And wherever he is when that demon takes hold of him, it throws him down, and he foams at his mouth and gnashes his teeth, and then becomes stiff. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able.”

19 And Jesus answered, saying, “Oh faithless generation! How long will I remain with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me!” [Jesus is frustrated with the disciples that they have not yet grown sufficiently in faith, even though they have successfully ministered when he sent them out.  He also sees that it is the entire generation of Israel that has grown cold in faith. Likely the teachers of the Law had questioned the disciples’ authority to carry out an exorcism. This discussion may have hampered the disciples’ faith.] 20 They brought the boy to him, and when he saw Jesus, the boy fell on the ground, rolling around and foaming at the mouth.

21 And Jesus asked the father of the boy, “How long ago did this begin?” [Sometimes knowing when a disease or demonic oppression began tells a minister what kind of demon it is, and what to do about it. For instance, if an illness began because of sin, a person may be set free by forgiving someone. In this case, though, the oppression had been for as long as the man can remember.] And the man replied, “Since he was a child. 22 And sometimes it throws him into the fire or into the water to destroy him. If you are able, please have pity on us!” 23 Jesus replied, “If you are able? Everything is possible for the one who believes!” 24 Immediately the father of the boy cried, “I do believe. But help my unbelief!”

25 And when Jesus saw the crowd running toward where they were, he commanded the unclean spirit, saying, “You spirit of muteness and deafness, come out of him, and never enter him again!” 26 The spirit cried out, and convulsed him greatly, and left him, but the boy fell down and looked like a corpse. Many of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and pulled him up, and the boy stood up [and he was completely well]. [Later,] 28 when Jesus went into the house, his disciples asked him, “Why couldn't we cast out the spirit?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind can't come out except by prayer and fasting.”

[Jesus is not telling the disciples to pray longer in order to heal more effectively. He's already given them authority, which is why they were surprised they couldn't accomplish the deliverance simply by commanding the spirit to leave. He is telling them there is no substitute for spending time alone with God, which increases our reliance on God and our spiritual authority, both of which are needed to break the hold of more powerful spirits.]


30 They left there and quickly passed through Galilee, for Jesus did not want anyone to even know he was there. 31 For he was teaching the disciples, telling them, “The Son of Man will be turned over to men, and he will be killed, and when he is dead, after three days, he will rise again.” 32 The disciples did not understand what he was saying, but they were afraid to ask him about it. [They were reluctant to believe that this was Jesus' destiny but laying down his life was now his goal.] 

33 And when he arrived in Capernaum [their home base] and they entered the house, he asked the disciples, “What were you arguing about when we were on the road?” [Jesus knew the answer but wanted them to be self-revealing.] 34 But they kept quiet, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 So he sat down and called the twelve to him and said, “If anyone wants to be the greatest, he must make himself last and become the servant of all.”

36 And then he took a young child and brought him into the middle of them, and when he held the child in his arms, he said, 37 “Whoever accepts one of these little ones in my name accepts me. Whoever doesn't accept me, doesn't accept the one who sent me! [You must get out of the mindset that leadership and greatness consists primarily in getting others to follow you. The most important thing you can do is to serve others, especially the meekest and most helpless. When you do that in the same way you see me do it, it's just like you served me. If you are not willing to serve the lowliest, you don't accept me or my father, and our way of doing things.]

38 Then John [thought about what Jesus just said and wondered if everyone who wanted to serve was qualified to serve, so he] said, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to cast out demons. But we told him to stop, because he wasn't following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Don't make him stop, for no one who does something powerful using the authority of my name will continue saying bad things about me. 40 For whoever is not against us, will be on our side. 41 In fact, anyone who brings you a cup of cold water in my name because you belong to the Anointed One will [be credited for that in heaven and] not lose his reward.

The cost of sin

[On the other hand,] 42 if anyone causes one of the least of these little ones [young in the faith] to stumble [in sin or to fall away from faith], it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be thrown into the sea [than to suffer the judgment they will receive]. [How we treat those around us, especially those more vulnerable than ourselves, will be measured in our judgment after this life.]

43 "And if your hand leads you to sin, cut it off, for it's better to enter into [eternal] life maimed than to be thrown into hell [named after Gehenna, the valley next to Jerusalem where trash is constantly being burned] 44 where the worm never dies [the eternal soul in hell is continually tortured] and the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot leads you to sin, cut it off, for it's better to enter into [eternal] life lame than to be thrown into hell, 46 where the worm never dies and the fire never goes out. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, for it's better to enter the kingdom of God with only one eye than to be thrown into hell with both eyes, 48 where the worm never dies and the fire never goes out. [Deny yourselves seriously and forcefully when your desires could lead to sin and potentially lead others to sin as well.]"

49 “Everyone will be salted before fire [is applied]. [Sacrifices are salted to purify them before they are burned.] 50 Salt is good. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it get its purifying quality back? Have salt in yourself. [Ask God to purify you as you offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).] And be at peace with everyone. [Live in such a pure way that you help people into the kingdom, not keep them from it.]

Discussion questions

1. Can you remember a time when you experienced something amazing, like Peter did on the Mount of Transfiguration, and you wished you could stay there forever? What was it like when you had to return to normal life? What was it like for the three disciples returning to normal?

2. Jesus told the father of the child that belief was the key to fulfilling his need. The man admitted he had a mixture of belief and unbelief. The disciples had been given authority but still had unbelief. What did Jesus tell the disciples was a key to belief?

3. What can you do to avoid sin? What things could you do that are the equivalent of cutting off your hand or foot, or plucking out your eye, that keep you from being in a place where you easily fall into sin.

Jesus transfigured
Healing deaf and mute boy
Cost of sin
Mark Chapter 9 discussion questions

5 Peter responded and said, “Teacher, it is good we are here. Let's build three shelters - one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He didn't even know what he was saying, for the three of them were terrified. 7 And there was a cloud that enveloped them, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved son, hear him!” 8 And all of a sudden, when they looked all around them, there was no one else with them but Jesus - they were by themselves.

Mark Chapter 10

Mark Chapter 10

Marriage and divorce

From there [Capernaum], he departed again and went to the boundary of Judea at the far side of the Jordan river [the modern country of Jordan]. [As usual,] the people gathered around him there, and he taught them. Some Pharisees came to test him, and asked him, “Is it allowed for a man to divorce his wife [according to your interpretation of the scriptures].” Jesus answered them, saying, “What did Moses command you [about this]?” They said, “Moses allowed a certificate of divorce to be written so a man could put his wife away.”

Marriage and divorce

Jesus replied, “Because of your hardness of heart, he wrote you this instruction. [This scripture is found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. God knew that men would decide to end their marriages for all kinds of reasons - at least a certificate of divorce was required so that a woman would be free to be married again. But in Malachi 2:16, God says through the prophet, “I hate divorce.”] But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. ‘For this reason [that a woman is made from the essence of man], a man shall leave his father and mother and become united to his wife. And the two shall become one flesh’ [Genesis 2:24]. So, they are no longer two [separate beings], but one. What God has joined together, no man should tear apart.”

10 Once they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus again about the same subject. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever leaves his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her [even if he has given her a certificate of divorce]. 12 And if a woman leaves her husband to marry another man, she commits adultery.” [Jesus is firm about marriage being permanent except because of unfaithfulness. See Matthew 5:32.]

Jesus and children

13 [In the household where Jesus was staying,] they were bringing young children that he might touch them [to bless them], but the disciples prevented them[, wanting to protect his resting time]. 14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was quite upset, and said to them, “Don't hold them back! Let the little children come to me, for they are the very ones who make up the kingdom of God. 15 I tell you the truth - whoever doesn't receive the kingdom of God like a little child, shall not enter it. [Children are very important in the kingdom. They should be included in all the kingdom activities. Study them and become more like them, because children easily accept God's goodness and power since they have no resistance to faith. This is exactly the way we must become, or else we won't walk in the faith we need, to do kingdom activities ourselves.]16 And he took the children in his arms and blessed them.

Jesus and children

The problem with riches

17 As Jesus was leaving to continue on his journey, a man came running to him, falling on his knees before him, and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?” 18 And Jesus replied to him, “Why do you call me good? There is one only who is good, and that is God. [If you think that following God is about following the letter of the Law, you are mistaken. It's about trusting God completely.] 19 You know the commandments - do not murder, do not steal, do not lie, do not steal, do not desire what is not yours, honor your father and mother.”

The problem with riches

20 He answered and said, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youngest days.” 21 Then Jesus fixed his eyes on him and loved him. [He saw deeply into him, knew what hampered him from completely following God, and loved him in spite of his difficulty in trusting.] He said to the young man, “There's only one thing you lack. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor - your treasure will be in heaven [rather than the earth]. Then come and follow me.” 22 And the man was pained at what Jesus said, and went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Jesus looked all around him [at each of them, to make sure they were paying attention,] and said to his followers, “How difficult it is for those with wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. So, he spoke again, saying, “Children, how hard for those who trust in wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven. 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” 26 And the disciples were even more astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

[In the eyes of religious scholars, material riches were a sign of God's blessing. Yet, when a person depends on their riches they don't depend on God. Entering the kingdom means listening to God and following his will. Riches are a tremendous distraction unless they are totally given over to the use of the kingdom. The disciples believed the prevailing wisdom that everything is easier for the rich man, so if it is hard for a rich man to be saved, in their minds it is even harder for everyone else.] 27 Jesus replied, “For man it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” [Men can't bring about their own salvation. It is the grace of God that allows us to submit our will to God, and thus be delivered from our separation from God.]

28 Peter [was thinking of what the disciples had willingly sacrificed and] began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything to come and follow you.” 29 And Jesus replied, “Let me tell you the truth. There is no one who has left their house and brother and sister and father and mother and children and lands for me and for the sake of [spreading] the good news [of the kingdom], 30 who shall not receive a hundred times as many houses and brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers and children and lands - as well as trials - in this current life, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many [who are now considered] first will be last [in the future kingdom] and [those who are considered] last [will be] first”.

[When we give up our lives and follow God, his plan will always supply many of his people as our new family wherever we go, and we won't lack for places to live either. This will include times of affliction or persecution as well, since wherever we go, we will bring God's kingdom, but there will be an existing order that resists what we bring. We shall have very full lives, plus we will live with God in eternity. But in eternity, we will find the order reversed - those who had much in this life and held on to their possessions during their earthly life will be the least, but those who had nothing will be treated as most important in heaven.]

The cost of glory

[Though the disciples were giving up much to follow Jesus, he was about to make clear how much more he himself was called to give up for the sake of the good news.] 32 As they got underway again, they were on the road to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of the disciples. They were amazed and, as they followed, they were also afraid. [Jesus had been telling them he would be facing death, and they knew the authorities wanted to get rid of Jesus, so they had a good reason to be afraid, but Jesus acted as one who had no fear at all, and this really impressed them.]

The cost of glory

And he brought the disciples near him again and began to tell them again [the third time] what was about to happen [that the Father had shown him already]. 33 He said, “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the interpreters of the Law, and they will condemn him to death and turn him over to the non-Jews [to carry out the sentence], 34 and they will mock him, and spit on him, and whip him, and kill him. And on the third day, he will rise again.”

[Jesus couldn't have described any better what was going to happen, but for the disciples, it would have been impossible to fully comprehend how this could be the plan of God and why the chosen one of God would cooperate with this. Least of all would they understand about his rising again. But now they were beginning to believe that this tragedy was actually going to happen.]

[Beginning to believe that Jesus' time on the earth was ending,] 35 James and John came to Jesus, saying, “Master, we have a desire that we would like you to fulfill.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 They replied, “Grant to us that one of us would sit on your right hand and one on your left [in the places of honor when you come] in your glory.”

38 Jesus replied to them, “You really don't understand what you are asking. Are you ready to drink the cup that I will drink and receive the baptism that I must undergo?” 39 They responded, “Yes, we are!” He said, “You will indeed drink the cup of pain that I will drink and go through the baptism of suffering that I will suffer. But it is not mine to give what you ask. 40 To sit at my right hand and left will be given to those for whom it is intended.” [Jesus is saying their picture of his future glory is not erroneous, and that they will be honored for their faithfulness which would extend all the way through suffering and death, but many will go through that, and the Father will determine who is glorified in what ways. Jesus has already said that the last will be first and the first last.]

41 When the other ten of the disciples heard about what James and John had asked, they were angry. 42 But Jesus called them all to him and told them, “You know how, among the non-Jews, those who are seen as rulers treat all others as their subjects and their great lords impose their authority over those under them. 43 But that's not the way it will be among you. He who wants to lead will do so by serving. 44 The greatest among you will be the one who is a slave to everyone else. 45 For [even] the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and [to do so with the greatest effect possible] by giving his life as a ransom so [as] many [as will receive it] will go free.”

Healing blind Bartimaeus

46 Then they arrived at Jericho [the last large town on the way to Jerusalem], and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples, there was a large number of people. There was a blind beggar known as Bartimaeus [the son of Timaeus] sitting along the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth [going by], he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Healing blind Bartimaeus

49 And Jesus stopped, commanding that the man be called over. And they said to him, “Cheer up. The teacher is calling for you to come.” 50 And the man, casting away his [begging] cloak, proceeded over to Jesus. [To cast away his cloak, which was a uniform for one approved by officials to beg, the man was indicating his faith that he would not need it any longer.] 51 And Jesus said to the man, “What do you want me to do for you?”, and the man replied, “Lord, that I would receive my sight.” 52 And Jesus answered, “Go where you want to go! Your faith has made you well!” Immediately the man's sight was restored, and he followed Jesus down the road.

Discussion questions

1. How different was Jesus’ wisdom from the standard wisdom of the day concerning divorce and marriage, or concerning possession of riches?

Mark Chapter 10 discussion questions

2. How hard would it have been to walk toward Jerusalem, knowing you were walking toward death and torture? Have you ever had to walk toward pain for the sake of the Gospel? Are you willing?

3. If Jesus were about to walk past you, what would you speak up and ask him for? Well, then, Jesus is right there with you – do you have the faith to ask?

Mark Chapter 11

Mark Chapter 11

Triumphal entrance into Jerusalem

As they approached Jerusalem, near the towns of Bethany and Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent out two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the next village in front of you. As soon as you enter, you will see a young donkey tied up, that no man has ever ridden. Untie him and bring him to me. If anyone asks you why you are doing that, say, ‘The Lord has need of him and will return him as soon as he is done.’”  [This is the beginning of the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. Jesus refers to himself as “Lord” for the first time, though his disciples may have been referring to him this way. Likely, this rendezvous was not pre-arranged, but the Father is revealing it to Jesus, telling him exactly what to say.]

Triumphal entrance into Jerusalem

The two disciples went out and found the young donkey tied to the gate at a meeting place of two roads, and so they untied it. And some that were standing there said, “What are you doing?” The disciples responded just as Jesus told them, and they were allowed to take the donkey. So they brought the young donkey to Jesus, and covered the donkey's back with their garments, and Jesus sat on him.

And many spread their garments in the road before him, and others cut down branches from the trees [to wave]. And both those who went ahead of him and those who followed behind, cried out, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 10 Blessed is he who brings the kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the highest!” 11 And so he made his entrance into Jerusalem. He went into the Temple, and he looked all around. [He may have been noting the things that needed to be reformed, such as the sellers’ tables. His dramatic entrance into the Temple may have been a fulfillment of Malachi 3:1-3.] Then it was getting late in the afternoon, so he went with his disciples out to Bethany.

Cursing the fig tree

12 The next day, on the way back from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing a fig tree from a distance that was full of leaves, he went to it hoping to find something he could eat, but there was nothing on it but leaves, and it was not yet the season for figs. 14 And Jesus responded and said, “From now on, may no man ever eat fruit from you again!” And the disciples heard what he said.

Cursing the fig tree

[Fig trees bear fruit much of the year, and generally grow edible buds before the leaves come out. Therefore, seeing leaves, Jesus had a reasonable expectation there would be something he could eat. This fig tree, showing no buds, would also have no figs in a later season. Jesus was using the tree as a lesson to the disciples. The Jewish leaders were like the fig tree, appearing to be followers of God, but not showing a responsiveness to God, as a budding forth that would grow into true fruitfulness. By analogy, since they were unfruitful, no one should ever go to them to be fed.]

Throwing out the moneylenders

[The next day] 15 when they [again] came into Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple. He threw out those who were buying and selling in the Temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneylenders and the chairs of those who sold doves [as sacrifices]. 16 He would not [even] allow anyone to carry a container [of goods] through the Temple. 17 And he taught [them], saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples,’ [Isaiah 56:7] but you have made it into a den of thieves [Jeremiah 7:11].” 18 The chief priests and the interpreters of the Law heard about it, and looked for a way they might kill him, for they were afraid of him [and his influence], since all the people were amazed at his teaching. 

Throwing out the moneylenders

[Jesus had looked the previous day at all the abuses in the Temple. The outer court of the non-Jews had become a place for people from all over who came to the Temple to exchange their money to purchase the items - oil, salt, doves, and animals - that would be required for sacrifices. The selling was sometimes done with outrageous profits to the seller. The profit makers and the religious authorities had changed the atmosphere of the Temple into a marketplace. Jesus could not stand to see this, as it violated both God's word and the holiness of his house. Jesus also knew that now was the time for his life to be sacrificed, so he did not need to avoid angering the Jewish leaders.]

Faith that moves mountains

19 When evening came, [after an entire day of restoring holiness to the Temple], Jesus and his disciples left the city. 20 The next day, they walked past the fig tree and noticed that it was withered from its roots up. 21 Peter remembered [what Jesus had done the previous day] and said, “Teacher, look, the fig tree that you cursed is completely withered.” [Peter recognized that Jesus didn't normally go around cursing trees - that this was a lesson about the unfruitfulness of the Jewish leaders.]

Faith that moves mountains

22 And Jesus answered, “Have the faith of God [the kind of faith it takes to curse a fig tree and see it wither in response]. 23 For this is the truth, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and thrown into the sea’, and doesn’t doubt in his heart, but believes what he says will come to pass, it shall be done. 24 Therefore, I am telling you, whatever you ask for when you pray, believe that you have [already] received it, and it shall be done. 25 And when you are taking a stand in prayer, [don't let there be any obstacle,] forgive anything that's been done against you, so that your heavenly father will also forgive what you have done wrong. 26 If you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive what you have done wrong.”

Jesus’ authority questioned

27 They came again into Jerusalem and, as Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests, the interpreters of the Law, and the elders came up to him. 28 And they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things [such as clearing out the commerce from the Temple]. And who gave you the authority to do these things? [We are the authorities in the Temple, and you completely bypassed us. Who do you think you are - the Anointed One?]29 And Jesus responded to them, saying, “Let me first ask you one question, and if you answer it, I will answer your questions. 30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from man?”

Jesus' authority questioned

31 They reasoned among themselves, “If we say [his authority came] from heaven, then he will ask, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘from men’, we are afraid of the people, because they believe that John was indeed a prophet.” [Jesus' authority, like John's, did come from heaven, and the Jewish leaders were desperate to remain in power, so they couldn't acknowledge Jesus' authority.] 33 They answered Jesus, saying, “We cannot tell.” Jesus answered, “Then neither will I answer you, [because if you don't recognize John, you won't understand me either].”

Discussion questions

1. What was in common in the things Jesus did in his final time in Jerusalem before his death? What was his purpose?

Mark Chapter 11 discussion questions

2. What does Jesus say is the key to faith that can be so focused and powerful as to kill a tree or move a mountain?

3. The Jewish leaders did not want to acknowledge the authority that had been given either to John the Baptist or Jesus, because it was a threat to their authority. What other reasons do people have they might not want to acknowledge the authority of Jesus?

Mark Chapter 12

Mark Chapter 12

Story of the vineyard

[Jesus wanted to explain more clearly who he was and why the religious leaders were rejecting him, so] he began to give them illustrations: “There was this man who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, installed a wine vat, built a watch tower, and then leased the vineyard to vine growers, before he departed for far off places. Then, at the time you would expect a first harvest, he sent a servant to the vine growers so that he could taste the fruit of his vineyard. But they took hold of the servant, and beat him, and sent him away with nothing. He sent another servant, and this one they beat about the head, and thoroughly mistreated him.  And the owner sent another servant, and they killed this one. And he sent many others, and some they killed and some they beat. [There are many places in the scriptures that Israel is compared to a vineyard. The Jewish leaders can be compared to the vine growers, and the prophets are the servants in the story.]

Story of the vineyard

“The owner still had one he could send, his beloved son, and the owner sent him last of all, thinking, ‘Surely they will show respect to my son.’ But the vine growers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. If we kill him, then we will have the property.’ So they took hold of the son, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine growers and turn his vineyard over to others." 

[The religious leaders acted as though God, the owner of the vineyard, would never come back and kick them out. By getting rid of his representatives, they would maintain ownership of the vineyard. Jesus is the true heir, and they would mistreat and kill him just as they did the prophets. But Jesus is telling us that, at some point, God was going to destroy the religious leadership and turn over the maintenance of his kingdom to others. In actuality the religious leadership was destroyed in 70 AD, and never again was there Temple worship for the Jews for there was no more Temple. The others he is referring to are those who will honor him - in other words, true believers, the church.]

Testing Jesus once again

[The Jewish leaders represented different parties - Pharisees who resisted the Romans and were strict in their observance of Law, Sadducees who were more secular and political, Herodians who were closest to the Romans, teachers of the law who used their interpretations for personal gain. They all agreed, however, that Jesus was a threat to their leadership and so they conspired together to find a reason to arrest him.]

Testing Jesus once again

13 And they sent to him certain ones of the Pharisees and of the Herodians to try to trap him in his words. [They were acting out parts, since the two parties had different opinions about this matter, and they reasoned that Jesus would be in trouble whichever point of view he agreed with.] 14 They came to him and said, “We know that you are honest and are not swayed by anyone. You don't care about men's position but teach the complete truth about God's ways. Tell us, then, should men pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we give [what is required], or not give?”

15 But, knowing they were acting, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a coin so I can see it. Whose picture is on it, and whose inscription?” 16 They responded, “Caesar's”. And Jesus answered, “Pay to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and pay God the things that belong to God.” And they marveled at him. [Jesus said a lot by this answer - namely, that we should follow the rules of society and the government when possible, but also honor God. The leaders were after their own personal gain, and certainly were not interested in honoring God except with insincere lips.]

18 Then came some Sadducees, who say there is no Resurrection, and they asked him, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us [Deuteronomy 25:5] that if a man dies leaving a wife but no children, the man's brother must take up his brother's wife and produce children for the sake of his brother. [This gave security to the widow and kept the dead brother's family line intact.] [What if] 20 there were seven brothers, and one of them died leaving a wife but no children. 21 And then the second brother took the woman as his wife but he too died leaving no children, and then the third likewise. 22 And each of the seven brothers married her in turn but produced no children. Then last of all the woman died. 23 In the Resurrection, when they all rise, whose wife will the woman be, since each of them had her as wife?” [This was one of the Sadducees’ arguments against there being a Resurrection. They had no faith or understanding of the supernatural and a life beyond this life.]

24 Jesus replied to them, “You are deceived. For you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 25 For when the dead rise, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but instead they are like the angels in heaven. 26 And concerning whether the dead rise, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage [Exodus 3:6] [about] the burning bush, how God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are greatly mistaken.”

[Jesus tells us quite a lot in this. He knows the plan of God for all eternity - this is not simply reasoning from the scriptures, though the scriptures back it up. He is telling us all are alive to God even after they die, though the Sadducees and many others did not believe in an afterlife. When God resurrects all, at the time of Jesus' second coming, we will live a different kind of life than our current one on the earth - more like God's angels, serving him. Marriage will no longer be about the relationship between two people, but rather between Jesus and his bride, the Church.]

28 And one of the interpreters of the Law heard the discussion and that Jesus had given a good answer, so he asked Jesus, “What commandment [in the scriptures] is the most important?” Jesus answered him, “The most important commandment is, ‘Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. [He is the only God, the only one worth our worship.] And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’ [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]. And the second is just like it [in importance and necessity to keep], ‘You shall love your neighbor just as you love yourself’ [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no commandment more important than these.”

32 The teacher of the Law said to Jesus, “Teacher, you have expressed the truth well. For you have said that the Lord is the one God and indeed there is no God besides him. 33 And ‘to love the Lord with all our heart and understanding and strength’ and ‘to love our neighbor as our self’ are far greater than all of our burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that the man answered wisely, he told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one dared ask him any questions. [When they tried to trap him, they ended up appearing to be fools. The one man who agreed with Jesus was only "close" to the kingdom, because he had not yet decided to follow Jesus.]

The “Anointed One” as Lord

[Now, having answered all the leaders' challenges, Jesus was ready to challenge them in return.] 35 Jesus said, as he was teaching in the Temple, “How can the interpreters of the Law say that the Anointed One is the ‘son of David’? 36 For it was David himself [Psalms 110:1], in the [inspiration of the] Holy Spirit, who said, ‘The Lord [God] said to my Lord [the Anointed One], come sit at my right hand [of authority], until I [conquer your enemies,] making them a footstool under your feet.’ 37 So if David himself called the Anointed One 'my Lord', how can the Anointed One be [only] his son?” The people responded favorably to this teaching. 

The "Anointed One" as Lord

[Jesus is again saying many things by this simple teaching: 1. That scripture comes from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 2. That David saw into the future through the Spirit the relationship between two of the persons of God - Father God and the Anointed One. 3. That the Anointed One, while it is important that he was a king by being descended from David, it is even more important that he be given the respect and authority due to God himself. 4. That there is a point in time where the Anointed One, having been established in authority, rests in that authority, while Father God defeats his enemies. 5. That Jesus is that Anointed One, also God, who was about to establish his authority through the cross, and therefore was about to fulfill David's vision as he takes his established position of authority at the right hand of Father God. 6. That it would not be smart to be an enemy of Jesus as the Father himself will smash them into the dust.]

Exploiters versus true givers

38 As Jesus was teaching, [he continued exposing the teachers of the Law]. He said, “Watch out for the teachers of the Law, who love to wear long flowing robes [which make them look holy] and be recognized by others in the marketplace 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and recline in the places of honor at feast. 40 For they also devour widows' houses [by manipulating them into giving up what little they have through the interpretation of the Law], and they pretend to be holy by speaking lengthy prayers. [By these prideful and manipulative actions] they earn for themselves greater condemnation [at the Judgment, for they were in position to help people but used their position for selfish gain].”

Exploiters versus true givers

41 And Jesus sat across from the Temple treasury and watched as people threw their money into the [collection boxes of] the treasury. And many wealthy people threw in much money. 42 But then a certain poor widow came and put in two tiny coins which only are worth a penny when added together. 43 But he called his disciples around him and told them, “I'm telling you the truth. What this poor widow has given was more than all the others who contributed to the treasury. 43 For they all gave out of their abundance [with no effect on their standard of living], but she gave out of her poverty, and gave up all she had to live on.”

Discussion questions

1. In the story of the vineyard keepers, they don’t believe that the owner will come back and exact vengeance. But in real life, God caused Jerusalem to be completely torn apart and the inhabitants killed in 70 AD. Do we doubt other things that Jesus has said about judgment? If we trust what Jesus says completely, then what are the facts about what happens after our life on earth?

Mark Chapter 12 discussion questions

2. Which of Jesus’ answers to religious leaders is your favorite? Why?

3. How would you compare the faith and righteousness of the religious leaders and the poor widow that Jesus observed? Where do you fit on the scale between the religious leaders and the widow?

Mark Chapter 13

Mark Chapter 13

Destruction of the Temple

As Jesus left the Temple, one of his disciples exclaimed to him, “Teacher, what amazing stones and buildings!” And Jesus replied to him, “You think these buildings are great? Not one stone will be left on another that won't be thrown down.” [Later,] when Jesus was sitting [at a location] on the Mount of Olives, across from the city of Jerusalem, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “When will these things happen, and what will be the sign they are about to be fulfilled?”

Destruction of the Temple

[Jesus appears to be talking in this discourse about a combination of what would befall Jerusalem in 70 AD (which would directly answer the disciples' questions) and what would happen at his Second Coming. To the disciples, the prophecy of the destruction of the Temple would make them think about the “end of the age”. Probably the writers of Matthew and Luke heard Mark's account and added material from eye witnesses to clarify important concepts for their target audiences. It is conceivable that Jesus did not distinguish between these two periods - he saw things about them both - but it’s also possible the Father had not revealed to him a detailed picture of the next two thousand years.

Many of the things that Jesus says in this passage may have been fulfilled in 70 AD. However, some of the things Jesus says that are recorded by Mark sound more appropriate for the future end times than for the judgment of Jerusalem in 70 AD. For instance, it is not likely the twelve disciples would be deceived into following false Anointed Ones since they knew him. So as Jesus is responding to the disciples, he is also addressing the future believers that will follow him but never met him on the earth.]

Then Jesus responded to them, “Listen carefully so that you will not be pulled off your path. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the one,’ and shall fool many [into thinking I have returned and the end of the age has come]. And you will hear about wars and reports of wars, but don't let that stir you up, for that doesn't mean the end has come. For people group will rise against people group, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places and famines. But these are only the beginning of the pains of childbirth. [There is evidence that all these things were fulfilled at least to a degree before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.]

“But watch out for yourselves [and let your faith be strengthened], for they will deliver you up before ruling councils and you will be beaten in synagogues. And you will be dragged before rulers and kings for the sake of following my name, so that you can be a witness before them. 10 And the Good News must be proclaimed to all people groups [before I return]. 11 But when they force you to go and deliver you up, don't even think about what you will say, but speak exactly what you are given in that hour, for it is not you but the Holy Spirit who will be speaking.

12 “And brother will turn in brother to his death, and fathers will turn in their sons, and children will rise against their parents to see them killed. 13 And you shall be hated by everyone for the sake of following my name. He who perseveres to the end will be saved.

[You are concerned about when the end will be for the world, but be more concerned how you will stand personally, for your faith will arouse violent opposition, even among the closest families. I am charging you with staying faithful to your very last breath, for I will be there to welcome you into my kingdom on the other side of death, and you will then be delivered from every trial.] [These things also were fulfilled to a degree to Jesus’ followers leading up to 70 AD, but they also have occurred in the nearly 2000 years since.]

14 “When you see ‘that which is hateful and defiling’ standing where nothing should be allowed” - let the reader understand – it's time for those who are in Judea to run to the mountains. [Jesus is quoting Daniel 9:27, which had been already partially fulfilled in 168 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes set up an idolatrous altar in the Temple prior to the Jewish Maccabean revolt. But Jesus is likely referring to a event after his death when the Romans would enter the Temple precinct prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jesus is telling his followers this is the time to flee - that the destruction will be widespread and thorough. Jesus is directly answering the disciples' question about what would be the sign that the destruction of the Temple is about to happen, and he is giving his followers an opportunity to save themselves.]

15 “If you are out on your rooftop [when you hear this news], don’t go inside and pack, 16 and if you are in the field, don’t return to get your coat. 17 How difficult it will be if you are pregnant or nursing a child in that day! 18 Pray that it will not be in winter! [The danger will be so immediate that leaving speedily is the only way to be saved from the destruction.]

19 “For the suffering of those days shall be greater than any since God created the world, nor will there ever be greater. 20 And if the time [of suffering of Israel as a nation for its sin] were not shortened, then no one would survive, but because of the chosen ones, the time of suffering will be shortened. [God had promised the Jews would always have a remnant and those who followed Jesus were also among those whom God promised to offer rescue.]

21 "And [during that very precarious time], if someone says to you, ‘The Anointed One is over here, or over there,’ don't believe them. 22 For false Anointed Ones and prophets shall rise and perform signs and wonders and deceive if possible the chosen. [Satan has a strategy for leading people astray, and during desperate times even those chosen by God because they have believed are more susceptible.] 23 But receive my warning, for I've told you [and those who will read your account of what I am saying] everything in advance.

[These events appear to be describing 70 AD. However, even after 70 AD when the Temple was destroyed, the people were susceptible to following false Anointed Ones. Simon bar Kokhba was named Anointed One by those following him in rebellion against Rome until they were crushed in 135 AD. Even to the present day they are many false prophets and self-appointed Anointed Ones who have led many astray.]

Jesus’ Second Coming

24 “But in the days after that time of suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, 25 the stars in the sky shall fall, and the heavenly powers will be shaken. [Even the physical laws will seem not to operate normally.] 26 And then they [who are alive on the earth] shall see the Son of Man come on clouds with great power and glory, 27 and he shall send out his angels to the four winds [all directions] to gather the chosen ones [chosen because they have chosen him] from the farthest point of earth to the farthest point of heaven [those who are alive as well as those already in heaven].

Jesus' Second Coming

28 “Learn this lesson from the fig tree. When the branch is still green and begins to put forth leaves, then the summer is near. 29 So when you see these things happen, then it [the Second Coming] is near, even at the door. [Fig trees are late budding, so it is a sure sign of the summer season. In the same way, when these signs in the heaven come, the return of the Lord is about to happen.] 30 I am telling you the truth, this generation shall not pass away [all die] before all these things have come to pass.

[It sounds like Jesus is saying that the disciples will still be alive at his return. For this to be true, Jesus would be referring to his return as coming in judgment in 70 AD to the Jewish nation. Many others think he was saying that there will be no more than a single generation between the heavenly signs occurring and his return. His reference to the fig tree may refer to the founding of modern Israel as a sign of the beginning of the end time generation.] 31"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." [They will certainly be fulfilled.]

[Though I have told you what to look for concerning when the Temple will be destroyed and when I will return,] 32 no one knows the specific time, not the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Stay on the lookout and keep alert, since you don’t know what time it will take place. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, who leaves his servants in charge [of his property], each with their own work, so he tells the doorkeeper to remain on alert. 35 Therefore, stay on watch, for you don't know when the master of the house is returning, whether in the evening, at midnight, or at cock's crow [before dawn], or when the morning comes. 36 Or, unexpectedly he will show up, and find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to everyone - remain watchful.”

[To remain watchful is to be prepared. Our own work - our assignments from God - should be up-to-date, and we should be expectant and hopeful about the master's return. And we should care that others are ready as well.]

Discussion questions

1. Jesus is speaking to his disciples in this message, but does it seem to you some of what he says is aimed at later followers who did not know him personally? Which things he said do you think might be more aimed at later followers?

Mark Chapter 13 discussion questions

2. Which things that Jesus said seem like they could not have been fulfilled in 70 AD, and must refer to a Second Coming still in the future?

3. What’s your job if you are waiting for Jesus’ return?

Mark Chapter 14

Mark Chapter 14

Jesus anointed at Bethany

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. [The Passover is a single-day feast immediately followed by the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread.] The chief priests and the interpreters of the Law were trying to figure out how to catch Jesus through trickery and then put him to death, but “not during the feast”, they said, or it might cause an uproar among the people.

Jesus anoined at Bethany

Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper, and he was reclining at the table. A woman came with an alabaster box containing pure spikenard ointment, and she broke the box and poured the ointment over Jesus' head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was this ointment wasted? For it could have been sold for over three hundred denarii [a considerable sum] and the money given to the poor.” And they spoke against her.

[Each of the gospel writers tells a story of Jesus being anointed by a woman – in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:1-9, Luke 7:37-50, John 12:1-8. Only Matthew and Mark’s stories are almost exactly the same. All of the stories have elements in common as well as differences. Matthew, Mark, and John all take place in Bethany, and in all there is anger at the waste of the valuable ointment. Luke’s story is implied to be in Galilee and focuses on the “woman of sin”. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus’ head is anointed. In Luke and John, Jesus’ feet are anointed. John is clear that it is Mary the sister of Lazarus who does the anointing. It seems most likely that Luke is recounting one story concerning the love and forgiveness of a formerly sinful woman, and the others Gospel writers are telling a second story about anointing Jesus for his soon coming burial. Perhaps Simon the Leper hosted the party in Bethany for Lazarus and Jesus. Perhaps Mary anointed both Jesus’ head and feet, and each writer recorded a different memory of the occasion.]

But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You will always have the poor around you, and you can do good for them any time you wish. But you won't always have me. She has done what was within her means to do. She has anointed my body beforehand for burial. Wherever the Good News is declared, people will tell the story of what she has done [on my behalf] to honor her.” [Mary honored him with the very best she had. In fact, Song of Solomon 1:12 says that this is how you honor your king. But Jesus knew how close his death was and assigned this anointing the prophetic significance of preparing for burial.]

Judas agreement to betray Jesus

10 One of the twelve, Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, to deliver Jesus over to them. 11 When they heard what he said, they were glad, and promised him money. He then looked for an opportunity to turn Jesus over to them. [Judas set in motion his betrayal of Jesus right after the anointing incident, where Jesus made clear that there are things more important than money. Could it be that this was a last straw for Judas, who decided at this point to turn Jesus in, and to make a profit at it as well? Matthew says that Judas asked the chief priests for money, and John says that Judas used to steal from the disciples' funds.]

Judas' agreement to betray Jesus

The Lord's Supper

12 It was the first day of the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread, when the Passover [lamb] is killed. [The lamb is killed during the daytime and the feast begins at sundown. The writer is bringing attention to the importance of Jesus as the Passover lamb.] The disciples said to him, “Where should we go to prepare the Passover meal for you?” 13 He chose two of the disciples to go out, and said to them, “Go into the town, and you will see a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him. 14 Where the man goes inside, say to the householder, ‘Where is the guest room where the Teacher may celebrate the Passover with his disciples?’ 15 Then he will show you a large upper room already furnished and set up. Prepare the meal there.” 16 And the [two] disciples went forth to the town and found it just as Jesus had described it, and here they prepared the Passover meal.

The Lord's Supper

[This was probably a word of knowledge. When Jesus was asked about the Passover, the Father showed him this scene in the village which he then described to the disciples. How do we know this? - Jesus told us (John 5:19-20, John 12:49-50), he only says and does what he hears and sees the Father doing.]

17 In the evening, Jesus came with the twelve [for the Passover meal]. 18 And as they reclined and ate, Jesus said to them, “One of you who is eating with me will betray me” [Psalms 41:9]. 19 And the disciples became sad and said, one by one, “Is it me [who will betray you]?” 20 And he said to them, “One of you twelve, one who dips into the plate with me. [The writer of John remembers this more specifically as a response to John and Peter asking and that Jesus indicated specifically Judas (John 13:21-26). However, the other disciples apparently did not notice this.] 21 Truly, the Son of Man will depart as it is written [through betrayal], but how terrible for the man who betrays him. It would have been better for that man if he had never been born!” [Judas became so tormented for his betrayal that he took his own life and condemned himself to eternal separation from God because he had not turned to Jesus as his Lord.]

22 As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them, saying, “Take [and eat], this is my body.” 23 And he took the cup, and after he blessed it, he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it." 24 He said to them, “This is my blood [which seals] the covenant agreement [between God and man] that is shed for many.

[Jesus instituted “Holy Communion” within the context of the Passover, which is an enactment of God delivering his people from death due to sin for all who were willing to consume the lamb and abide within the protection of the blood. Jesus not only reassigned the meaning of the Passover to apply to his sacrifice, but his death put in place a more powerful covenant with God. To eat the bread is to receive the sinless one. To drink the wine is to receive deliverance from death. When Jesus said that his blood was shed for many, he meant it would be for as many as would receive him.]

25 “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until I drink it with you in the kingdom of heaven.” [Luke 13:29 makes clear that this will be the wedding feast following Jesus' return to the earth. Jesus longed to share this feast with his friends, and he longs to share the future feast with his much larger group of friends. The Lord's Supper is a memorial for Jesus as well as for us.] 26 And when they had sung a hymn [as they would at any of the appointed feasts], they went out to the Mount of Olives.

27 Jesus said to them, “You will all [temporarily] fall away [from faith] because of [what happens to] me, for it is written [Zechariah 13:7], ‘I will strike the shepherd, the sheep will be scattered.’ [What happens to Jesus will cause severe doubt and fear in the disciples.] 28 But after I am risen [from death], I will go before you to Galilee.” [Galilee is where the disciples developed their faith in Jesus. He is assuring them that individually and collectively they will be restored. Jesus will appear to them first in Jerusalem, but -Peter will be fully restored in faith and position at the lake in Galilee. It is also where Jesus will later appear to over five hundred.]  

29 But Peter said to him, “Even if everyone falls away from you, I will not!” 30 Jesus replied to him, “I am telling you the truth. This very night before the cock crows twice, you will disown me three times”[, which was fulfilled in Mark 14:72]. 31 But Peter said even more emphatically, “Even if I die, I will not disown you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Jesus suffers while disciples sleep

32 And they went to a place [on the Mount of Olives] called Gethsemane and Jesus told the disciples, “Sit here while I pray”. [The name Gethsemane means "olive press". Olives are placed under tremendous pressure to produce oil. So was Jesus under tremendous pressure - the weight of carrying the sins of the world - for the oil of obedience to be produced.] 33 And he took with him Peter, and James, and John, 34 and he began to feel terrified and distressed, saying to them, “I am suffering so deeply I feel like I am dying. Stay [with me] and watch [and pray with me].” 35 He moved just a little forward and fell to the ground, praying that if possible this time [of suffering] might leave him. 36 And he said, “Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup [of your wrath] from me. Yet not my desire, but yours, be done. [The pain of experiencing the sorrows of all men, the suffering of separation from God, and my Father's wrath against sin, are too much for me. It is too much to expect that I can bear this in this human body. Is there not another way? But Father, you know best, so I submit to whatever I must for your sake.]

Jesus suffers while the disciples sleep

[Desiring the strengthening of companionship amid his suffering,] 37 he came over but found the disciples sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not keep watch even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you don't allow a test [from Satan] to overtake you. [I can see that, for all of us, our] spirit is willing but [our] flesh is weak.”

39 Again, he went away and prayed, speaking the same words [, asking his Father to remove this suffering]. 40 Again, when he returned [to them], he found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy, and they did not know even what to answer him. [He went away] 41 and he returned a third time, saying, “Now [you might as well] sleep and get your rest [a few more minutes]. It is enough! [We can no longer appeal to my Father to prevent what is happening] for the time has arrived when the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up! Let's go, for my betrayer is about to arrive.”

Judas’ betrayal

43 At that very minute, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve [disciples], arrived, and with him a crowd of men carrying swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and teachers of the Law and the elders. 44 The betrayer [Judas] had given them [the crowd] a pre-arranged signal [to look for], telling them, “The one I [greet with a] kiss is the one[, Jesus, you want to arrest]. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And [just as he said], as soon as he arrived, he went up to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher”, and kissed him [on the cheek].

Judas' betrayal

46 And they grabbed Jesus and took him into custody. 47 One of those present took a sword and struck a man who was servant to the high priest and cut off his ear. [We know from John 18:10 that the man's name was Malchus and that it was Peter who cut off his ear, and Luke 22:51 tells us that Jesus healed the man.] 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out to arrest a common thief, that you need swords and clubs to take me into custody? 49 I was with you in the Temple daily, teaching you, and you never arrested me. But the scriptures must be fulfilled.”

[Isaiah 53:12 says that the Anointed One would be “numbered with the transgressors”. Luke 22:37 explains why Jesus had told the disciples to bring swords, though Jesus did not intend for the swords to be used by his disciples.]

50 They [Jesus' disciples] all left him and ran away. 51 And there was a certain young man who had followed along with them [the disciples], and he was wearing only a flimsy linen garment over his naked body, and when they grabbed hold of him, 52 he left the linen cloth in their hands and ran away naked. [The understanding of the early church is that this young man was John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark.]

Jesus’ trial before Jewish council

53 They led Jesus away to the high priest. Already gathered with him were the chief priests, the elders, and the interpreters of the Law. [This was an emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin, held with the express purpose of condemning Jesus. It was in fact an illegal trial for several reasons. The council could legally conduct a trial only during the daytime, and trials were not to be conducted on holy days such as Passover. Contrary to the Jewish rules for conducting a trial, Jesus' friends among the council had not been invited, nor were defense witnesses allowed to give testimony. Jesus' own testimony should not have been counted against him. The council wanted only a semblance of legality and a guilty verdict.] 54 And Peter followed Jesus [and his captors] from a distance and entered the courtyard of the high priest's palace, where he sat among the servants and warmed himself by the fire.

Jesus' trial before Jewish council

55 The chief priests and the ruling council looked for witnesses against Jesus [who would testify to violations of the Law that would justify their plan] to put him to death, but they could find none. 56 They found many who were willing to testify against him falsely, but no two testimonies agreed. 57 For example, some testified against him falsely, 58 “This man said that that this Temple made by human hands he would destroy, but that within three days he would build another temple not made by human hands.” [John 2:19 makes clear Jesus was talking about his own body, though the people who heard him did not know that. However, he didn't say he would destroy it but that 'they' would destroy it.] 59 Yet even on this charge, no testimony agreed.

60 The high priest stood up in their midst and said to Jesus, “Have you no words to answer what these witnesses have testified against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent, answering nothing. Again, the high priest addressed him, saying, “Are you the Anointed One, the son of the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus answered, “I am! And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven!”

[Jesus was not interested in defending himself. However, when the high priest asked a direct question, Jesus was ready to answer the truth, that he is the Anointed One, knowing that that this would ensure his crucifixion. He made it very clear that he is the Anointed One. When Jesus says, "I am" he is equating himself with the Father, as first described in Exodus 3:14. He also quotes Psalms 110:1 when he portrays himself as the future king seated at the right hand of power. Finally, he is referring to Daniel 7:13 when he completes the portrayal of his return to earth "with the clouds of heaven". These were all well-known images of the Anointed One.]

63 Then the high priest tore his clothes [as a response to what he believed was an insult to God] and said, “Why do we need any further witnesses? 64 You have heard this insult to God. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him to the sentence of death. 65 And some began to spit on him. They covered his face (so he couldn't see) and said, “Prophesy”, as the guards shoved him around and beat him.

Peter’s denial of Jesus

66 Meanwhile, while Peter was below in the courtyard [outside where the trial was being conducted], one of the servant girls of the high priest came over 67 and, seeing Peter warming himself by the fire, she looked at him more closely and said, “You were with Jesus of Nazareth.” 68 But Peter denied it, saying, “I don't know [him]. I don't understand [what you're talking about]!” And he went to the front yard [near the gate to get away from the servant who recognized him].

Peter's denial of Jesus

69 Again, the servant girl [in the front yard near the gate saw him] and said, “This is one of them [who followed Jesus]”. [This may be the same servant girl or a different one stationed near the front door (as Matthew reports).] 70 And again he denied it. After just a little while, those who were standing around said, “You must be one of them, for you are a Galilean [by your speech]71 And he began to curse and swear, saying, “I don't even know this man you're talking about!” 72 Just then the cock crowed a second time, reminding Peter what Jesus had said to him earlier, that before the cock crowed twice, he would deny Jesus three times. And when he realized what he had done, he wept.

Discussion questions

1. The events of the crucifixion appear to begin with the anointing of Jesus by Mary. In what way did it reveal the hearts of Judas and others? When someone shows extravagant love, especially to God, does your heart cringe, or expand?

Mark Chapter 14 discussion questions

2. In what ways does the celebration of Communion match the meaning of the Passover? How do they both match what Jesus was doing? When you participate in Communion, what do you believe you are accomplishing?

3. Why does Jesus want to be with his disciples while he is suffering? Did it help him for them to be there? What is the value in sharing our suffering, or our being with someone else in their suffering?

4. If you were John Mark, would you have allowed yourself to be remembered in your own writing as the one who was so fearful he ran away and abandoned Jesus, even to the point you were willing to go naked?

5.  Jesus had proved he could outwit anyone who tried to trap him. Yet now he cooperates with those who want to convict him, though everything was fake about the trial? Could you go through with allowing that to be done to you even if you knew that many others would be set free because of it?

Mark Chapter 15

Mark Chapter 15

Jesus before Pilate

Immediately after day break, the high priests, elders, and teachers of the Law met with the whole council [, except it still did not include Jesus' friends on the council, Nikodemos and Joseph of Arimathea. The council wanted to make sure that they knew what they were going to say to Pilate.] Then they bound Jesus, took him away, and delivered him to Pilate [the Roman governor].

Jesus before Pilate

[After the representatives of the council told Pilate what the charges were,] Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “True enough[, though I would put it differently].” And the chief priests accused him of many things [such as claiming he would destroy the Temple and starting riots.] Pilate addressed Jesus, “They are testifying many things against you. Don't you have anything to say [in your own defense]?” But Jesus answered nothing, to Pilate's great surprise.

Now, at the Feast [of Passover], he [the governor, according to tradition,] released one of the prisoners, whomever they chose. There was a man named Barabbas, a revolutionary, who was in chains because he had murdered someone during the revolt. And rising, the crowd cried out to Pilate to do what he usually did [by releasing to them the prisoner they would choose]. But Pilate responded [to their request to have a prisoner released by saying], “Do you want me to release to you ‘the King of the Jews’?” [He was making fun of them.] 10 For he [Pilate] realized that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered Jesus to him [Pilate]. 11 But the chief priests motivated the crowd to insist that Pilate release Barabbas instead [of Jesus] to them.

Sentence of crucifixion

12 Pilate answered them again and said, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call 'the King of the Jews'?” 13 And they cried out, “Crucify him!” 14 And Pilate said, “Why? What evil has he done?” And the cried out all the harder, “Crucify him!” 15 Then Pilate, wanting to pacify the people, released to them Barabbas and, after having Jesus whipped, sent him to be crucified. [Whipping was part of the crucifixion sentence - it softened up the convict to quicken his death on the cross.]

Sentence of crucifixion

16 The [Roman] soldiers led him away to the enclosure called the Praetorium and called together the whole band [of soldiers]. 17 And they clothed him with purple and placed on his head a crown of thorns they had twisted together. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they beat him on the head with a reed stick, and spit on him, and bowed on their knees before him [in mock worship]. 20 And after they had mocked him, they took off the purple and put his own clothes back on him and took him away to crucify him.

21 And they [the soldiers] drafted into service a man who had come from out-of-town and was passing by, named Simon, from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus [who were among those known by the author to later serve the Lord as believers], to carry his cross. 22 They brought him to Golgotha, which translated [from Aramaic into Greek], means the place of the skull [perhaps because of its appearance]. 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, [which served as a narcotic to dull pain] but he did not take it. [He had already renounced drinking wine until he could drink it with his friends in his Kingdom on his return to earth, and his purpose was to take the pain of the world upon himself, so he decided not to dull the pain in any way.]

Jesus’ crucifixion and death

24 And they nailed him to the cross [after stripping off his clothes]. They separated his clothing, casting lots [gambling] to see which of the soldiers would get each article of clothing. 25 It was about the third hour [nine o'clock in the morning] when they crucified him. 26 And the [placard of] accusation was inscribed over him, “The King of the Jews”. 27 And along with him, they crucified two highway robbers, one to the right of him and one to the left. 28 In this way the scripture was fulfilled which says, "He was counted with the sinners" [Isaiah 53:12].

Jesus' crucifixion and death

29 There were some who walked up, shaking their heads, and ridiculed him, saying, “You were going to destroy the Temple and then rebuild it in three days. [Let's see you] 30 save yourself and come down from that cross!” 31 Likewise, the chief priests, mocking him with each other and the teachers of the Law, said, “He saved others, but he can't even save himself. 32 Let the [self-appointed] ‘Anointed One,’ the ‘King of Israel,’ come down from the cross. Then we will see and believe!” And those who were crucified alongside of him also taunted him [though Luke 23:40-41 tells us that one of the two, before he died, saw Jesus for who he really was].

33 And from the sixth hour [noon] until the ninth hour [three o'clock], there was darkness over the whole land. 34 At the ninth hour [3 in the afternoon], Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani!”, which translated [from Aramaic to Greek] means, “My God, My God, why have you deserted me!” 35 Some who stood there said, "He is calling on Elijah!" [However, many would have recognized these as the words of Psalms 22:1, which Jesus knew were being fulfilled.]

[The darkness over the earth was also the darkness of God's wrath that Jesus was experiencing in his own soul. He experienced the separation from God that all men to that time experienced. What great pain was in his cry! While he experienced our separation from God, his sacrifice in our place satisfied all of God's judgment, so that no man would ever need to experience that separation again, if only they would cross the bridge of accepting Jesus' dying for them.]

36 And one of them ran and got a sponge filled with sour wine and put it on a reed and offered it to him, saying, “Let's [wait and] see if Elijah comes and helps him.” [In other words, this one was enjoying that Jesus would cry for help, and mocked him by helping him extend his suffering, as the bystander did not expect Elijah to come.]

37 But Jesus cried out with a loud voice and let go of his spirit. 38 And the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. [Someone must have been in the Temple at that time who reported on what happened. The curtain was 60 feet tall and around four inches thick. That it was torn from top to bottom indicates that God himself did the tearing. Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us that as Jesus' flesh was torn and he died, mankind's sins were forgiven, and the curtain of separation between God and man was removed. In the Tabernacle and the Temple, under the Old Covenant, no man could enter past the curtain into the Holy of Holies, except the High Priest, once a year. Because of Jesus' death in our place, no longer does sin separate us from God. We now enter boldly before God's throne, but we do so only by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus.] 39 The centurion [overseeing the crucifixion], who was standing facing Jesus, saw how he died [so strongly] and said, “Surely this was the son of God.”

Women at the cross

40 There were also some women who watched [the crucifixion] from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 These women included those who were with him in the Galilee and who served him there, and many others who traveled with him to Jerusalem. [Mary the mother of James and Joseph may also be the wife of Clopas mentioned in John 19:25. Salome may have been the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, since Matthew 27:56 mentions the mother of the sons of Zebedee but not Salome. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also there according to John 19:25. At some point, Jesus' mother Mary and some of the others moved close to the cross, according to John.]

Women at the cross

Jesus’ body placed in the tomb

42 Evening was approaching on the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. [All work had to be done before sundown, when the Sabbath started.] 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Jewish council, who was also anticipating the arrival of the kingdom of God, boldly came before Pilate and asked him for Jesus' body. 44 And Pilate was amazed [to hear] that Jesus was already dead, and so asked the centurion if indeed Jesus was dead.

Jesus' body placed in the tomb

45 When Pilate had verified Jesus' death, he gave permission for Joseph to take his body. 46 Joseph bought fine linen, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped his body in the cloth, placed him in a tomb cut out of the rock, and placed a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary [mother] of Joseph saw where he had been laid. [They now went and rested for the Sabbath until the morning of the day after the Sabbath - that is two nights and the day in between.]

Discussion questions

1. Why does Jesus say nothing in response to the charges against him before Pilate? What would you say if you were charged with being a Christian in an intolerant country?

Mark Chapter 15 discussion questions

2. How could Father God watch his son go through the despair of complete separation from him in addition to the tremendous physical pain of whipping, torture, and hanging on the cross?

3. If you were one of Jesus’ disciples at the time of his crucifixion, how would you feel to hear that at the time he died, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two? If you were against Jesus, what would you think?

Mark Chapter 16

Mark Chapter 16

The empty tomb

When the Sabbath was over, [that night,] Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought aromatic spices, so they could go and anoint the body [of Jesus]. Very early the next morning, the first day of the week [Sunday], at the time of the sunrise, they came up to the tomb. They said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had [already] been rolled back, [even though] it was very large.

The empty tomb

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side and he was wearing a long white garment. They were very afraid. And he said to them, “Don't be afraid! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But leave, and tell his disciples and Peter, that he will go before you to Galilee. There he will see you, just as he told you.”

And they went out quickly, for trembling and amazement had come over them, and they were too afraid to tell anyone.

[This is where the account of Mark originally ended. No one knows why the account ended here - possibly there was an ending that was lost. The primary reason for speculation that an ending was lost is that it seems unlikely that the account would end with the women being too afraid to tell anyone. If no one were told, then how did anyone hear this account?  In fact, Jesus would appear multiple times to his closest followers in Jerusalem before fulfilling his promise to appear to many in Galilee.  According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6, Jesus appeared to over 500 there at one time.

[Later manuscripts show four different endings that were added, each apparently written by a different author. The following ending, the one that is historically included, seems inspired, even if not written by the author of the original gospel account.]

Jesus' post-resurrection appearances

After he had resurrected, early on the first day of the week [Sunday], he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from who he had cast out seven demons [Luke 8:2]. [Someone who had been demonized might have once had a poor reputation because of their former behavior, but this woman, who was so devoted to him, was given the honor of seeing him first in his victory over death.] 10 She went and told those who were his closest friends as they were grieving and mourning. 11 And when they heard [from her] that he was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

Jesus' post-resurrection appearances

12 After this, Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them [disciples but not among the twelve] as they were walking in the countryside. 13 And they went and told the remaining [eleven] disciples, but they would not believe this either. 14 Afterward, he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table, and he scolded them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who told them they had seen him since he rose from the dead. [This is a summary account, which largely matches the other gospel accounts, with the exception that, according to Luke 24:33, when the two who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus came back to the eleven, they were already believing, because John and Peter had seen the tomb and Peter himself had a separate encounter with the Lord.]

Commission to followers

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world, and declare the Good News to all of creation. [The Good News is that Jesus the son of God died in our place and delivered us from the bondage and consequence of sin and has given us the power to represent his love and authority on the earth.] 16 Those who believe and are baptized [to indicate their willingness to join those following me] will be saved [from judgment after this life]. [It is when we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that we are saved - Romans 10:9]. 16 Those who do not believe will be condemned [in the judgment after this life].

Commission to followers

17 “And these signs will accompany those who believe [in me]. They will cast out demons in my name. [They will carry my authority.] They will speak in new languages. [They would receive spirit-inspired language when the Holy Spirit came fully upon them.] 18 They will pick up serpents and drink deadly poison, and these things will not harm them. [Protection from both natural and man-made weapons is indeed a sign. These are all things that would cause unbelievers to believe. However, he is not saying that no believer will ever die from poison or snake bite, just as believers do not always speak in other languages.] They will place their hands on the sick, and they [the sick] will recover.” [This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all the gifts believers may have. It simply makes the point that believers in Jesus are given the power and authority to demonstrate the good news they are proclaiming. Belief in Jesus always is accompanied by power.]

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken these things to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they [the disciples] went forth and preached everywhere, as the Lord worked with them to confirm [the truth of] their message with signs that accompanied their message. Amen. [As Matthew, Luke, and John indicate, there were other appearances of Jesus before he ascended into heaven. From there, Jesus sits in glory along with the Father, but he is still active from that place. The Father and Jesus rule together over all creation - nothing escapes their attention. They are both at work along with the Holy Spirit whenever we ask or act in their name.]

Discussion questions

1. The women faithfully went to care for Jesus’ body but had no idea if they would be able to get into the tomb. What does this tell us about moving forward to do something for God even when we don’t see how it will work?

Mark Chapter 16 discussion questions

2. The last chapter feels incomplete with the original ending, because it calls for a conclusion – did anyone see Jesus and was there any other evidence besides the empty tomb. However, how would you have been affected if you heard the whole story, even with the incomplete ending? Would you have gone to Galilee?

3. In your church, are the disciples carrying the message everywhere, with the message being confirmed by signs and wonders? Why not?

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