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Mark Introduction

Mark Introduction

Mark’s Gospel is by far the shortest of the four gospels, and it reads like the story of an eye witness. Much of the early church believed that the author was John Mark, whose mother provided an upper room that was a gathering place for the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). He likely was the same man who traveled with Paul and with whom Paul had a falling out (Acts 13:13, Acts 15:37-39) but later commended (2 Timothy 4:11). He has also been identified as the man who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52). Early post-apostolic writers described Mark as a friend of Peter who recorded the recollections of Jesus’ closest disciple. Therefore, while the writer himself may have been an eye witness to much of Jesus’ life, he would have relied on Peter for an even closer eye witness view.

Even though the account written by Mark is the shortest of the gospel accounts, it comes across as a coherent story. In fact, it is filled with action, with the stories of Jesus’ exploits frequently joined together with the words “and immediately”. Even though most of Mark seems to be repeated in Matthew and Luke’s accounts, those accounts usually add additional observations and materials. However, there are places where Mark has details not captured in Matthew or Luke.

Mark appears to be talking to a Greek-speaking audience. This is indicated where he sometimes translates words for his reader from an original language (likely Hebrew or Aramaic) to Greek. It appears that Mark is most concerned with explaining that Jesus is indeed the long-awaited Anointed One, and he describes a great deal of the battles between Jesus and the religious leaders for the hearts and minds of the people of the time.

Based on the variety and age of the manuscripts, Mark’s Gospel originally ends with Jesus’ tomb being empty and the risen Lord having appeared to the women but not yet the disciples. It is not known if his abrupt ending was intentional. It may be that the need for getting out the story was greater than the need to research the experiences of the followers of Jesus and record their story.

The traditional ending of the gospel (Mark 16:9-20} appears to have been added by someone other than the original author. There were several different proposed endings, the traditional one being the most complete and most inspired. All of these endings were composed much later, and the early church fathers were not aware of them. They were likely added after the other Gospel accounts were written, to make Mark more consistent with the others.

Mark Guide to the Transcommentary

Mark Guide to the Transcommentary

This is a little bit more than a translation and a bit less than a full commentary.  It serves a similar function to the Amplified Bible, though that work’s purpose was to provide a complete sense of the meaning of the words used by the writers of scripture.  This work has a somewhat different purpose:

  • To convey as close as possible the actual meaning of the sentences as they would have been understood at the time they were originally spoken or written.  To accomplish this for twenty-first century Americans, dynamic equivalent words and sayings have been used at a sentence level.  An attempt has been made to preserve intended wordplay and irony from the original author.

  • We have attempted to clarify ideas, references, and thought sequences that would have been clear to first century audiences but are not clear to modern audiences because of differences in culture, customs, language, or degree of familiarity with Old Testament scriptures and Messianic prophecies.  The phrasing of the translation itself aims at that clarity, but we have also added words, phrases, and sentences to the narrative for improved understanding.  All such additions are in brackets [].  This allows the reader to have the explanatory additions when reading but also insulate these additions from the translated scripture – indeed, with a little effort they can be skipped entirely when reading aloud.

  • Color codes for different types of additional material are intended to further aid understanding:

- As in many editions, the words of Jesus are shown in red.

- Words of Father God or the Holy Spirit are shown in blue.

- Green is used for words added to descriptive narrative because they are implied or as commentary to explain the context.

References to scriptures are shown in gold.

  • As in many translations and editions, we have added headings in bold to help understand when a new theme is introduced by the author.

  • The author frequently refers to "Christ" or to "Jesus Christ".  We have employed the words “the Anointed One” rather than "Christ", since that is the meaning of “Christ”.  We wanted to avoid the sense of "Christ" as Jesus’ surname, yet still recognize it as a well-known title.

  • We have also added study questions at the end of each chapter to help you think more thoroughly about the meaning and application of the author’s writing.

An example of the use of bold headings, color, and brackets can be seen in the following paragraph taken from Mark 8:

Jesus the Anointed One and the cost of following him

27 Jesus and his disciples went forth from there to the area of Caesarea Philippi [in the farthest northern part of Israel near the town of Dan and the Roman enclave of Banias]. On his way, he asked his disciples, “Who are men saying I am?” 28 They answered, “John the Baptist, or some say Elijah, others say one of the prophets.” [This is the same answer that people gave when Herod was interested in Jesus back in Mark 6:14-16.] 29 And Jesus said back to them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Anointed One. [We have watched you do everything we ever heard that the Anointed One would do, and even more. We have heard from you words of wisdom that could only come from God.][The Jewish people had been waiting for the Anointed One to come ever since Moses had told them that He would send them a prophet who will speak God’s words to them. They and the world were waiting for the Anointed One to appear and make all things right. Now the disciples realized that Jesus was that mighty prophet.] 30 And he commanded them to not tell anyone about him.

We will have succeeded in this translation if you the reader find that you can read this Gospel with greater comprehension and enjoyment than ever before.  Please let us know if you find the various supplementary materials helpful. or too distracting, or if you have any other suggestions about how to improve this approach to translation.

Richard Tittle, pneuma9@gmail.com

Mark Chapter1

Mark Chapter 1

John the Baptist

The [report of the] good news about Jesus, the Anointed One, son of God, begins just as [foretold by] Isaiah [and] the prophets, “Notice, I am sending a messenger before me [Malachi 3:1], who will make the pathway ready for me, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight’ [Isaiah 40:3]”. [This was the assignment of John the Baptist. He would make straight paths for people to God by leading them to give up their sins and be cleansed. And he also revealed the Anointed One, Jesus, to them.]

John baptized in the wilderness and proclaimed baptism as a means for turning lives around and being set free from sin. And people came to him from all around the land of Judea and from Jerusalem, and all of them were baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins. And John wore a camel skin tied with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. [John sacrificed all comforts for the opportunity to fulfill his assignment of introducing Jesus to the world.] And he said, “There's someone coming after me, more powerful than me, and I am not worthy even to untie his sandals. [John honors Jesus to such a degree that John sees himself as not even qualifying to do the lowliest task for him.]  I have baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in Holy Spirit.” 

[Water was for purifying, but the Holy Spirit being poured out on believers would bring divine enablement and power. What John sees about Jesus – that he would baptize in the Holy Spirit – does not even happen until Jesus leaves the earth. Jesus will need to remove the judgment for sin through his death on the cross before the Holy Spirit could abide in each person’s heart.]

Jesus’ baptism and temptation

It was during this time that Jesus arrived from Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10 As he came up out of the water, he saw the skies torn open and the Spirit coming down on him like a dove. 11 And there was a voice from heaven, “This is my son whom I love and who pleases me.” [This is a standard blessing of a Jewish father towards his son when he comes of age and is acknowledged as the heir of the father.]

12 Immediately [after his baptism, filling, and blessing], the Spirit pushed him into the wilderness. [At some point, he must have described this to the disciples. It is an important principle - as soon as something or someone is fully fashioned and released, he or it needs to be proved through testing.] 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted [and tested] by Satan. He was among the wild beasts, but angels ministered to him [to protect and strengthen him at the end of that time].

First disciples

14 At the same time John [the Baptist] was imprisoned, Jesus came into Galilee. [Their ministries just barely overlapped. John's was done, now that he had identified the Anointed One.] 15 Jesus was proclaiming the good news about God, saying, “The time is now, and the kingdom of God is here. Revise your thinking and believe the good news. [You don't have to wait any more. God is ready to show his goodness if you will trust him.]

16 As he was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon [whom he called Peter, or “Rock”] and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea, because they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Come and follow me [as my disciples] and I will turn you into fishers of men.” 18 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 19 And when he went a little farther he saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat repairing their nets. 20 And with no hesitation he invited them as well, and they left their nets with their father Zebedee and his hired servants and followed Jesus.

[According to John 1:35-41, Jesus already met these four through John the Baptist around the time Jesus was baptized by John. Luke 5:1-11 tells the story of this calling of the first four disciples in more detail, including the story of the miraculous catch of fish. By the time Jesus calls the disciples full-time they have already spent some time with him, which may help explain why they were able to respond so quickly to his call to abandon their nets and become his disciples.]

First deliverance

[Now that Jesus had his first followers, he was ready to get to work.] 21 He took them into Capernaum and, since it was the Sabbath, without hesitation he entered the synagogue and began teaching. [It would not have been unusual for there to be a guest speaker. Jesus' four disciples all lived around there so he would have been welcomed as their teacher.] 22 And they [in the synagogue] were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with authority [, as one who knew what he was talking about], not as the teachers of the Law [the usual teachers].

23 At that point there was a man with an unclean spirit [a demon] in the synagogue who cried out with a loud voice, 24 “What are you doing here, Jesus? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!” [It is not unusual in gatherings of believers for there to be among them people oppressed by demons. The person may appear normal, or they may be a trouble-maker or simply resistant to God. When the Spirit of God shows up through a person walking in authority like Jesus or even during anointed worship, the demon becomes uncomfortable and manifests. In this case, the demon understands that Jesus has come to overturn the kingdom of darkness.] 25 Jesus interrupted him, saying, “Shut up! Come out of him!” 26 And tearing himself away [and causing the man to convulse], the unclean spirit cried out in a loud voice and left him.

27 They were amazed, saying to one another, “What new kind of teaching [ability] is this? He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28 And the news about him immediately spread throughout the region of Galilee. [Jesus was declaring war on the realm of darkness.  At the same time, he was declaring the reign of God's goodness to all who would believe.]

First healings

29 When they left the synagogue, they went directly over to Simon and Andrew's house, accompanied by James and John [to have their Sabbath meal together]. [Excavations of ancient Capernaum show that Simon's house was only a block away from the synagogue.] 30 But Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, so they told Jesus about it. 31 He came and raised her up by laying hands on her. The fever left her immediately, and [she felt so well] she began to serve them.

32 And that evening, after the sun had gone down [and it was no longer the Sabbath day], they brought to him all who had diseases or were demonized. 33 The whole town came together at the door [to Simon's house]. 34 Jesus healed many who were sick from various diseases and cast out demons from others, but he wouldn't allow the demons to speak because they recognized him. [Jesus didn't want people to learn that he was the Anointed One first from demons.]

Around Galilee

35 The next day, Jesus got up during the fourth watch of the night [three to six am], while it was still quite dark, and went out to a solitary place, and prayed. 36 Simon and the others that were with him searched everywhere for him. 37 When they found him they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 He replied, [Instead of spending more time here,] let's go to the nearby towns, so I can preach there, for that's why I came. [I came to spread the good news about God and demonstrate it all over, so that people everywhere would know how good God is, and so that people would trust and follow me.] 39 And he preached in their synagogues and cast out demons all around Galilee. [Preaching with authority causes darkness to leave.]

Cleansing a leper

[And then came the case that made it hard for Jesus to go anywhere without large crowds.] 40 A leper came to him and pleaded with him, falling on his knees [before him], saying, “[I know that] if you want to, you can make me clean.” [Lepers by law were treated as carrying infection and were required to go around crying out, “Unclean, unclean,” so that others would steer clear of them. So, it was unusual for a leper to come so close.] 41 And filled with compassion, Jesus stretched forth his hand and touched him, and said, “I do want to! Be clean!” 42 And immediately, the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.

43 Jesus instructed the cleansed leper firmly even as he was sending him off, 44 saying, “Say nothing to anyone, but go show yourself to the priests and give the offering Moses required [Leviticus 14:1-9] as a testimony for your cleansing.”

[Jesus knew that if the man talked about his healing, it would cause a sensation. When a person with a skin disease was healed, the Law required he show himself to the priests and offer two doves as a sacrifice before the Lord, to be restored to society. In Jesus’ day, no Jewish lepers had ever been healed. It was believed that such a healing would be a sign that the Anointed One had come. Thereforee, when Jesus sent the man to validate his healing, he was also making a claim that he himself was the Anointed One.] 45 But [instead of obeying Jesus about remaining silent,] the man told what had been done for him everywhere and reported about it in detail. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter towns but had to stay out in the countryside, but people still came to him from every direction.

Discussion questions

1. How do you think John the Baptist knew so well about what would be true about the Anointed One?

2. How would you feel at your church on Sunday if someone acted strange and the pastor cast a demon out of him right in front of you? Should Jesus have done that in a back room or outside?

3.  Do you think it was unrealistic for Jesus to think that someone would not tell others about their healing? Can you imagine what it was like for Jesus to travel with people following him everywhere?

John the Baptist
Jesus baptism and temptation
First disciples
First deliverance
First healing revival
Cleansing a leper
Mark Chapter 1 discussion questions
Around Galilee
Mark Chapter 2

Mark Chapter 2

Forgiving/healing a paralyzed man

1 Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, and it was reported that he was at the house. [This most likely was Peter and Andrew's house where Jesus had healed Peter's mother-and-law (Mark 1:31) and many in the local community (Mark 1:34).  It could have been Jesus' own house. Matthew 4:13 says that Jesus moved his home to Galilee, but the historical tradition is that Jesus stayed at Peter and Andrew's house when in Capernaum. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus stated he had no place to lay his head, though this may have referred to a later point in his ministry. In John 1:38-39, when some of the disciples first met Jesus, they came to where he was staying but that was when all of them were at the site where John baptized Jesus in Jordan, and Jesus later left for Galilee in John 1:43.] 

Forgiving/healing a paralyzed man

[This time,] so many gathered together that there wasn't even any room to get in the door, as Jesus preached the word to them. And they brought to him a man who was paralyzed, carried by four men. When they could not get near him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof above him and, when they had made an opening, lowered his bed to where Jesus was.

When Jesus saw their faith, he turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Your sins are forgiven you.” There were certain of the teachers of the Law there, and they were reasoning in their hearts, “What he is speaking is not allowed. Only God can forgive sins.” [Jesus had put forth his claim to be the Anointed One when he healed the leper and sent him to be examined by the priests. The teachers of the Law and other leaders who were present came to examine him in person to prove he was not the Anointed One. He saw that the people present had the faith to accept who he truly was. Therefore, he could say out loud what only the Anointed One would be allowed to say. He was pressing his claim forward.]

Jesus immediately perceived in his spirit what they were thinking and said, “Why are you reasoning like that? Which do you think is easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or ‘Rise up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 But so that you will know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins” - he turned to the paralyzed man – 11 “Rise up, pick up your mat, and return to your home!” 12 Immediately, the man rose up and walked in front of them all. They were thoroughly amazed, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” [Jesus showed several things in this episode. 1) Sin indeed can cause sickness (as was generally believed). 2) Forgiveness is sometimes necessary for healing.  For example, a person may feel they deserve the sickness which has gripped them because of guilt.  3) Jesus is the Anointed One who has authority to forgive sins and to heal. Later he will give this authority to all who follow him.]

Calling sinners

13 Jesus once again went walking by the seaside and all the people came to him, so he taught them. 14 As Jesus was passing by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting [where he worked] at the tax collectors' booth, and said to him, “Follow me [as my disciple], and Levi got up and followed him. [As a tax collector, Levi likely felt guilty for making a living by taking money from his fellow Israelites.  Hearing that Jesus healed a man by forgiving his sins likely helped Levi decide he would be accepted if he followed Jesus. Like many a new convert, he desired that his friends would also hear and follow Jesus. So he invited them to dinner to meet Jesus.]

Calling sinners

15 [Later,] while Jesus reclined at the table at his [Levi's] house along with his disciples, there were also many tax collectors and sinners[, classified so because they did not observe all the Pharisees’ rules], because there were many [interested in] following Jesus. 16 And the teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, when they saw him eating with tax collectors and sinners, said to Jesus’ disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he said, “It’s not those who are well who need the doctor, but those who are sick. [Likewise,] I have not come to call the righteous, but those who are sinners.” [Jesus chose to be with those who knew they needed him. The self-righteous did not even know they needed him.]

Feasting not fasting

[The Jewish leaders were still examining Jesus for his claim to be the Anointed One. Part of their examination concerned the holiness of the man and his disciples. The Pharisees and John the Baptist both followed an ascetic lifestyle, the Pharisees being more concerned about outwardly observing rules than inner attitudes.] 18 The disciples of John [the Baptist] and the Pharisees fasted [as part of their religious observance], so they [the religious leaders] came to Jesus, saying to him, “Why do the disciples of John fast, and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don't fast.” 19 And Jesus replied to them, “Can the children of the bride chamber [the friends of the bridegroom] fast while the bridegroom is still with them? They cannot! [It's a time of celebration while I am here demonstrating the goodness and love of God.] 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and they will fast in those days. [Jesus is describing the short time after his death before his resurrection, because after the resurrection, the bridegroom is indeed with us always.]

Feasting not fasting

21 “No one sews a new [unshrunk] piece of cloth onto an old garment [to mend it], or else the new piece will pull away from the old and make a worse tear than was already there. [You are trying to apply a lifestyle that doesn't fit these new followers of mine - if I gave them a set of rules they would fail. First, they need to know that they are loved, and that God is a God of love.]

22 “And no one puts new wine in old wineskins, for the new wine [when it expands from fermentation] will burst the wineskins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be spoiled. No, put the new wine in new wineskins. [The experience of these new disciples is like new wine - they are full of enthusiasm and sharing their new life with others. If you tried to fit that atmosphere into an ascetic religious structure, they would fall away and the rule of life they were trying to follow would be ruined as well. Let this be a time of celebration!]

Sabbath for man’s use

23 Some time after that he was walking through a field, and his disciples began to pluck the ears [to eat them]. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, “Why do they do what's not lawful on the Sabbath?” [The Pharisees were still examining Jesus and his disciples with a fine-toothed comb, since Jesus had essentially claimed to be the Anointed One. They were looking for reasons to discredit him so that they would have good reason not to follow him.]

Sabbath for man's use

25 Jesus replied to them, “Don't you remember what David and those with him did when he had the need, when he was weak and hungry? 26 How he went into the house of God during the time of Abiathar the high priest and ate the showbread that was on display, which only the priests are to eat, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” [According to 1 Samuel 21-23, it was Ahimelech that was the high priest that gave David the showbread, and it was his son Abiathar whom David later saved from being murdered for his father’s help to David. However, Abiathar may well have helped his father when David came, and Abiathar played a much bigger and longer role as high priest and friend in David's life, hence the credit is given by Jesus to him.] 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

[God designed the Sabbath to help and preserve men's lives and to increase their trust in God. Despite what the Pharisees claimed, it was a common argument among the rabbis that eating to sustain life had a higher priority than not working on the Sabbath day. Besides, it was when Jesus and the disciples were on the way to the synagogue to celebrate the Sabbath that they grabbed breakfast from the field, which itself was valid according to the Law. Though they may have violated the man-defined rules of the Pharisees about what constituted working on the Sabbath, they were trusting in the supply of God, which is the point of the Sabbath. When Jesus says the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath, he is saying two things. One is that he is in fact the Anointed One, who has the authority to restore God's original plan. Second, we are all "sons of man" and therefore we have the authority to interpret how best to honor God on the Sabbath.]

Discussion questions

1. Why was the faith of the friends of the paralyzed man important for Jesus publicly forgiving the man? Why do you think forgiveness might be important for healing?

Mark Chapter 2 discussion questions

2. Have you ever felt that others who were among the followers of Jesus came from an unacceptable lifestyle? Have you ever had trouble accepting the legitimacy of others’ call?

3. Why fast? And why would you not fast if you were with Jesus daily? Should believers fast during this day?

4. How should you regard the Sabbath, based on what Jesus says about it?

Mark Chapter 3

Mark Chapter 3

Doing good on the Sabbath

[The Pharisees continued to harp on Jesus’ attitude about other things being more important than keeping the Sabbath traditions.] Jesus came back to the synagogue again, and a man was there with a paralyzed hand. The Jewish leaders watched to see if Jesus would heal the man on the Sabbath, so they could accuse him [of violating the Law]. And Jesus said to the man, “Come here.” And he said to the leaders, “What is allowed on the Sabbath? To do good or to do bad? To save life or to destroy life?” And they remained silent. Jesus looked around him in anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and then turned to the man, and said to him, “Stretch forth your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was made whole. And the Pharisees went out and immediately met with the Herodians [the political leaders] to determine how they might kill him. 

Doing good on the Sabbath

[This question of doing good on the Sabbath had been endlessly discussed by rabbis, so Jesus' answer was not revolutionary - the leaders simply wanted a reason to not accept him. Jesus healed the man without either he or the man doing work on the Sabbath by any definition. The way Jesus healed is instructive in that he simply told the man to do what he couldn't do before, and some combination of the man's faith in Jesus and Jesus' faith brought forth the healing. Jesus did not need to ask the Father - he already knew that healing was the Father's will.]

Revival at the shore

Then Jesus and his disciples returned to the shore, and great crowds followed him. They came from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea [the desert land south of the Dead Sea], from beyond the Jordan [present day Syria and Jordan], and even from Tyre and Sidon [Lebanon]. A great crowd came when they heard how many [miraculous] things he did. He spoke to his disciples to make sure they had a small boat standing by in case he should be pressed by the crowd. 10 For he had healed so many, that all who had diseases got as close as possible that he might touch them. 11 And the unclean spirits [demons], when they saw him, fell before him and said, “You are the son of God.” 12 And he instructed all of them [the demons] to not make known who he was [for he desired each person to reach their own conclusion].

Revival at the shore

Appointing the apostles

13 Jesus went up to a mountain [perhaps near Capernaum and the northern end of the Sea of Galilee] and there he summoned the ones he wanted [as his closest followers and ambassadors], and they came to him. [Luke 6:12-16 tells us that Jesus prayed all night before deciding whom he was going to call. Likely all the disciples who were traveling with him came up the mountain with Jesus, and he went off by himself to pray, then selected the ones he was commissioning as apostles, and had them come to him.] 14 He appointed twelve and called them apostles ["sent ones"] so that they would travel with him and go out to preach [the good news of the kingdom] 15 and exercise authority over demons [by casting them out].

Appointing the apostles

[The most common usage of the word "apostles" in the Greek and Roman world was military. When a territory was conquered, generals were appointed as apostles to communicate and enforce the new rule of the conquering king. This is like what the apostles of Jesus were to do. They were given authority and power to heal as well, according to Matthew 10:1 and Luke 9:1. Perhaps Mark doesn't mention this because casting out demons was so central to the healing Jesus did.]

Not crazy

20 After [this time of commissioning and explaining what he expected of them], Jesus and his disciples all went back to their home [likely Peter and Andrew's house].  And there was so much of a crowd that came [and there were so many needs that Jesus and his disciples met through healing and casting out of demons], that they didn't even have time to eat.

Not crazy

21 And when those around him heard [that he wasn't taking care of himself], they went out to take hold of him, for they said, “He's crazy!” [They simply didn't understand his level of commitment and the calling of his life.] 22 And the teachers of the Law came from Jerusalem, and they said, “[We think he's crazy too]. He has Baalzebul [he's possessed by a high-ranking demon] and it is by [the power of] the prince of demons that he casts out demons.”

23 Jesus invited the teachers of the Law over to him and said to them using illustrations, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom is divided against itself, how can that kingdom even stand? 25 And if a house is divided against itself, how can the house stand? 26 And if Satan rises against himself, then he can't stand, and his end has come! 27 No man can enter a strong man's house and take his belongings, unless he first binds the strong man [a demon who has a person in bondage] - then he can take his belongings.

[It is true that workers of Satan's kingdom can sometimes use one demon to apparently cast out another. Many people go to shamans and witch doctors and psychics for exactly this purpose. But it's just a trick from the kingdom of darkness to get people more deeply bound, since Satan does not want to divide his kingdom. The only way to handle Satan is what Jesus does and gives us authority to do - bind Satan and take back what he stole from us.]

28 [Furthermore,] all sins will be forgiven the sons of men and whatever evil they say. 29 However, whoever speaks evil against the Holy Spirit [and does not repent], has not received forgiveness, and is subject to an eternity paying for their sin.” [He said this] 30 because they said he had an evil spirit. [Jesus was saying that he doesn’t take it personally for people to say nasty things about him, even though he is the Son of God. But since he is doing things by the Holy Spirit who dwells in him, and people are attributing those things to evil spirits, they are calling God himself evil. This cuts them off from God himself now, but if they don’t change their minds, also for eternity.]

31 Then his mother and brothers came, sending a message through the crowd for him to join them. 32 All around Jesus was a large crowd, and they told him, “Your mother and family are outside asking for you.” [Knowing that his family did not understand him at that time and was actually trying to interfere with his work], 33 he answered the crowd, “Who are my mother and family? 34 Look right here! See my mother and my family. 35 For whoever does the will of my Father is the one who is my mother and brother and sister.”

Discussion questions

1. How can we say that Jesus “healed” the man with the withered hand if he neither spoke a prayer nor touched the man? What does that tell us is the essential element of healing, even when prayer and touch are employed?

Mark Chapter 3 discussion questions

2. Why do you think Jesus appointed twelve to have a special role? What was different about them? Do you suppose the other followers would have been jealous of the twelve?

3. Have you ever been obsessive in your pursuit of a goal? Did others think that you were acting somewhat crazy and not caring for yourself properly? Are there times when a goal is so important it is worth ignoring your own needs to pursue it?

Mark Chapter 4

Mark Chapter 4

Story of the sower

Again he taught by the sea, and the crowd that came to him was so large that he sat in a boat on the sea, and the crowd was all around him on the land. He taught them through stories that illustrated points.  In one of the stories, he told them, “Listen! Imagine this. A man went out to sow seeds. And as he sowed, some of the seed fell alongside the path, and birds came and ate it up. And some of the seed fell on rocky ground where there wasn't much soil, and it sprang up quickly because the soil wasn't deep enough. When the sun was up, the plant dried out, and because of the lack of roots, it quickly withered. And some of the seed fell among thorn bushes, and the thorny branches climbed up and choked the plant, so that it produced no fruit. And other seeds fell on good soil, and it sprang up and grew and produced fruit - some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let those who have ears hear and understand!”

Story of the sower

10 And when he was alone [after the crowd had gone], those who were around him and his disciples, asked him about the illustration. 11 He said to them, “It is a gift to you that you will know the mysteries of God's kingdom. But to those outside, [all my teaching] will be done through illustrations, 12 so that in observing, they may see and not necessarily perceive, and in listening, they may hear and not necessarily understand, though if they would do so, they would repent and be forgiven.”

[Jesus is paraphrasing Isaiah 6:9-10. When for a long time people refuse to believe or take God at his word, they become dull of believing what they see and hear. A good story requires people to seek before they can understand. Once they understand what the kingdom of God is like, they will likely choose to follow God and be forgiven for their former hard-heartedness. The disciples, on the other hand, have already submitted themselves to following God and therefore will be given more direct explanations.]

13 He said to the disciples, “Don't you understand this illustration? [If you don’t,] how will you then understand all the illustrations? [This illustration is the key to the others.] 14The sower is sowing the word [of God]15 The ones where the seed falls along the path are those who, as soon as they have heard [God's word], Satan comes and immediately takes away the seed [through his lies]. 16 And the ones where the seed falls on stony ground are those who immediately receive the word with gladness. 17 But [because of the stones, or hurts, in them] the word does not take root in them. After a little while, when trials or persecutions come because of the word, they [easily] become offended.”

18 "The ones where the seed is sown among the thorn bushes are those 19 where the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and lusts for other kinds of things choke the word so that it doesn't produce fruit. 20 And [finally] there are those where the seed is sown into good soil, who receive the word and it grows in them and produces fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold. [They apply the word to many aspects of their life, especially to bringing others into the kingdom, and thus bring a harvest through their belief. And the yield of the harvest is much greater than from a single season of reaping because each seed produces multiple generations of seed from its fruit.]

Using what you learn

[Using another illustration,] 21 he said to them, “Is a lamp brought out to be put under a basket or a bed? Doesn't it make sense to put it on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden that won't be made clear [in the light] or kept secret that won't come into the open. [This illustration applies in a double way. First, Jesus is a light that would not be hidden. In his light, all truth is revealed, even that which had been hidden for a long time. Second, once people gain the truth of the good news, they are to display it so that others can gain understanding.]

Anchor 1
Using what you learn

23 “If any man has ears to hear, let him hear [and understand].” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. [God does reward effort.] With the measure you use to measure out, it will be measured back to you and even more will be added to you. 25 For the one who already has something, even more will be added, but he that has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. [If you listen closely to a teaching of the good news, and then put into practice what you have understood, then you will gain according to the degree of use, and you will set yourself up to understand even more. Those that have gained understanding can use that to gain even greater understanding, but those who have little understanding and don’t use it, will lose even what they have.]”

More stories about the kingdom

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is like when a man scatters seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises [without thinking about the seed], day and night [come], and the seed sprouts and grows up [into a plant] without the man understanding how it happens. The earth brings forth its fruitfulness automatically - first the blade, then the ear, then the seeds within the ear. [The seed, like God’s kingdom, carries its own germinating power that does not depend on man's effort.] But once the fruit is fully grown, immediately the sickle is brought forth, for it is then time for the harvest. [Man's responsibility is to take the good news everywhere. God will cause it to bring forth fruit. And once the kingdom has produced its fruit everywhere, it will be time for the final harvest.]

More stories about the kingdom

30 Then he said, “What [else] is like the kingdom of God? What illustration can we present for it? 31 It's like a mustard seed which, when it is planted, is the smallest of all seeds of the earth, 32 but after it’s planted, it grows up, and shoots forth such branches so it is greater than all the other herbs, such that the birds shelter in its shade. [The kingdom of God may look small when a miracle or act of faith first occurs, but faith is infectious, and the next time you look, many will have been touched and find shelter in their faith.]

33 With many illustrations he taught them the word, as much as they were able to receive. 34 But he didn't speak to them without illustrations. However, privately he explained the meaning of each illustration to his disciples.

Calming the storm

35 And the same day, when evening came, he said to the disciples, “Let's go to the other side [of the lake].” [The Father was showing him they had an assignment there.] 36 So after he had dismissed the crowds, they departed, since he was still in the boat [from when he was preaching earlier]. And several other boats accompanied them. 37 A great windstorm rose up so that the waves were breaking over the boat and it was nearly swamped. 38 And Jesus was in the stern of the boat asleep on a head pillow. But they roused him from his sleep and said to him, “Teacher, don't you care that we are about to be destroyed!” [The recounting of the story does not mention what happened to the other boats that traveled with them. Perhaps they turned back when they encountered the storm.]

Calming the storm

39 Jesus rose up and commanded the wind with a sharp voice and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm on the sea. 40 And he said to the disciples, “Why were you so timid? Why did you not have faith? [Why did you think there was nothing you could do? Did you not realize the authority that I have given you?]41 And they became even more afraid, saying, “What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

Discussion questions

1. Does it make sense to you that Jesus taught the crowds differently from the way he taught the disciples? Does that seem prejudicial or non-democratic of him? What do you think would have happened if he had explained more straightforwardly to the crowd?

Mark Chapter 4 discussion questions

2. Each of Jesus’ illustrations seemed to make a different point. What would you say was the primary point of each one? What would you say was in common?

3. When Jesus calmed the storm, he challenged the disciples, asking why they didn’t have faith. What did he mean? Was he saying they should have had faith that God and he (Jesus) would not allow them to perish? Or was he telling them they could have stopped the storm?

Mark Chapter 5

Mark Chapter 5

The demoniac

They arrived at the other side of the sea, in the region of the Gerasenes. [This is the modern city Kursi.  The other Gospel accounts identify it as the area of Gadara, which was southeast of the lake.] When Jesus emerged from the boat, immediately he encountered a man coming from the tombs who had an unclean spirit [he was oppressed by demons]. He had been living among the tombs, and no one had been able to keep him bound with chains. For often they attempted to bind him with chains and restraints, but he had always been able to pull them apart and break them in pieces, and no one could control him. He was always around the tombs or in the hills crying out or cutting himself with stones. 

The demoniac

[There are many ways people become oppressed by demons - the most likely seeking help from a fortune teller - this opens a person to the spirit world. In this case, the man was taken over by a powerful spirit who commanded many lesser demons and through fear controlled the territory. As a territorial ruler, this spirit may even have been responsible for the storm that battered the disciples' boat on the way over. The large number of demons made him physically strong but drove the man crazy. It is amazing that he survived until Jesus came.]

But when he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran to him and threw himself down in submission before him. But he cried out with a loud voice, “Jesus, son of the Highest God, what are you going to do with me? Have you come to torture me before the appointed time? [Demons know there is a final judgment coming.] I beg you to promise you will not torture me!” For Jesus had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man.” [The ruling spirit inside the man recognized who Jesus was immediately and sought to make peace with him. He knew that Jesus had authority over him and tried to get the best deal he could by negotiating with Jesus.  Jesus could tell the man was oppressed and first  sought to free the man by simply commanding the demon to go. The number of demons may have reinforced the ability to resists Jesus' command to leave.]

Jesus now said to him, “What is your name?” The man answered, “Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he pleaded much with Jesus that he not send him out of the territory. 11 There was a large herd of pigs feeding among the hills, 12 and he [the ruling demon] asked that he [Jesus] might sent them into the pigs so that they could enter them. 13 So Jesus gave them permission. And the unclean spirits left [the man] and entered the pigs.  And the pigs violently reacted, about two thousand of them, and ran down a steep slope into the sea where they drowned.

[Jesus asked the demon's name because demons' names represent their function, which in this case was to command a large group of demons and to control the territory like a legion of soldiers. The ruling demon, Legion, thought that going into the pigs was better than being cast out of the territory – he was hoping to still rule in that territory. Jesus was not concerned about the pigs compared to a single man getting free. The pigs killing themselves demonstrates several things. One is that some demons function by trying to kill their host. The other is that one man, even after having made the mistake that led to his being oppressed, was strong enough to resist being driven to death by two thousand demons who were able to overwhelm a herd of pigs.]

14 And those who tended the pigs ran off and told what they had seen, both in the city and in the countryside. Those they told came to see what had happened. 15 They came to where Jesus was and found the man who had been demon-possessed by the legion [of demons] sitting there, dressed and in his right mind. And the people were afraid, [especially after] 16 those who had seen it all told what had happened with the demon-possessed man and with the pigs. 17 And they began to ask Jesus to leave their area. [The people didn't understand what power had been used to free the man. Also, they felt their way of making a living was threatened. Generally, Jesus does not stay where he is not welcomed.]

18 And when Jesus got into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed asked him if he could stay with Jesus. 19 But Jesus wouldn't let him and instead said to him, “Go home, and tell your friends what great things God has done for you and how he has shown his love to you.” 20 So the man left and went all around the Decapolis and proclaimed to everyone about Jesus and what great things he had done for him. And the people were amazed. [Later, Jesus returned to the region of the Decapolis (Ten Cities), and was better received (Mark 7:31), possibly because of this man's testimony. Today there are the remains of a small first century church and a larger fifth century church.  The previously demonized man may have become the first pastor!]

Woman with the flow of blood

21 When Jesus returned by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him again near the sea. 22 One of the leaders of the synagogue, named Jairus, came to him and fell at his feet 23 and pleaded with him, “Please come, my little daughter is near to death. Lay your hands on her so that she may be healed and live.” 24 And Jesus went with him, and as he followed him, there was a large crowd all around him.

Woman with the flow of blood

25 [Among the crowd,] there was a woman who had a flow of blood for [the past] twelve years, 26 and she had suffered much [at the hands] of many physicians, and had spent all she had, but nothing had improved at all - in fact she continued to get worse. 27 Having heard about Jesus [and all his miracles and healings], she came up in the crowd behind him and touched his garment. 28 For she said [to herself], if I even touch his clothing, I shall be made well.

29 And immediately [on touching his garment], the source of her bleeding dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. [She was careful not to touch him directly since she was considered unclean according to Leviticus 15:25 and would thus make him unclean.  Both Matthew 9:20 and Luke 8:43-44 tell us that she touched the fringe of his garment - likely the tassels - that represent the authority of a man.]

30 Jesus immediately recognized that power had come out of him, so he looked all around him in the crowd, asking, “Who touched my clothes?” [He knew that someone had not touched him physically but had touched his clothes with an intention of drawing on his power.] 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd all around you, and you ask who touched you? [It is likely many touched you unintentionally!]32 Yet he still looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, full of fear and trembling, knowing what had happened inside her, came and fell before him, and confessed the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be well, [completely set] free from your affliction.” [She was already healed by her faith drawing on his power, but Jesus wanted her to go in the full assurance that she had committed no sin and that this problem would never touch her again.]

Jairus’ daughter

35 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of the synagogue ruler and said, “Your daughter is dead. There's no reason to bother the teacher any longer.”  36 When Jesus heard this word spoken, he said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Don't be afraid. Only believe!” [Jesus already knew from the Father what the outcome would be, just as he later did with Lazarus.]

Jairus' daughter

37 And he wouldn't allow anyone to follow him, except Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. [These three were marked by Jesus for special training, and this circumstance called for only a small number of onlookers.] 38 When he arrived at the synagogue ruler's house, he saw the uproar, and the people sobbing and wailing. 39 When he came in, he said to them, “Why are you making such a big deal and weeping? She's not dead. She's only asleep.” [Just as we see in the Lazarus story, Jesus hated giving Satan and Death any credit, since he is Life himself.]

40 They laughed at him. After he made them leave, he went with the father and mother of the little girl and those who were with him into the room where she was laying. [Faith requires a positive atmosphere.] 12 And he took the girl by the hand and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which translated [from Aramaic into Greek] means, “Young woman, rise up.” [The writer of the account wants us to know that the word of command works equally well in any language.]

42 And right away, she got up and walked, for she was twelve years old. [She instantly was restored, completely normal - she was not even tired.] And they were completely amazed. 43 He told them not to tell anyone, and then instructed them to give her something to eat. [Jesus wants them to treat their daughter normally. However, it would also be normal to want to celebrate what had happened. Yet, Jesus doesn't want to be hampered by the even larger crowds that would follow the report of such an extraordinary miracle.]

Discussion questions

1. Why would Jesus leave so many who were hanging on his every word to go to help one man who was demonized in a non-Jewish area of Israel? When he left that man and that area, what was different as a result of his visit?

Mark Chapter 5 discussion questions

2. If you were on your way to minister to someone who was close to death, how would you feel if someone else came into your path and delayed you. Would you be patient with a woman who came to touch you? How would you describe how Jesus ministered to her?

3. What did Jesus consider necessary for the healing of Jairus’ daughter? Was she really only asleep, or was she dead? Was it any harder for Jesus to raise a dead person than to heal a sick person?

Mark Chapte 6

Mark Chapter 6

Rejection at Nazareth

Then he left that place and traveled to his home country [around Nazareth], and his disciples went with him. And when the Sabbath Day came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who listened were astonished, saying, “Where could he have gotten all this? How could he have gotten such wisdom? How is he doing these mighty works? Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Judah and Simon, and aren't his sisters here among us?” And they were put off from him [and his success because of his familiarity to them].

Rejection at Nazareth

[Just like the previous time in his home area, people couldn't help being impressed, but as soon as they thought, “Hey, we know this guy and his family and where he comes from”, they could no longer accept him as valid. They were just like Nathaniel, who said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”, except they were saying it about their own town.] But Jesus said to them, “A prophet doesn't lack honor, except in his own hometown, among his relatives, and in his own family.”

[Jesus was tremendously honored by all those who came to him, but here he was dishonored by those who limited him because they limited themselves.] And he could do no mighty works, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. [This shows how important faith and expectation are to miracles.] He was amazed because of their unbelief. And he went around to the nearby villages and taught.

Sending the apostles

[Even though he wasn’t accepted at his family home, he was still ready to launch the next phase of his ministry.]  He called the twelve [disciples to himself] and sent them out in pairs, and he gave them authority over unclean spirits. [This is where they became apostles - those sent out in his authority.] They were to take nothing but a staff [for walking] - no bread, no bag [for carrying provisions], no money in their pocket. They could wear sandals but not an extra shirt. [Matthew 10:9 adds that they were not to take a rod to protect themselves.  They were to be completely dependent on God to provide for them through people's response to the power of their message.]

Sending the apostles

10 And he told them, “Whatever town you enter a house, remain there as long as you are in that town. [Don't look for better accommodations.] 11 And whoever doesn't accept you or refuses to listen to you, leave that place and shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” [Matthew and Luke add, “It will be better for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Judgment than it will be for those places.” When people reject the work of God, they are rejecting God himself.]

12 They went out and gave the message that men should change their way of thinking. 13 They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many of those who were sick and healed them. [Because they were demonstrating the love and kindness of God, they were also teaching the good news that men should expect this of God and should act with kindness and generosity towards one another.]

14 Herod heard about Jesus, for his name was being spread [because of what he and his disciples were teaching and doing], and Herod thought that the one [who was behind these reports] must be John the Baptist raised from the dead, saying that was why he could do these mighty works. 15 Others said it was Elijah, still others "The Prophet" [another name for the Anointed One], or one of the prophets. 16 But Herod said, “It's John the Baptist, whom I beheaded. He's been raised from the dead.” [In Herod's mind, if a prophet was resurrected, he would be even more powerful. He was also obsessed with John, both before and after John’s execution.]

John the Baptist's execution

17 For Herod had himself sent [men] to grab ahold of John and hold him in prison for the sake of Herodias. She had been the wife of Herod's brother Philip, but Herod had now married her, 18 and John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to marry your brother's wife.” 19 So Herodias had a grudge against John and wanted to have him killed. But she couldn't 20 because Herod respected John as a righteous and holy man and kept him from harm. Herod listened to much of what John said, and though Herod found it confusing, he liked to listen to John.

John the Baptist's execution

21 But an opportunity came [for Herodias to get back at John] when Herod put on a banquet for his birthday celebration, and he invited all the lords, and military leaders, and other leaders [of Galilee]. 22 And the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, greatly pleasing Herod and those who were with him, and he said to the young woman, “What can I give you?” 23 And he swore to her, “Ask for whatever you want, even up to half my kingdom, and it will be yours.” [When a king is well pleased, he commits himself to giving a great gift, but the receiver is expected to be modest in return, asking for something of value but much less than what is offered. However, the king cannot back off from giving what is asked without losing face.]

24And the girl went forth and asked her mother, “What should I ask him for?”, and Herodias replied, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist.” 25 And the girl quickly returned to the king and said, “What I want is for you to bring me the head of John the Baptist on a platter right now.” 26 The king was quite upset, [because he didn't want to kill John]. But because of his oath and those who had witnessed it, he would not refuse her.

27 Immediately the king sent for an executioner, and he sent the man to behead John, and the man went into the prison and carried out his job. 28 And he brought the head on a platter and gave it to the young woman, who in turn gave it to her mother. 29 And when the news reached John's disciples, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.

Feeding the five thousand

[This ended the ministry of John the Baptist on the earth, even as Jesus' ministry was being carried forward by his disciples.] [When they returned,] 30 the disciples gathered with Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away to a place in the countryside and rest”, for many were coming and going [where Jesus was] and they had no time even to eat. 32 So they left by boat to a private, out-of-the-way place.

Feeding the five thousand

33 Many could see where they were headed and people from the surrounding towns recognized who they were, so they ran and got there before them. 34 And Jesus, when he got off the boat, saw many people there and he had compassion, for he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd, so he began to teach them many things. [The fact that they were desperate enough to anticipate where he was going and even run to get there was an indication both of their need and their hunger.]

35 It was late in the day when the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, this is an out-of-the-way place and it's late in the day. 36 [Why don't you] send the crowd away so they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 And he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “Shall we go and buy them two hundred denarii worth of bread for them?” [This would have been more than they could afford and even then, not enough for them all to eat.] 12 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you [already] have? Go and find out.” They found out and told him, “Five loaves, and two fish as well.”

39 And he instructed them [the disciples] to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in orderly groups - around one hundred groups with fifty men in each group. 41 And he took the five loaves and looked up to heaven, praised God [for who he is, king of the universe], broke the loaves, and distributed them to his disciples to set before the people. And he also distributed the two fish [so that all could have some]. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they collected the leftover pieces of bread and fishes, and there were twelve baskets full. 44 And of those that ate the bread that day there were around five thousand men.

Walking on water

[We don't know how and when the miracle occurred. We do know that the people chose the "better thing", to sit at Jesus' feet and be fed by his teaching, and as a result they were provided food as well. Jesus must have seen what the Father was about to do, and the multiplication seems to have happened right after Jesus thanked the Father and began to break apart the bread and the fish. Each loaf multiplied approximately a thousand times. Any time we think we don't have enough time, talent, or money to do what God has told us to do, we might remember how much God can multiply what we offer him. The disciples likely each had a basket they used for distributing the food, and after everyone had enough, each disciple collected enough leftovers to refill their basket. This should have convinced the disciples that they would never run out of what they needed.]

Walking on water

45 Right after the cleanup, Jesus had the disciples get into the boat to head back towards Bethsaida[, the fishing village that was their headquarters] without him, while he went to dismiss the people [and send them home]. 46 After saying good-bye [to both his disciples and all the crowd], he went up into the hills to be by himself to pray. 47 When evening came, they were in the middle of the sea, and he was by himself on the land.

48 He saw that the disciples were straining at the oars, since the wind was blowing against them. In the fourth watch of the night [between 3 and 6 am], he came walking toward them on the sea. He walked as though he would pass them by, 49 and when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought he was a ghost and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were fearful. But immediately, he spoke to them and said, “Take courage. It's me. Don't be afraid!” 51 And he climbed up and joined them in the boat, and the wind stopped. They were completely amazed. 52 For they hadn't yet understood what happened with the loaves, and their hearts couldn't take in what was happening. [Jesus was showing them a different level of living. The disciples, like most of us, operated at the level of buying food to eat, and rowing hard to get across the sea. But Jesus transcended ordinary effort, and produced food when there was no food, and walked on water as though it were solid, without being hindered by the wind and current. This was not easy to take in for them, nor is it for us.]

53 When they had completed the crossing, they landed at Kinnereth, and moored to the shore. [This trip had started in Bethsaida, and they had gone west to get to the place where the five thousand were fed, and now they were even further west.] 54 When Jesus and the disciples came out of the boat, people immediately recognized who they were 55 and ran all around the area [to announce that Jesus was there]. And people brought their sick on their beds to where they heard that he was. 56 And wherever he went, whether village, or city, or countryside, or in the streets, they laid the sick and sought even to touch the hem of his garment, and whoever touched him was healed. [Once the woman had touched his garment and been healed, and people heard about it, they had great faith that this would work for them too, and it did. There is great power in testimony.]

Discussion questions

1. Have you ever felt like your own family or church didn’t see your growth or gifting and only saw the way you used to be? What can you do when you don’t feel fully accepted?

Mark Chapter 6 discussion questions

2. When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, why do you think he sent them in pairs? Why do you think they may have anointed with oil? Were they successful?

3. Jesus’ miracles seem to become greater and greater. After he multiplied the loaves and fish and then walked on water, v. 52 says “the disciples hearts couldn’t take it in”. How does it affect you to imagine each of these amazing miracles?

Mark Chapter 7

Mark Chapter 7

Impurity from within

Now, a group of Pharisees came together to see Jesus, along with some of the teachers of the Law. [They came to examine Jesus in response to the claim made by him and others that he was the Anointed One.] They saw that some of the disciples ate with impure hands - that is, they were unwashed. For the Pharisees - in fact, all the Jews - don't eat until they have washed their hands - following the traditions handed down from the elders. And when they come from the marketplace, they don't eat without washing. In fact, they observe many other rituals, such as washing of cups and pots and serving vessels and tables. So the Pharisees and teachers of the Law asked him, “Why do your disciples eat with impure hands, not following the traditions of the elders?”

Impurity from within

[God wants a holiness where people dedicate their hearts and souls to following him, loving the people in the world rather than separating themselves from the world. "Religion" wants to make holiness about following rules that separate the elite from the common. The traditions of men had that purpose. If you didn't wash your hands and all of the articles, you would be made "common" or impure from touching unholy men or anything that touched them. For God, and for Jesus, this wasn't a problem at all. For one thing, as Jesus points out, holiness is about the attitudes of the heart, not ritual separation. Furthermore, ones who are holy make the things they touch holy, rather than being infected by the unholy. Thus, Jesus wasn't infected by touching the woman with the issue of blood, rather she was healed by touching him.]

Jesus answered them, saying, “Isaiah prophesied accurately about you hypocrites, just as it is written [Isaiah 29:13], ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is useless, since they make doctrine [that must be followed] out of the traditions of men but ignore the commandments of God.’ [For in fact, that's exactly what you so-called teachers of the Law do.] You sidestep the commandments of God but follow to the letter the traditions of men.”

He said to them, “You are experts at bypassing God's Law to conform to your own traditions. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ [Exodus 20:12] and ‘Whoever speaks evil of their father and mother, let them be put to death’ [Exodus 21:17]. 11 But you say that what you would have dedicated to your father and mother has already been set aside for God. 12 In fact, you won't even allow a man to help their parents from the money they had dedicated to God. 13 Thus, you nullify the word of God through your tradition. [In fact, you ignore God's intention, while putting the blame on God. Then you actually benefit yourselves from that which was supposedly set aside for God.] And many other similar things you do.”

14 Calling all the people over to him, he said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand! 15 Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by coming inside him, but it’s the things that come out of a man which pollute him. 16 If any man has ears to hear, let him hear [and understand].”

17 Then Jesus went inside the house [where they were staying], getting away from the people. The disciples asked Jesus about the illustration. 18 And he said to them, “Are you also lacking understanding? Can't you see that nothing that comes into a man can make him impure, 19 because it doesn't enter his heart. Instead it enters his stomach, excreting into the toilet [whatever was not useful to the body] after processing the food [so that what remains will nourish the body].” [Many translations make the last phrase, “Thus Jesus declared all foods clean”. This doesn't make sense, since he is describing the digestion process. His point is almost opposite – it’s not food but thoughts that make you unclean.]

20 Jesus said, “It's what comes out of a man that that marks him as unclean. 21 For from the heart of a man come forth evil thoughts, sexual sin, stealing, murder, adultery, 22 greed, nastiness, deceit, sexual indulgence, evil eye [envy], evil speaking, haughtiness, and foolishness. 23 All of these evil things originate on the inside of a man - and these are what mark him as unclean.”

Syro-Phoenician woman

[During this period, Jesus alternated between ministering in Galilee, where he encountered opposition from Jewish leaders who were trying to avoid Jesus being declared the Anointed One, and traveling to non-Jewish lands, where ministering was much easier.]  24 From there, he got up and departed to Tyre [in the southern part of modern Lebanon], and went into a house [likely belonging to someone who had invited him]. He desired that no one would know he was there [so that he could have some needed solitude], but he could not remain hidden. 

Syro-Phoenician woman

25 For there was a woman there who heard about him, and she had a daughter who had an unclean spirit [a demon], and the woman came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was Greek-speaking, Syro-Phoenician by race. [The Phoenicians were Canaanite and some settled in the Syrian area in what is now Lebanon]. She pleaded with him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be fed first until they are full, for it's not right to take the children's bread and feed it to the dogs.” 28 And she answered him, “Yes, Lord, but the dogs do get to eat the crumbs under the table from the children's meal.” [Jesus several times makes it clear that he was primarily called to the Jews during his ministry years but he does spend extended times in Gentile areas. Here he is testing the woman's faith. She passes with flying colors.]

29 He replied, "Because of what you have said, you can go your own way, for the demon is gone from your daughter." [It's not clear whether Jesus simply observed that his Father has rewarded the woman's faith by forcing the demon to leave, or whether Jesus silently ordered the demon to leave. But he said nothing out loud to cause the deliverance.] 30 And when she came to her house, she found her daughter laying on the bed, and the demon had left her daughter. [Somehow the word got back to the disciples - either someone went home with her, or the woman came back to tell, or she sent word about the healing of her daughter.]

Deaf and mute man

31 Then Jesus returned from the region of Tyre and Sidon to the Sea of Galilee by going through the middle of the region of the Decapolis. [Jesus remained in non-Jewish areas.] 32 [Within the Decapolis] they brought to him a man who could neither hear nor speak, asking Jesus to lay his hands on him [to heal him]. 33 Jesus took the man away from the crowd, and put his fingers in his ears, and then spit and touched the man's tongue with it. 34 And looking up to heaven, he groaned, and then said to him, “Effata”, which [translated from Aramaic to Greek] means, “Be opened”. 35 And right away his ears were released and the restraint on his tongue was removed, and the man was able to speak normally. [Jesus' groan may have come out of deep compassion for the bondage of the man's ears and tongue. The bondage may have been the result of a curse brought against the man by himself or someone else.  Jesus' command broke the bondage.]

Deaf and mute man

36 And he told them to tell no one. But it made no difference how emphatically he told them not to, for they more emphatically could not help telling what had happened. [Jesus was trying to remain somewhat hidden, but the spreading of news about his miracles made for huge crowds.] 37 For they were completely amazed and said, “He has done all things well, for he makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” [The people were quoting Isaiah 35:5-6, which is a reference to the coming Anointed One.]

Discussion questions

1. What does Jesus think about religion and men’s rules? How does he feel about God’s commands?

Mark Chapter 7 discussion questions

2. When you’ve had a great need (like the woman had for her daughter), to what lengths would you go to get that need met by God? What did she risk?

3. When Jesus healed the deaf and mute man, why did he put his own spit on the man’s tongue and stick his fingers in the man’s ears? Would you be willing to do those things if you thought God told you to?

Mark Chapter 8

Mark Chapter 8

Feeding the four thousand

[After hearing about the healing of the deaf and mute man], the crowd [probably non-Jews since Jesus was still in the Decapolis area] was very large, and they had nothing to eat. Jesus called his disciples to him and told them, “I feel bad for the crowds, for they have been with me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away without eating, they may faint on the way, for some of them have come a long distance.” And his disciples answered him, “Where can we possibly get enough bread to feed them all in this out-of-the-way place?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”, and they said, “Seven”.

Feeding the four thousand

And Jesus had the people sit down on the ground. Then he thanked God for the loaves, and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people, and the disciples gave them out. And they also had a few small fish, and he blessed these, and told them to give these out as well. So they ate and were filled, and they collected the leftovers, which filled seven large baskets. There were about four thousand present, and Jesus sent them away. 10 Right after this, Jesus and the disciples got into the boat, and went to the region of Dalmanutha [believed to be near Magdala since Matthew 15:39 says "Magadan", which is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee].

No sign for this generation

11 Then the Pharisees came and began an argument with him, asking him to show a sign from heaven, as a test for him. [He had claimed to be the Anointed One, so they felt they had a right to make him prove it. They felt that the healings he had performed could have been done by allying himself with demonic powers, so they wanted him to do something undeniably from heaven. But their purpose was to disprove rather than prove who he was, so that they could justify not following him and maintaining their position as authorities.]  

No sign for this generation

12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? I tell you the truth, there will be no sign given this generation.” [It hurts Jesus to say this because he knows they will reap judgment on their nation for not receiving him. Elsewhere he says that this is a wicked and unbelieving generation. The Father will not reward unbelief that comes from not wanting to believe. Matthew 16:4 says the only sign they would receive to prove he was the Anointed One was the sign of Jonah, that is, rising after three days, as Jonah did from the fish.] 13 So he left them again, getting aboard to go again to the other side [of the lake].

Never in need again

14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring bread and found they had only one loaf among them on the boat. [Jesus had made them leave quite abruptly.] 15 And he instructed them, “Watch out! Be careful of the yeast [influence] of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” [The last two journeys to the most populated area of Galilee had brought them near Herod and to the examination by the Pharisees. Neither Herod nor the Pharisees could stand rivals. Herod used his power to try to intimidate or imprison. The Pharisees intimidated through argument and trickery. Jesus wanted the disciples to avoid being influenced by either type of manipulation.] 16 The disciples discussed among themselves what he had said, saying, “It's because we brought no bread that he's talking about yeast.”

Never in need again

17 Once Jesus understood what they were thinking, he said, “How can you be talking about bread? Don't you see? Do you not get it? Are you that dense? 18 Haven't you seen with your eyes and heard with your ears? Don't you remember [what happened]? 19 When I divided the five loaves among the five thousand [people], how many baskets of leftovers did you gather?” And they said, “Twelve.” [He continued,] 20 “And with the seven [loaves] among the four thousand, how many large baskets did you fill up with the leftovers?” They said, “Seven.” 21 And he said, “Then how do you not understand? [God will provide for us and he has given us power to meet our needs at any time. You've seen it. Why then would you ever worry?]

Progressive healing of the blind man

22 And he [and the disciples] came to Bethsaida, and there was a blind man there whom they asked Jesus to touch [so that he might heal him]. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town [to gain privacy]. There he spat on the man's eyes and laid his hands on him and then asked him if he could see yet. 24 Regaining his sight, he responded, “I see men, but they look like walking trees.” 25 Again, Jesus laid his hands on the man's eyes, and then he could see clearly and was fully restored. Now he could see all men distinctly. 26 Then he sent the man home, telling him to avoid going into the town.

Progressive healing of the blind man

[This is not the only case where we know that Jesus did not completely heal someone the first time he prayed. When Jesus delivered the demoniac, the demons did not go the first time he commanded. Also, it is possible that some of the other healings were not instantaneous. Those reporting would have been simply amazed at the healing, instantaneous or not. As usual, Jesus doesn't want people to know about this healing and thus make it more difficult for Jesus to travel freely around.]

Jesus the Anointed One

27 Jesus and his disciples went forth from there to the area of Caesarea Philippi [in the farthest northern part of Israel near the town of Dan and the Roman enclave of Banias]. On his way, he asked his disciples, “Who are men saying I am?” 28 They answered, “John the Baptist, or some say Elijah, others say one of the prophets.” [This is the same answer that people gave when Herod was interested in Jesus back in Mark 6:14-16.] 29 And Jesus said back to them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Anointed One. [We have watched you do everything we ever heard that the Anointed One would do, and even more. We have heard from you words of wisdom that could only come from God.]

Jesus the Anointed One

[The Jewish people had been waiting for the Anointed One to come ever since Moses had told them that He would send them a prophet who will speak God’s words to them. They and the world were waiting for the Anointed One to appear and make all things right. Now the disciples realized that Jesus was that mighty prophet.] 30 And he commanded them to not tell anyone about him.

Pick up your cross

31 [Now that the disciples knew who Jesus truly was,] Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things - that he would be rejected by the elders and the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law, that he would be put to death, and after three days that he would rise again. 32 And he said all of this without holding himself back. Peter began to contradict Jesus. 33 But Jesus turned around, looking at the disciples, and said to Peter, “Get away from me, accuser. You aren't thinking in the ways of God, but rather the ways of man.”

Pick up your cross

[Jesus is the Anointed One and proved it over and over. Finally, through revelation, Peter understood who Jesus is. This is the signal to Jesus that now it is time to educate the disciples on his destiny. But Peter was so set in his expectation that the Anointed One would live in victory and glory, and even that the disciples would share in this, that he couldn’t accept the inglorious destiny Jesus describes. God's plan is so different from what men would expect, that Peter temporarily became an obstacle to God's plan.]

34 Then Jesus called to the people to come around him and his disciples and he said to them, “Whoever wants to follow me, must deny himself [totally let go of his right to fulfill his own desires], pick up his cross [willingly walk towards his own death], and follow me [wherever I take him including giving up his life]. 35 For whoever wants to preserve his own life will [actually] lose it, but whoever gives up his life for me and for the Good News [of the Kingdom], will [actually] preserve his life.

36 "For what is the profit to a man if he wins the whole world but loses his soul. 37 For what does a man have that he could give in exchange for his own soul? [You must let go of your life totally to be preserved. If you hold on to anything - possessions, rights, desires - none of them will be of any use to gaining eternity with the Lord.] 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.” [How we respond to Jesus and all he says and does will be the measure of our acceptance by Jesus in the life to come.]

Discussion questions

1. Jesus now multiplies loaves and fish a second time. What is the difference between Jesus creating bread here and his refusing to do so for his own needs when Satan tempted him in the desert?

Mark Chapter 8 discussion questions

2. When Jesus prays twice to fully heal a blind man, what does that tell us about praying for healing? Did you notice that Jesus used his spit again? Why does Jesus seem to heal a different way every time?

3. When Peter said that he believed Jesus was the Anointed One, what do you think was going on inside him? Who is Jesus to you? Even if you know that he is God himself, what does that mean to you? Is it worth giving up everything to follow him?

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