Mark’s Good News
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Mark’s Gospel
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
A The *disciples met in Jerusalem at the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12).
B Mark was a relative of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). He went to help Paul and Barnabas on their first journey to *preach the good news (Acts 13:5). He turned back at Perga and he went home (Acts 13:13). Paul, therefore, refused to take him on the next journey. Mark then went with Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15:37-39).
C Mark was a ‘worker’ with Paul. Paul was in prison in Rome (Philemon 24; Colossians 4:10). He had been a help to Paul. Paul wanted Timothy to bring Mark to him. He would help Paul again (2 Timothy 4:11).
D Peter called him ‘Mark, my son’ (1 Peter 5:13). This was probably because he had helped Mark to believe in Christ.
There are some details that are in this *Gospel only. These details show that they probably come from an eye-witness. An eye-witness was there when the events happened. Two early writers said that Peter gave Mark the information for his *Gospel.
Mark went to Alexandria, the important centre for trade and learning. There he started a Christian church.
Most writers agree that Mark was the first person to write a *Gospel. Both Matthew and Luke seem to use it. Mark perhaps completed it in the year 65, soon after Peter’s death.
1 Mark wanted to show that Jesus was the ‘Son of God’. So he emphasises how the crowds and the *disciples were very often astonished at Jesus’ actions. Jesus made the storm on the lake become calm (4:41). Then the *disciples asked, ‘Who is this?’ They had a feeling of fear. And they greatly respected Jesus. Evil *spirits recognised who Jesus was. Mark also records that (3:11; 5:7).
2 At the same time, Mark shows that Jesus was really human. He was ‘the *carpenter’ (6:3). He became tired and he became asleep (4:38). He had human feelings. He felt sad (6:34), and he was angry at wrong ideas and actions (3:5; 11:15-17).
3 There are details that are only in Mark’s *Gospel. They give us the idea that someone had been an eye-witness. (See ‘Early Christian writers’ above.) In the account of the storm on the lake, ‘there were other boats with him’. Jesus was ‘in the back of the boat with his head on a cushion’ (4:35, 38). The groups of people were sitting on the ‘green’ grass (6:39). On the road to Jerusalem, Jesus was walking ‘ahead of them’ (10:32). Jesus ‘took the children into his arms’ (10:16). The blind man ‘threw off his coat’ (10:50).
4 Mark records some of the actual *Aramaic words that Jesus used. He gave James and John the name ‘Boanerges’ (3:17). He raised Jairus’s daughter with the words ‘Talitha cumi’ (5:41). He said ‘Ephphatha’ to the deaf man (7:34). He called his Father ‘*Abba’ (14:36). The cry from the *cross was in *Aramaic (15:34).
5 Mark shows how the crowds, the *disciples and Jesus’ own family did not understand Jesus. The *religious leaders opposed him. Most people had the wrong idea about what the *Messiah should be like.
6 Christians were suffering for their *faith when Mark wrote. He showed them that Jesus suffered. He suffered in the plan of God and he made the *Scriptures come true.
7 Mark uses the word ‘immediately’ very many times. He wants to emphasise the power of Jesus, whose command always brought a quick result (1:20, 42; 2:12; 5:42). It is also as if he is anxious to reach the end of the story. He cannot wait to tell everyone about the death and *resurrection of Jesus. Mark knew that these two events were ‘good news’ for everyone. When Jesus suffered, it made it possible for God to *save people. ‘The Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. Instead, he came to serve other people. He came to give his life as the price to make many people free’ (10:45).
Verse 1 The first verse is also the title of the *Gospel. The human Jesus was the Christ, the *Messiah that the *Jews were expecting. The *Greek word ‘Christ’ and the *Hebrew word ‘*Messiah’ mean the ‘*Anointed Man’. To *anoint someone showed that God had chosen them for a special responsibility. Samuel *anointed Saul to be king (1 Samuel 10:1). Jesus was the king who came to bring people into his *kingdom. He came to make people free from the power of *sin. Moses made Aaron and his sons special as priests by *anointing them with oil (Leviticus 8:12). Jesus was also a priest who was giving a *sacrifice to God. The *sacrifice that he gave was himself. Jesus is both king and priest. That is the good news.
Mark writes about Jesus as the true ‘Son of God’. As the Son of God, he showed God’s love and power in all that he did. Mark records more of Jesus’ actions than of his words.
*Old Testament *prophecy spoke about someone who would prepare the way for the *Messiah. John the *Baptist urged people to show that they were ready for the *Messiah. When they wanted to change their behaviour, John *baptised them in the River Jordan.
Verses 2-3 John the *Baptist’s work was like that of someone who announced the arrival of an important official. There had been no *prophet for 400 years, since the time of Malachi. Malachi wrote about the *messenger (verse 2 is from Malachi 3:1). Mark combines this verse with one from Isaiah (40:3). Isaiah describes a ‘voice’ that is shouting in the desert. John the *Baptist describes himself as that ‘voice’ (John 1:23).
Verses 4-5 The *Jews *baptised *Gentiles who wanted to accept the *Jewish *faith. John changed this custom. Water cleans the body. John *baptised *Jews to be ‘clean’ in their behaviour towards God and other people. Then they would be ready for the *Messiah. The Messiah would help them to know that God had really forgiven them.
Verse 6 John lived a simple life in the desert. He wore rough clothes like those of the *prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). He was therefore very different from the proud *religious leaders with their long clothes (Mark 12:38). His food was simple. Locusts were insects that the law allowed people to eat (Leviticus 11:22-23). John could obtain honey from wild insects.
Verse 7 John was humble. The *Messiah would be much more important than he was. John knew that. He said that he was not even good enough to be the *Messiah’s slave.
Verse 8 John’s *baptism with water showed that people were willing to turn away from their *sin. Jesus’ gift of the *Holy Spirit would give people the power to live a new life.
Jesus came to the River Jordan, where John *baptised him. Immediately afterwards, he went into the desert, where *Satan *tempted him.
Verse 9 Jesus did not need *baptism, because he had no *sin to confess. But he made himself united with the people that he came to rescue from their *sins. His *baptism also was to show the beginning of his work.
Verse 10 The *Holy Spirit gave him the power for his future work. The *Holy Spirit came in the shape of a gentle bird. This may mean that he came in a gentle way. He came as a bird would fly down. This would also remind Mark’s readers of the same kind of gentle bird in Genesis 8:5-12. That bird came back to Noah in his special boat. It was the sign of a new beginning (Genesis 8:6-12).
Verse 11 The message from heaven used words from the *Old Testament. Isaac was the son whom Abraham loved (Genesis 22:2). God was ‘very pleased’ with the Servant whom he had chosen. Jesus therefore knew that God approved of him. He also knew that his work would be that of a servant. He would know that the last of Isaiah’s ‘Servant’ songs spoke about a ‘suffering’ servant (Isaiah 53).
Verse 12 ‘made him go’. Jesus had a very powerful feeling that God was urging him to go into the desert. For Mark’s readers, the desert was a place where evil *spirits lived. Jesus went there to begin the battle with *Satan.
Verse 13 ‘Forty (40) days’ may be an exact number or it may mean a fairly long time. ‘*Satan’ is God’s enemy. He tried to make Jesus use his power in ways that would not please God. Mark does not record the nature of the *temptations. Matthew and Luke tell us how *Satan *tempted Jesus. He tempted him to gain *disciples by providing for their *physical needs. They would follow him if he astonished them with *miracles. They wanted a *Messiah who would lead an army against the *Romans to gain their political freedom. Jesus chose the hard way to persuade people to love and obey God. He would love them. Love meant that he would suffer. But he would satisfy ‘*spiritual hunger’ and he would give people freedom from *sin. Jesus can encourage Christians because he has had all sorts of *temptations himself. ‘The Devil tried to make him do all kinds of wrong things. So, Jesus understands all the wrong things that we might do. But he never did anything wrong himself’ (Hebrews 4:15).
Mark adds that Jesus was ‘with the wild animals’. This detail may show that the desert was a very frightening place. But it may also be Mark’s way to show the age when men and animals would live together in peace (Isaiah 11:6-9). Jesus could live in safety with the animals. This would be because the animals were already recognising him as their king.
‘God’s *messengers took care of him.’ God does not leave men alone in a time of *temptation. His *messengers helped Jesus.
After Herod put John in prison, Jesus went into Galilee. He *preached that God’s *kingdom had arrived. Men must change their ways and believe him and his message.
Verses 14-15 Mark explains in chapter 6:17-18 why Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, put John in prison.
‘The right time’. God chose the time to send Jesus when everything was ready. There were good *Roman roads. *Greek was a very well-known language. The message could therefore spread easily. *Jewish belief in only one God also prepared for the good news.
The *kingdom of God is not a place. It is God’s rule over the world. All those people who let God rule over their lives belong to his *kingdom. God had always been king. But, by Jesus, he was giving people a new opportunity to obey him. The message was ‘good news’. It helped people to have peace because God had forgiven them. It helped them to hope that they could win the struggle against *sin.
‘*Repent’ means to turn away from wrong things and to turn to God. It means that we decide to live in a new way. We start to obey God.
‘Believe’ means ‘trust in’. Those who believe Jesus have confidence in him. They know that he spoke the truth. And they know that he will *keep his promises.
Verse 16 Galilee is a lake about 12 miles long. To catch fish was an important business. Many men earned their income by supplying fish to people in their own country. They also exported fish, even as far as Rome. Salt stopped it from going off.
Verses 17-20 These four men, who became Jesus’ first *disciples, had met him before. They were probably John the *Baptist’s *disciples in Judea (John 1:35-42). They had listened to Jesus and they had talked with him. He called them while they were carrying out their ordinary work.
Verse 17 They had worked to bring in fish. So they must work to bring people to Jesus. They needed patience and skill to catch fish in their nets. Jesus would teach them the patience and skill to bring people into his *kingdom.
Verse 20 Zebedee still had his paid servants. They would look after him and his business when his two sons left to follow Jesus.
Jesus astonished people by the authority with which he taught. And he astonished people by his power to cure a man with an evil *spirit.
Verse 21 Capernaum was an ideal place for Jesus to work in. Both *Jews and *Gentiles would hear his message because Capernaum was an important town on a trade route. The *Sabbath was the *Jewish day of rest from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. It was a special day for *worship. There was a meeting place wherever there were ten *Jewish families. In this meeting place, *Jews met to pray, and to study the *Old Testament. They would attend other public meetings there. On the *Sabbath, people would go to the meeting place in order to hear a teacher. The teacher would read and explain the *Scriptures. There was no permanent teacher. So the leader would invite visiting teachers to give the talk. Jesus was therefore able to teach in meeting places wherever he went.
Verse 22 *Scribes were men who studied the *Old Testament, especially the first five books. These five books were the ‘Torah’, which means the ‘Law’. These experts never gave their own decision about the meaning of a passage. They always gave the opinions of well-known teachers. Because they gave more than one opinion, people did not receive satisfactory answers to their questions. Jesus knew the *Scriptures. And he knew what they meant. He spoke with his own authority. He often used the words, ‘I say to you’ (Matthew 5:18-44).
Verses 23-24 A man whom an evil *spirit possessed. Some people say that this was a way to describe mental illness. They say that evil *spirits did not exist. But people in those days believed that they existed. And they believed that they could control a person. Many people believe that evil *spirits did exist in the time of Jesus. They believe that they still exist today. The evil *spirits inside the man recognised that Jesus had come to destroy every evil thing. They were afraid and they asked Jesus not to do anything against them.
Verses 25-26 Jesus stopped the man from shouting. He gave a strict command and he cured the man. People who tried to send evil *spirits out of people used all kinds of ceremonies and special words. But Jesus threw out the evil *spirit by his order alone.
Mark tells us about many other times when Jesus sent evil *spirits out of people. He wanted to show the authority and power of Jesus. He wanted to show that Jesus is the *Messiah, the Son of God.
Verse 29 Mark does not use the name ‘Peter’ until he gives the list of the 12 *apostles (Mark 3:16). Jesus gave Simon the name ‘Peter’ when they met in Judea. John tells us that (John 1:42).
Verse 30 Peter was married. After the *resurrection, he and his wife travelled together in God’s service (1 Corinthians 9:5).
They told Jesus about her illness. Perhaps they were explaining why a meal was not ready. They may have hoped that Jesus would help her. Christians can always tell Jesus about the needs of other people.
Verse 31 Usually people feel very weak after they have been ill like that. Jesus cured this lady completely. She was able to get up at once and she prepared a meal for them.
Verse 32 People could not carry their sick relatives on the *Sabbath. The *scribes said that to carry something was ‘work’. The *Sabbath ended when the sun set on Saturday. Then they brought their sick friends and relatives to Jesus.
Verse 33 Mark probably did not mean that all the inhabitants of Capernaum were outside Peter’s door. He meant that there was a large crowd.
Verse 34 Jesus would not allow the evil *spirits to speak. They knew that he was the *Messiah. Jesus wanted people to discover for themselves who he was. They would follow him for the wrong reason if they thought of him as a political leader. Jesus was a *Messiah who would suffer to free them from *sin. He wanted to show people that.
Verse 35 Jesus had helped crowds of people. He needed to pray to God in order to receive new strength and peace of mind. He also needed God to guide him. He must decide whether he should continue to work in Capernaum. He needed to know if it was right to move to other places.
Verses 36-37 Simon and his friends realised that Jesus had gone. The people who were searching for Jesus probably hoped for more healing *miracles.
Verse 38 Jesus knew that his first task was to *preach. He must take time to invite people into his *kingdom. He had come into the world to teach as many people as possible.
The man had a skin disease that prevented him from living a normal life. Jesus cured him. So he was able to go back to live among other people.
Verse 40 The word ‘leprosy’ is in many Bibles and it can mean various skin diseases. One was the serious disease that is called ‘leprosy’ today. Anyone with this disease had to stay away from other people. He suffered in two ways. He had to suffer from his disease. He also suffered from his lonely situation outside society. This man approached Jesus. He believed that Jesus had the power to cure him. But he did not know that Jesus loved people. He was not sure whether Jesus would want to cure him.
Verse 41 Jesus touched the man who had the skin disease. When he did that, Jesus showed his love. *Jews would not normally want to touch anyone who had such a skin disease. They believed that such an action would make them unholy.
Verse 44 Jesus was obeying the law when he sent the man to the priest. The priest would examine him. And the priest would decide that he was healthy again. After the man had carried out the proper ceremonies, he would be able to mix with other people again (Leviticus 14:1-32).
Verse 45 The man who had the skin disease did not obey Jesus. So, he made it difficult for Jesus to continue his work in towns. There were so many people who wanted to see Jesus. They came because of curiosity or because they needed his help.
Mark has written about Jesus’ popularity in Galilee. Now he records five incidents. These incidents all show that the *religious leaders opposed Jesus:
1 2:1-12 They said that he spoke evil words against God.
2 2:13-17 He ate with people who collected taxes.
3 2:18-22 He did not make his *disciples obey the *religious rules about times when people should not eat.
4 2:23-28 He allowed his *disciples to ‘work’ on the *Sabbath.
5 3:1-6 He cured a man’s hand on the *Sabbath.
Verse 1 The words ‘at home’ show that it was probably Peter’s own house.
Verse 4 The roof was flat. People made it out of sticks. And they covered it with earth that the sun had baked hard. There were stone steps outside to reach the roof.
Verse 5 Jesus knew the *faith of the four men. They had shown *faith when they carried the man to Jesus. They did not give up when they could not get through the door.
Some people do become ill when they have done wrong things. Their guilty conscience affects their body. But a person may suffer because of no fault of his own. However, many people believe that all disease is a punishment from God for *sin. Jesus did not believe this (John 9:2-3; Luke 13:1-5). The man who could not walk may have agreed with the wrong idea. For whatever reason, he felt guilty. He needed to know that God had forgiven him. Only then, would he be able to recover.
Verses 6-7 The *scribes may have come to examine what Jesus was teaching. They were accusing Jesus of insulting God. They were right to think that only God can forgive *sins. But they were wrong about Jesus. He had God’s authority.
Verses 8-9 It would be easy to say, ‘You are free from your *sins.’ But it would be more difficult to prove. If the man could walk again, that would prove the truth of Jesus’ words.
Verses 10-11 Jesus used the title ‘Son of Man’ for himself many times. It can mean ‘a man’. It would emphasise that Jesus was really human. It was also the title of a powerful person. That person would come in order to establish a *kingdom. And that *kingdom would never end (Daniel 7:13-14). The name might almost mean ‘*Messiah’. Jesus used the title to describe himself, but he did not say ‘*Messiah’. He showed his authority in the words ‘I tell you’, and by brief commands, ‘Stand up. Take your mat. Go home.’
Verse 12 More than once, Mark describes how Jesus’ words and actions astonished people (1:22, 27).
Verse 14 Levi was probably another name for Matthew. The first *Gospel records that Jesus called Matthew (Matthew 9:9). And Matthew collected taxes. The name Levi is not in the list of the 12 *apostles (Mark 3:16-19).
His work was to collect taxes from people in Capernaum and from merchants who were travelling through the city. People hated those who collected taxes. There were two reasons:
1 They were working for the *Romans who were their enemies.
2 They had to keep some money for themselves after they had collected the required amount. It was easy for them to cheat people and to demand too much money. They became rich.
Verse 15 Levi invited his friends to a meal. He wanted them to meet Jesus. ‘*Sinners’ describes two kinds of people:
1 Those with bad moral behaviour.
2 Those who did not obey all the extra rules that the *scribes had made up. The *scribes tried to make a rule for every situation.
Verse 16 The *Pharisees were strict *Jews. Their name means ‘the separate men’. They tried to keep their *faith ‘separate’ from the bad effect of other religions. Many of them lived very good lives. But they said that the rules of the *scribes were as important as the *Old Testament laws. They even refused to obey a command of God in order to obey one of these traditions (Mark 7:9-13). They became proud that they obeyed God’s laws. And they obeyed all the rules that the *scribes had made up. They would avoid completely those people that they called ‘*sinners’. They believed that Jesus was encouraging wrong behaviour. He would also make himself ‘*unclean’ when he ate with ‘*sinners’.
The *Pharisees made two mistakes:
1 Jesus had come to look for ‘*sinners’ in order to bring them into his *kingdom.
2 Jesus could meet with all kinds of people, even wicked ones. He would not let them change his own behaviour.
Verse 17 The *Pharisees were like healthy people who do not need a doctor. They thought that they had good *spiritual health. So they would not come to Jesus for help. Jesus had come to look for *sinners. Those *sinners were like sick people, who need a doctor’s help. Jesus had come to give them the ‘remedy’ of God’s love. Then they might change their ways. They could start to obey God and so live a ‘healthy’ life.
Verse 18 To stop eating food is a way to control the desires of the body. It is also a way to be sorry when a person has done wrong things. Jesus stopped eating when he was in the desert. That was because he was praying. The Day of *Atonement was the only time in the year when *Jews must not eat. Some *Jews stopped eating for two days each week as well. The *Pharisees did it. They wanted other people to see how good they were. So they went about with untidy clothes. They made their faces look as miserable as possible. Jesus taught that their way to stop eating was wrong (Matthew 6:16-18).
Verse 19 There are references in the *Old Testament to God as a bridegroom. The nation of the *Jews was like his bride (Isaiah 62:5; Hosea 2:16). Here, Jesus was the bridegroom. His *disciples were like the friends of the bridegroom at a wedding. A *Jewish wedding party went on for a week. It was a time of great happiness. Nobody would stop eating. While Jesus was with them, the *disciples did not need to stop eating.
Verse 20 Jesus knew that people would kill him one day. Then the *disciples would stop eating.
Verse 21 A piece of new material that you used to mend old clothing would be too strong. It would tear the old clothing and it would make a bigger hole. What Jesus was teaching was new and different from the religion of people like the *Pharisees.
Verse 22 People kept wine in a ‘bottle’ that someone had made from the skin of a goat. Old skins became dry and hard. New wine, as it became mature, would press against the skin. A new skin could stretch, but an old skin would burst. Both the wine and the skin would be of no more use.
The message of Jesus was as powerful as new wine. The question of the *Pharisees about not eating showed that their attitude was as hard as an old leather bottle. They were refusing to accept the joy that Jesus could give them. Jesus’ love and the power of the *Holy Spirit would give men the freedom to serve God with joy. The *Pharisees could not accept new ideas. They believed only in all their rules and therefore they could not serve God in the right way.
Verse 23 It was legal for people to pick the top parts of the corn plants. The *disciples were not stealing (Deuteronomy 23:25).
Verse 24 The *Pharisees said that the *disciples were ‘working’ on the rest day. They were picking the grain, so they were bringing in a harvest. The *disciples would have separated the grain from the dry outer part. The *Pharisees said that they were doing farming work.
Verses 25-26 Jesus reminded them about what David did. When he was escaping from king Saul, David and his men went into the holy place at Nob. He and his men ate the bread that God intended only for the priests. This bread was called ‘the bread of the *Lord’s presence’. That meant that it showed that God was there. Twelve (12) loaves for the 12 *tribes of Israel’s people were a sign of God’s provision of their food. Every rest day, the priests put new loaves on the special table. It was ‘holy’ bread. So the priests were the only people whom the law allowed to eat the old loaves (Leviticus 24:5-9). But because David and his men were hungry, their need was more important than the law.
Verse 27 God gave the rest day to make life better for everyone. It existed in order to give people rest for their body. It was also a special opportunity to *worship God. God did not create man to become the slaves of all kinds of rules.
Verse 28 ‘Son of Man’ can mean just ‘man’. Jesus said that the *Pharisees were changing God’s law. They were not allowing people to have the help that God intended. But ‘Son of Man’ might mean Jesus himself. He was the *Messiah who came from the family line of king David. If David could take no notice of a law for a good reason, Jesus could take no notice of men’s traditions.
Verse 2 The *Pharisees were jealous of Jesus’ popularity. He had shown that their attitudes were wrong. They were very careful about what they should not do on the rest day. They were less careful about what they should do. They allowed someone to cure on the rest day if the patient might die. Anyone else who was ill must wait until the end of the rest day.
Verse 4 Jesus was going to use the rest day to do a good deed. They were already trying to find a reason to kill him.
Verse 5 Mark made it clear that Jesus was angry. Many people are angry for selfish reasons. They are angry when other people have not been kind to them. Jesus was angry because the *Pharisees were going to use the man as a way to oppose Jesus. They were showing no love towards a man who needed their sympathy. Jesus cured the man with a brief order.
Verse 6 The *Herodians were friends of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee. Usually the *Pharisees hated the *Herodians because Herod’s *disciples were friends with the *Romans. But both the *Pharisees and the *Herodians were afraid of Jesus. The *Pharisees thought that they might lose their *religious authority. The *Herodians thought that trouble with the *Romans would spoil their political ambitions. So the *Pharisees and the *Herodians joined together in order to oppose Jesus.
Verse 7 Jesus left the *Jewish meeting places because the *scribes were trying stop his work. He wanted to teach more people. So he chose the side of the lake as a place where he could teach.
Verse 8 The crowds came to him from beyond the region called Galilee. They travelled long distances from Jerusalem in the south, and from the region called Idumea even further south. People came from the *Gentile cities east of the Jordan. They even came from the foreign ports of Tyre and Sidon in the north.
Verses 9-10 The crowd was so large that it was difficult for Jesus to teach them. Also, people who wanted Jesus to cure them were trying to get near enough to touch him. Jesus was therefore in danger because the crowd were pressing against him. So he used a small boat a little way from the shore. Then everyone could see and hear him.
Verse 11 The men with evil *spirits knew that Jesus had a very close *relationship with God. They were afraid and they fell down in front of him.
Verse 12 It was too soon for people to know that Jesus was the *Messiah. They needed to know that Jesus brought freedom from *sin. They were hoping for a country free from *Roman rule. Jesus did not want people to think that a political *Messiah had arrived. There would have been trouble if people thought that. They would want him to lead them against the *Romans. So Jesus insisted that the men with evil *spirits should keep their knowledge secret.
Verse 13 Jesus knew that he must find a way for his work to continue. He went up into the hills in order to get away from the crowds. He needed to decide which of his *disciples he should teach in a special way. Luke says that he prayed all night (Luke 6:12).
Verses 14-15 There were 12 *tribes of the *Jews. Jesus chose 12 men to become the beginning of the new people of God, the church. They would be with Jesus. They would learn more about him and they would follow his example. They would learn his message so that they could tell other people. Then he would send them out with his authority. Jesus would give them the power to cure people that evil *spirits controlled.
None of those whom he chose was a rich person or an important person. Jesus chose ordinary people. But those people would become extraordinary because they had been with him.
Verse 16 Jesus gave Simon, who used to catch fish, the name ‘Peter’. The name Peter means ‘Rock’. He would become a person whom God could use. God would use him as people use a rock to build on (Matthew 16:18).
Verse 17 The two sons of Zebedee were very ready to give their opinions in a loud, angry way. So Jesus called them ‘Sons of Thunder’. (Thunder is the loud noise that you may hear in a storm.)
Verse 18 Andrew was Simon’s brother. Bartholomew is a surname. He was probably the same person as Nathanael, whom Philip knew (John 1:45). Bible students think that Thaddeus is the same person as Judas, son of James (Luke 6:16). Matthew had collected taxes for the *Romans. Mark calls Simon an ‘Eager Man’. The Eager Men were a group who wanted to force out the *Romans. Matthew and Simon became friends because they both served Jesus.
Verse 19 Kerioth was a village in Judea. ‘Iscariot’ may mean ‘man from Kerioth’. If so, Judas was the only man of the 12 *disciples who did not come from Galilee.
The *religious leaders say that Jesus is getting his power from *Satan.
Verses 20-21 Jesus’ friends thought that a sensible person would not behave like Jesus. He had left the security of his home. He was getting into trouble with the *religious authorities. He was working so hard that he was even missing meals. They thought that he had gone mad. They must go to take him home.
Verse 22 *Beelzebub was the name of a false god in the *Old Testament (2 Kings 1:3). The *Jews used it as a name for *Satan. The *scribes did not deny that Jesus could free people from evil *spirits. But they said that he got this power from *Satan, the chief evil *spirit.
Verses 23-26 It would not be sensible for *Satan to fight against himself. Jesus showed that by what he said. If one part of a *kingdom fights against another part, the *kingdom will not last. If there are quarrels in a family, that family will suffer. If *Satan was fighting his own evil *spirits, he was destroying himself.
Verse 27 Nobody can steal from a strong man’s house unless a stronger man first ties him up. *Satan was the ‘strong man’. Jesus is more powerful than *Satan. Because he had defeated the evil *spirits, Jesus had begun to rob *Satan of his power.
Verses 28-30 Someone may decide to take no notice of his conscience. He knows that certain things are wrong. But he still does them. If he continues to do this, he will no longer be able to distinguish right things from wrong things. Isaiah spoke about people like that. He said that ‘they call evil things good, and they call good things evil’ (Isaiah 5:20). The *scribes had seen all the good things that Jesus had done. But they said that *Satan was giving him the power. So they were insulting the *Holy Spirit, who gave Jesus the power to do his work. God is willing to forgive almost anything. But he will not forgive someone who insults the *Holy Spirit.
Jesus shows his human family the nature of God’s family.
Verse 31 Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters (Mark 6:3). The brothers were probably the sons of Joseph and Mary that were born after Jesus, her ‘first son’ (Luke 2:7). Some Christians believe that Mary did not have any more children after Jesus. Some of them believe that the word ‘brothers’ may mean cousins or close relatives. And some of them believe that the word ‘brothers’ may mean the sons and daughters of Joseph by a former wife. If so, this wife died before Joseph married Mary.
Verses 33-35 Jesus was not saying that he did not care about his human family. The *Pharisees did not take responsibility for their parents. But Jesus told them that they were wrong about that (Mark 7:9-13). Even when he was hanging on the *cross, he was looking after his mother. He made sure that she had a home (John 19:26-27). But he has a much larger family. His brothers and sisters are all those who obey God. They are not relatives by birth. But they are part of God’s family. So their *relationship with each other can be stronger than a *physical *relationship.
1 The *parable of the four soils 4:1-9
2 Jesus explains the *parable 4:10-20
3 A collection of things that Jesus said 4:21-25
4 The *parable of the growing seed 4:26-29
5 The *parable of the tiny seed 4:30-32
6 Jesus’ use of *parables 4:33-34
Verses 3-4 Farmers used to scatter the seed by hand. Afterwards they would plough it in. People who used a path through a field would make the ground hard. Birds would quickly eat seeds that fell on top of the path.
Verses 5-6 Seeds could not make strong roots where there was only a thin amount of soil over the rock. They would grow, but the plants would be thin and weak. The hot sun would therefore destroy the weak young plants.
Verse 7 Weeds would use up the goodness in the soil. They would stop the light of the sun from reaching the plants. They would take up all the space. So the plants would not be able to grow enough to yield a crop.
Verse 8 Enough seed would fall on good ground to yield a harvest.
Verse 9 Jesus meant, ‘You have ears to hear with. Listen carefully to what I am saying.’
Verses 10-11 Jesus contrasted his *disciples with other people. The truths of the *kingdom are ‘secrets’ because people cannot discover them for themselves. But some people are willing to believe. And God shows that Jesus is king to those people. The ordinary person would hear the story but he or she would not understand its meaning.
Verse 12 Jesus used words from Isaiah (6:9). People were ‘blind’ because of their prejudices. They were ‘deaf’ to the truth because they were not willing to change their ways. Those who sincerely want to obey God will think about the meaning of the *parables. They will understand the truths in them. Those who have no real desire to obey God will not understand. The *parable will hide the truth from them.
Verse 14 The ‘farmer’ means first of all Jesus himself. Then the farmer can mean anyone who tells people about the *gospel.
Verse 15 The ‘seed’ of God’s message cannot enter the minds of people who are like the hard path. They have no interest at all in the *gospel. They do not realise how important it is.
Verses 16-17 Some people may accept what Jesus taught with joy. But, like a plant without deep roots, their *faith is not very strong. They do not let their *faith make a real difference to the way that they live. Problems and *temptations come. People insult or even attack them. Then their *faith dies like the plant in the hot sun.
Verses 18-19 Like tall weeds, there are many things that push out the life of *faith. They may be responsibilities, ambitions, the desire for money. Or they may be any of a wide variety of things that people enjoy doing. Some of these things are not wrong in themselves. But they can provide excuses to neglect the *spiritual life of prayer and *worship. They occupy so much time and attention that there is no space left for God.
Verse 20 Some people accept and believe the message. They are serious about their *faith and they produce the ‘fruit’ of a good life.
The *parable might cause people to think about their own ‘soil’. Their attitude would show whether their *faith was genuine. The *parable would also encourage the *disciples. There would be a ‘harvest’ of those who believed Jesus and his *disciples. This was true even if some of their efforts seemed to have no good result. God’s word would not ‘return to him without succeeding’ (Isaiah 55:11).
Mark groups together some of the things that Jesus said. In Matthew and Luke, they are separate from each other.
Verse 21 A lamp would be of no use if people hid it under something. It should light up a room so that people can see. Jesus’ *disciples must not hide their *faith. They must allow other people to see the ‘light’ of God’s good news.
Verse 22 Men may try to cover up their actions, words and thoughts. But they will not be successful. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, but they failed (Genesis 3:8-9). In the end, God will bring everything into the ‘light’ of his judgement.
Verses 23-24 People must listen so that they can understand. Then they should obey what Jesus taught. Then, they will be able to understand more of the truth.
Verse 25 For example, a man may play football or he may run fast. He becomes more skilful if he practises. But he loses his skill if he does not practise. Some people do not try to understand Jesus’ *parables. In the end, they will lose the power to take any notice of them.
This *parable is in Mark’s *Gospel only.
Verses 26-28 A farmer can prepare the ground, but he cannot make the seed grow. He does not even understand how it grows. While he is carrying on his normal life, the seed is growing. *Disciples are like the farmer. They can work to give the ‘seed’ of God’s message to other people. But it is God who works out his purpose. His purpose is to bring more people into his *kingdom. People think that the *kingdom grows slowly. But *disciples know that God will bring a harvest.
Verse 29 There is also a final harvest. It is God’s day of judgement. Christians should wait for that time with patience and hope. They are like the farmer who is waiting for the harvest.
Verses 31-32 The mustard seed is very tiny. The *Jews spoke about it as the smallest seed. But it can grow into a very tall bush, more like a tree. The *kingdom of God began with few *disciples. But it has grown and it has become world-wide. A tree was picture language for a powerful nation. Many people will find safety in God’s *Kingdom.
Verse 33 Jesus used *parables so that people would think about the meaning of his words. He told stories that were suitable for the hearers.
Verse 34 The *disciples wanted to understand. Jesus could therefore help them to understand what he taught completely.
Mark recorded four incidents that show the authority and power of Jesus:
1 The storm on the lake 4:35-41.
2 The mad man from Gerasa 5:1-20.
3 The daughter of Jairus 5:21-24; 35-43. This incident is in two parts.
4 The account of the woman who was bleeding (5:25-34). This account is between the two parts of the account of Jairus’s daughter.
Verse 35 You hardly believe me at all! There is no reason for you to be so afraid Jesus had been so busy all day that he needed rest away from the crowds. The ‘other side’ means the east side of the lake.
Verse 36 Jesus had taught from a boat. The words ‘exactly as he was’ probably mean that Jesus did not leave that boat. The detail about the ‘other boats’ is in Mark’s *Gospel only.
Verse 37 The lake is below sea level and there are mountains on both sides of it. The wind can rush down the valley without warning. And it can make the lake very dangerous. Some of the *disciples used to catch fish and so they knew about these sudden storms. They knew how easily the boat might sink. Then they would drown.
Verse 38 Jesus was so tired that he was asleep. He was not even aware of the storm until the frightened *disciples woke him.
Verse 39 Jesus gave orders that immediately brought calmness to the lake. The writer of the Psalms says that God makes the stormy sea calm (Psalm 89:9; 107:28-29). Jesus had shown his authority over nature in the same way as God who created everything. Jesus said that his *disciples ‘still’ did not seem to believe at all. He was sad. They had heard so much that he had said. And they had seen so many things that he had done. But they were still not able to trust him.
Jesus can bring calmness in the events in life that are like ‘storms’. Christians often use this event in Matthew 4 to show that he can do that. Sudden *temptations, illness, family problems and political troubles are a great danger to a person’s peace of mind. To have *faith in the care and power of Jesus is better than to worry and to be afraid.
Verse 1 Jesus went to the east side of the lake. Some copies of Mark’s book have ‘Gergesenes’ as a name for these people from Gerasa. And some copies have ‘Gadarenes’.
Verse 2 The graves were caves among the rocks. People thought that evil *spirits lived among graves.
Verses 2-3 The details about the chains show how strong the mad man was. Mark perhaps wants to show that the power of Jesus to cure the man was much stronger. Perhaps that is why he includes these details.
Verse 5 The man could never stop to rest and he was a great danger to himself.
Verses 6-8 The man called Jesus ‘the Son of the most high God’. He perhaps meant, ‘You are the *Messiah.’ The ‘*unclean’ *spirits were afraid that Jesus was going to punish them. They recognised his power.
Verse 9 In those days (and even in some countries today), to know a person’s name is to have some power over him. People also thought that nobody could send an evil *spirit out of a person unless they knew the evil *spirit’s name. Perhaps Jesus asked the man’s name to show that he wanted to help him. A ‘*legion’ was a section of the *Roman army, of about 6000 soldiers. The man believed that many evil *spirits had gone into him. It is possible that *Roman soldiers had frightened the man in the past. This may have caused his very disturbed mental state.
Verses 10-13 Some people do not believe that evil *spirits exist. They think that the man’s screams probably frightened the pigs. The men should have guarded the pigs. But the men were watching Jesus instead. So they could not stop the pigs from rushing down the hill into the lake.
Luke (8:31) says that the evil *spirits did not want Jesus to send them into the place for punishment. This is the place where God will put evil *spirits on the day of judgement. The evil *spirits were afraid that Jesus would punish them now. *Jews would not keep pigs. The law said that they must not eat pigs (Leviticus 11:7). The owners of the pigs would therefore have been *Gentiles. Some people blame Jesus because he allowed the death of 2000 pigs. They say that the owners had lost their way to earn money. But the healthy mind of a person is more important than money. The death of the pigs convinced the man that he was now free from control by evil *spirits.
Verse 15 The man was sitting as a *disciple would sit. He was waiting for Jesus to teach him.
Verse 17 The man was no longer a dangerous public nuisance. The people should have been happy for the man’s return to health. But, instead, they were frightened. They did not want Jesus to disturb their lives any more. His power might affect them too much.
Verses 18-20 Jesus did not usually tell a person to speak about his healing. But Jesus was in ‘Decapolis’. ‘Decapolis’ is a *Greek word that means ‘Ten Towns’. They were cities east and south of the River Jordan, where Greek people had lived for about three hundred years. So Jesus was in *Gentile territory to which he would not return. Therefore there was no danger that crowds of *Jews would want to make Jesus king. Jesus sent the man to tell other people the good news. He would be a witness among *Gentiles to the saving power of Jesus. To explain the *miracle to other people would also make the man’s own *faith stronger.
Verse 22 Jairus was an important official. He was responsible to arrange all that happened in the meeting place. He would know about the *miracles that Jesus had performed in Capernaum. He would also know that many officials opposed Jesus. He therefore needed courage to approach Jesus in public. He had to forget his own importance. He was humble enough to go down at Jesus’ feet. He loved his daughter. And that caused him to have the *faith to ask Jesus for help. Luke records that she was his only child. She was 12 years old (Luke 8:42).
Verses 25-26 Because her illness made her bleed, the woman was ‘*unclean’ (Leviticus 15:25-27). This meant that she could not take part in *worship in the *Jewish meeting place. People would avoid her, so she would be lonely. She had tried to get help from doctors. But they had not been able to cure her. All her money had gone and her illness was worse.
Verses 27-28 It would have been difficult for her to ask Jesus for help in public. She did not want to touch Jesus himself. Her illness made her *unclean. And anyone whom she touched would also become *unclean. So she touched the edge of his clothing.
Verse 30 Jesus knew that someone had touched him in a special way. When he cured people, Jesus felt some power go from him to them.
Verses 31-32 Jesus insisted on finding out who had touched him. The person might feel guilty about a secret touch that would make Jesus ‘*unclean’. The illness might not have ended completely.
Verse 33 Perhaps the woman was afraid that Jesus would be angry with her. She believed that Jesus was able to cure people. But she did not know his love. To speak about what had happened to her would be difficult in front of so many people.
Verse 34 Jesus called her ‘daughter’. This was a kind word. It meant that she was no longer *unclean. She belonged with all the other people who believed in Jesus, and in God as their Father.
He said that her *faith had made her well. It was not some kind of magic in the edge of his clothing. Jesus told her to ‘go in peace’. Then, the woman knew that her illness had gone completely. Other people could accept her again. She had told Jesus everything. So she could also go and not feel guilty.
Verses 35-36 The news from Jairus’s home might have made him stop hoping. But Jesus told him to believe that all would be well.
Verse 37 This was the first time that Jesus gave Peter, James and John a special place in his work.
Verse 38 It was usual for people to cry in a very noisy way after someone had died. There were people whom the family paid to weep over the body. The family would not have respected the dead person if they did not pay people to weep.
Verse 39 Some people think that the girl was only unconscious. But Jesus spoke about death as ‘sleep’. He did so, when Lazarus had died (John 11:11-13). *New Testament letters also describe the death of Christians as sleep (1 Corinthians 15:16, 18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Christians later called the place where they had their graves a ‘cemetery’. This name comes from a *Greek word that means ‘place to sleep’.
Verse 40 They laughed at Jesus. This also helps to show that the girl was dead. Jesus sent away all those people who would disturb and frighten the girl.
Verse 41 Jesus called the girl as her mother might have done to wake her in the morning. The words, ‘Talitha cumi’ are *Aramaic. Peter, who was there, remembered the actual words of Jesus. Mark recorded them and then he explained them in *Greek. Peter used similar words and actions in Acts 9:40. Then, a dead woman came back to life by the power of Jesus, which was working by Peter.
Verse 43 Jesus’ command was practical. Something to eat would give the girl strength after her illness. The parents needed something to do in order to bring life back to normal for themselves and their daughter. He ordered them not to tell anyone. They must now give all their attention to their daughter. This would also protect her from too much attention from crowds that might have gathered near the house.
Jesus had therefore shown his authority over nature (4:35-41), over evil *spirits (5:1-20), over illness (5:25-34) and over death (5:21-24, 35-43). In all four incidents, he removed fear and, with only a brief order, he gave peace immediately.
Verse 1 Jesus went from Capernaum to his home town, Nazareth. He was not just on a private visit to his family. His *disciples were with him. So he went in order to teach.
Verses 2-3 The people in Nazareth recognised that he was wise. And they recognised that he could perform *miracles. But they could not believe that he came with God’s message. He was only the *carpenter. The word that we have translated ‘*carpenter’ is the *Greek word ‘tekton’. It means more than someone who worked with wood. A ‘tekton’ was a skilled man. A ‘tekton’ could build or repair anything. God, when he came to earth, became a real human person. He worked with his hands, as most people did. But Jesus had worked among them. So the people thought that he could not be anyone special.
The people in Nazareth also knew Jesus’ family. They called Jesus ‘Mary’s son’. They do not refer to Joseph, so he had probably already died. There is a note about Jesus’ brothers and sisters after Mark 3:31. James began to believe in Jesus after the *resurrection. He became a leader of the Christians in Jerusalem.
The people may have been jealous of Jesus. They also thought that God could not work in a special way by means of someone like him. That was because they knew him.
Verse 4 People did not respect *prophets who lived among them. Jesus reminded them about that. Even now, it may be difficult to accept as important someone who is familiar.
Verse 5 Jesus could not do any *miracles there. This does not mean that he had no power. But not even Jesus could help people who were not willing to trust and obey him.
Verse 6 The people refused to believe that Jesus came from God. Jesus was astonished about that. Jesus was inviting them to enter his *kingdom. Their prejudice prevented them from accepting his invitation.
Verse 7 ‘Began to’ means that Jesus sent out the 12 *disciples on more than one occasion. Because they went in pairs, the *disciples could encourage each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). They could help each other, especially when people would not listen to them.
Verse 8 They had to trust God for all that they needed. The traveller’s bag might be a bag in which to take food for a few days. It might mean a bag to collect money in. The *disciples were going to give people good news. They should not ask for people’s money. They should not take any money with them. People made a pocket by pulling up their clothing over their belt. And they kept their money in that.
Verse 10 It was a duty for people to invite strangers into their homes. So the *disciples would receive a place to stay. But they must not waste time by moving from house to house. They must give all their attention to the people in the place where they were guests. They must not move to a place where there might be better food or more comfort.
Verse 11 They must not waste their time on people who would not give them a welcome. *Jews who returned from a *Gentile town or country would shake the dust from their feet. This was a custom to show that they separated themselves from *Gentile ideas. The *disciples must do this. They were separating themselves from anyone who refused to believe God’s message. The *disciples were responsible to give people the opportunity to believe the good news. It was not their fault if anyone refused to believe their message.
Verse 12 The *disciples urged people to turn away from wrong behaviour and to come into God’s *kingdom.
Verse 13 They also helped people to become well in mind and body. They gave people freedom from fear when they sent evil *spirits out of them. People used oil to cure an injury. The *disciples put oil on sick people in order to cure them. James tells the leaders of a Christian church to pray for a sick person. He tells them to put oil on the person (James 5:13-14).
Verse 14 Herod was Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great. He ruled Galilee and Perea. Although Mark calls him ‘king’, the *Romans would not let Herod use that word about himself.
Verse 15 People believed that Elijah would come to announce the arrival of the *Messiah (Malachi 4:5). Some people believed that Jesus was a *prophet. He spoke with authority. He was therefore like the *Old Testament *prophets.
Verse 16 Public opinion had confused Herod. He also had a guilty conscience. He had ordered the death of John. He worried that Jesus might be John, alive again. Later he had an opportunity to see Jesus. Pilate had to decide whether Jesus was guilty. He sent Jesus to Herod so that he could help him to decide (Luke 23:6-12).
Verses 17-19 Herod had first married the daughter of king Aretas, who ruled a country in Arabia (2 Corinthians 11:32). But he left her and he married Herodias. She was the wife of his half brother Philip. They were both sons of Herod the Great but they had different mothers. Salome was the daughter of Herodias. John had said that Herod was wrong to marry Herodias. She could not forgive John for that. She wanted Herod to kill John. She persuaded Herod to put John in prison at the castle of Machaerus near the Dead Sea.
Verse 20 Herod was afraid of John, but he respected him. He recognised that John was a good man. He hated John’s message, but he could not stop listening to John. He tried to protect him from the anger of Herodias.
Verses 21-22 Herodias encouraged Salome to dance alone in front of Herod and his guests. It is possible that he had drunk too much wine. He promised Salome anything that she asked for. He did not think about what she might ask.
Verse 23 He could not give Salome ‘half his *kingdom’, because he only ruled with the authority of the *Romans. But he made his promise sound very serious.
Verses 24-25 Herodias now had her opportunity to murder John. The girl asked for John’s head ‘immediately’. She wanted it at once. She did not want Herod to have time to change his mind.
Verse 26 Usually it is right to *keep a promise. But Herod’s promise had been a foolish one. So it would have been right not to do it. But he was afraid that his guests would laugh at him. So he was too proud to refuse. And so he made his soldiers kill John.
Verse 30 Mark calls the 12 men ‘*apostles’ for the first time here.
Verses 30-31 The *disciples were tired. And they wanted to tell Jesus all that had happened to them on their journey. But the crowds of people prevented them. They did not even have time for a meal. Jesus suggested that they should cross the lake by boat. They would then have some quiet and rest.
Verse 33 To cross the lake by boat might take a long time. It might take more time than to run round to the other side. So the people arrived before Jesus and the *disciples.
Verse 34 Sheep without anyone to look after them soon wander away from the right path. These people did not have a leader to stop them wandering away from God. They needed someone to teach them the right way to live. A man who looks after sheep is called a ‘shepherd’. The *religious leaders were like those leaders that Ezekiel described. They were like bad shepherds who did not take care of their sheep (Ezekiel 34:4-6). But Jesus is the good shepherd who cares about his sheep (John 10:11). So Jesus had great pity for the crowd. They had stopped his plan for a rest. But he was willing to teach them.
Verse 37 The *disciples were astonished that Jesus should ask them to provide food for the hungry crowd. Someone calculated that they would need more than two hundred days wages for that. Mark does not tell us who calculated that. John records that it was Philip (John 6:7).
Verse 38 It was Andrew who found the food. John also tells us that. A boy had five loaves and two fish (John 6:9). Jesus broke the fish (Luke 9:16). So we think that they may have been dried fish.
Verse 39 Jesus gave them a command. That command would make it easy for the *disciples to give out the food. The people had to sit in groups on the ‘green’ grass. The only time that the grass was green would be in the spring, in April. John said that this event happened near the time of the *Jewish *Passover. The *Passover *feast was in the spring (John 6:4-14).
Verse 40 The *Greek word that we have translated as ‘groups’ described rows of vegetables in a garden. Peter probably told Mark his memory of what the people looked like on the ‘green’ grass.
Verse 41 Jesus gave thanks to God for the food. *Jews always thanked God before a meal for providing the food.
Verses 42-43 The very small amount of food became enough for the crowd of over five thousand people to have plenty to eat. There were even 12 baskets of pieces left over. There was enough for each of the 12 *disciples to fill one basket each.
This event is in all four *Gospels. The writers believed that it was important.
Some people try to deny that Jesus created more food by a *miracle. They say that one boy offered his small supply. And then, all the people began to share their food. But everyone had plenty to eat and there were 12 baskets left over. Every year, God supplies the harvest. What happened here was the harvest *miracle in a short time. God’s provision of food is plentiful. But often some people are hungry because some other people are greedy.
The *Jews believed that the *Messiah would feed them with ‘bread from heaven’. In Moses’ time, God had fed the *Jewish people in the desert. Then, they were on their way to the country that he had promised to them (Exodus 16:14-18). Jesus had fed the crowd in a desert place. So, they believed that he was the *Messiah. He was bringing the ‘promised country’ of a *kingdom where they would share in the *Messiah’s splendid dinner. So they tried to make Jesus king (John 6:14-15).
At the Last Supper, Jesus ‘broke the bread’ as he had broken the loaves on this occasion (verse 41). The Christian Church has always remembered what Jesus did at the Last Supper. Different churches call it different names, for example: the *Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Holy Communion, the Breaking of Bread. It is called ‘the breaking of bread’ in Acts (2:42; 20:7) and in Paul’s letter (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:24). At such times, Christians remember that Christ himself is the ‘Bread’. He gives *spiritual life. He helps that *spiritual life to become stronger, as bread helps us to grow in a *physical way.
Verse 45 Jesus saw that the crowd were preparing to make him king. He did not want his *disciples to share in a popular effort to lead the nation against the *Romans. So he sent them away.
Jesus needed to pray. He had many problems. The *religious leaders opposed him. Herod Antipas was a cruel man who was afraid of Jesus. Now there were the people who wanted to make him a national leader. Again Jesus had to refuse the *temptation to choose power rather than love. He did not want the crowds to stop him giving people freedom from *sin.
Verse 48 The *Jewish night had four periods. They began at six o’clock in the evening. They were three hours each. Jesus came in the fourth period, about three o’clock in the early morning. It was near the time of *Passover, when the whole of the moon would be shining. So there was probably some light from the moon on the lake. Jesus could therefore see that the *disciples were struggling against a strong wind to reach the other side.
Verse 50 The *Greek words that we have translated ‘It is I’ mean ‘I am’. It is possible that Mark used the name of God here (Exodus 3:14). He was reminding his readers that Jesus has the same power as God. God ‘walks on the waves of the sea’ (Job 9:8).
Verses 51-52 The *disciples were no longer afraid when Jesus came into the boat. But they were confused. They had not understood from the *miracle of the loaves who Jesus was. They were not able to recognise that his power over nature was the power of God.
This incident encourages Christians who are in any kind of trouble. They may believe, like the *disciples in the boat, that they are struggling alone. But Jesus came to the *disciples in their difficulty. Christians should remember that Jesus is with them. Then Jesus will give peace to them too.
Verse 53 Gennesaret was a small plain on the west side of the lake. It was south of Capernaum. So the wind had probably made the *disciples land away from their usual landing place.
Verse 56 Jesus cured a sick woman (5:25-34). He knew that power had gone from him. She had touched the edge of his clothing. Here many other people did the same.
Verses 2-4 The *disciples did not have dirty hands. Mark explained it for his *Gentile readers. The *Jews had a special way to wash their hands before a meal. It was not in order to remove dirt. It was a ceremony. It made sure that they had separated themselves from anything ‘*unclean’. Certain foods were ‘*unclean’. *Gentiles were ‘*unclean’. The *Jews had to pour water over each hand in a special way. And they had to wash each hand with the fist of the other hand. They did this when they came in from the town. They might have touched something that a *Gentile had touched. They were also very careful to wash anything that they drank from. They washed equally carefully anything that they used to prepare a meal.
Verses 6-7 Jesus said that they were not honest. Many translations use the word ‘hypocrites’ here. This means that they are like actors. They are hiding their real character. They said that they were obeying God’s laws. But they were failing to obey God’s laws. And they were expecting everyone to follow their traditions. Jesus used the words of Isaiah to emphasise that their religion was only a show on the outside. They were not sincere, because they put their own ideas in place of God’s laws.
Verse 9 Jesus said that they had a ‘good’ way not to obey God’s law. He was expressing his disgust when he said that. He meant that they were clever at following their own rules instead of God’s rules.
Verses 10-13 Jesus gave an example of their wrong attitude. The word ‘Corban’ means a gift that someone has promised to God. A man could say that some of his money was ‘Corban’. He could give it to *Temple funds or he could use it for himself. But nobody else could benefit from it. When his parents needed his help, he would make this excuse. So he avoided his duty to his parents in order to follow a tradition. He was therefore not obeying the command of God to give honour to his father and mother.
Jesus said that they had other ways not to obey God’s laws. They did it in order to obey their own rules.
Verses 14-15 Jesus wanted the people to realise that the *Pharisees’ idea of *unclean was wrong. The *Pharisees thought that in order to be holy they must obey special rules about washing. That was wrong. God wanted people to have good thoughts and to obey his laws.
Verse 16 is only in some copies of Mark’s book. It repeats what Jesus had said after the *parable of the four soils (4:3-9).
Verses 18-19 Food goes through a man’s body in the usual way. It goes into his mouth, then into his stomach and, in the end, it passes out again. So it cannot make him ‘*unclean’ with God because it does not affect his thoughts and actions. Jesus meant that ‘things’ cannot be *unclean. It is people who become *unclean. They become *unclean because of their own actions.
The *Pharisees refused to eat certain food. They believed that this could make them holy. They must not eat with *Gentiles. Mark writes a note to say that Jesus was making foods ‘clean’. Jesus showed that *sin begins with a person’s thoughts. It would be possible to be holy without worrying about the right kind of food. Later, Peter learned something about food: The food that he ate made no difference to his *relationship with God. He could even visit a *Gentile and he could share a meal with him (Acts 10:9-29).
Verse 21 ‘Evil thoughts’ produce evil actions. ‘Wrong sex behaviour’ means every kind of wrong sex act. ‘*Adultery’ is a particular kind of wrong sex behaviour. It is when one person has sex with another person’s wife or husband. Herod Antipas was guilty of ‘*adultery’ when he took his brother Philip’s wife.
Verse 22 ‘Cheating’ means when a person does not speak the truth. He loses the confidence of other people. ‘The desire for what other people have’ makes a person unhappy. The ‘*unclean’ person is not pleased about other people’s happiness or success. Instead, the ‘*unclean’ person hates them.
‘Pride’. A proud man thinks that he is better than anyone else. He cannot see it when he is wrong. He even expects God to respect him. But God ‘opposes proud people’ (James 4:6).
‘Foolish behaviour’. This can mean to spend time on activities that have no worth. But some people do wrong things whenever they want to. The words ‘foolish behaviour’ describe the actions of those people also.
Verse 23 All these evil actions come from what a man thinks about. Paul told the Christians at Philippi to think about what is pure and right (Philippians 4:8).
Verse 24 Jesus went north, probably in order to obtain some peace and quiet. He had made many enemies in Galilee, and the crowds were always demanding his help. Tyre and Sidon were two important harbours north of Capernaum. They were not on the Sea of Galilee. They were on the Mediterranean Sea.
Verse 27 Jesus’ answer to the woman sounds like an insult. ‘Dog’ was a word that people used as an insult. The *Jews sometimes called *Gentiles ‘*dogs’. But Jesus did not use the usual word for wild, dirty *dogs. He used a word that describes a family pet. The kind of voice that Jesus used would also make a difference. He was probably smiling as he spoke. He said that the children must have their food first. He meant his own people, the *Jews, must receive the first offer of the *gospel.
Verse 28 People threw bread that they did not want to the family pets. Perhaps the woman could get the pieces that the children had thrown away. That is what she thought.
Verse 29 Jesus was pleased with the *faith that she had shown in her reply. Jesus was at a distance and he could not see the woman’s daughter. But she became well. Jesus cured a *Roman soldier’s servant without going to see him. Luke records that (Luke 7:1-10).
Jesus began his work among the *Jews. He would reach the *Gentiles by means of the *Jews. The woman was a sign of the *Gentiles who would accept the *gospel. They would believe the *gospel that most *Jews refused. Mark had described how Jesus removed the difference between ‘clean’ and ‘*unclean’ food (7:14-23). In this incident, he removed the difference between *Jew and *Gentile, between ‘clean’ and ‘*unclean’ people.
Verse 31 Jesus made a long journey back to Galilee. It may have taken several months. He may have used the time to teach his *disciples.
Verse 32 Because the man was deaf, he had not learnt to speak clearly.
Verse 33 Jesus took him away to a quiet place. When a deaf person starts to hear again, every sound seems very loud. It would not be pleasant for the man if he were in a noisy crowd. So Jesus thought about how the man would feel. Jesus showed the man what he was going to do. He touched the man’s ears. *Jewish doctors used liquid from their mouths. They believed that it could cure people. Jesus touched the man’s tongue. Then the man would know that Jesus would make a difference to his speech. Jesus showed where the power to cure would come from. He looked up to heaven. ‘Ephphatha’ was an *Aramaic word. Mark explained it in *Greek.
Verse 36 The people did not obey Jesus. So, it was difficult for him to have the peace to train his *disciples.
Verse 37 Jesus made the words of Isaiah come true. Isaiah said that, when God comes to rescue his people,
‘He will open the ears of those who cannot hear.
And those who cannot speak will shout for joy’ (Isaiah 35:5-6).
Verse 1 Jesus was in the region of the Ten Towns. He had told the man from Gerasa to go back. He told him to tell his own people how God had cured him (5:18-20). A crowd had gathered. Some people in that crowd may have been there because of what the man had told them. Other people may have been there because they had heard about the healing of the deaf man.
Verses 2-3 Jesus looked after the body as well as the *soul. He thought about the difficulty for hungry people if they had to go a long way.
Verse 4 The *disciples thought about the practical difficulty. They did not know how they could provide food in such a place. There was no food there. They had forgotten about the five thousand people whom Jesus fed. They still did not trust Jesus.
Although this is a similar story to the one in Mark 6, there are several differences. The crowd had been with Jesus for ‘three’ days. There were ‘seven’ loaves and ‘seven’ baskets. The word for basket (verse 8) is different. In Mark 6:43, ‘kophinos’ described a basket in which a *Jew carried his food. In this account, the word ‘sphuris’ means a much larger basket, which *Gentiles used. In Mark 6, Jesus was in Galilee, among *Jews. Here, Jesus was in the *Gentile territory of the Ten Towns.
Mark’s *Gentile readers in Rome would have liked this story. Jesus looked after the *physical health of *Gentiles as well. He did not only look after the health of the *Jews.
Verse 11 Jesus had already given signs that his authority came from God. The *Pharisees refused to believe who Jesus was. They said that his power came from *Beelzebub (Mark 3:22). They wanted him to perform something astonishing.
Verse 12 Whatever Jesus did would not convince them. He knew that. They could not see the truth, because they had decided not to believe him. They were the same as the *Jewish people who left Egypt. They tested God and they refused to obey him. They, too, had seen many *miracles before they escaped (Psalm 95:9-10).
Jesus gave a ‘deep sigh’. It shows how sad he was. He wanted people to have *faith in him.
Mark has recorded two incidents about blind people:
1 The *disciples are blind *spiritually, verses 14-21.
2 Jesus cures a man who is *physically blind, verses 22-26.
Verse 15 ‘*Yeast’ is a substance that people use to make bread rise. The *Jews used ‘*yeast’ as a sign of something evil. A small amount of *yeast makes bread rise. It spreads through all the bread. And the bad things that the *Pharisees taught could affect the whole of society. The reference to Herod probably means Herod’s friends, the *Herodians. They would do anything to keep Herod Antipas as king. They did not care whether it was right or wrong.
Verse 16 The *disciples were like blind people who cannot see something dangerous. The *disciples might imitate the bad behaviour of the *Pharisees and the *Herodians. That was the danger that the *disciples were in.
They were also worried because they had no bread. They could not see that Jesus had the power to help them.
Verses 17-21 Jesus reminded them about the *miracles when he fed two great crowds of people. They were still ‘blind’ to the power and love of Jesus, even when they had seen these *miracles.
Verse 22 Bethsaida was on the east side of the River Jordan. It was outside Herod’s territory.
Verse 23 Jesus showed the blind man that he would cure him. He took him away from the village so that crowds would not confuse the man. He used liquid from his mouth, as *Jewish doctors did. He laid hands on him. That was to show that God’s power was going to cure him.
Verses 24-25 This *miracle, which only Mark records, happened in two parts. Usually Jesus cured people immediately. Perhaps this incident was a sign that the *spiritual eyes of the *disciples only opened slowly. Perhaps that is why Mark recorded it. Christians do not understand Christ’s love completely at first. They learn his love and power slowly. Christians should not give up easily when they have difficulties. Perhaps that is what Mark wanted to show us.
Verse 27 Caesarea Philippi was in the north, near the source of the River Jordan. Philip, who was the ruler of that area, had built the city. It had the name Caesarea ‘Philippi’. That showed that it was not the same place as Caesarea on the coast. That was in the area that his brother, Herod Antipas, ruled. Caesarea Philippi was a city that was full of *temples to the *Greek gods, and to the nature god, Pan. The *disciples were ‘on the way’ to Jerusalem with Jesus. Jesus described himself as the Way to God (John 14:6). People described early Christians as those who belonged to the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:23).
Verse 28 The opinions that Jesus was John the *Baptist or Elijah are the same as those in 6:14. The opinion that he was ‘one of the *prophets’ rather than ‘like’ one of the *prophets (6:14) is different. It referred to a *prophet who had come back to life.
Verse 29 Jesus emphasised the word ‘you’. It was not enough for the *disciples to know what other people thought. They must decide for themselves. The *disciples had asked, ‘Who is this?’ (4:41). Jesus had spoken about the fact that they did not understand (8:17-21). But now Peter spoke for all the *disciples. He made the bold statement, ‘You are the Christ.’
This incident comes in the middle of Mark’s *Gospel. The first chapters record the works and words of Jesus as he invited people into God’s *kingdom. From the time at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus taught that he must suffer. He explained what it means to be a *disciple. And he began his journey to Jerusalem.
Verse 30 ‘Christ’ is the *Greek word for the *Hebrew word ‘*Messiah’. (See the note on 1:1.) The *Jews were expecting a *Messiah who would defeat their enemies. This person would lead an army against the *Romans and he would gain political freedom for them. Jesus did not want the *disciples to encourage that belief. So he did not want them to say that he was the *Messiah. The crowds might then stop Jesus from training his *disciples. The *disciples had to learn the true nature of the *Messiah’s work.
Jesus told his *disciples on three different occasions that he would suffer and die (8:31-33; 9:31-32; 10:32-34). This was the first occasion, immediately after Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the *Messiah.
Verse 31 Jesus would suffer on behalf of other people. He would be like the servant of God whom Isaiah described (Isaiah chapter 53). ‘Son of man’ can refer to a picture that Daniel saw in his mind. (See Daniel 7:13-14.) There, someone called a ‘son of man’ would receive authority and power from God. He would receive an *eternal *kingdom. The name that Jesus used for himself may therefore mean the same as ‘*Messiah’.
Jesus said that he ‘must’ suffer. He knew that his pain and death were part of God’s plan. God’s plan was to rescue man from *sin.
The chief priests, the *scribes and the other leaders were members of the chief *Jewish ruling authority. They called it the *Sanhedrin.
Matthew (16:21) and Luke (9:22) say ‘on the third day’. Mark says ‘three days later’ because he included the first and the last day in the count.
Verse 32 Mark calls what Jesus said ‘the word’ (*Greek ‘logos’). It was a clear message that was part of the *gospel. And the *gospel was ‘good’ news.
Peter and the other *disciples understood what Jesus said. But they did not want to believe that these things would happen to him. For them, talk about suffering was difficult to accept. It was only after Jesus’ death and *resurrection that they were able to ‘see’ clearly. Then they understood why Jesus had to suffer.
Verse 33 *Satan was *tempting Jesus by means of Peter. It was the same *temptation to avoid pain and trouble as in Luke 4:5-7. Then *Satan was *tempting Jesus. ‘Get behind me’ was a command to *Satan. He must stop *tempting Jesus. It was also a command to Peter and the other *disciples. Jesus meant, ‘I do not follow you. You should follow me and my ideas.’ Peter may have spoken because of love for Jesus. But it was not his job to teach Jesus. He must allow Jesus to teach him.
Verse 34 Jesus spoke not only to the 12 *disciples, but also to anyone in the crowd who might follow him. Jesus was honest. Jesus did not offer people an easy life. He did not try to persuade people to follow him like that. A *disciple must forget his own wishes if he wants to follow Jesus. The *Romans fixed criminals to a *cross. That is how they punished them. The criminal had to carry part of his own *cross to the place where the soldiers would kill him. Jesus said that those who followed him must be willing for the same shame and suffering as himself.
Verse 35 ‘anyone who wants to save his life will lose it’ has two possible meanings:
1 A selfish way to live will not give anyone a life on earth of true worth.
2 Life on earth is of no value if a person loses the life with God after death. Some Christians suffer and die for their *faith. Those Christians know that they will gain life with God for all time.
Verses 36-37 ‘The whole world’ may refer to possessions, power, pleasures and popularity. But all these are only temporary. What the world offers is nothing compared with the value of the *soul. The *soul is for all time. It is foolish if a man forgets his *eternal *soul for pleasures in this world. It is foolish because those pleasures do not last.
Verse 38 Proverbs 29:25 says, ‘The fear of man will be a trap.’ Fear of the opinion or laughter of other people may make a Christian ashamed to declare his *faith. Jesus said that he would then be ashamed of them. He referred to the time when he will come again. Then, he will return in the very bright light from his Father.
Verse 1 Jesus did not mean the time when he will come again. Some writers suggest that he did mean that. But that would mean that Jesus made a mistake. So it cannot be true. He did not return with power while his *disciples were alive. But Jesus is probably describing his *resurrection. Also, he is describing the time when the *Holy Spirit would come at *Pentecost and the spread of the *gospel. Thirty (30) years after Jesus’ death on the *cross, the message about the *kingdom had spread everywhere where the *Romans ruled. A small group of *disciples had become the beginning of a world wide church. The *kingdom did come with power in the lives of many people who were listening to Jesus. But perhaps Jesus was talking about what happens in verses 2-13. That is what some other Christians think.
Peter, James and John see the great honour and beauty of Jesus.
Verse 2 The mountain was probably *Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is so high that there is snow on it. Tradition says that it was *Mount Tabor. But that is much further south in Galilee, and it is not so high.
Mark does not say how Jesus changed. Matthew says that his face shone like the sun (Matthew 17:2).
Verse 3 It was difficult for Mark to describe how white the clothes of Jesus were. They were very, very white. So he could only think that they shone like gold or the light of the sun. Nobody who washed clothes could make them as bright.
Verse 4 Elijah was a great *prophet. Moses had received the Law from God. Their appearance showed that Jesus made the promises of the *Old Testament come true. He is greater than the *prophets, and he explained the Law more completely. Mark does not say what they were talking about. Luke tells us that they were talking about Jesus’ death in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31).
Verses 5-6 Peter offered to build three shelters. That shows how confused and frightened he was. He had been asleep and he had just woken up. He was thinking of all three as if they were the same. But Jesus is different from Moses and Elijah. He is much more important. Perhaps Peter wanted to stay on the mountain, where there would not be any more work or pain. But it was a practical thought in their situation. It was dark and therefore cold. They might need shelter! Luke tells us that they did not come down from the mountain until the next morning.
Verse 7 A cloud was the sign that God was there. Moses went up *Mount Sinai in order to receive the Law. Then, the cloud covered the mountain for six days. Then the *Lord called to Moses from out of the cloud (Exodus 24:15-16). God spoke out of the cloud to the three *disciples. He spoke in words like those at Jesus’ *baptism (1:11). Moses told the people to ‘listen’ to the *prophet like himself whom God would send (Deuteronomy 18:15). God told the *disciples to ‘listen’ to Jesus. The *disciples learned something. They were right to believe that Jesus was the *Messiah. What he told them was true.
Verses 9-10 The three men obeyed Jesus’ instructions not to tell anyone about their experience until after the *resurrection. Peter later wrote about it in his letter (2 Peter 1:16-18). But they did not understand it when Jesus talked about death and *resurrection.
Verse 11 The *scribes taught that Elijah would return. And he would prepare people for the *Messiah (Malachi 4:5). The *disciples wanted to ask Jesus this question: ‘Why has Elijah not arrived, if you are the *Messiah?’
Verses 12-13 Jesus explained that Elijah had come already. He did not mean that Elijah himself had come into the world again in John the *Baptist. He meant that John the *Baptist was a *prophet like Elijah. He had the same bold courage as Elijah and he was as loyal to God. Queen Jezebel wanted to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-2). Herodias wanted the death of John the *Baptist (Mark 6:19). The man who had prepared the way for the *Messiah had suffered. And he had died. Jesus was therefore telling them that the *Messiah himself would suffer too. And he would die.
There is a reason why Mark describes this incident in detail. It is not first of all to show the authority and power of Jesus. It is to show the importance of *faith and the lesson that the *disciples had to learn about prayer.
Verse 14 The *scribes were probably taking the opportunity to laugh at Jesus because they were laughing at his *disciples. Because the *disciples had failed, they were perhaps trying to defend themselves against the *scribes’ remarks.
Verse 15 Jesus’ sudden arrival may have surprised the crowd. But Mark writes that they were ‘astonished’. This was a word that he usually put at the end of an incident. When Moses went down from *Mount Sinai, his face shone (Exodus 34:30). The *disciples had seen the great honour and beauty of Jesus on the mountain. It is possible that there was still evidence of that on Jesus. He had ordered his three *disciples not to say anything. But there may have been some sign in his face of what had happened to him on the mountain.
Verse 16 Jesus sometimes asked for information. He may have known the answer to his question. If so, he wanted to give them a chance to be honest. See Mark 9:33-34, too.
Verses 17-18 The boy’s father described what happened to his child. Doctors today might say that he suffered from an illness called ‘epilepsy’.
Verse 19 Jesus spoke to all the people, not to the *disciples only. He felt despair at the lack of *faith of people at this time. But he ordered them to bring the boy to him.
Verse 20 As soon as the boy came near Jesus, the evil *spirit tried to control the boy again.
Verses 21-22 The father replied to Jesus’ question. He said that the boy had been like this since he was a child. He had often fallen into a fire or into water because the evil *spirit had tried to kill him. The father asked Jesus for his help, ‘if’ Jesus had the power to cure his son.
Verse 23 Jesus repeated the father’s words. He meant, ‘You should not say "if" I can. That shows that you do not believe in me. You do not believe that I have the power.’ He was suggesting that the father needed *faith. With *faith, everything becomes possible.
Verse 24 The father’s cry, ‘I do believe! Help me to overcome my doubts!’ describes what many Christians feel. They trust Jesus. But they are not sure that they trust him completely.
Verses 25-26 People are always curious when something unusual is happening. Some of the crowd rushed to see what Jesus was doing. Jesus gave an order that the evil *spirit should leave the boy for always. There was a struggle. It left the boy very weak. So people thought that he was dead.
Verse 27 Jesus helped him to stand up. There is no record by Mark of the father’s joy or the crowd’s reaction. The important matter in the incident was what Jesus taught about *faith.
Verses 28-29 The *disciples wanted to know why they could not throw out the evil *spirit. Jesus had given them authority to throw out evil *spirits when he had sent them out in pairs (Mark 6:7). They may have forgotten that their success then was not because of their own power. The *disciples should have prayed. But they had argued with each other instead. Jesus emphasised the need for prayer. The prayer of *faith is necessary before anyone can defeat the power of evil things. When they are fighting evil things, Christians need *spiritual resources (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Verses 30-31 The period when Jesus was teaching publicly in Galilee was over. He wanted to avoid crowds so that he could train his *disciples. ‘Hand over’ means that someone would make it possible for the authorities to arrest Jesus. The words ‘hand over’ might also mean that God would allow Jesus to die. That was the only means by which God could *save people.
Verse 32 The *disciples were too frightened to ask Jesus to explain. On a previous occasion, Jesus had told them that he would suffer. They had opposed the idea then and Jesus had blamed them. Perhaps they did not want to risk such a severe reply again (8:32-33). They might also have learned something worse, and perhaps they preferred not to know.
Verses 33-34 Perhaps some of the *disciples were jealous of the three men who had been alone on the mountain with Jesus. But they were all still thinking about a political *kingdom in which Jesus would give them important places. Jesus had taught them that he would suffer. And he would die. But that had not changed their wrong idea about the *Messiah’s purpose. The *disciples kept quiet because they were ashamed to tell Jesus.
Verse 35 *Jewish teachers sat to teach their pupils. The fact that Jesus sat down showed that he was going to teach his *disciples. If they wanted greatness in his *kingdom, they must not try to take the most important place. They must not be proud and expect to be the masters. They must be willing to serve everyone.
Verse 36 In order to emphasise this need for service, Jesus acted a *parable. He used a little child as an example. The *Aramaic word ‘talya’ can mean both ‘child’ and ‘servant’. Children have no power and they have to depend on the help of adults. The *disciples must serve even little children. But ‘children’ includes all people who are weak and in need of help. Paul said, ‘As for the man who is weak in *faith, give him a welcome’ (Romans 14:1).
Verse 37 ‘In my name’ means ‘with my authority and for me’. Humble service is service to Jesus himself. ‘As you did it to one of the least .... you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40). Jesus was working for God, who had sent him. Therefore, whenever people serve him, they are serving God.
There were already arguments in the early church about leadership when Mark was writing his book. Mark probably recorded this incident for that reason.
This passage has a link with the previous one because it also contains the phrase ‘in my name’.
Verses 38-39 John spoke for himself and the other *disciples. The man was not in their group. So, they told him to stop sending evil *spirits out of people ‘in the name’ of Jesus. Some *Jews in Ephesus tried to use ‘the name of Jesus whom Paul *preaches’. They failed. They thought that Jesus’ name might be a magic way to send an evil *spirit out of a person (Acts 19:13-16). But Jesus told the *disciples not to stop a man with *faith who was working for him.
Christians should be glad when other people are successful. They should not be jealous of those who *worship and serve God in a different way.
Verse 40 A man is either on Christ’s side or against him. When he is doing good deeds, he is on God’s side.
Verse 41 A person may give help to a *disciple of Christ. God will reward that person. ‘A cup of water’ shows that the help need not be in an important matter. It can be a small act of kindness.
Jesus warns us about two things:
1 We must not cause other people to *sin verse 42.
2 We must be strict with ourselves verses 43-50.
Verse 42 The *disciples are responsible for those who are young *spiritually as well as for children. It is better to drown than to make a child or a young or weak Christian *sin. A *disciple must be careful about what he teaches. A *disciple’s bad or careless behaviour may make a young believer imitate him. *Disciples must not cause young believers to lose their *faith. They must not do it by what they teach. And they must not do it by their example.
To drown someone with a large weight round his neck was a way to punish people in those days. A mill-stone turned wheat into flour. A large mill-stone was a big round stone with a hole in the middle. A *donkey pulled the stone round over the wheat by a bar of wood through the hole. If someone put a person’s head through the hole of this heavy stone, he would certainly drown.
Verses 43-48 The hand, the foot and the eye can cause a *disciple to do wrong things. The fruit that *tempted Eve was ‘a delight to the eyes’ (Genesis 3:6). It is possible to do something or to go somewhere which may cause you to *sin. Jesus did not mean that a *disciple must remove parts of his *physical body. He was using picture language. *Disciples must be willing to *sacrifice anything that stops their *spiritual life from growing. The *sacrifice may be as painful as it would be to lose a limb. Christians do not only have to give up bad things. Often, they have to give up good things as well. It may be a job, a pleasure or a friendship. It will not be the same for each *disciple. Each *disciple must decide for himself what may be preventing him from obeying God completely.
To enter ‘life’ and to enter the ‘*kingdom’ mean the same. ‘Life’ is to enjoy a friendship with God by giving him honour as king. ‘*Gehenna’ was the name of a valley outside Jerusalem that had become the city’s rubbish heap. Worms (small long thin animals) lived on the rubbish, and a fire was always burning there. These words about worms and fire come from Isaiah 66:24. *Gehenna was such a terrible place that the *Jews started to use the name for a place of punishment. It was a place where God would destroy wicked people. People usually translate the word ‘*Gehenna’ as ‘hell’.
Verses 49-50 contain three separate things that Jesus said about ‘salt’. Jesus may have given them on separate occasions. But together they remind his *disciples of the necessity of pure lives that will help themselves and other people.
1 The *Jews put salt on a gift to God (Leviticus 2:13). It was a sign of the agreement between God and his people. *Disciples should remember to be loyal to God. Also, fire makes things clean and pure. It might therefore mean any experience that makes a Christian pure. We should obey God and we should accept pain and trouble. That is like the ‘fire’ that makes a Christian life a pure gift to God.
2 Salt gives food flavour. It also prevents things going off. The *disciples of Jesus should make a difference to the world. It should be a better place to live in, as salt gives food a better taste. They should also stop wrong things that are making society bad. Salt that came from the Dead Sea sometimes had other substances in it. Although it looked like salt, it had lost its proper salt taste. Some *disciples may lose their desire to give God’s message. Then they are of no use as the ‘salt of the earth’ (Matthew 5:13).
3 People who were together sometimes put salt on their food as a sign. It was a sign that they trusted each other. Jesus said that the *disciples must have the ‘salt’ of friendship. He may have said it when they were arguing with each other.
Verse 1 Jesus left Galilee and he went to the south. He went into the area east of the River Jordan. He was at the beginning of his journey to Jerusalem.
Verse 2 The *Pharisees’ question was like a trap in several ways:
1 Jesus might speak against divorce. Then, they could say that he was not obeying the Law (Deuteronomy 24:1).
2 There was a difference of opinion about the meaning of the words ‘something not right’ in the wife (Deuteronomy 24:1). Some people followed the teacher Shammai. They said that it meant ‘*adultery’. That was the only reason for a divorce. But other people followed Hillel’s opinion. They said that a man could divorce his wife for many reasons. She might have burnt his dinner or talked too much. Or perhaps she was not as beautiful as another woman. Women in the time of Jesus therefore did not have any security. Men behaved as if women were property. They were not human people to whom men had a responsibility. Whatever opinion Jesus agreed with would have annoyed some people in the crowd.
3 Jesus might have said that divorce was wrong. But then, he risked the anger of Herod. Herod had already killed John the *Baptist because he spoke against Herod’s *adultery with Herodias.
Verses 4-5 Jesus said that the Law allowed divorce. But the Law did not say that men and women must divorce. Divorce was not God’s purpose. But it was a way to prevent a bad situation.
Verses 6-7 Jesus used words from Genesis 1:27. He emphasised God’s purpose when he created men and women. They would marry. A man would leave his parents in order to unite with his wife.
Verse 8 ‘like one body’ is about more than people’s bodies. It means that man and wife join each other in a unity of *spirit and purpose.
Verse 9 God intended marriage to be for life. Christians have different answers about whether divorce is always wrong.
1 Jesus said that the rules in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 were only because of man’s *sin. People should have the strict view that divorce is wrong. Jesus said that *adultery is the only exception. (See Matthew 19:9.)
2 Jesus told people that God could forgive them for their failure. When a husband and wife *relationship seems to have failed, the two people can forgive each other. The only ‘rule’ that Jesus gave was the rule of love. But he showed from Genesis that the ideal of a permanent *relationship was God’s original purpose.
Verse 13 The *disciples thought that children were not important. And they thought that they would not understand Jesus’ words. Jesus was busy and they wanted to protect him from these interruptions.
Verse 14 Jesus was very angry. Christians ought to be angry as well, when adults are unfair to children. Christians should also be angry when adults do not show children any love.
Verse 15 Children are very pleased to receive a gift. People cannot cause God to forgive them by things that they do. They must accept it as a gift. Children trust people and accept their authority. People should trust God in the same way and obey his authority as their king.
Verse 16 Jesus took young children in his arms and he blessed them. That is one reason why Christians began to *baptise young children. But many Christians believe that this incident is not at all about *baptism. Jesus blessed the children. That is a sign of the joy that members of God’s *kingdom can have.
1 A rich man refuses to follow Jesus, verses 17-22.
2 Jesus explains the danger of wealth to his *disciples, verses 23-27.
3 Jesus teaches his *disciples about rewards, verses 28-31.
Verse 17 Mark wrote that Jesus was on a ‘journey’. He probably meant the journey that ended in Jerusalem. Matthew describes the man as ‘young’ (Matthew 19:20). Luke says that he was a ‘ruler’ (Luke 18:18). Mark says that he was ‘very rich’ (verse 22). The rich young ruler wanted to know how he could enter the *kingdom. He thought that he must do something good.
Verse 18 He had called Jesus ‘good’. Jesus asked him whether he meant it. The word ‘good’ belonged to God alone. Jesus was not saying that he himself was not good. He was asking the man a question. Would he accept Jesus’ reply as if it came from God himself?
Verse 19 The *commandments were the last six of the Ten *Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17). They refer to a person’s relationship to society. The sixth one, ‘Do not cheat’, takes the place of ‘Do not feel jealous of your neighbour’s possessions’. A person might have such a strong desire for other people’s things that he would cheat to obtain them. Jesus did not mention the first *commandment, ‘You must have no other gods before me.’
Verse 20 The man believed that he had always kept these *commandments. He was a citizen who obeyed the law. He had never done anything wrong to other people. We should not do wrong things. But goodness is more than that. He could have been generous with his money. That would have helped other people. But he had not done that. And he had forgotten the first *commandment. His first duty was to be loyal to God.
Verse 21 Jesus was honest. The man’s wealth was preventing him from living his life as God intended. And Jesus knew that. ‘You cannot serve God and money’ (Matthew 6:24). So Jesus told him to sell his possessions and to give the money to poor people. Then he could be a friend of God. ‘*Eternal life’ begins on earth and it continues in heaven. Jesus invited the man to follow him.
Verse 22 The man had asked Jesus what he should ‘do’ to enter the *kingdom. But nobody can ‘earn’ *eternal life. It is a gift from God. The man’s possessions were so important to him that he could not follow Jesus. So he could not receive that gift. He gave up the true happiness of *eternal life for the temporary pleasures of wealth. He went away sad and disappointed.
Verse 23 The *disciples were astonished at what Jesus said. Many people believe that wealth is a reward from God for good people. And many people believed it then. But Jesus knew the danger of many possessions. They make a person think too much about this world. He then forgets the life of heaven. There are many things of value that money cannot buy. But a person may forget that. There is the *temptation to use wealth in a selfish way. Someone may think that his wealth makes him important. Then he may become proud.
Verse 25 What Jesus said about the camel is very funny. So it would make people laugh. Then they would remember it. Some writers try to make it sound more sensible. They suggest that a camel with a big load could not get through a narrow gate into a city. So a man with a ‘load’ of possessions could not enter the *kingdom. Other writers suggest that the word for ‘camel’ and the word for a ‘thick string’ are similar. But there are similar words about an elephant in a *Jewish book. So Jesus was using words that might have been familiar.
Verse 26 The *disciples thought, ‘If the rich people cannot enter the *kingdom, it would be very difficult for anyone else.’
Verse 27 It is impossible for anyone to *save himself by his own efforts. God *saves us by a gift from himself. The man who trusts in his possessions cannot receive the gift. He must trust in God’s love. To accept God’s love makes his entry into the *kingdom possible.
Verse 28 Peter thought that he and the other *disciples were not like the rich young man. That man had refused to follow Jesus. But they had left their homes and families in order to follow him.
Verse 29 Peter was perhaps thinking about an equal reward for an equal service. But even in this life, a *disciple receives rewards far greater than anything that he has given up. He will become part of the much greater Christian family, the family of God (Ephesians 2:19). Those who obey God are Jesus’ ‘mother and sisters and brothers’ (3:31-35). Jesus had already said that. For example, this was true about Paul. He left his home in Tarsus. But he gained friends wherever he travelled. He wrote about the mother of Rufus as his own ‘mother’ (Romans 16:13).
At the time when Mark wrote his *Gospel, Christians were already suffering for their *faith. Their reward would not be complete on earth. But the *disciples would be able to continue their friendship with God beyond death.
Verse 31 Jesus used these words on other occasions. He was warning people but he was also giving a promise. God does not think about a person in the same way as men and women think about other people and themselves. ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts’, says the *Lord (Isaiah 55:8). People whom other people value for their wealth or important place in society may be of less importance in heaven. God will give honour to those whom the world considers of little value.
Verse 32 Jesus had made the lonely and brave decision to go to Jerusalem. He was ahead of his *disciples on the road. He was also ‘ahead of them’ in what he understood. Mark seems to speak about two groups of people, the *disciples and the other people who followed. Jesus had just talked to them about suffering. So they were afraid that something terrible was going to happen in Jerusalem.
Verses 33-34 Jesus describes in more detail what would happen to him. Mark knew that these things had happened to Jesus. The *Jews counted part of a day as a whole day. Jesus died on a Friday and he rose on a Sunday. So Jesus would rise ‘three’ days later.
Verse 35 James and John did not understand Jesus’ words about how he must suffer. They showed that by what they said. Immediately afterwards they came with their request. Matthew says that it was their mother, Salome, who asked (Matthew 20:20-23). She agreed with her sons’ ambitions. They wanted the chief places in Jesus’ *kingdom. They were confident that he would rule as a king. But they were still thinking about a political *Messiah. This man would defeat the *Romans and then he would establish a political *kingdom. They thought that they had the first claim to receive the most important places. With Peter, they had been with Jesus on two special occasions. They saw him raise Jairus’s daughter. They were there on the mountain when Jesus’ face and clothes became bright. They may also have thought that Jesus should give them honour because they were his relatives. Their mother Salome was probably the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25). So they would have been cousins of Jesus.
Verse 38 ‘A cup’ was *Jewish picture language for an experience that God gave to men. It might be a sad experience. Or it might be a happy one, as in Psalm 23:5 (‘my cup is completely full. So what is in it pours out’). Wicked people had to ‘drink the cup’ of God’s anger (Psalm 75:8). For Jesus, it meant the experience of pain and death.
‘*Baptism’ did not mean the same as what John did. It meant a terrible experience. Jesus would feel like a man who was drowning in pain and death. It would be like that of the writer who felt despair. He wrote, ‘All your waves have gone over me’ (Psalm 42:7).
Verse 39 James and John did not really expect that Jesus or they themselves would have to suffer. They said, ‘We can.’ But they ran away when the soldiers arrested him. But after Jesus’ *resurrection and the beginning of the Christian church, they did suffer. Herod Agrippa killed James (Acts 12:2). John probably lived to a great age and he may have died a natural death. But he suffered. He may have had to live on the island called Patmos because of his *faith (Revelation 1:9). Most Christians think that this John was the same man. Some Christians believe that he was another man.
Verse 40 Jesus said that final decisions belong to God. He did not think that he was unable to make decisions. But while he lived a human life, he did not claim his rights as God. He always obeyed his Father’s wishes.
Verse 41 The other *disciples were angry and jealous. They were no better than James and John. They considered themselves as important.
Verses 42-43 Jesus had to teach them what real greatness is. A person is not ‘great’ just because he has power and authority. However, people in the world do think that. But in Jesus’ *kingdom, the ‘great’ person is the person who is a servant.
Verse 44 The word for servant in verse 43 is ‘diakonos’. But here the word is ‘doulos’, which means a ‘slave’. Paul called himself a ‘slave of Jesus Christ’ (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1). He said that he had made himself a ‘slave to everyone’ (1 Corinthians 9:19).
Verse 45 Jesus himself came into the world as a servant. His whole life was an example of service. He showed this to his *disciples at the Last Supper. He did the work of a slave when he washed their feet (John 13:1-16).
Jesus came in order to give his life. He was willing to die so that he could make people free from *sin. The word ‘price’ shows that it was at the great cost of pain and death for himself. He wanted to set all people free.
Verse 46 Jericho is about 15 miles from Jerusalem. So Jesus was on the last part of his journey. The crowd would be people who were going up to Jerusalem for the *Passover. Mark knew the blind man’s name, perhaps because he became well-known among the *disciples of Jesus.
Verse 47 Bartimaeus used the words ‘Son of David’. It was one of the names of the *Messiah. It meant someone in the family of David. He would be a great king like David and he would defeat the *Jews’ enemies. Bartimaeus may not have understood what kind of *Messiah Jesus was. But he had the *faith to call out for Jesus’ help.
Verse 48 The people told him to stop. They wanted to listen to Jesus, and Bartimaeus was a nuisance. Some people may have been anxious about the words ‘Son of David’. If any *Romans had understood that title, there might have been trouble.
Verse 49 Jesus stopped because he was always willing to help someone in need.
Verse 50 Bartimaeus was so eager to get to Jesus that he threw his coat aside. He may have had it on the ground for people to put money in. Many *disciples had left their businesses to follow Jesus. Bartimaeus left his coat in order to go to Jesus.
Verse 51 Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted. Jesus knew what he needed. But he wanted Bartimaeus to ask for it himself. God knows our needs, but he wants us to tell him about them (Philippians 4:6).
Verse 52 The *Greek word that we have translated ‘made you well’ can mean ‘saved you’. Or it can mean ‘made you whole’. Jesus cured the man’s eyes, but he cured him *spiritually as well. Bartimaeus continued to show *faith in Jesus because he became a *disciple.
The story of Bartimaeus is like a picture. Jesus helped him to see. Jesus helps those who have *faith to ‘see’ the truth.
A new part of Mark’s *Gospel begins here. Jesus enters Jerusalem as the *Messiah. He teaches in the *Temple and he argues with the *religious authorities.
Verse 1 Bethphage and Bethany were two villages near each other on the slope of the *Mount of *Olives. Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem. It was the village where Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived. They were friends of Jesus.
Verses 2-3 We think that Jesus made arrangements about the *donkey some time before. We know from John’s *Gospel that he made more than one visit to Jerusalem. Jesus spoke about ‘how often’ he would have gathered the people of Jerusalem to himself (Matthew 23:37). ‘The *Lord needs it’ was the special sign to the owner that Jesus’ *disciples were not stealing the animal.
A *donkey was the animal that a king used. That is why Jesus chose to ride on one. When a king went to war, he rode on a horse. A *donkey showed that the king came in peace. Jesus made the words of Zechariah (9:9) come true. ‘Your king comes to you - - -. He is riding on a *donkey.’ Because the young *donkey had never carried anyone before, it was suitable for a holy purpose. It was like a young cow that had to be perfect for a *sacrifice (Numbers 19:2).
Verses 7-8 The crowd were probably following a custom when they spread their clothes on the road. John’s *Gospel says that they carried ‘palm’ branches (John 12:13). (A palm is a kind of tree.) So Christians call the day Palm Sunday.
Verses 9-10 ‘Hosanna’ is a word to praise God. It means ‘Please save us now’. It would be an appeal to God to save his people from their enemies. The word comes from Psalm 118:25. ‘*Blessed is the man who comes’ was a welcome for people who were coming to a special day in Jerusalem. ‘The man who comes’ was also another name for the *Messiah. The crowd was not shouting ‘Hosanna’ only as a cry of praise. They were asking God to save his people from the *Romans now that their *Messiah had come. Jesus showed that he rode in peace. But they did not understand.
Verse 11 Jesus rode down the *Mount of *Olives. He crossed the Kidron valley and he went into Jerusalem. He looked round at everything in the *Temple. He was deciding what to do there next. But he went to Bethany, where he probably stayed with his friends. He could be quiet and he could gain strength from God. His friends would encourage him.
The account of the *fig tree is in two parts. The account of Jesus’ action in the *Temple comes in between the parts. There is an important link with what happened to the *fig tree. And Mark shows us that.
Verse 12 Jesus was a real man, who became hungry.
Verse 13 There is a difficulty in the words ‘It was not the season for *figs.’ It does not seem right that Jesus should blame the tree for having no fruit then. But a *fig tree was a way to speak about the nation of the *Jewish people.
‘When I saw your fathers, they were like a *fig tree with its early fruit on it’ (Hosea 9:10). There is a *parable in Luke 13:6-9. It is about a *fig tree. The owner gave the tree a last chance to yield fruit. Jesus warned people that they needed to *repent. Then he told that *parable afterwards. It is probable that Mark’s story is an acted *parable. The fruit is like a picture of the *obedience that the *Jewish people should have shown to God. The leaves are like a picture of their religion. Their religion gave a false hope. The *Jews had many *religious rules and ceremonies as the tree had many leaves. As Jesus looked in vain for *figs, God looked in vain for good behaviour and sincere *worship. The *Jews should have shown that they were ready to give a welcome to their *Messiah.
Verse 14 Jesus was warning the people very seriously. They were obeying the traditions and rules of their religion. But they were not changing their behaviour. They were not doing the things that God wanted them to do. They were not really serving God. And they were refusing to accept the *Messiah whom God had sent.
Jesus used the *fig tree as a type of *prophecy. He was showing what would happen in the future. Soon, the *Jewish people would suffer greatly. There would be great troubles for them when the *Romans destroyed Jerusalem in *AD 70. So, it was very important for the *Jewish people to trust God now.
The story that follows is about Jesus in the *Temple. And it shows how the *religious leaders wanted to get money from people. They would not allow *Gentiles the opportunity to pray. Their religion was a matter of ceremonies only and it made no difference to their way of life. They did not produce the ‘fruit’ of a good and sincere *faith.
Verse 15 The outer court was the only part of the *Temple where *Gentiles could go to pray. There was a wall that prevented them from entering the *Jewish part. They would risk their lives if they tried to pass it. But this ‘Court of the *Gentiles’ had become more like a market place. The *Jews paid a tax of a certain amount of money to the *Temple each year. But it had to be in special coins and not coins from other countries. The people who were changing the money were charging too much. People could buy birds for *sacrifice in Jerusalem. But the priests claimed that people could buy perfect birds in the *Temple and nowhere else. So they charged high prices for them. The priests were responsible for all this trade. And the priests were even using God’s holy *Temple as a place where they cheated people.
Verse 16 People were also using the court as a short way from one side of the city to another. They were carrying their goods through it as if it were a public road.
Verse 17 Jesus used words from Isaiah (56:7). They showed that the *Jews were not allowing *Gentiles to *worship in God’s ‘house’. He also spoke Jeremiah’s words (Jeremiah 7:11). They describe wicked people who came to the *Temple to *worship.
Verse 18 The *religious leaders realised that Jesus had become a danger to their authority. He had also disturbed their ways to get money. What Jesus taught astonished many people. So the authorities had to find a way to kill Jesus. But they wanted a way that would not cause trouble from the crowd.
Verse 19 It is possible that Jesus and his *disciples returned to Bethany for the night.
Verse 21 Peter said that Jesus had ‘*cursed’ the tree. Nobody would eat fruit from the tree again. For three years, Jesus had taught the people about God. But now that time was ending. If they refused to believe God’s message, they would not avoid God’s punishment.
Many people who listened to Jesus never really believed his message. They had their own religion, but they would not serve God. Jesus had warned them many times about such attitudes. ‘Not everyone who says to me “*Lord, *Lord”, shall enter the *kingdom of heaven. It is only he who does the will of my Father in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21).
Verse 22 These words about *faith may have been a suitable end to the account of the *fig tree. Jesus knew that the *fig tree would die. The *disciples must continue to trust God whatever happened.
Verses 23-24 Jesus may have pointed to the *Mount of *Olives as he said ‘this’ mountain. It would have made his words easy to remember. The ‘mountain’ is picture language for any kind of difficulty that seems impossible to remove. Matthew has similar words (17:20), but they are in a different place in his *Gospel. The ‘mountain’ can be a personal difficulty or even a difficulty between nations.
Jesus said that the answer to prayer depended on *faith. There must be complete confidence that God will answer. ‘Anything’ would not include a selfish or foolish prayer.
Verse 25 *Jews usually stood in order to pray.
Mark shows that he knew the words of the *Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4). It is essential to forgive other people. God is Love. We might approach God in prayer with a *spirit that is not willing to show love. But that is of no use. There can be no real communication between God and a man who does not forgive. That is because God does forgive. We do not deserve that God should forgive us. So we must forgive other people when they do not deserve it.
[Verse 26] is probably a copy of Matthew 6:15. Modern translations of Mark’s *Gospel usually leave it out.
Verse 27 The chief priests, *scribes and other leaders were members of the *Sanhedrin, the *Jewish ruling group.
Verse 28 They intended to test Jesus with this question. He had cleared the Court of the *Gentiles of the merchants and of those who changed money. They wanted to know whose authority he had for that. Maybe Jesus would say that his authority came from God. Then they could say that he was insulting God. They would say that God would never allow a man to turn over anything in the *Temple. Maybe Jesus would say that he was acting on his own authority. Then he might lose public support. The *Sanhedrin could stop him from teaching in the *Temple courts without their authority.
Verses 29-30 Jesus did not give them an immediate answer. He asked a question about the authority of John the *Baptist to do his work.
Verse 31 Jesus had asked a question that the *religious leaders could not answer. They could not say that John was a genuine *prophet. Because then Jesus could ask them why they had not believed John.
Verse 32 They were afraid to say that John acted on his own authority. The crowd who were listening might have caused trouble. People had believed that John was a *prophet. So the *religious leaders could not answer.
Verse 33 Jesus said that they had refused to answer his question. So, he would not answer theirs. John the *Baptist had prepared the way for Jesus and John pointed to him as the *Messiah. But the authorities refused to believe John. So, it was of no use for Jesus to declare his own authority.
Verse 1 A *parable usually has only one main teaching point. But this story has several points. Writers call this story an ‘allegory’. An allegory is a story in which each part contains a separate lesson.
A *vineyard was picture language for the *Jewish nation. Isaiah had used this picture in his ‘Song about the *Vineyard’ (Isaiah 5:1-7). Jesus described the care that the owner had taken. There was a hedge to keep out wild animals. The tower was a small building where the workers stored the wine. At harvest time, the workers would look out from the platform in order to guard the crop from thieves. The *grape juice flowed into the large hole after the workers had pressed the *grapes with their feet. God was like the owner of the *vineyard. He had done everything necessary to protect the *Jewish nation. They should have been a nation that produced the ‘fruit’ of good lives.
In Jesus’ time, there were often owners who went away. They left their *vineyards in the care of *tenants. The *tenants would pay the owner rent, either in money or in a share of the crop. The *Jewish leaders were like the *tenants. God had trusted them to obey him. They should have given him the ‘fruit’ of good lives.
Verses 2-5 The slaves who went to collect the harvest were like the *prophets. God had sent them on many occasions to demand sincere *worship. The rulers of the *Jewish nation had refused to respect the *prophets. They insulted Amos (Amos 7:12). They made fun of Jeremiah. They struck him and they put him in prison (Jeremiah 20:7; 37:15). They killed Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20-21). God showed great patience when he sent the *prophets. He gave the *Jewish people every opportunity to do what was right.
Verse 6 In the end, God sent ‘his son, whom he loved’. God used these words about Jesus when John the *Baptist *baptised him (Mark 1:11). They show that Jesus was the *Messiah. In the *parable, the *tenants murdered the son. So, Jesus knew what was going to happen to him.
Verses 7-9 The *tenants believed that the owner was far away or even dead. But the owner returned to punish them. Many people still think that they are free to act against God. But God knows what they are doing. They forget that. God is very patient, but one day he will act in judgement.
God would be the judge of the people who refused to obey his message. They would receive their punishment. And God would choose other people to serve him. They would come from every nation. And God would make these people into his holy nation. They would become his royal priests (1 Peter 2:9).
Verses 10-11 Jesus used words from Psalm 118:22. Jesus was like the stone. The *Jewish leaders were like the builders. At first, they thought that the stone had no value. But it became the most important stone in the building. This might be the stone that united two parts at the top of the building. Or it was a corner stone. A corner stone unites two walls at the base of the building in order to give it a strong foundation. Many *Jewish leaders refused to accept Jesus. But he became the strong foundation of the Christian church. Other early Christian writers also used these words from Psalm 118 (Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7; Ephesians 2:20).
Verse 12 The *religious leaders realised that Jesus had told this story about them. They were the ‘wicked *tenants’. They wanted to arrest Jesus, but they were too afraid of the crowd. They were afraid for their own safety. And if the crowd tried to prevent them from arresting Jesus, they might disturb the peace. Then there would be trouble from the *Romans.
Verse 13 The *Pharisees and the *Herodians had already united in order to plot against Jesus (Mark 3:6). The *Pharisees considered the *Romans enemies. The *Herodians were a group with political ambitions, so they were friendly with the *Romans.
Verse 14 They began by praising Jesus, although they did not really respect him. But what they said about Jesus was true. He did not change his views in order to gain support. He was sincere in everything that he said.
The tax that they asked about was a tax on each person. Everyone had to pay a personal tax of one denarius to the great ruler in Rome every year. A denarius was a man’s wage for a day. The *Jews hated it because they were not a free nation. They had to pay the tax with a silver coin. The coin had the name of the great ruler in Rome on it. When this tax began in *AD 6, the *Jews were extremely angry. Judas from Galilee led *Jews to fight against the tax (Acts 5:37). Although the *Romans soon stopped his resistance, the Eager Men continued to plot against the *Romans. (See the note about Mark 3:18.)
The question was like a clever trap. Jesus might say that *Jews should pay the tax. Then, he would lose his popularity. People would think that he was not being loyal to his own nation. Jesus might say that they should not pay. Then, he would be in trouble with the *Romans.
Verse 16 Jesus did not have a coin himself, but the *Pharisees and *Herodians produced one. Tiberius Caesar was the great ruler in Rome at that time. His image and his name were on the silver coin with which the *Jews had to pay the tax.
Verse 17 They had asked whether they should ‘pay’ taxes to Caesar. Jesus told them to ‘pay back’ what belonged to Caesar. Taxes were not a gift to the state. They were a debt that they owed. The coin belonged to Caesar, from whom they received benefits. The *Romans made good roads. They kept peace and they made society work better. Therefore, people should be willing to pay for what the state did for them. But men belong to God because he created them (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, they should give God the honour and service that is his right. Paul said that ruling authorities have God’s authority (Romans 13:1-2). So, Christians’ duty to the state is part of their duty to God. But if the law of the state is against God’s laws, then duty to God must come first. Daniel served the king. But he refused to stop praying to God when there was a law against praying to anyone except the king (Daniel 6:6-10). Peter told the *Jewish leaders, ‘We must obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29).
Jesus showed great wisdom as he avoided the ‘trap’ in the question. And he spoke with great authority. And so he astonished everyone.
Verse 18 The *Sadducees were a powerful group in the *Jewish *Sanhedrin. Most of them were priests. The *chief priest was a *Sadducee. They were wealthy, and they did not oppose the *Romans. They agreed with only the first five books of the *Old Testament. They said that there was no evidence for life after death in these books.
They did not believe in *angels. They did not agree with the traditions of the *Pharisees.
The *Sadducees came with a question that would make people laugh at Jesus. They did not ask in order to find out the true answer to a problem.
Verses 19-23 Moses gave a law called ‘levirate’ marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). A brother or close relative had to marry a widow so that she could have children. Then the dead man’s name and family would continue if a child was born. People then thought of the child as the child of the original husband. The story that the *Sadducees told had its origin in this law.
Verse 24 Jesus said that the *Sadducees did not know the *Scriptures. They did not understand a passage in one of first five books of the *Old Testament! Jesus explained this as part of his answer to their question. They were also denying God’s power to create life.
Verse 25 Jesus said first that life in heaven would not be the same as life on earth. He said that there is no need for marriage in heaven. One of the purposes of marriage is to have children in order to continue the human race. But in heaven, men and women will be like *angels, who do not die. Friendships in heaven will be even more wonderful than those on earth. When Jesus brought *angels into his answer, he showed the *Sadducees another truth. They did not believe in *angels.
Verse 26 Jesus then used a passage from Exodus. That was a book that the *Sadducees agreed with. When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, he used the words, ‘I am’. He said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ (Exodus 3:1-6). God did not say, ‘I was’. These *ancestors of the *Jews had died a long time before Moses. But they were still alive with God. Real life is a friendship with God that nothing can end. The death of the physical body makes no difference. The friendship continues. Jesus promised his *disciples, ‘Because I live, you will live also’ (John 14:19). Paul knew that this is true. He knew that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39).
Verse 27 Jesus had proved to the *Sadducees that they were quite wrong. They were wrong to deny the belief in *resurrection. They were taking no notice of their own *Scriptures. They were denying that God is *eternal. And his love never ends.
Verse 28 The *scribe would have been pleased that Jesus had answered the *Sadducees so well. He was a teacher of the law and he did not agree with the *Sadducees’ beliefs. His question was a matter that the teachers of the law often discussed. They said that there were 365 commands about what they must not do. There were over 200 commands about what they must do.
Verses 29-30 The first command that Jesus gave him was the Shema. The Shema is still important to the *Jews today. The word ‘Shema’ means ‘Listen’, and it is the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4. This verse was so important that the *Jews wrote it on tiny pieces of paper. They fixed them in a small box on their door-posts. This was to remind them that there is one God. It reminded them when they went out. And it reminded them when they came in.
They had to love God with all their thoughts and actions.
Verse 31 The word for ‘love’ of a neighbour is the *Greek word ‘agape’. It does not mean the same as the pleasure of being with a friend. It means to want the best things for the neighbour. It means that we help neighbours. We help them, even if they do not give love in return. They may not show that they are grateful. But we still help them. The *Jews would have thought that ‘neighbour’ meant another *Jew. Jesus showed that a neighbour could be anyone. It was anyone who needed help (Luke 10:29-37). Jesus used the words of Leviticus 19:18 with the Shema. He was showing that love for a neighbour comes from love for God.
‘as you love yourselves’. We love ourselves as we look after our bodies. We love ourselves when we use our minds. We even have to forgive ourselves when God forgives us.
Verse 33 The *scribe agreed that the love of God and of neighbour was very important. It was more important than *religious ceremonies. God requires men to love and to obey him rather than to offer *sacrifices. The *prophets had emphasised that. Samuel told Saul, ‘to obey is better than to offer *sacrifice’ (1 Samuel 15:22). Hosea wrote that God says, ‘I desire love and not *sacrifice’ (Hosea 6:6).
Verse 34 Jesus encouraged the *scribe. Jesus said that he was ‘not far’ from God’s *kingdom. He had understood Jesus’ answer. He still had to make the decision to follow Jesus.
Verse 35 Jesus asked a question that was a puzzle. The ‘son of David’ was a way to describe the *Messiah. Blind Bartimaeus called to him in this way. Jesus was not denying that he came from the family of David. The *angel promised Mary that her son would be a king from David’s family (Luke 1:32). Zechariah sang about the man who would make it possible for God to *save people. He said that he would be ‘in the house of God’s servant David’ (Luke 1:69). Luke shows that Jesus came from David’s family (Luke 3:31). But Jesus wanted to show what the title ‘Son of David’ meant as a name for the *Messiah. The popular idea was that the *Messiah would be a soldier and king like David. He would defeat the *Romans and other nations and he would make the *Jewish nation an important political power.
Verse 36 Psalm 110 is one of the Psalms that David wrote. The *Jews believed that the Psalm was about the *Messiah. In verse 1, David refers to the *Messiah as his ‘*Lord’. Jesus asked how the *Messiah could be David’s son if he was David’s ‘*Lord’. He wanted to show that the *Messiah was much greater than David. God would give the *Messiah the place of honour. He would sit at ‘God’s right side’ until all his enemies suffered defeat. An enemy in Jesus’ time had to lie on the ground. Then the man who had defeated him could put his feet on the man’s neck.
Verse 37 The title ‘Son of David’ therefore means more than a military ruler. The *Messiah would be a king from the family of David. But he would be a king of peace. He would rule over people’s minds and lives.
The words about the interest of the crowd may belong at the beginning of the next section.
Verse 38 Jesus warned the people about the teachers of the law. Unless the *disciples were careful, they might copy their wrong behaviour. A long coat was the sign of an educated person who did not have to work with his hands. He could walk with no need to hurry. The teachers dressed in long coats in order to attract attention. They liked the people to greet them with honour. Perhaps the people called them ‘Rabbi’ (teacher). The word actually means ‘My great master’.
Verse 39 The front seats in the meeting place for important people were those in front of the special cupboard. That cupboard contained the *scriptures. The teachers liked these because everyone would be able to see them. At the *feasts, the places of honour were those nearest to the host.
Verse 40 A teacher of the law should have worked to feed himself. He should not ask for money for explaining the law. But the teachers persuaded the people that it was an honour to make gifts to them. God would reward them if they gave generously. They cheated widows. They persuaded them to make large gifts that the widows could not afford. Then the teachers tried to seem very *religious. They said long prayers in public. God would punish them most severely because they were proud. And they loved money. Their religion was not sincere and their example was dangerous.
The widow’s gift is very different from the gifts of the teachers of the law. They wanted to gain. The widow wanted to give.
Verse 41 In the Court of the Women in the *Temple there were 13 boxes. They were wide at the base and narrow at the top. People put money in them. And the money helped to pay for *sacrifices or other *Temple costs. Many people threw in large sums. But they had plenty of money left.
Verse 42 The widow’s two coins were ‘lepta’. A ‘lepton’ was the smallest of all coins. Its name meant ‘the thin thing’. It had a very tiny value.
Verses 43-44 Jesus told his *disciples that the widow’s gift was really very generous. It was more generous than the gifts of those who gave large amounts. They had given what they could easily afford. And they still had money to spare. She gave at great cost to herself.
Verse 1 Herod the Great began to build the *Temple in about 20 *BC. It was not complete until *AD 63. It was a magnificent building. Herod had made it out of white stone. Some of the foundation stones were enormous. Gold covered the front of the building and it reflected the sun. The *Temple was the place of *worship for *Jews from all over the world. The *Jews could not imagine that anything could happen to their *Temple. It gave them a feeling of security. The *Temple was there. So they believed that God would never leave them.
Verse 2 Jesus’ words came true in *AD 70. The *Romans destroyed Jerusalem completely. The place where the *Temple had been became no more than a field. ‘Future visitors would not believe that the city had ever been there’ (Josephus, ‘The history of the *Jewish war’).
Verse 3 To sit was the usual way for a master to teach his *disciples. From the *Mount of *Olives, there is a wonderful view across the Kidron Valley to Jerusalem city.
Verse 4 The *disciples wanted to know when Jesus’ *prophecy about the *Temple would come true. The idea that men would destroy Jerusalem was terrible. So, the *disciples may have thought that the end of the world was coming. The *Messiah will stand on the *Mount of *Olives after he has defeated all his enemies. The *prophet Zechariah wrote about that (Zechariah 14:4). They were therefore also asking about the sign of the end of the world.
Jesus gave the *disciples three signs that will happen before God’s final judgement:
1 False *Messiahs
Verses 5-6 Some people will say that they are the *Messiah. The *Greek words for ‘I am’ are the name that Jesus used for himself. ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). ‘I am’ is the name that God gave for himself (Exodus 3:14). Judas from Galilee and Theudas tried to lead people against the *Romans (Acts 5:36-37). In *AD 132, Bar Cochba called himself *Messiah. There have been other people until the present day who make false statements about their authority from God. Some false *Messiahs say that they know the time of the end of the world. Jesus says that only God knows that (Matthew 24:36).
Verses 7-8 Wars between nations will happen during all the time between Jesus’ first and second coming. But the *disciples must not be afraid. God loves them and he is in control of events. Wars will not be a sign of the immediate end.
3 *Earthquakes or a serious lack of food
Verse 8 Less than 40 years after Jesus’ *prophecy, an *earthquake destroyed Laodicea. In *AD 62, *Mount Vesuvius in Italy threw out hot melted rock that buried Pompeii. The Christians for whom Mark was writing would know about this. There was a serious lack of food in the time when Claudius was the great ruler in Rome (Acts 11:28).
*Jews used picture language of a woman in pain because she was beginning to give birth to a new life. It was the sign of the troubles for the *Jewish nation that would bring about a new beginning (Micah 4:9-10).
All these signs would come before the end of the world. They were not the end itself. Paul had to warn the Christians in Thessalonica to do their work. Some were neglecting their duties. They expected that Jesus would return very soon. Some even said that he had already come (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
These verses describe the trouble from enemies that Jesus’ *disciples must expect. But Jesus encourages them by promises of God’s help and protection.
Verse 9 The ‘courts’ and *Jewish meeting places refer to trouble from the *Jews. The *Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was the chief court. But the *Jewish meeting places were also courts of law. They could whip a man if they had shown him to be guilty in such a court. ‘Rulers and kings’ refers to trouble from *Gentiles. In such situations, the *disciples would have the opportunity to talk about their *faith in Jesus. Peter spoke with courage to the *Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1-13). Paul stood in front of Felix and Festus (Acts chapters 23-25). In Rome, he spoke about Christ to the soldiers who guarded him (Philippians 1:12-13).
Verse 10 They must make sure that as many people as possible hear the *gospel. They must include everyone, *Gentiles as well as *Jews. The end will not come until they have completed their task.
Verse 11 They must not worry when they have to stand in court. The *Holy Spirit will give them the right words to say.
Verse 12 To be loyal to Jesus can cause disagreements in a family. Jesus had warned about that (Luke 12:51-53). Trouble can come even from close relatives. ‘Brothers’ can mean brothers by birth or close relatives. To be loyal to Jesus might cause pain and troubles. Some *disciples would suffer death for their *faith. In the early church, the *Jews killed Stephen. Herod Antipas made his soldiers kill James the brother of John (Acts 7:54-60; 12:2). In many parts of the world today, Christians suffer trouble from enemies. Authorities put them in prison and even kill them.
Verse 13 People hated Christ. Therefore, they will hate those who obey him (John 15:18-19). There was a reason why Jesus emphasised this. Some *Jews believed that God always helped good people to avoid pain and troubles. Some people today think that Christians should not have any problems. But it is not true. Christians will not always be healthy and successful. Christians suffer difficulties in the same way as other people who do not obey God. And they suffer for their *faith as well.
But everything that happens is in God’s control. This knowledge should encourage Jesus’ *disciples to remain loyal. ‘To the end’ has three possible meanings:
1 ‘Until God has finished his work on earth’. Some Christians will still be alive when Jesus returns (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
2 ‘Until the end of life from natural causes’.
3 ‘Until other people may even kill Christians’.
God will give a welcome into his *eternal *kingdom to those people who remain loyal (Revelation 2:10).
Verse 14 ‘The awful thing that causes disgust’ are words from the book of Daniel (9:27). In 168 *BC, the *Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes defeated the *Jews. He then put a *Greek *altar in the *Temple in Jerusalem. He put an image of Zeus, the chief *Greek god, in the Holy Place. In *AD 40, the mad ruler Caligula planned to put an image of himself in the *Temple. Fortunately, he died in *AD 41, before he could carry out his plan. When Titus destroyed the *Temple in *AD 70, the *Roman soldiers put their military flags there.
Jesus may have meant any future time when people will be completely loyal to anyone or anything other than God. The *Jews expected a power that was completely evil. Paul called this power ‘the man of *sin’. This ‘man of *sin’ would set himself up in God’s *temple and he would demand *worship (2 Thessalonians 2:2-4).
‘The reader should understand what this means’. Perhaps Jesus meant when Jerusalem and its *Temple would be destroyed by the *Romans. Mark may have believed that, anyway. Perhaps this is why he did not explain clearly. It might have been dangerous for the Christians to speak about such an idea. They were already suffering because of their *faith.
Because of what Jesus had said, Christians left Jerusalem. The writer Eusebius says that they went to Pella. Pella was a city on the other side of the River Jordan. Other people crowded into the city at Jerusalem. They thought that its strong walls and its *Temple would protect them from the *Romans. But, in *AD 70, Titus camped outside the city for five months. He waited for the people to starve to death. The *Jewish writer Josephus described the terrible troubles of all those people in the city who could not get food.
Verses 15-16 When the first signs of trouble came, people must hurry to escape. They must not wait to collect their goods from the house. They must not return from the fields to collect a coat. This reminds us about Lot’s wife. When she looked back, she died (Genesis 19:26).
Verse 17 Jesus thought especially about the troubles of mothers with tiny babies and with children who were not yet born. It would be very hard for mothers to watch their babies die of hunger.
Verse 18 People who were trying to escape in the winter would find very little shelter from the weather. Food would be difficult to find. The river bottoms that dried up in the summer would be full of water. They would not be able to cross over them.
Verse 19 These words come from the book of Daniel (12:1). They were true of the terrible troubles when the *Romans destroyed Jerusalem. Thousands of people died and the *Romans took thousands more as prisoners into other countries.
But these words also refer to a time of great troubles before the ‘last days’.
Verse 20 The words may refer to when the *Romans destroyed Jerusalem in *AD 70. Or they may refer to the end of the world. But they mean the same. God will make the time of trouble shorter because he controls events in the world. He will not allow anyone to destroy the people whom he has chosen. ‘The people whom God has chosen’ were the *Jews. But the members of the Christian church are now ‘the people whom God has chosen’ as well.
Verses 21-22 Jesus warns the *disciples about false *prophets who could even perform signs and *miracles (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). ‘False *Christs’ perhaps means those who oppose Christ. False *Christs can also mean those who claim to be Christians. But they teach wrong things to *disciples. They would teach them to do wrong things. John writes about ‘many false *Christs’ (1 John 2:18).
Verse 23 Jesus had already warned his disciples (Mark 13:5). Now he repeated what he had said to them. They would have greater strength to oppose false ideas because Jesus had prepared them. And they would have greater strength to suffer troubles
Verses 24-25 The *Old Testament *prophets often spoke about signs in the sky that would come before God’s judgement day. There will be darkness because there will be no light from the sun, moon or stars (Isaiah 13:10; 34:4). ‘The powers of the sky’ means the sun, moon and stars. Something like an *earthquake will disturb them from their natural places.
Verse 26 Daniel wrote, ‘Someone who looked like a son of man came in the clouds of the sky’ (Daniel 7:13). Jesus spoke about his second coming in words like these. A ‘cloud’ is a sign that God is there (Exodus 13:21, Mark 9:7). The great honour and beauty with which Jesus will come is the great honour and beauty of God the Father.
Verse 28 They know that summer is near when the leaves begin to appear on the *fig tree. To sit under a *fig tree was a sign of peace when the *Messiah came (Micah 4:4).
Verse 29 The words ‘these things’ probably refer to the signs in the sky (verses 24-25). They will know that the *Lord will return very soon.
Verse 30 Many of Jesus’ *disciples believed that Jesus would return during their life. Paul had to tell the Christians at Thessalonica to carry on their normal lives while they waited (1 Thessalonians 4:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12). In one way, Jesus did return very soon when he came at *Pentecost. He had promised his *disciples that he would not leave them without comfort (John 14:18). But the time when Jesus will return is still future. ‘People now alive’ may refer to the *Jews. If so, Jesus was saying that there would always be *Jews. But Jesus may have meant the kind of people who would be loyal to him. Then he was saying, ‘There will always be people who really believe.’
Verse 31 Everything will pass away. But what Jesus taught is always true. It is important for everyone, wherever they live or whatever their age. Heaven and earth may be of no more use, like clothing that has worn out. But God never changes (James 1:17). Jesus, too, is always the same (Hebrews 1:10-12; 13:8).
Verse 32 Only God the Father knows the exact time when the Son of Man will come again. Jesus was God’s Son, but, as a man, he himself did not know. Some people say that he will appear on a certain date. Or, they say that the world will end on a certain date. Those people are wrong, because nobody can know that.
Verse 33 Jesus warns his *disciples to be prepared.
Verse 34 He is like a man who has gone on a journey. But the man has not said quite when he would return. Like the servants in Jesus’ story, each *disciple has his work to do. They are like the servants in the *parable about the three servants (Matthew 25:14-30).
Verses 35-37 Jesus may come at any time of day or night. He therefore emphasises the need to keep awake and ready. He will come suddenly. Jesus was not only warning the *disciples. He was warning everyone.
Verse 1 The *Passover is a *feast. At that time, *Jews remember how God, by means of Moses, rescued the *Jewish people. He rescued them from Egypt, where they were slaves. It was on the 14th of the month of Nisan, which is about the middle of April. The *feast of *unleavened bread was once an agricultural *feast, when the barley harvest began. (Barley was a kind of corn.) But because it was from 15th-21st Nisan, the two *feasts joined to become one great *feast. *Jews came from all over the world to Jerusalem. The *Jewish writer Josephus estimated that as many as three million *Jews would be in the city for the *feast. Soldiers came from where they lived in Caesarea. They came in order to make sure that there was no trouble from an excited crowd. There were people who wanted freedom from Rome. It would be easy for them to begin to disturb the peace.
Verse 2 If the priests arrested Jesus in public, the crowd would be on his side. There would be trouble, and the *Romans would punish them. They might take away the power of the *Jewish leaders.
Verse 3 Simon would probably not have shared a meal if he still had a skin disease. Maybe he had recovered. Or perhaps Mark knew that he became ill later. Or perhaps it was in Simon’s house but he was not there. Mark does not say who the woman was. John says that it was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 12:1-3). It was usual for a host to pour a few drops of *perfume on the head of his guests. This woman had a special jar that contained very expensive *perfume. This pure *perfume came from India. She broke the jar. She did so as a sign that she was using all the *perfume. She wanted to show her love by giving as much as possible. Also, people who *anointed the body of a dead person left the broken pieces of jar in the rock grave.
Verses 4-5 The people who were there estimated the value of the *perfume as more than 300 denarii. A denarius was a coin that paid a man’s wages for a day. So, she was probably ‘wasting’ more than the wages for one year.
Verses 6-7 Jesus answered them with words from Deuteronomy (15:11). ‘You will always have poor people with you.’ They had plenty of opportunity to help poor people. But they did not have much more time to do anything for Jesus. Jesus did not mean that poor people must always be poor. Christians should work to remove the things that make people poor. And they should give generous help to those who are already poor.
Jesus said that the woman had done a good thing.
Verse 8 The *Jews *anointed kings. Samuel *anointed David (1 Samuel 16:13). Elisha sent a young man to *anoint Jehu (2 Kings 9:6). The word ‘*Messiah’ means ‘the *anointed man’. So the woman had shown by her action that Jesus was the *Messiah. He was the king that the *Jews had hoped for.
Jesus said that she had *anointed him before his *burial. Some women came to his grave in order to *anoint his body. But they could not do so. He had already risen from death (Mark 16:1-6).
Verse 9 Jesus knew that his *disciples would *preach the *gospel through the whole world. What the woman had done was good news in itself. She had shown that Jesus was king. He would be a king who would die. Her action also reminded Christians of the *resurrection that prevented the women from *anointing his body.
Verses 1-2 and 10-11 record the priests’ wish to kill Jesus and Judas’s plan to help them. The story of the woman who *anointed Jesus comes in between. Mark contrasts the generous love of the woman with the hate of Jesus’ enemies.
Verses 10-11 ‘One of the 12’ emphasises how wicked Judas’s action was. He should have been loyal to the Master who had chosen him specially. Jesus trusted him as a friend. Nobody knows why Judas agreed to help the priests. He would tell them where they could find Jesus away from the crowds.
Possible reasons why Judas agreed to help the priests are:
1 He may have wanted a lot of money. John says that Judas was in charge of the *disciples’ money. He used to steal small amounts for himself (John 12:6). Thirty (30) pieces of silver was not a large sum of money. But Judas may have expected a larger reward. He asked the priests what they would give him. (See Matthew 26:15.)
2 His name ‘Iscariot’ may mean ‘man from Kerioth’. Kerioth was in Judea. So, he was the only *apostle who did not come from Galilee. He was perhaps jealous of Peter, James and John. Only these three men had been with Jesus on some special occasions. Perhaps Judas thought that he deserved more honour. But Jesus had not given it to him.
3 He may have belonged to the ‘Eager Men’. They wanted to free the nation from *Roman rule by force. Judas was disappointed that Jesus was not going to establish a political *kingdom on earth. He was hoping for an important place in that *kingdom. His selfish ambition made him turn against Jesus. Perhaps he wanted to cause a situation that would force Jesus to show his power. Judas thought that he knew what Jesus should do. He thought that he knew better than Jesus.
4 Judas could see that soon Jesus would be in serious trouble. So he helped the priests in order to protect himself.
Verse 12 The first day of the *Feast of *Unleavened bread was on the 14th of the month called Nisan. *Jews had to remove every sign of *yeast from their houses. This was because the *Jews escaped from Egypt in a great hurry. They had no time to make bread with *yeast in it (Exodus 12:15-19). *Yeast makes bread rise. They killed the young sheep on 13th Nisan. A new *Jewish day began at 6 in the evening, after sunset. So 14th Nisan began at 6 in the evening on the 13th Nisan.
Verse 13 A man who was carrying a jar of water would be unusual. People who carried water had skin bottles. Women carried jars of water on their heads.
Verse 14 Jesus had made arrangements already. He probably wanted to prevent the authorities and Judas from knowing the place. He calls the room ‘my’ guest room.
Verse 15 An upstairs room would be suitable, because they could reach it by an outside stone staircase. We do not know the name of the owner. But the house may have belonged to Mary, the mother of John Mark. Her house was a meeting place for the *disciples after the *resurrection (Acts 12:12).
Verse 16 The *disciples were going to prepare the *Passover meal. They would need a young sheep that they had cooked in an oven. The young sheep reminded them of the young sheep that the people killed in Egypt. Its blood on the door-posts of the *Jews’ houses made the ‘*angel of death’ pass over. Therefore their first-born sons remained alive (Exodus 12:3-8). Special leaves that tasted bitter were necessary. These leaves reminded them how bitter their life had been as slaves in Egypt. They also had a mixture of fruit and nuts called ‘Charosheth’. This mixture was to remind them of the earth from which they had made bricks. Wine at different times in the meal was to remind them of the four promises that God had made (Exodus 6:6-7). ‘I will bring you out. I will free you from being slaves. I will pay the price for you. I will take you for my people.’
Verse 18 To share a meal was a sign of friendship. To hand a friend over to his enemies is especially wicked. Jesus was probably thinking about the words of Psalm 41:9. ‘Even my close friend has turned against me. He was the man that I trusted. He shared my food.’
Verse 19 The *disciples did not suspect Judas. Their question to Jesus meant, ‘I am sure that you cannot mean me.’ They did not expect Jesus to say which *disciple he meant.
Verses 20-21 The words ‘one of the 12 *disciples’ emphasise again that Judas should have been a loyal friend. There was a dish that contained a mixture of fruit and nuts. People usually put their bread into it in order to eat it.
Jesus’ words were a last appeal to Judas to change his mind. Jesus was also warning him. The fate of the man who handed him over would be terrible. Jesus could have stopped Judas. If the other *disciples knew, they would have acted at once. They might even have killed Judas. But Jesus knew that his death on the *cross was in the plan of God. However, Judas was responsible for his actions. Nobody forced him to hand Jesus over to his enemies. Jesus knew what Judas planned. But that did not make Judas carry out his plan. To know that something will happen does not make it happen.
Verse 22 Jesus probably used the words of thanks that the head of a family would use before a meal. ‘Thanks be to you, *Lord our God, King of the World, who brings food from the earth.’ He broke the bread as a picture of the fact that he was going to give his life for them. He told them to ‘take it’. They were free to accept what Jesus would do for them by his death. God would forgive them because Jesus died.
Verse 23 They all drank from the same cup of wine as a sign of their unity. There were four cups of wine at the *Passover meal. Jesus probably used the last one, at the end of the meal. Paul says that Jesus took the cup ‘after supper’ (1 Corinthians 11:25).
Verse 24 Jesus said that the wine was the sign of his blood. He also said that he would pour it out. The old agreement was between God and the *Jewish nation. The *Jewish people had to obey God’s laws (Exodus 24:3-8). But the *Jewish people had spoilt that agreement with God. Jeremiah spoke about a new agreement (31:31-34). Men would want to obey God because of his love for them. The blood of an animal ‘signed’ the old agreement. When Jesus gave his life for men, he would have ‘signed’ the new agreement. It was ‘for many’. The old agreement had been between God and the *Jews. The new agreement was for everyone.
Verse 25 In the *Passover ceremony, *Jews gave thanks that God created ‘the fruit of the *vine’. Jesus used the picture language of the *Messiah’s splendid dinner. He would drink wine again when he shared in the joy of the new age of the *kingdom. So, his final words were words of hope. He knew that death was not the end.
Verse 26 The song was one of the Psalms that the *Jews used at *feasts. It may have been Psalm 118. They ‘went out’ from the safety of the upper room to the trouble in the world outside. Christians go out from their *worship to the world. In the world, they suffer troubles and *temptations.
Verse 27 The *Greek word that we have translated ‘turn away’ here and in verse 29 is ‘skandalizein’. It meant something that was like a trap to catch an animal. It would be easy for Jesus’ *disciples to lose their *faith in him. It could happen as easily as an animal falls into a trap. He used words from Zechariah (13:7). Sheep soon scatter when there is nobody to look after them.
Verse 28 Jesus would rise again after he died. He was confident about that. He said that he would ‘go before’ them to Galilee. In that country, a man who looked after sheep always went ahead of his sheep. Mark does not record that Jesus appeared to his *disciples in Galilee. But Matthew tells us that Jesus met them there (Matthew 28:10, 16). Jesus might also mean that in Galilee he would gather his scattered sheep together. He would still think of the *disciples as his ‘sheep’, even after they had disappointed him.
Verse 29 Peter felt confident that he would never leave Jesus. He did not realise that he would be in a situation of great danger. He believed that he was strong, like a rock. But he would be weak. It was easy to say that he would die with Jesus. But when the test came, he was afraid.
Verse 30 The male chicken, or ‘cock’, is a bird that calls very early in the morning. But this ‘cock’ might refer to the *Roman soldiers’ *trumpet. It sounded at the end of the third period while they were on guard during the night. That would be early morning, about 3 o’clock. Before the night was over, Peter would have failed to *keep his promise.
Verse 31 All the *disciples said the same as Peter. Perhaps Mark records Peter’s promise and failure in order to encourage Christians in Rome. He was writing when Peter was an important leader in the church. God and Christ had forgiven Peter and later, he *preached the *gospel with great courage. Other Christians might do wrong things. But they could know that God would forgive them too.
Verse 32 Gethsemane was a place where there were many *olive trees. The name means that there was equipment with which to squeeze the oil from the *olives. John said that Jesus often went there with his *disciples (John 18:2).
Verses 33-34 Jesus took his three closest friends with him. He was thinking about what would happen. He was completely human as he thought about it. He was still a fairly young man. He had seen people die on *crosses. And he knew how terribly they suffered. But he was willing to die in this painful way in order to obey his Father. He asked his friends to keep watching. He wanted them to stay awake.
Verse 35 ‘The hour’ meant the time of his death.
Verse 36 He said that ‘everything was possible’. He had *faith in the power of God. He used the *Aramaic word ‘*Abba’. Children used (and still use) this word to speak to their father. It describes a close *relationship between father and son. Christians can also call God ‘*Abba, my Father’, because they have become God’s children by means of *faith in Jesus (Romans 8:15).
‘This cup’ means ‘this pain and trouble’. See the note on 10:38-39. Probably the devil was *tempting Jesus to avoid pain and death. But he wanted to obey his Father.
Verses 37-38 Jesus spoke especially to Peter. He called him ‘Simon’ because he was not showing his character as Peter the Rock. Jesus said that they were willing to help him. But they had not been able to control their bodies. They were tired, and they did not understand Jesus’ great struggle against evil *spiritual powers.
Verses 39-41 Jesus was disappointed three times that his friends had not prayed with him and for him. Peter later denied three times that he knew Jesus. Perhaps he remembered then how he had failed to pray for strength three times.
‘It is enough’. The time for sleep had ended. Jesus was ready for those who would arrest him.
Verse 42 Jesus knew that Judas was near. And he knew that Judas was going to hand him over to his enemies.
Verse 43 It was terrible for Judas to hand Jesus over to his enemies. ‘One of the 12 *disciples’ again emphasises that. The *Sanhedrin sent soldiers with tools to fight with. It seems that they expected Jesus to oppose arrest. And perhaps they expected his *disciples to defend him. They thought that Jesus was trying to establish a political *kingdom. They thought that Jesus would try to gain that *kingdom by force.
Verses 44-45 It might have been difficult to identify Jesus in the dark among the trees. So, Judas had arranged to kiss Jesus, so that they would know the right person to arrest. He spoke to him as ‘Teacher’. People usually kissed a teacher. That showed that they respected him. But Judas did not give Jesus that sort of kiss. It was a kiss that normally showed great love.
Verse 47 It was Peter who attacked the servant. John tells us that. John also tells us that the servant’s name was Malchus (John 18:10). The *chief priest was Caiaphas (John 18:13). Luke tells us that Jesus cured the servant’s ear (Luke 22:51).
Verses 48-49 Jesus said that there had been plenty of opportunity to arrest him in the *Temple. They were trying to arrest him in secret, as if he were a thief. Jesus had once accused them of behaving like thieves (Mark 11:17). The *scriptures were coming true. Mark does not say which *scriptures of the *Old Testament they were. Jesus knew that his arrest was in the plan of God. He also said that the *disciples would leave him.
Verse 50 His words came true as they rushed away.
Verses 51-52 A young man avoided arrest and he ran away naked. The incident is only in Mark’s *Gospel. It is probable that Mark himself was the young man. His home in Jerusalem became a meeting place for *disciples (Acts 12:12). It is possible that the Last Supper was in his house. He had followed Jesus and the *disciples to the garden because he was curious. Judas did not return to the house before he led the crowd to Gethsemane. Otherwise, Mark might have tried to warn Jesus. But Mark had arrived too late.
Verse 53 There were 71 members of the *Sanhedrin. It was the chief *Jewish court with the power to deal with *religious matters. The Court broke many of the rules for giving a judgement. They were meeting in the *chief priest’s house. They should have met in a special hall in the *Temple area.
Verse 54 Peter had the courage to follow. He wanted to see what would happen to Jesus.
Verses 55-56 No one witness could prove that a man was guilty. Two or three witnesses had to agree with each other in every detail (Deuteronomy 17:6).
Verses 57-58 Some men then accused Jesus of saying that he would destroy the *Temple. Jesus had warned that people would destroy the *Temple (Mark 13:2). Perhaps they knew about that. They had changed words that John recorded: ‘If you destroy this *Temple ---’ (John 2:19-22). John realised that Jesus was speaking about his body. They might destroy the ‘*temple’ of his body, but he would rise again.
Verse 61 Jesus did not answer. He knew that any reply would be of no use. The leaders had already decided to kill him. He was like the servant in Isaiah’s poem, ‘He was like a sheep. A sheep is dumb with those who are cutting its wool. So he did not open his mouth’ (Isaiah 53:7).
The *chief priest’s question was not legal. He should not have asked Jesus to answer a question like that. The priest was very careful not to use the name of God. He said ‘the *Blessed Person’. But he was not obeying the rules of a fair court.
Verse 62 ‘I am’ was the name of God (Exodus 3:14). Jesus agreed that he was the *Messiah. He used words from Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. They would see his honour when he came with great light. Jesus was confident that he would win in the end.
Verse 63 The *chief priest said that Jesus had insulted God. He tore his special clothes as a sign of anger. He was showing that he did not agree with such ‘evil words against God’.
Verse 64 Because there was a death sentence, there should have been a night between the court’s decision and the punishment. Then there would be time for the members of the *Sanhedrin to change their minds about the sentence. But the *Romans killed Jesus on the same day, because the *Jews made false charges against him.
Verse 65 The guards insulted Jesus and they made fun of him as a false *prophet. They prevented him from seeing. Then they asked him to say who had hit him.
Verses 66-68 The servant saw Peter as he sat by the fire. She was sure that she recognised him as a friend of Jesus. Some copies of Mark’s book add the words, ‘Just then the male chicken called’ after Peter denied Jesus for the first time. Peter moved away from the light of the fire so that he was not so noticeable.
Verses 69-70 The servant told other people that Peter was ‘one of them’. Then someone insisted that Peter certainly was a *disciple. He had a different accent, because he came from Galilee. His way of speaking showed that he followed Jesus. Jesus came from Galilee.
Verse 71 Peter was very frightened. He said that he did not know Jesus. He said it in the strongest way that he could. He asked God to punish him if he was not telling the truth. He said that he did not know ‘this man’.
Verse 72 The sound of the male chicken or of the *Roman *trumpet for the second time reminded Peter about Jesus’ words. He was so ashamed that he burst into tears. He had said that he would never stop being loyal to Jesus. He had failed. He wept because he was so sad. He was sad about his lack of courage to be loyal to Jesus as his Master.
Verse 1 The *Sanhedrin had complete authority over *religious matters. But the *Romans did not allow them to kill anyone. The *Roman who governed Judea was Pontius Pilate. He ruled during the years 26-36 *AD. He ruled from the town called Caesarea. He had come from Caesarea to Jerusalem with his soldiers for the *Passover *feast. The *Jewish crowds at *Passover remembered how Moses had led their *ancestors to freedom from Egypt. The crowds might become so excited that they might cause trouble. They might begin to fight in order to gain freedom from *Roman rule.
The *Sanhedrin could not say that Jesus spoke evil words against God. They knew that Pilate would not listen to that. They had to decide how to accuse Jesus of a political crime. They said, ‘Jesus caused people to oppose the *Romans. He said that they should not pay their taxes to the *Romans. He said that he was the *Jewish *Messiah, a king’ (Luke 23:1-2).
Pilate realised that the *Jewish leaders hated Jesus. Otherwise, they would not accuse him to a *Roman.
Verse 2 Pilate asked Jesus if he was king of the *Jews. He was King, but not in a way that Pilate would understand the word ‘king’. He was a king of love, not a king of a political *kingdom.
Verses 3-5 The chief priests continued to accuse Jesus. Pilate was astonished that Jesus did not say anything in reply. But any answer that he gave would be no use. Jesus knew that.
Verse 6 In an effort to gain support from the *Jews, Pilate allowed one prisoner to go free at *Passover time.
Verse 7 There were some men in prison after a recent attack on the *Romans. Among them was Barabbas. He had murdered during the attack, but he may have been a hero among the *Jews.
Verses 8-9 Pilate knew that Jesus had not done anything wrong. So, he asked if he should set free Jesus, ‘the king of the *Jews’.
Verse 11 The crowd would include people who supported Barabbas. There were probably other people whom the priests had paid to shout against Jesus. People in a crowd often do things that they would never do on their own.
Verse 12 Pilate asked the crowd what he should do with Jesus. That was not a wise question. He should have made the decision himself, and set Jesus free. But perhaps he expected the crowd to support Jesus.
Verses 13-14 The crowd demanded that Pilate should kill Jesus on a *cross. He protested that Jesus was not guilty. But they insisted, ‘Fix him to a *cross.’
Verse 15 Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd, because he was afraid. He was afraid that he would be in trouble. He was already in trouble with the *Jews for several reasons.
1. When he became ruler, he ordered the *Roman army flags to go into Jerusalem. He had to remove them after the *Jews complained.
2. He had used *Temple money to improve the water supply to Jerusalem.
3. People blamed Pilate for the death of *Jews from Galilee while they were in the *Temple (Luke 13:1-4). The *Jews said that Pilate would not be loyal to Caesar if he set Jesus free (John 19:12). They were suggesting that they could make him lose his job. So, Pilate set free a criminal and he ordered the death of an innocent man.
‘Barabbas’ means ‘son of a father’. The name might mean that he was like his father in character. Jesus was ‘the Son of the Father’. He showed what God is like. Barabbas showed hate. Jesus showed love.
The *Romans tied sharp pieces of bone and metal to a leather whip. Then they hit a man’s bare back with it. It was such a cruel punishment that men sometimes died after it. Or they became mad.
Death on a *cross was only for slaves, or for people who were not *Roman citizens. Jesus would have seen young men die on *crosses near Nazareth when he was a boy.
Verse 16 Pilate’s soldiers lived in the ruler’s palace with him.
Verse 17 The *Jews had accused Jesus of saying that he was a king. The soldiers knew that. So, they had their fun. They pretended to give him honour as a king. A soldier’s old red coat would look like the purple coat that the great ruler in Rome wore. They had made the crown out of small very sharp branches from a tree and it would hurt his head. However, it is possible that they put the crown on his head with the points away from his head. Then they were imitating the crown with beams of light like the sun. The rulers in Jesus’ time had their pictures with crowns like that on coins.
Verse 18 The words, ‘Welcome, king of the *Jews’, were like the greeting that people gave to the great ruler in Rome, ‘Welcome, Caesar’. The soldiers knew that the *Jews did not have a king. So they were insulting both Jesus and the *Jews.
Verse 19 Matthew tells us that they put a stick in Jesus’ hand. It looked like the special stick that showed a king’s authority. The king would carry it in ceremonies (Matthew 27:29). Then they hit him with it and they *spat at him. They pretended to give him honour. They went down onto their knees, as men did in front of important people.
Verse 20 The soldiers had made fun of Jesus as a joke. They did not know that they were telling the truth. Jesus was a king. He is still a king.
Verse 21 Jesus was on his way to die on a *cross. So he should have carried the short beam part of the cross himself. The soldiers may have thought that Jesus could not walk with it. Jesus may have been weak because they had whipped him. Simon was from Cyrene in North Africa. He may have been a worker out in the country. His sons Alexander and Rufus may have been well-known Christians in Rome. Paul mentions a Rufus in Romans 16:13. Simon’s experience when he carried the *cross may have caused him to become a *disciple. It is even possible that he is the same person as ‘Black Simon’. ‘Black Simon’ was a leader in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1).
Verse 22 ‘Golgotha’ was called ‘the *Skull’, perhaps because they killed people on *crosses there. It may have been a hill with the shape of a *skull.
Verse 23 Jesus was going to die on a *cross. A mixture of wine and *myrrh was a drug that some women from Jerusalem offered to such a person. It would help to make the pain a little less terrible. Jesus refused it. He wanted to be aware of what was happening.
Verse 24 The soldiers had to stay there because friends might have tried to rescue the men on *crosses. The *Romans allowed their soldiers to keep a prisoner’s clothing. Each soldier had one piece of Jesus’ clothing. They had to choose who would have the outer coat. They played a game of chance in order to do that (John 19:23-24). Mark’s readers would remember the words in Psalm 22:18. ‘They divided my clothes among them. They played a game for my clothing.’
Verse 26 The notice ‘the King of the *Jews’ was there to show a ‘crime’. But it was showing the truth about Jesus. The priests complained to Pilate, but he refused to change it (John 19:21-22).
Verse 27 All his life, Jesus had been the friend of *sinners. On the *cross, he was still with *sinners. The thieves were in the places that James and John had asked for (10:37).
[Verse 28] is in some copies of Mark’s book. The words are from Isaiah 53:12.
Verse 29 Jesus suffered *physical pain on the *cross. But he also suffered the cruel laughter of people who were passing by. The priests and even the thieves next to him laughed at him too.
Jesus’ enemies said that he had insulted God. Now people insulted Jesus. They also said, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this *Temple that people have made with their hands. After three days, I will build another one” ’ (14:58). If he had the power to do that, then he would have the power to come down from the *cross.
Verses 31-32 The priests said that Jesus had saved other people. They spoke the truth when they said that. Jesus had rescued people from diseases and evil *spirits (1:34). He had saved a man by forgiving him (2:5-10). The priests demanded a sign, as the *Pharisees had (8:11). He should prove that he was the *Messiah by a *miracle. They would believe that he was the *Messiah then. Jesus could have saved himself but he would not. By his suffering, he was showing God’s love for everyone. Also, he was making it possible for God to forgive us. People believe in him now because he did not come down from the *cross. The thieves were in the same situation as Jesus. They realised that he was different from them. And so they laughed at him.
Verse 33. God may have used a natural cause to make the darkness. It may have been a dust storm that God caused. It could not have been because the moon stopped the light from the sun at the time of the *Passover. *Passover is always when the whole of the moon is shining. But, in the *Old Testament, darkness is a sign of God’s judgement (Amos 5:20; 8:9). Jesus had said, ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12). The darkness was a sign that God’s punishment was coming on human *sin. And Jesus had linked himself with human *sin. ‘For us, God caused him to be *sin who knew no *sin’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Verse 34 Jesus’ words in *Aramaic came from Psalm 22:1. For the first time ever, Jesus felt that something separated him from God. God had left him because of our *sin. This was a terrible time. As a man, he knew the feeling of despair that people sometimes suffer. There is therefore no human feeling that Jesus does not understand. But Jesus was suffering so that God could forgive people. He was like the servant in Isaiah’s poem who suffered on behalf of other people (Isaiah chapter 53). Jesus felt the darkness of being cut off from God. That is what *sin causes. Those who ask God to forgive them in Jesus’ name will not stay in the darkness. They will live ‘in the light’ with him (1 John 1:7).
Jesus may have remembered the rest of Psalm 22. ‘God has not hidden his face. He has heard when he cried out to him’ (Psalm 22:24).
Verses 35-36 Someone thought that Jesus was asking Elijah to rescue him. There was a tradition that Elijah would come to the help of good people in trouble. The man who offered Jesus the drink of the soldiers’ cheap wine was curious. He wanted to know whether Elijah would come.
Verse 37 The loud cry was probably the cry of ‘It is finished’ that John recorded (19:30). That meant that Jesus had completed God’s work.
Verse 38 The curtain in the *Temple separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. Only the priest could go into the Most Holy Place. He went in once every year in order to pray. He prayed that God would forgive him and all the *Jews. The curtain tore as a sign that people could now approach God themselves, because of Jesus. Jesus is the Chief Priest. The *sacrifice that he offered was himself. The death of Jesus was a *sacrifice that nobody needed to repeat every year. He opened the way to God by his death, which he offered once for all time (Hebrews 10:11-12).
Verse 39 The *Roman army officer had probably seen many men die. But he realised that the death of Jesus was different. He said that Jesus was ‘the Son of God’. The officer was a *Gentile. His words were a sign that *Gentiles would be part of the Christian church. ‘Son of God’ were the words with which Mark began his *Gospel (1:1).
Verses 40-41 Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John were at the *cross (John 19:25). Mark writes about Mary Magdalene. She came from Magdala, on the west coast of Lake Galilee. Mary, who was the mother of James the younger and Joses, was there too. Salome was the mother of James and John. She was probably the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. They were all witnesses at the death of Jesus.
Verse 42 The day when *Jews prepared for the *Sabbath was Friday. The *Sabbath began at sunset on Friday, about six o’clock. Then it was against the *Jewish law to do physical work.
Verse 43 Joseph came from a town that was 20 miles north west of Jerusalem. He was a member of the *Sanhedrin. He had remained silent. Or he had no opportunity to change the decision to kill Jesus. The *Romans left bodies on crosses to warn other people. But God’s rules meant that a man’s body should not stay on a *cross after sunset (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). Joseph was being fairly brave. People would know now that he was a friend to Jesus. That might have been dangerous for Joseph. Joseph also risked the possibility that Pilate might refuse his request.
Verses 44-45 Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died so quickly. But the *Roman officer was able to support Joseph’s request. Mark shows clearly that Jesus died. Some people want to deny the *resurrection. So they say that Jesus did not really die. But Pilate, the *Roman officer, Joseph and the women all knew that Jesus did suffer actual death.
Verse 46 Joseph had little time between Jesus’ death at three o’clock and the beginning of the *Sabbath at six o’clock. John says that Nicodemus helped him (John 19:38-40). The grave was a large cave that men had dug out of the rock. It belonged to Joseph and it had never had a body in it before (Matthew 27:60). He used a heavy stone to roll across the entrance.
Verse 47 The women knew which cave Joseph had put Jesus in. They intended to return after the *Sabbath in order to *anoint Jesus’ body.
Verse 1 The women went out to buy special substances as soon as the *Sabbath ended at sunset on Saturday.
Verse 2 The first opportunity to see what they were doing was at dawn on Sunday morning.
Verses 3-4 They remembered that there was a heavy stone at the entrance to the rock grave. It would be too heavy for them to push back. But they arrived at the grave. Then, they discovered that there was no problem. Someone had already rolled the stone aside.
Verses 5-6 They were astonished to find a young man in white clothes who was sitting on the right side of the cave. He was an *angel. He told them that they were looking in the wrong place for Jesus. He had risen. They could see for themselves the empty place where his body had been.
Verse 7 They must tell his *disciples ‘and Peter’ that they would see him in Galilee. The special message for Peter was to show that Jesus still included him in his love. Peter had said that he did not know Jesus. ‘And Peter’ would have given him the first sign of hope after he had said that. Jesus had said that he would go to Galilee (14:28).
Verse 8 This verse is a rather sudden end to Mark’s *Gospel. Mark might have written about how Jesus *kept his promise to meet his *disciples in Galilee. So later writers added other ends for the book. There is a short one, and a longer one. Mark may not have had time to complete his *Gospel. Perhaps he became ill. Perhaps he died, or the *Romans killed him. If he had finished it, perhaps the end of the *scroll wore out. Then perhaps it tore off. Or, perhaps his book had the same shape as a modern book, and the last page became separated. (The first Christians were among the first people to use such books.)
It is possible, however, that Mark intended to end at verse 8. All through his *Gospel, he had described how Jesus astonished people by his words and actions. Jesus’ *disciples, too, had a feeling of fear. And they greatly respected Jesus for his power (4:41). The *resurrection was the most astonishing event of all. Mark perhaps thought that it was not important to write about Jesus’ appearances to his *disciples. He had given the most important fact, ‘He has risen.’ The fear of the women was a suitable reaction to such an astonishing act of God. The reaction of all Christians should be similar. Verse 8 therefore can be a suitable end to Mark’s *Gospel.
This was an effort by a writer to make Mark’s *Gospel complete.
‘The women went to Peter and those who were with him. They gave them a brief account of all that the *angel had told them. Afterwards Jesus himself sent them out from east to west. He sent them with the holy and always living message about how God will *save people. *Amen.’
‘From east to west’ means that the *disciples had a message for the whole world. Their message was that belief in Jesus would give people *eternal life. This message would never change.
This was an account that was not in the early copies of Mark’s book. It is a list of Jesus’ *resurrection appearances that Luke and Matthew record. The writer also refers to details from Matthew’s *Gospel and from Acts. The author may have written it early in the second century *AD.
However, it is possible that Mark himself actually wrote these words at the end of his book. In those days, people had to copy books by hand. So, people would copy the complete book until the loss of its last page. Then people would have to copy the book without its last page.
The copies that have the long end are later copies than those without it. And the copies without the long end are good copies. But Mark wrote the original book over 200 years before the earliest copies that still exist. So, perhaps the people who wrote the copies with the long end had accurate copies of the end section.
The writer refers to three appearances of Jesus. In each one, he emphasises the *disciples’ lack of *faith to believe that he was alive.
Verses 9-11 Luke mentions that Jesus had made Mary Magdalene free from ‘seven evil *spirits’ (Luke 8:2). John describes how Jesus appeared to her in the garden (John 20:11-18).
Verses 12-13 The two people on the road to Emmaus did not recognise Jesus at first. They only realised who he was at supper. This was when he blessed and broke the bread. They returned to Jerusalem at once in order to tell the other *disciples (Luke 24:13-34).
Verse 14 The third appearance may have been when Thomas was among the 11 *disciples. It was Thomas especially whom Jesus encouraged to have more *faith (John 20:26-29).
Verse 15 Matthew records Jesus’ command to *preach the *gospel everywhere. They should *baptise people as a sign of their *faith.
Verses 17-18 The new powers that the *disciples will have include the power to send evil *spirits out of people. They also include the power to cure sick people. They had already been able to do this (Mark 6:13). Acts 2:4 describes how they spoke in other people’s languages on the day of *Pentecost. Paul escaped without injury when he picked up a snake (Acts 28:5). The reference to snakes and poison means that God will protect his *disciples. He will protect them in dangerous situations that they cannot avoid.
Verse 19 Mark had not used the title ‘the *Lord Jesus’ in his *Gospel. But Jesus had now gone back to heaven to the place of honour with God. So *Lord is a suitable title to describe Jesus. Jesus had referred to Psalm 110:1, while he was teaching in the *Temple (Mark 12:36). It describes the great honour that God would give to the *Messiah. Luke describes how Jesus went back to heaven in Acts 1:11.
Verse 20 The author of verses 9-20 ends with an account of how the *disciples obeyed Jesus’ command. The Acts of the *Apostles describes how they *preached the *gospel. It records how the *Lord worked *miracles by them. He was with them wherever they went.
Abba ~ *Aramaic word for father.
AD ~ AD 50 means the year that was 50 years after Jesus came, and so on.
adultery ~ when one person has sex with another person’s wife or husband.
altar ~ the special table, where they burnt animals or other gifts that people offer to God.
Amen ~ we agree.
ancestors ~ people in the past from whom one's parents came.
angel ~ God’s special *messenger.
anoint ~ to mark a person with oil; sometimes it showed that God had chosen that person.
apostle ~ one of the 12 special men that Jesus sent out.
Aramaic ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when Jesus was on earth.
Atonement ~ the special day when *Jews ask God to forgive them.
baptise/baptism ~ to put a person in water, or to put water on a person. It is to show that they want to follow Christ.
Baptist ~ a person who *baptises people (like John the Baptist).
BC ~ 50 BC means the year that was 50 years before Jesus came, and so on.
Beelzebub ~ a name for God’s enemy, the devil.
blessed ~ happy or glad. We call people blessed if they have received good things. But when we call God blessed, it is a way to praise him.
burial ~ when people put a dead body in a grave.
carpenter ~ a worker in wood or large trees, for houses, boats and buildings.
chief priest ~ the most important priest in the *Temple. The chief priest is often called the high priest.
Christ ~ the *Jews’ word for the king that God would send to rescue them.
commandments ~ God's rules.
cross ~ two pieces of wood that someone has fixed together in the shape of a cross. People put Jesus on a cross in order to kill him.
curse ~ to say that you want evil things to happen to something or someone.
disciples ~ people who follow someone in order to learn from him.
dog ~ an animal that some people have in their houses.
donkey ~ an animal that carries people or goods.
earthquake ~ when the surface of the earth shakes. If it is very strong, buildings can fall down.
eternal ~ with no beginning or end.
faith ~ belief in someone or something, or things that Christians believe about Jesus.
feast ~ a special meal; a *religious ceremony.
fig ~ a small soft fruit full of tiny seeds. People eat it fresh or dried.
Gehenna ~ a place where they burned rubbish. Also see the note on chapter 9 verses 43-48.
Gentiles ~ people who are not *Jews.
gospel ~ good news that God *saves people from *sin by Jesus Christ.
Gospel ~ one of the first four books in the *New Testament.
grape ~ a small, sweet fruit that people make wine from.
Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *New Testament.
Hebrew ~ the language of *Jewish people.
Herodians ~ a political group, who were friends of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee.
Holy Spirit ~ God’s Spirit. We cannot see him but he is there.
Hosanna ~ a word to praise God.
Jew ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a person who believes what Jews believe.
Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything about *Jews.
keep a promise ~ do what you have promised to do.
kingdom ~ people or place that a king rules; or people that God rules.
legion ~ a section of the *Roman army, about 6000 soldiers.
Lord ~ master; a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we obey them.
messenger ~ a person who gives a message.
Messiah ~ the *Jews' word for the king who would come and rescue them.
miracle ~ a wonderful work that someone does by God’s power.
mount ~ a short word for mountain; small mountain.
myrrh ~ an oil with a bitter smell.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus. It is about Jesus’ works and the things that he taught and about the first Christians.
obedience ~ we show obedience when we obey someone.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.
olive ~ a tree with small fruits (or the fruits themselves) that people use to make oil. They burned the oil to give them light. They used it in other ways too.
parable ~ a story with a hidden meaning.
Passover ~ the important day when *Jews remember that God freed them. He freed them from being slaves in Egypt at the time of Moses.
Pentecost ~ the time each year when *Jews thank God for their food; also the time when God gave the *Holy Spirit to the church.
perfume ~ something that smells nice to put on the skin.
Pharisees ~ a group of *Jews who thought that they obeyed all God’s commands. Many Pharisees did not like the things that Jesus taught. These men thought that they were not doing any wrong things. So, they became very proud.
physical ~ about the body.
preach ~ to tell and explain the good news about Jesus to someone or to a group of people.
pregnant ~ when a woman is carrying a child inside her body during the time before birth.
prophecy ~ words that God gave to a person to speak or to write down.
prophesy ~ to tell about things that will happen in the future; to speak with the help of God (or of a false god); to speak on behalf of God (or of a false god).
prophet ~ a person who told people what God wanted.
relationship ~ people have a relationship when they are relatives or good friends; or when they live together.
religious ~ something that people do as part of the *worship of God.
repent ~ to change; to stop doing wrong things and to start to obey God.
resurrection ~ when a dead person becomes alive again.
Roman ~ Rome was the capital city of the rulers at that time. That which belonged to Rome was Roman.
Sabbath ~ seventh day of the week, a day of rest for *Jews.
sacrifice ~ a gift to God to ask him to forgive *sins; or to thank him for something. A gift to God, often an animal or bird, by the *Jews to ask God to forgive their *sins. Jesus gave himself to die as a sacrifice for our *sins.
Sadducees ~ a group of *Jews. They did not believe that a person continued to live on after death. They only used the first 5 books of the *Old Testament.
Sanhedrin ~ the group of *Jewish priests and other leaders.
Satan ~ the chief evil *spirit.
save ~ rescue from the results of *sin.
scribes ~ writers, especially the *Jewish lawyers.
scriptures ~ the books in the *Old Testament or in the Bible.
scroll ~ a long piece of paper or animal’s skin; people fixed it round two pieces of wood; it usually had writing on it.
sin ~ when people do not obey God’s commands.
sinner ~ someone who does not obey God’s commands. But some *Jews used the word for anyone who did not obey all their extra rules.
skull ~ the bone of the head.
soul ~ the part of a person that we cannot see. It lives on after we die.
spirit ~ the part of a person who is alive that we cannot see. There are good spirits, like God’s Spirit and his *angels. And there are bad spirits, like *Satan and his *angels.
spiritual, spiritually ~ about the part of us that never dies.
spit, spat ~ send liquid out of the mouth very quickly.
sponge ~ soft material that holds liquid.
Temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews *worshipped God.
tempt ~ to try to make someone do wrong things.
temptation ~ something that tries to make us do wrong things.
tenants ~ people who live somewhere and pay rent.
thorn ~ sharp, hard point on a plant or bush.
thunder ~ the loud noise that you may hear in a storm.
trial ~ a legal examination by which a judge decides if a person is guilty of a crime; the examination of a person in a court of law to discover whether he is guilty or not of a crime.
tribe ~ family from one man. The nation called Israel grew from the 12 sons of Jacob. These 12 families formed the 12 tribes of Israel.
trumpet ~ musical instrument; you blow into a tube.
unclean ~ dirty or not holy.
unleavened ~ without *yeast.
vine ~ a plant that climbs. Its fruits are called grapes. People make wine from grapes.
vineyard ~ a place where people grow *grapes.
worship ~ show honour to God, usually with other people.
yeast ~ people put yeast into flour and water to make bread; it makes the bread bigger while they are baking it. It spreads through all the bread, so Jesus compared it with other things that spread.
William Barclay ~ The Gospel of Mark ~ St. Andrews Press 1975
Stuart Blanch ~ Lent with Mark’s Gospel, The Christian Militant ~ SPCK 1978
Margaret Cundiff ~ Travelling Light through Mark’s Gospel ~ SPCK 1992
Ronald Dale ~ Windows on Mark ~ Kevin Mayhew 1999
John Hargreaves ~ A Guide to Mark’s Gospel (revised edition) ~ SPCK International Study Guide 1995
Morna D. Hooker ~ The Message of Mark ~ Epworth Press 1983
Morna D. Hooker ~ The Gospel according to St Mark ~ Black’s NT Commentaries 1991
J. C. Ryle ~ Mark ~ Crossway Classic Commentaries 1993
Patrick Vaughan ~ Notes to the Gospel of Mark illuminated by Rex Nicholls ~ Lion 1990
Life Application Bible Studies ~ Mark ~ Tyndale House Publishers 1999
© 1997-2006, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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