Category Archives: Mark

Mark 16:1-8

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Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (NASB)

Much has been speculated about the “ending” of Mark. If you look at the footnotes to various Bibles, there are various explanation about vv. 9-20 such as in the NASB: “Later mss add vv 9-20”; in NRSV: “Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9–20. In most authorities verses 9–20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful.”; in NIV: “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.”

Whether v. 8 was the original ending of Mark, there is no way for us to know. What we do know is that vv. 9-20 is probably not the ending.

Thus, we are left with vv. 1-8 as the ending… “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Are we feeling unsatisfied with this ending?

Yet, it is somewhat consistent with what has gone on in the other chapters in the Gospel according to Mark where we read that Jesus’ followers were consistently unable to grasp what Jesus was teaching and not able to process the idea that he would suffer, die, and rise again. The response of v. 8 is quite in character.

The end of Mark is sort of an echo of the ending of Jonah 4:10-11, Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

In Jonah, we have a very reluctant prophet. He eventually delivered the message to Nineveh but didn’t have the same heart for the people that God had. In the ending of Jonah, we are left “hanging” as to whether Jonah’s heart ultimately was softened and thus conformed to God’s heart.

With Mark 16:8, we are left “hanging.” Trembling and astonishment are pretty reasonable reactions to seeing the empty tomb and hearing the message from the angel. Being afraid and silent in response to a shock to the system – Jesus. Dead. Jesus. Not. Dead?!! – is probably pretty normal. But do the women stay in that place? Do we remain in that space?

The readers of Mark in its time, and of course for us today in the 21st century, know from the other Gospel accounts and from the existence and persistence of the church to this day that the women ultimately did leave the feelings and thoughts of v. 8 behind, and they told the disciples, and all of them together proclaimed the risen Jesus in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!

NT Wright thinks the ending has been lost and gives various reasons why but he also offers some thoughts on what could be significant if v. 8 was indeed the ending:
It might just be possible to think that Mark did stop there – but that he intended anyone reading the book out loud, as they would, to call on one of the eye-witnesses present to tell the story of what they had seen, either that first Easter day or shortly afterward. […] the way Mark’s book now finishes encourages us all the more to explore not only the faith of the early church, that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, but our own faith. There is a blank at the end of the story, and we are invited to fill it ourselves. Do we take Easter for granted, or have we found ourselves awestruck at the strange new work of God? What do we know of the risen Lord? Where is he now going ahead of us? What tasks has he for us to undertake today, to take the gospel of the kingdom to the ends of the earth?


Mark in the middle


Screen capture of Mark 9:18-32 in the Codex Sinaiticus.

Many experts on the Gospel according to Mark note that near the middle of the book is a pivotal set of teachings from Jesus.

In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus cures the blind man at Bethsaida

This is followed (verse 27) by Jesus asking the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Peter replies (verse 29), “You are the Messiah.”

Jesus then on three occasions teaches them about his death and resurrection.

Mark 8:31, Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 9:31, The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.

Mark 10:33-34, See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.

This section is closed out with the healing of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) and Mark 11 begins to describe the final week of Jesus in Jerusalem that culminate in his death and resurrection.

As you can see the heart of this section and the very middle of Mark is the three teachings of Jesus about his death and resurrection. And just as the kingdom of God parables were about small and slow things, the disciple’s expectations are again turned upside down in this case by Jesus predicting his death and resurrection.

If you look at what follows after each time Jesus announces his death and resurrection, Mark recounts how the disciples did not understand.

After Mark 8:31, we find verses 32-33:
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

After Mark 9:31, we find verses 32-37:
But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

After Mark 10:33-34, we find verses 35-45:
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

The Gospel of Mark begins with Mark 1:1, the beginning of the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ. Jesus begins in Mark 1:14-15, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news (gospel) of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news (gospel).

The good news is that the kingdom of God is here! Jesus is the king!!

The disciples like this but they don’t understand that the central part of this truth is that Jesus must suffer and die. Like Peter they have set their minds of their own agenda not God’s plans. Their hearts are set on their own greatness and glory not on servanthood and welcoming the powerless. The “kingdom of God” they have inside their heads is not the same as what Jesus is proclaiming. And of course, they dislike the whole suffering, being rejected and dying part and overlook the resurrection part.

If you are helping to organize small group Bible studies or a Sunday school teaching series, consider Mark 8:22 to Mark 10:52. If possible consider going through the whole Gospel according to Mark. But certainly within Mark 8:22 to Mark 10:52 there is much potent teaching on what it means to be a follower of Jesus!

Mark and the mysterious kingdom of God

Romanian icon of Parable of Sower and Seeds

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Mark’s gospel starts off quickly with the story moving in rapid succession from one event to another including many healing miracles and to short teaching moments.

However, in chapter 4:1-34, there is a longer set of teaching beginning with the Parable of the Sower. Interestingly, the brisk pace set by chapters 1-3 is now contrasted by parables of what can be said to be about “slow” and “small” things: sower/seeds (4:1-9, 13-20), light under a basket (4:21-25), growing seed (4:26-29), and mustard seed (4:30-32). All of these parables come under the category of Jesus explaining to them the kingdom of God, Mark 4:11, To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.

The disciples find all of these things hard to understand. This theme of the disciples “not getting it” will be a re-occurent one in the Gospel of Mark. One possible reason for them “not getting it” was that these things were outside of their expectations. Perhaps they were looking for a military installed kingdom to throw off the Roman rulers and to restore the nation of Israel to its previous glory. Thus, these stories of “small and slow things” would seem a bit disappointing. The ways of the kingdom of God are not our ways. The timetable of the kingdom of God is not our timetable.

Though the disciples do not understand, they do have hope. See Mark 4:10, But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable and Mark 4:34, And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.

We can sit passively having the teachings of Jesus go in one ear and out the other. That is not the posture of a disciple. The movement of discipleship, of being a follower, of being a learner is spending time with him. It is wrestling with what he has said and did.

For the disciples, they could be with Jesus and walk the same dusty road and ask him questions. How about us today?

Here are perhaps four ways:

  1. consider His teachings – individually in personal study and in gatherings with others – chew it over, talk it over, pray through it, seek to make sense of it, and put it into practice.
  2. yield to the Holy Spirit – the Spirit assures us we are in Christ, shows us truth, guides us to live rightly, convicts us when we go astray, prompts us in prayer, empowers us to serve others, etc.
  3. live together in community – the church is called the body of Christ; since Jesus commands us to love one another, how do we put that into practice without being in contact with one another? No better way to experience the mind of Christ and be the body of Christ then when we find practical ways to live together as a community of faith living and working together to love people as Jesus did.
  4. partake in baptism and the Lord’s supper – the elements of water (baptism) and bread/wine (Lord’s supper) are visible symbols of the invisible grace God has bestowed upon us. We all can probably think of occasions when we sensed the presence of God in these simple but powerful, mysterious, and meaningful sacraments. How moving it is to remember what Christ did? How powerful it is to step into the waters of baptism and to witness others do the same? Indeed, these things could become mere “ritual” but clearly Jesus instituted these for our benefit. When we witness and partake in baptism and communion, the potential is there to be reminded of the graciousness of God and majesty of what Christ has done.

Gospel according to St. Mark

Mantegna’s Mark
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Matthew’s gospel is well known for the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the powerful prophetic portions of Matthew 24-25.

Luke’s gospel is beloved for its parables like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

John’s gospel is a favorite of many for its “I AM” passages and poignant and pointed personal encounters.

That often leave Mark’s gospel out in the cold.

Yet, those who take the time to visit Mark and read through it find it has its own unique way to highlighting the vital message of Jesus.

For instance, take the rocket launch of the beginning of Mark in chapter 1:1-8 …

Mark 1:1-8 (NIV)

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

N.T. Wright put it this way in Mark for Everyone (2004):

You are sound asleep and dreaming, when suddenly the door bursts open and a bright light shines full in your face. A voice, breaking in on your dream world shouts, “Wake up! Get up! You’ll be late!” And without more ado, the speaker splashes your face with cold water to make the point. Time to stop dreaming and face the most important day of your life.

2016 Thematic Bible Conference 2-3 July


Check out the upcoming event!

W4CAA will hold a Bible conference in Princeton this summer, 2–3 July 2016, to the theme “What Is Mark’s Gospel? Hebraic & Græco-Roman perspectives”. We encourage all to attend. Hear the Gospel of Mark expounded by Benjamin Alley, J.D.; study selected passages in Mark with a group (and have the opportunity to be trained to lead inductive Bible study); worship God according to the solid, scriptural piety of the Book of Common Prayer; and deliberate with Richard Yen, Ph.D., M.D., (1) on Genesis and genetics, and (2) on Jesus’s comment about marriage and divorce.

Participation is onsite as well as via the internet!