The Gospel According to Mark
The Gospel of Mark is generally regarded as the earliest of the gospels and is usually dated by scholars to around 65-73 AD. This is due to the fact that it references persecution and war currently in Judea and seems to indicate either Nero’s persecution of the Christians in Rome or the Jewish revolt.
This shortest of all New Testament gospels is likely the first to have been written, yet it often tells of Jesus’ ministry in more detail than either Matthew or Luke. The Gospel of Mark ends in the most ancient manuscripts with an abrupt scene at Jesus’ tomb, which the women find empty (Mk 16:1–8). Other hands have attached additional endings after Mk 16:8; see note on Mk 16:9–20. Mark’s Gospel is even more oriented to christology. Jesus is the Son of God (Mk 1:11; 9:7; 15:39; cf. Mk 1:1; 14:61). He is the Messiah, the anointed king of Davidic descent (Mk 12:35; 15:32), the Greek for which, Christos, has, by the time Mark wrote, become in effect a proper name (Mk 1:1; 9:41). Jesus is also seen as Son of Man, a term used in Mark not simply as a substitute for “I” or for humanity in general (cf. Mk 2:10, 27–28; 14:21) or with reference to a mighty figure who is to come (Mk 13:26; 14:62), but also in connection with Jesus’ predestined, necessary path of suffering and vindication (Mk 8:31; 10:45).
The unfolding of Mark’s story about Jesus is sometimes viewed by interpreters as centered around the term “mystery.” The word is employed just once, at Mk 4:11, in the singular, and its content there is the kingdom, the open secret that God’s reign is now breaking into human life with its reversal of human values. There is a related sense in which Jesus’ real identity remained a secret during his lifetime, according to Mark, although demons and demoniacs knew it (Mk 1:24; 3:11; 5:7); Jesus warned against telling of his mighty deeds and revealing his identity (Mk 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30), an injunction sometimes broken (Mk 1:45; cf. Mk 5:19–20). Further, Jesus teaches by parables, according to Mark, in such a way that those “outside” the kingdom do not understand, but only those to whom the mystery has been granted by God.
Although the book is anonymous, apart from the ancient heading “According to Mark” in manuscripts, it has traditionally been assigned to John Mark, in whose mother’s house (at Jerusalem) Christians assembled (Acts 12:12). This Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10) and accompanied Barnabas and Paul on a missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:3; 15:36–39). He appears in Pauline letters (2 Tm 4:11; Phlm 24) and with Peter (1 Pt 5:13). Papias (ca. A.D. 135) described Mark as Peter’s “interpreter,” a view found in other patristic writers. Petrine influence should not, however, be exaggerated. The evangelist has put together various oral and possibly written sources—miracle stories, parables, sayings, stories of controversies, and the passion—so as to speak of the crucified Messiah for Mark’s own day.
Traditionally, the gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution and when destruction loomed over Jerusalem. Its audience seems to have been Gentile, unfamiliar with Jewish customs (hence Mk 7:3–4, 11). The book aimed to equip such Christians to stand faithful in the face of persecution (Mk 13:9–13), while going on with the proclamation of the gospel begun in Galilee (Mk 13:10; 14:9). Modern research often proposes as the author an unknown Hellenistic Jewish Christian, possibly in Syria, and perhaps shortly after the year 70.
Excerpts from the Gospel of Mark:
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The Gospel According to Mark:
The Preaching of John the Baptist.
The Baptism of Jesus.
The Temptation of Jesus.
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry.
The Call of the First Disciples.
The Cure of a Demoniac.
The Cure of Simon’s Mother-in-Law.
Jesus Leaves Capernaum.
The Cleansing of a Leper.
- [1:2–3] Although Mark attributes the prophecy to Isaiah, the text is a combination of Mal 3:1; Is 40:3; Ex 23:20; cf. Mt 11:10; Lk 7:27. John’s ministry is seen as God’s prelude to the saving mission of his Son. The way of the Lord: this prophecy of Deutero-Isaiah concerning the end of the Babylonian exile is here applied to the coming of Jesus; John the Baptist is to prepare the way for him.
- [1:6] Clothed in camel’s hair…waist: the Baptist’s garb recalls that of Elijah in 2 Kgs 1:8. Jesus speaks of the Baptist as Elijah who has already come (Mk 9:11–13; Mt 17:10–12; cf. Mal 3:23–24; Lk 1:17).
- [1:8–9] Through the life-giving baptism with the holy Spirit (Mk 1:8), Jesus will create a new people of God. But first he identifies himself with the people of Israel in submitting to John’s baptism of repentance and in bearing on their behalf the burden of God’s decisive judgment (Mk 1:9; cf. Mk 1:4). As in the desert of Sinai, so here in the wilderness of Judea, Israel’s sonship with God is to be renewed.
- [1:12–13] The same Spirit who descended on Jesus in his baptism now drives him into the desert for forty days. The result is radical confrontation and temptation by Satan who attempts to frustrate the work of God. The presence of wild beasts may indicate the horror and danger of the desert regarded as the abode of demons or may reflect the paradise motif of harmony among all creatures; cf. Is 11:6–9. The presence of ministering angels to sustain Jesus recalls the angel who guided the Israelites in the desert in the first Exodus (Ex 14:19; 23:20) and the angel who supplied nourishment to Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kgs 19:5–7). The combined forces of good and evil were present to Jesus in the desert. His sustained obedience brings forth the new Israel of God there where Israel’s rebellion had brought death and alienation.
- [1:14–15] After John had been arrested: in the plan of God, Jesus was not to proclaim the good news of salvation prior to the termination of the Baptist’s active mission. Galilee: in the Marcan account, scene of the major part of Jesus’ public ministry before his arrest and condemnation. The gospel of God: not only the good news from God but about God at work in Jesus Christ. This is the time of fulfillment: i.e., of God’s promises. The kingdom of God…Repent: see note on Mt 3:2.
- [1:21–45] The account of a single day’s ministry of Jesus on a sabbath in and outside the synagogue of Capernaum (Mk 1:21–31) combines teaching and miracles of exorcism and healing. Mention is not made of the content of the teaching but of the effect of astonishment and alarm on the people. Jesus’ teaching with authority, making an absolute claim on the hearer, was in the best tradition of the ancient prophets, not of the scribes. The narrative continues with events that evening (Mk 1:32–34; see notes on Mt 8:14–17) and the next day (Mk 1:35–39). The cleansing in Mk 1:40–45 stands as an isolated story.
- [1:40] A leper: for the various forms of skin disease, see Lv 13:1–50 and the note on Lv 13:2–4. There are only two instances in the Old Testament in which God is shown to have cured a leper (Nm 12:10–15; 2 Kgs 5:1–14). The law of Moses provided for the ritual purification of a leper. In curing the leper, Jesus assumes that the priests will reinstate the cured man into the religious community. See also note on Lk 5:14.
The Healing of a Paralytic.
The Call of Levi.
The Question About Fasting.
The Disciples and the Sabbath.
- [2:6] Scribes: trained in oral interpretation of the written law; in Mark’s gospel, adversaries of Jesus, with one exception (Mk 12:28, 34).
- [2:14] As he passed by: see note on Mk 1:16–20. Levi, son of Alphaeus: see note on Mt 9:9. Customs post: such tax collectors paid a fixed sum for the right to collect customs duties within their districts. Since whatever they could collect above this amount constituted their profit, the abuse of extortion was widespread among them. Hence, Jewish customs officials were regarded as sinners (Mk 2:16), outcasts of society, and disgraced along with their families. He got up and followed him: i.e., became a disciple of Jesus.
- [2:19] Can the wedding guests fast?: the bridal metaphor expresses a new relationship of love between God and his people in the person and mission of Jesus to his disciples. It is the inauguration of the new and joyful messianic time of fulfillment and the passing of the old. Any attempt at assimilating the Pharisaic practice of fasting, or of extending the preparatory discipline of John’s disciples beyond the arrival of the bridegroom, would be as futile as sewing a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak or pouring new wine into old wineskins with the resulting destruction of both cloth and wine (Mk 2:21–22). Fasting is rendered superfluous during the earthly ministry of Jesus; cf. Mk 2:20.
- [2:25–26] Have you never read what David did?: Jesus defends the action of his disciples on the basis of 1 Sm 21:2–7 in which an exception is made to the regulation of Lv 24:9 because of the extreme hunger of David and his men. According to 1 Samuel, the priest who gave the bread to David was Ahimelech, father of Abiathar.
A Man with a Withered Hand.
The Mercy of Jesus.
The Mission of the Twelve.
Blasphemy of the Scribes.
Jesus and Beelzebul.
Jesus and His Family.
- [3:6] In reporting the plot of the Pharisees and Herodians to put Jesus to death after this series of conflicts in Galilee, Mark uses a pattern that recurs in his account of later controversies in Jerusalem (Mk 11:17–18; 12:13–17). The help of the Herodians, supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, is needed to take action against Jesus. Both series of conflicts point to their gravity and to the impending passion of Jesus.
- [3:16] Simon, whom he named Peter: Mark indicates that Simon’s name was changed on this occasion. Peter is first in all lists of the apostles (Mt 10:2; Lk 6:14; Acts 1:13; cf. 1 Cor 15:5–8).
- [3:22] By Beelzebul: see note on Mt 10:25. Two accusations are leveled against Jesus: (1) that he is possessed by an unclean spirit and (2) by the prince of demons he drives out demons. Jesus answers the second charge by a parable (Mk 3:24–27) and responds to the first charge in Mk 3:28–29.
- [3:29] Whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit: this sin is called an everlasting sin because it attributes to Satan, who is the power of evil, what is actually the work of the holy Spirit, namely, victory over the demons.
The Parable of the Sower.
The Purpose of the Parables.
Parable of the Lamp.
Seed Grows of Itself.
The Mustard Seed.
The Calming of a Storm at Sea.
- [4:1–34] In parables (Mk 4:2): see note on Mt 13:3. The use of parables is typical of Jesus’ enigmatic method of teaching the crowds (Mk 4:2–9, 12) as compared with the interpretation of the parables he gives to his disciples (Mk 4:10–25, 33–34) to each group according to its capacity to understand (Mk 4:9–11). The key feature of the parable at hand is the sowing of the seed (Mk 4:3), representing the breakthrough of the kingdom of God into the world. The various types of soil refer to the diversity of response accorded the word of God (Mk 4:4–7). The climax of the parable is the harvest of thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold, indicating the consummation of the kingdom (Mk 4:8). Thus both the present and the future action of God, from the initiation to the fulfillment of the kingdom, is presented through this and other parables (Mk 4:26–29, 30–32).
- [4:1] By the sea: the shore of the Sea of Galilee or a boat near the shore (Mk 2:13; 3:7–8) is the place where Mark depicts Jesus teaching the crowds. By contrast the mountain is the scene of Jesus at prayer (Mk 6:46) or in the process of forming his disciples (Mk 3:13; 9:2).
- [4:11–12] These verses are to be viewed against their background in Mk 3:6, 22 concerning the unbelief and opposition Jesus encountered in his ministry. It is against this background that the distinction in Jesus’ method becomes clear of presenting the kingdom to the disbelieving crowd in one manner and to the disciples in another. To the former it is presented in parables and the truth remains hidden; for the latter the parable is interpreted and the mystery is partially revealed because of their faith; see notes on Mt 13:11 and Mt 13:13.
The Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac.
Jairus’s Daughter and the Woman with a Hemorrhage.
- [5:1] The territory of the Gerasenes: the reference is to pagan territory; cf. Is 65:1. Another reading is “Gadarenes”; see note on Mt 8:28.
- [5:2–6] The man was an outcast from society, dominated by unclean spirits (Mk 5:8, 13), living among the tombs. The prostration before Jesus (Mk 5:6) indicates Jesus’ power over evil spirits.
- [5:9] Legion is my name: the demons were numerous and the condition of the possessed man was extremely serious; cf. Mt 12:45.
- [5:19] Go home: Jesus did not accept the man’s request to remain with him as a disciple (Mk 5:18), yet invited him to announce to his own people what the Lord had done for him, i.e., proclaim the gospel message to his pagan family; cf. Mk 1:14, 39; 3:14; 13:10.
- [5:41] Arise: the Greek verb egeirein is the verb generally used to express resurrection from death (Mk 6:14, 16; Mt 11:5; Lk 7:14) and Jesus’ own resurrection (Mk 16:6; Mt 28:6; Lk 24:6).
The Rejection at Nazareth.
Herod’s Opinion of Jesus.
The Death of John the Baptist.
The Return of the Twelve.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand.
The Walking on the Water.
The Healings at Gennesaret.
- [6:1] His native place: the Greek word patris here refers to Nazareth (cf. Mk 1:9; Lk 4:16, 23–24) though it can also mean native land.
- [6:3] Is he not the carpenter?: no other gospel calls Jesus a carpenter. Some witnesses have “the carpenter’s son,” as in Mt 13:55. Son of Mary: contrary to Jewish custom, which calls a man the son of his father, this expression may reflect Mark’s own faith that God is the Father of Jesus (Mk 1:1, 11; 8:38; 13:32; 14:36). The brother of James…Simon: in Semitic usage, the terms “brother,” “sister” are applied not only to children of the same parents, but to nephews, nieces, cousins, half-brothers, and half-sisters; cf. Gn 14:16; 29:15; Lv 10:4. While one cannot suppose that the meaning of a Greek word should be sought in the first place from Semitic usage, the Septuagint often translates the Hebrew ’āh by the Greek word adelphos, “brother,” as in the cited passages, a fact that may argue for a similar breadth of meaning in some New Testament passages. For instance, there is no doubt that in v. 17, “brother” is used of Philip, who was actually the half-brother of Herod Antipas. On the other hand, Mark may have understood the terms literally; see also 3:31–32; Mt 12:46; 13:55–56; Lk 8:19; Jn 7:3, 5. The question of meaning here would not have arisen but for the faith of the church in Mary’s perpetual virginity.
- [6:10–11] Remaining in the same house as a guest (Mk 6:10) rather than moving to another offering greater comfort avoided any impression of seeking advantage for oneself and prevented dishonor to one’s host. Shaking the dust off one’s feet served as testimony against those who rejected the call to repentance.
- [6:17–29] Similarities are to be noted between Mark’s account of the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist in this pericope, and that of the passion of Jesus (Mk 15:1–47). Herod and Pilate, each in turn, acknowledges the holiness of life of one over whom he unjustly exercises the power of condemnation and death (Mk 6:26–27; 15:9–10, 14–15). The hatred of Herodias toward John parallels that of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus. After the deaths of John and of Jesus, well-disposed persons request the bodies of the victims of Herod and of Pilate in turn to give them respectful burial (Mk 6:29; 15:45–46).
- [6:40] The people…in rows by hundreds and by fifties: reminiscent of the groupings of Israelites encamped in the desert (Ex 18:21–25) and of the wilderness tradition of the prophets depicting the transformation of the wasteland into pastures where the true shepherd feeds his flock (Ez 34:25–26) and makes his people beneficiaries of messianic grace.
- [6:41] On the language of this verse as eucharistic (cf. Mk 14:22), see notes on Mt 14:19, 20. Jesus observed the Jewish table ritual of blessing God before partaking of food.
- [6:50] It is I, do not be afraid!: literally, “I am.” This may reflect the divine revelatory formula of Ex 3:14; Is 41:4, 10, 14; 43:1–3, 10, 13. Mark implies the hidden identity of Jesus as Son of God.
The Tradition of the Elders.
The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith.
The Healing of a Deaf Man.
- [7:1–23] See note on Mt 15:1–20. Against the Pharisees’ narrow, legalistic, and external practices of piety in matters of purification (Mk 7:2–5), external worship (Mk 7:6–7), and observance of commandments, Jesus sets in opposition the true moral intent of the divine law (Mk 7:8–13). But he goes beyond contrasting the law and Pharisaic interpretation of it. The parable of Mk 7:14–15 in effect sets aside the law itself in respect to clean and unclean food. He thereby opens the way for unity between Jew and Gentile in the kingdom of God, intimated by Jesus’ departure for pagan territory beyond Galilee. For similar contrast see Mk 2:1–3:6; 3:20–35; 6:1–6.
- [7:3] Carefully washing their hands: refers to ritual purification.
- [7:5] Tradition of the elders: the body of detailed, unwritten, human laws regarded by the scribes and Pharisees to have the same binding force as that of the Mosaic law; cf. Gal 1:14.
- [7:11] Qorban: a formula for a gift to God, dedicating the offering to the temple, so that the giver might continue to use it for himself but not give it to others, even needy parents.
- [7:16] Mk 7:16, “Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear,” is omitted because it is lacking in some of the best Greek manuscripts and was probably transferred here by scribes from Mk 4:9, 23.
- [7:17] Away from the crowd…the parable: in this context of privacy the term parable refers to something hidden, about to be revealed to the disciples; cf. Mk 4:10–11, 34. Jesus sets the Mosaic food laws in the context of the kingdom of God where they are abrogated, and he declares moral defilement the only cause of uncleanness.
- [7:19] (Thus he declared all foods clean): if this bold declaration goes back to Jesus, its force was not realized among Jewish Christians in the early church; cf. Acts 10:1–11:18.
The Feeding of the Four Thousand.
The Demand for a Sign.
The Leaven of the Pharisees.
The Blind Man of Bethsaida.
Peter’s Confession About Jesus.
The First Prediction of the Passion.
The Conditions of Discipleship.
- [8:1–10] The two accounts of the multiplication of loaves and fishes (Mk 8:1–10; 6:31–44) have eucharistic significance. Their similarity of structure and themes but dissimilarity of detail are considered by many to refer to a single event that, however, developed in two distinct traditions, one Jewish Christian and the other Gentile Christian, since Jesus in Mark’s presentation (Mk 7:24–37) has extended his saving mission to the Gentiles.
- [8:31] Son of Man: an enigmatic title. It is used in Dn 7:13–14 as a symbol of “the saints of the Most High,” the faithful Israelites who receive the everlasting kingdom from the Ancient One (God). They are represented by a human figure that contrasts with the various beasts who represent the previous kingdoms of the earth. In the Jewish apocryphal books of 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra the “Son of Man” is not, as in Daniel, a group, but a unique figure of extraordinary spiritual endowments, who will be revealed as the one through whom the everlasting kingdom decreed by God will be established. It is possible though doubtful that this individualization of the Son of Man figure had been made in Jesus’ time, and therefore his use of the title in that sense is questionable. Of itself, this expression means simply a human being, or, indefinitely, someone, and there are evidences of this use in pre-Christian times. Its use in the New Testament is probably due to Jesus’ speaking of himself in that way, “a human being,” and the later church’s taking this in the sense of the Jewish apocrypha and applying it to him with that meaning. Rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes: the supreme council called the Sanhedrin was made up of seventy-one members of these three groups and presided over by the high priest. It exercised authority over the Jews in religious matters. See note on Mt 8:20.
- [8:34–35] This utterance of Jesus challenges all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it…will save it: an expression of the ambivalence of life and its contrasting destiny. Life seen as mere self-centered earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.
The Transfiguration of Jesus.
The Coming of Elijah.
The Healing of a Boy with a Demon.
The Second Prediction of the Passion.
The Greatest in the Kingdom.
Temptations to Sin.
The Simile of Salt.
- [9:1] There are some standing…come in power: understood by some to refer to the establishment by God’s power of his kingdom on earth in and through the church; more likely, as understood by others, a reference to the imminent parousia.
- [9:2–8] Mark and Mt 17:1 place the transfiguration of Jesus six days after the first prediction of his passion and death and his instruction to the disciples on the doctrine of the cross; Lk 9:28 has “about eight days.” Thus the transfiguration counterbalances the prediction of the passion by affording certain of the disciples insight into the divine glory that Jesus possessed. His glory will overcome his death and that of his disciples; cf. 2 Cor 3:18; 2 Pt 1:16–19. The heavenly voice (Mk 9:7) prepares the disciples to understand that in the divine plan Jesus must die ignominiously before his messianic glory is made manifest; cf. Lk 24:25–27. See further the note on Mt 17:1–8.
- [9:5] Moses and Elijah represent, respectively, law and prophecy in the Old Testament and are linked to Mount Sinai; cf. Ex 19:16–20:17; 1 Kgs 19:2, 8–14. They now appear with Jesus as witnesses to the fulfillment of the law and the prophets taking place in the person of Jesus as he appears in glory.
- [9:7] A cloud came, casting a shadow over them: even the disciples enter into the mystery of his glorification. In the Old Testament the cloud covered the meeting tent, indicating the Lord’s presence in the midst of his people (Ex 40:34–35) and came to rest upon the temple in Jerusalem at the time of its dedication (1 Kgs 8:10).
- [9:9–13] At the transfiguration of Jesus his disciples had seen Elijah. They were perplexed because, according to the rabbinical interpretation of Mal 3:23–24, Elijah was to come first. Jesus’ response shows that Elijah has come, in the person of John the Baptist, to prepare for the day of the Lord. Jesus must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt (Mk 9:12) like the Baptist (Mk 9:13); cf. Mk 6:17–29.
- [9:14–29] The disciples’ failure to effect a cure seems to reflect unfavorably on Jesus (Mk 9:14–18, 22). In response Jesus exposes their lack of trust in God (Mk 9:19) and scores their lack of prayer (Mk 9:29), i.e., of conscious reliance on God’s power when acting in Jesus’ name. For Matthew, see note on Mt 17:14–20. Lk 9:37–43 centers attention on Jesus’ sovereign power.
- [9:29] This kind can only come out through prayer: a variant reading adds “and through fasting.”
- [9:33–37] Mark probably intends this incident and the sayings that follow as commentary on the disciples’ lack of understanding (Mk 9:32). Their role in Jesus’ work is one of service, especially to the poor and lowly. Children were the symbol Jesus used for the anawim, the poor in spirit, the lowly in the Christian community.
- [9:44, 46] These verses, lacking in some important early manuscripts, are here omitted as scribal additions. They simply repeat Mk 9:48 itself a modified citation of Is 66:24.
- [9:49] Everyone will be salted with fire: so the better manuscripts. Some add “every sacrifice will be salted with salt.” The purifying and preservative use of salt in food (Lv 2:13) and the refinement effected through fire refer here to comparable effects in the spiritual life of the disciples of Jesus.
Marriage and Divorce.
Blessing of the Children.
The Rich Man.
The Third Prediction of the Passion.
Ambition of James and John.
The Blind Bartimaeus.
- [10:2–9] In the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees on the subject of divorce, Jesus declares that the law of Moses permitted divorce (Dt 24:1) only because of the hardness of your hearts (Mk 10:4–5). In citing Gn 1:27 and 2:24 Jesus proclaims permanence to be the divine intent from the beginning concerning human marriage (Mk 10:6–8). He reaffirms this with the declaration that what God has joined together, no human being must separate (Mk 10:9). See further the notes on Mt 5:31–32; 19:3–9.
- [10:38–40] Can you drink the cup…I am baptized?: the metaphor of drinking the cup is used in the Old Testament to refer to acceptance of the destiny assigned by God; see note on Ps 11:6. In Jesus’ case, this involves divine judgment on sin that Jesus the innocent one is to expiate on behalf of the guilty (Mk 14:24; Is 53:5). His baptism is to be his crucifixion and death for the salvation of the human race; cf. Lk 12:50. The request of James and John for a share in the glory (Mk 10:35–37) must of necessity involve a share in Jesus’ sufferings, the endurance of tribulation and suffering for the gospel (Mk 10:39). The authority of assigning places of honor in the kingdom is reserved to God (Mk 10:40).
- [10:42–45] Whatever authority is to be exercised by the disciples must, like that of Jesus, be rendered as service to others (Mk 10:45) rather than for personal aggrandizement (Mk 10:42–44). The service of Jesus is his passion and death for the sins of the human race (Mk 10:45); cf. Mk 14:24; Is 53:11–12; Mt 26:28; Lk 22:19–20.
The Entry into Jerusalem.
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree.
Cleansing of the Temple.
The Withered Fig Tree.
The Authority of Jesus Questioned.
- [11:12–14] Jesus’ search for fruit on the fig tree recalls the prophets’ earlier use of this image to designate Israel; cf. Jer 8:13; 29:17; Jl 1:7; Hos 9:10, 16. Cursing the fig tree is a parable in action representing Jesus’ judgment (Mk 11:20) on barren Israel and the fate of Jerusalem for failing to receive his teaching; cf. Is 34:4; Hos 2:14; Lk 13:6–9.
- [11:26] This verse, which reads, “But if you do not forgive, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your transgressions,” is omitted in the best manuscripts. It was probably added by copyists under the influence of Mt 6:15.
- [11:27–33] The mounting hostility toward Jesus came from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders (Mk 11:27); the Herodians and the Pharisees (Mk 12:13); and the Sadducees (Mk 12:18). By their rejection of God’s messengers, John the Baptist and Jesus, they incurred the divine judgment implied in Mk 11:27–33 and confirmed in the parable of the vineyard tenants (Mk 12:1–12).
Parable of the Tenants.
Paying Taxes to the Emperor.
The Question About the Resurrection.
The Greatest Commandment.
The Question About David’s Son.
Denunciation of the Scribes.
The Poor Widow’s Contribution.
- [12:1–12] The vineyard denotes Israel (Is 5:1–7). The tenant farmers are the religious leaders of Israel. God is the owner of the vineyard. His servants are his messengers, the prophets. The beloved son is Jesus (Mk 1:11; 9:7; Mt 3:17; 17:5; Lk 3:22; 9:35). The punishment of the tenants refers to the religious leaders, and the transfer of the vineyard to others refers to the people of the new Israel.
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold.
The Signs of the End.
The Coming Persecution.
The Great Tribulation.
The Coming of the Son of Man.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree.
Need for Watchfulness.
- [13:1–2] The reconstructed temple with its precincts, begun under Herod the Great ca. 20 B.C., was completed only some seven years before it was destroyed by fire in A.D. 70 at the hands of the Romans; cf. Jer 26:18; Mt 24:1–2. For the dating of the reconstruction of the temple, see further the note on Jn 2:20.
- [13:3–37] Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple (Mk 13:2) provoked questions that the four named disciples put to him in private regarding the time and the sign when all these things are about to come to an end (Mk 13:3–4). The response to their questions was Jesus’ eschatological discourse prior to his imminent death. It contained instruction and consolation exhorting the disciples and the church to faith and obedience through the trials that would confront them (Mk 13:5–13). The sign is the presence of the desolating abomination (Mk 13:14; see Dn 9:27), i.e., of the Roman power profaning the temple. Flight from Jerusalem is urged rather than defense of the city through misguided messianic hope (Mk 13:14–23). Intervention will occur only after destruction (Mk 13:24–27), which will happen before the end of the first Christian generation (Mk 13:28–31). No one but the Father knows the precise time, or that of the parousia (Mk 13:32); hence the necessity of constant vigilance (Mk 13:33–37). Luke sets the parousia at a later date, after “the time of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24). See also notes on Mt 24:1–25:46.
- [13:26] Son of Man…with great power and glory: Jesus cites this text from Dn 7:13 in his response to the high priest, Are you the Messiah? (Mk 14:61). In Ex 34:5; Lv 16:2; and Nm 11:25 the clouds indicate the presence of the divinity. Thus in his role of Son of Man, Jesus is a heavenly being who will come in power and glory.
The Conspiracy Against Jesus.
The Anointing at Bethany.
The Betrayal by Judas.
Preparations for the Passover.
The Lord’s Supper.
Peter’s Denial Foretold.
The Agony in the Garden.
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus.
Jesus Before the Sanhedrin.
Peter’s Denial of Jesus.
- [14:1] The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread: the connection between the two festivals is reflected in Ex 12:3–20; 34:18; Lv 23:4–8; Nm 9:2–14; 28:16–17; Dt 16:1–8. The Passover commemorated the redemption from slavery and the departure of the Israelites from Egypt by night. It began at sundown after the Passover lamb was sacrificed in the temple in the afternoon of the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan. With the Passover supper on the same evening was associated the eating of unleavened bread. The latter was continued through Nisan 21, a reminder of the affliction of the Israelites and of the haste surrounding their departure. Praise and thanks to God for his goodness in the past were combined at this dual festival with the hope of future salvation. The chief priests…to death: the intent to put Jesus to death was plotted for a long time but delayed for fear of the crowd (Mk 3:6; 11:18; 12:12).
- [14:12] The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread…the Passover lamb: a less precise designation of the day for sacrificing the Passover lamb as evidenced by some rabbinical literature. For a more exact designation, see note on Mk 14:1. It was actually Nisan 14.
- [14:13] A man…carrying a jar of water: perhaps a prearranged signal, for only women ordinarily carried water in jars. The Essene Jews sometimes practiced celibacy, which could be a reason for a man carrying a jar of water, as this was in the Essene quarter.
- [14:18] One of you will betray me, one who is eating with me: contrasts the intimacy of table fellowship at the Passover meal with the treachery of the traitor; cf. Ps 41:10.
- [14:22–24] The actions and words of Jesus express within the framework of the Passover meal and the transition to a new covenant the sacrifice of himself through the offering of his body and blood in anticipation of his passion and death. His blood of the covenant both alludes to the ancient rite of Ex 24:4–8 and indicates the new community that the sacrifice of Jesus will bring into being (Mt 26:26–28; Lk 22:19–20; 1 Cor 11:23–25).
- [14:24] Which will be shed: see note on Mt 26:27–28. For many: the Greek preposition hyper is a different one from that at Mt 26:28 but the same as that found at Lk 22:19, 20 and 1 Cor 11:24. The sense of both words is vicarious, and it is difficult in Hellenistic Greek to distinguish between them. For many in the sense of “all,” see note on Mt 20:28.
- [14:26] After singing a hymn: Ps 114–118, thanksgiving songs concluding the Passover meal.
- [14:36] Abba, Father: an Aramaic term, here also translated by Mark, Jesus’ special way of addressing God with filial intimacy. The word ‘abbā’ seems not to have been used in earlier or contemporaneous Jewish sources to address God without some qualifier. Cf. Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6 for other occurrences of the Aramaic word in the Greek New Testament. Not what I will but what you will: note the complete obedient surrender of the human will of Jesus to the divine will of the Father; cf. Jn 4:34; 8:29; Rom 5:19; Phil 2:8; Heb 5:8.
Jesus Before Pilate.
The Sentence of Death.
Mockery by the Soldiers.
The Way of the Cross.
The Death of Jesus.
The Burial of Jesus.
- [15:1] Held a council: the verb here, poieō, can mean either “convene a council” or “take counsel.” This reading is preferred to a variant “reached a decision” (cf. Mk 3:6), which Mk 14:64 describes as having happened at the night trial; see note on Mt 27:1–2. Handed him over to Pilate: lacking authority to execute their sentence of condemnation (Mk 14:64), the Sanhedrin had recourse to Pilate to have Jesus tried and put to death (Mk 15:15); cf. Jn 18:31.
- [15:2] The king of the Jews: in the accounts of the evangelists a certain irony surrounds the use of this title as an accusation against Jesus (see note on Mk 15:26). While Pilate uses this term (Mk 15:2, 9, 12), he is aware of the evil motivation of the chief priests who handed Jesus over for trial and condemnation (Mk 15:10; Lk 23:14–16, 20; Mt 27:18, 24; Jn 18:38; 19:4, 6, 12).
- [15:21] They pressed into service…Simon, a Cyrenian: a condemned person was constrained to bear his own instrument of torture, at least the crossbeam. The precise naming of Simon and his sons is probably due to their being known among early Christian believers to whom Mark addressed his gospel. See also notes on Mt 27:32; Lk 23:26–32.
- [15:25] It was nine o’clock in the morning: literally, “the third hour,” thus between 9 a.m. and 12 noon. Cf. Mk 15:33, 34, 42 for Mark’s chronological sequence, which may reflect liturgical or catechetical considerations rather than the precise historical sequence of events; contrast the different chronologies in the other gospels, especially Jn 19:14.
- [15:26] The inscription…the King of the Jews: the political reason for the death penalty falsely charged by the enemies of Jesus. See further the notes on Mt 27:37 and Jn 19:19.
- [15:28] This verse, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘And he was counted among the wicked,’” is omitted in the earliest and best manuscripts. It contains a citation from Is 53:12 and was probably introduced from Lk 22:37.
The Resurrection of Jesus.
The Longer Ending:
The Commissioning of the Eleven.
The Ascension of Jesus.
The Shorter Ending:
[And they reported all the instructions briefly to Peter’s companions. Afterwards Jesus himself, through them, sent forth from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen.]
- [16:1–8] The purpose of this narrative is to show that the tomb is empty and that Jesus has been raised (Mk 16:6) and is going before you to Galilee (Mk 16:7) in fulfillment of Mk 14:28. The women find the tomb empty, and an angel stationed there announces to them what has happened. They are told to proclaim the news to Peter and the disciples in order to prepare them for a reunion with him. Mark’s composition of the gospel ends at Mk 16:8 with the women telling no one, because they were afraid. This abrupt termination causes some to believe that the original ending of this gospel may have been lost. See the following note.
- [16:9–20] This passage, termed the Longer Ending to the Marcan gospel by comparison with a much briefer conclusion found in some less important manuscripts, has traditionally been accepted as a canonical part of the gospel and was defined as such by the Council of Trent. Early citations of it by the Fathers indicate that it was composed by the second century, although vocabulary and style indicate that it was written by someone other than Mark. It is a general resume of the material concerning the appearances of the risen Jesus, reflecting, in particular, traditions found in Lk 24 and Jn 20.