GOSPEL OF MARK 2018 02 CH 2, 3


Boring, M. Eugene.  Mark: A Commentary.  Part of the New Testament Library commentary series edited by C.Clifton Black and John T. Carroll.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2006).

Byrne, Brendan.  A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2008).

Donahue, S.J., John R. and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J..  The Gospel of Mark.  Part of the Sacra Pagina biblical commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2002).

Duran, Nicole Wilkinson Duran, Teresa Okure, Daniel M. Patte editors.  Mark.  Part of the Texts @ Contexts series edited by Athalya Brenner and Nicole Wilkinson Duran.  (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2011)..

France, R.T.  The Gospel of Mark.  Part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary series edited by I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner.  (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, 2002).

Harrington, O.P., Wilfrid.  What was Mark At? The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary.  (Columbia Press, Dublin, 2008).

Hengel, Martin.  Studies in the Gospel of Mark.  Translated by John Bowden from the original German.  (Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene OR, 1985).

Myers, Ched.  Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus.  Twentieth Anniversary Edition.  (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1988/2008).

Myers, Ched & Marie Dennis, Joseph Nangle, OFM, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, and Stuart Taylor.  “Say to the This Mountain”: Mark’s Story of Discipleship. (Orbis, Maryknoll NY, 1996).

Perkins, Pheme.  The Gospel of Mark.  New Interpreter’s Bible Vol. VIII.  Part of the New Interpreter’s Bible commentary series convened by Leander Keck.  (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995).

Placher, William C.  Mark.  Part of the bible commentary serried Belief, A Theological Commentary on the Bible edited by Amy Plantinga Pauw and William C. Placher.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2010).

Ryken, Leland, James C.Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, General Editors.  Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An encyclopedic exploration of the images, symbols, motifs, metaphors, figures of speech and literary patterns of the Bible.  (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 1998).

Sweetland, Dennis.  Mark: From Death to Life. Part of the Spiritual Commentaries on the bible series edited by Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan.  (New City Press, Hyde Park NY, 2000).

Williamson, Jr.,  Lamar.  Mark.  Part of the Interpretation biblical commentary series edited by James L. Mays, Patrick d. Miller, and Paul J. Achtemeier.  (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1983)




This talk is by Fr. Dan Borlik.

God excludes no-one in His plan of salvation.  How can God speak to all people (great diversity) and all times through Scripture?  Each gospel opens for us the ‘living truth’ – Jesus.

This gospel does not appear at first glance to develop the characters in it very much.  This gospel “moves”.

Everything matters in this gospel.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The context is growing persecution and confusion within the ranks. The break with Jewish leadership and the synagogues is on the horizon.
  • There is a great sense of urgency in the gospel and a sparseness of detail. Not a newspaper article but a catechesis in the style of biblical wisdom books.  Not only in the words (through the text) but also in the structure / order of the pieces of the story.  Note the increasing tensions..
    1. Patterns of two or three
    2. Repeated questions, predictions, miracles, parables
  • A strong sense of something very new here. The book of Genesis is in the background.  Jesus as healer highlights God as creator, restoring God’s creation.
  • Mark places Jesus squarely within the tradition of the Jewish prophets, particularly in regard to reform of the Temple

Highlights of chapters 2 and 3.


Jesus is back home in Capernaum.  The story of the opening of the roof for the paralytic is a parallel of the story of the opening of the heavens at the baptism of Jesus.  Jesus makes the man whole – physically and spiritually.

Call of Levi – an unexpected choice to be a follower. Levi as a tax collector worked for and symbolized Rome – the oppressor.

Why do these people not fast as others do?  Why don’t they observe the laws of the Sabbath?  A response from Jesus in the Wisdom tradition: “21 No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. 22 Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.”  Highlights the tension between Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God and the present reality.  (NOT OT vs. NT or Judaism and Christianity.)


(Jewish people would strongly dispute that they ever pushed away the sick or excluded them based on their illness.)  Mark portrays the healing of the man on the Sabbath again as wholeness and returns the Sabbath to its primary role as a time for celebrating God as creator and present to the world.

Jesus’ mission is to transform and restore Israel.  Jesus’ enemies begin to organize and combine forces.  Pharisees and Herodians were NOT natural allies.

Pharisess: traditionalist lay Jews; believed in resurrection; believed and pursued purity and continuity with the Law.

Herodians: were Jews in name only;  collaborators with Rome

Third scene of Jesus calling disciples:

(he appointed the twelve:) Simon, whom he named Peter; 17 James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, 19 and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

The twelve evokes Moses and the 12 tribes of Israel.

Sin against the holy Spirit?    Psalm 51:13  “Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit.”

To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to deny that a fellow human possessed the breath of God. There is no sharp distinction between good and bad people, only a continuum of all of us in various degrees of pathology.  Jesus works to drive out evil spirits and restore people to their original wholeness.





Outline of these chapters:

  • Cure of the paralyzed man in Capernaum, with the beginning of the hostility of the scribes / Pharisees emerging (healing of sins)
  • Call of Levi the tax collector, dinner at his house (conflict over eating with sinners)
  • The question and controversy over fasting
  • Sabbath controversy over picking grains
  • Cure of a man on the Sabbath and controversy over healing on the Sabbath
  • Healings by the Sea
  • On the mountain, identification of the apostles
  • Conflict with his family, with the scribes from Jerusalem

Mark arranges these stories in chapter 2 to emphasize the quickly developing nature of the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees / Scribes / Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.  From questioning in their hearts to plotting to put him to death.  These five conflict stories (2:1 to 3:6) are a tight unit that appears to have been dropped into the flow of a pre-existing narrative story.

Byrne p. 52 makes a fascinating point.  In chapter one there was conflict / expulsion of demons.  In chapters 2 and 3 the conflict remains the same but it moves underground.

“The demons now counterattack through human forces and under the guise of religion.  The telltale destructiveness of the demonic appears in the otherwise surprisingly hostile note on which the sequence ends “The Pharisees went out and immediately conspirted with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him (3:6)””.

Harrington p. 28: “One purpose of the composition of this section was to illustrate and explain the opposition to Jesus, the hostility that led to his death.  We are shown that the opposition came not from the people but from the religious authorities who were determined to preserve the established religious order.  Because they were unable to understand him they ended by determining to destroy him.  And this situation in the mission of Jesus has a bearing too on the hostile attitude of official Judaism to Mark’s community.”

Cure of the paralyzed man

Harrington p. 29: The issue of forgiveness of sins was still a live issue in the time of Mark’s church.  The church was claiming the power to forgive sins because of their participation through baptism in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus – who, as Redeemer and Son of God – had been given that same authority over sin by God the Father.  To Jews – this all remained blasphemy.

Myers points out (p. 19) – on the reaction to Jesus forgiving sins by the scribes and Pharisees: “This is not a defense of God’s sovereignty but of their own social power, since as interpreters of Torah they control how sin is defined.  As in the previous episode, Jesus unilaterally bypasses public authority in order to liberate human life.”  Myers goes on to point out that Jesus relentlessly pushes back against the Jewish purity / debt / sin systems of his time – all of which he saw marginalizing the Other.  He links these old systems to ours today – institutionalized policies and customs that have supported racism, sexism, capitalism, and more – marginalizing others.

The controversy over the Sabbath is illustrated both in the healing and in the plucking of grain.  The Pharisees would not really have denied that helping someone injured etc. was acceptable – but would have said this particular healing could have waited until tomorrow.  Jesus / early church emphasize a certain urgency – the good news demands a response and action NOW.

Boring p. 82: ‘In a Jewish context, the proverb would also suggest that just as the physician communicates healing to the sick rather than the sick infecting him with their sickness, so Jesus communicates his own holiness to others, making them clean, rather than becoming unclean by his contact with them.”


Myers p. 23 – the new wine of Jesus and God’s Kingdom must not be poured into old forms of piety and practice – they will burst.

Byrne p. 61: “The voluntary fasting of John’s disciples and the Pharisees was in view of the coming of the Kingdom – to prepare for it and in a sense “hasten” its arrival.  For Jesus the Kingdom has already dawned, creating a whole new reality with respect to divine-human relations.  By continuing to fast, John’s disciples and the Pharisees relegate themselves to an era already overtaken by the “good news of God”.”

Healings in the OT – reflect the power and action of the LORD

Hosea 14:2-5  (healing of the rift and consequences due to their sins)


Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God;

you have collapsed through your guilt.3

Take with you words, and return to the LORD;

Say to him,

“Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls.



Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount;

We shall say no more,

‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.”


I will heal their defection,

I will love them freely;

for my wrath is turned away from them.

Jeremiah 3: 21-23

A cry is heard on the heights!

the plaintive weeping of Israel’s children,

Because they have perverted their ways and forgotten the LORD, their God.


Return, rebellious children, and I will cure you of your rebelling.

“Here we are, we now come to you because you are the LORD, our God.


Deceptive indeed are the hills, the thronging mountains;

In the LORD, our God, alone is the salvation of Israel.

Sirach 38: 9-14

My son, when you are ill, delay not, but pray to God, who will heal you:

Flee wickedness; let your hands be just, cleanse your heart of every sin;

Offer your sweet-smelling oblation and petition, a rich offering according to your means.

Then give the doctor his place lest he leave; for you need him too.

There are times that give him an advantage,

and he too beseeches God That his diagnosis may be correct and his treatment bring about a cure.

Bridegroom metaphor

Harrington p. 30:  Nowhere in the OT does the Bridegroom = the Messiah.  In fact it was the LORD God who was the spouse of Israel!  It was part of the Christian claim that the messianic age had arrived in the person of Jesus.

God as spouse: Hosea 2:18-23

On that day, says the LORD,

She shall call me “My husband,” and never again “My baal.”

Then will I remove from her mouth the names of the Baals,

so that they shall no longer be invoked.

I will make a covenant for them on that day,

with the beasts of the field,

With the birds of the air, and with the things that crawl on the ground.



Bow and sword and war I will destroy from the land,

and I will let them take their rest in security.

I will espouse you to me forever:

I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy;

I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD.

On that day I will respond, says the LORD;

I will respond to the heavens, and they shall respond to the earth;

Jeremiah 2:1-3

This word of the LORD came to me:

Go, cry out this message for Jerusalem to hear!

I remember the devotion of your youth, how you loved me as a bride,

Following me in the desert, in a land unsown.

Sacred to the LORD was Israel, the first fruits of his harvest;

Should anyone presume to partake of them, evil would befall him, says the LORD.

The bridegroom will be taken away.  Again Mark drops an ominous note into the narrative.

Leviticus 24:5-9 the showbread, also called bread of the presence arranged on a table in the Holy of Holies:

“You shall take fine flour and bake it into twelve cakes,

using two tenths of an ephah of flour for each cake.

These you shall place in two piles, six in each pile,

on the pure gold table before the LORD.

On each pile put some pure frankincense,

which shall serve as an oblation to the LORD,

a token offering for the bread.


Regularly on each sabbath day this bread shall be set out afresh before the LORD, offered on the part of the Israelites by an everlasting agreement.

It shall belong to Aaron and his sons, who must eat it in a sacred place,

since, as something most sacred among the various oblations to the LORD,

it is his by perpetual right.”


The reference to David: I Sam. 21  (in the midst of his battles with King Saul)


Then David departed on his way, while Jonathan went back into the city.

David went to Ahimelech, the priest of Nob, who came trembling to meet him and asked,

“Why are you alone? Is there no one with you?”

David answered the priest: “The king gave me a commission and told me to let no one know anything about the business on which he sent me or the commission he gave me. For that reason I have arranged a meeting place with my men.


Now what have you on hand? Give me five loaves, or whatever you can find.” But the priest replied to David, “I have no ordinary bread on hand, only holy bread; if the men have abstained from women, you may eat some of that.”

David answered the priest: “We have indeed been segregated from women as on previous occasions. Whenever I go on a journey, all the young men are consecrated–even for a secular journey. All the more so today, when they are consecrated at arms!”

So the priest gave him holy bread, for no other bread was on hand except the showbread which had been removed from the LORD’S presence and replaced by fresh bread when it was taken away.

Plucking grain controversy

Deuteronomy 23:25, 26


“When you go through your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat as many of his grapes as you wish, but do not put them in your basket.


When you go through your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pluck some of the ears with your hand, but do not put a sickle to your neighbor’s grain.


In case of hunger / human need Jewish law acknowledged the need to respond.  This situation in Mark is not really a controversy over the eating of the grains picked when they were hungry.  Harrington p. 32,22 points out that it is a vehicle to bring the “Man was not made for the Sabbath…” saying up.  The Christian community had, while trying to remain Jewish, set aside the Sabbath to celebrate Sunday – the Lord’s Day.

Boring p.88ff – Keeping Holy the Sabbath Day was one of the 10 commandments.  This was serious business, a serious question, in the early church for Jewish Christians, their extended families and neighbors.  “The strict Sabbath rules were not regarded as a burden; keeping them was a sign of joyous obedience to God and of god’s acceptance.  Sabbath keeping was not merely a matter of individual piety; the Sabbath was a testimony and sign to Israel and to the world of God’s covenant with Israel; …”  So much so – the penalty for violating the Sabbath was death.




Exodus 31:12-16

The LORD said to Moses,

“You must also tell the Israelites: Take care to keep my sabbaths, for that is to be the token between you and me throughout the generations, to show that it is I, the LORD, who make you holy.


Therefore, you must keep the sabbath as something sacred. Whoever desecrates it shall be put to death. If anyone does work on that day, he must be rooted out of his people.


Six days there are for doing work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of complete rest, sacred to the LORD. Anyone who does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.


So shall the Israelites observe the sabbath, keeping it throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.


Boat / sea

In contrast with “official Judaism” the people respond to the message and person of Jesus with great enthusiasm – so great that Jesus is continually in danger of being crushed.

Sweetland p. 47 points out that Jesus will use a boat and cross back and forth over the Sea of Galilee many times.  This is the first reference to it, a structural technique in Mark, as well as theological symbolism which has to do with crossing the Gentile / Jewish boundaries, a claim to the universal message of Jesus.

Byrne points out (p. 70) – the sea in the OT represents chaos, disorder (Creation story, Noah, Jonah, etc.).  It is significant that later Jesus calms the sea.  The sea is where fish are – the apostles will fish for humans from the sea of the world – a place of chaos, danger, demons.

Mountain references in OT Ryken p. 572,573

  • physical places, borders and barriers – Joshua 15
  • places that are isolated that people can flee to – Genesis 14 and 19
  • places for visions (closer to the heavens?) – Deuteronomy 34
  • place to encounter God – Exodus 19 (Sinai)
  • place of covenant making – Moses with the LORD – Exodus
  • places from which the word of God is heard (Mt. Zion) – Isaiah 2
  • place where the Temple is built – Mt. Zion, as well as where the nations will come when the Messiah / Day of the LORD occurs


12 apostles

Just as Moses and God essentially create Israel on Mt. Sinai Jesus goes about re-creating God’s people on this mountain.  The 12 apostles are a renewal of the 12 tribes of Israel (not a replacement).  The people flock to him etc.

“Sons of Thunder” is a mysterious translation according to Boring p. 103.  May have been their personalities.  May have been their later ability as preachers.  May have been something else.

Byrne p. 72: “The notice of his betrayal (Judas) intensifies the shadow beginning to gather over the narrative.  Even Jesus’ inner circle is not immune from demonic infiltration.”

Family conflict

Sweetland p. 53/54  No evidence that Jesus’ family followed Jesus during his lifetime – only after the passion / resurrection.  “The household or family is one of the basic images of Christian social identity and cohesion.  In the ancient world, the extended family was the source of one’s status in the community and functioned as the primary economic, religious, educational, and social network.  If we recognize the communal nature of Christianity, best expressed by this image of the family, we will realize that other followers of Jesus are our brothers and sisters.”




NEXT WEEK: Mark chapter 4, 5


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