GOSPEL OF MARK 2018 05 CH 8, 9


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).

Healy, Mary.  The Gospel of Mark.   Part of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture edited by Peter Williamson and Mary Healy.  (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 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 Clifford Yeary.

Instead of a quilt, think of these chapters as a cloak – a travel garment, to take us deep into the mystery of what it means to know Jesus as the messiah.

In Mark there is one key message of Jesus: “The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  Mark 1:15

One scholarly issue: what is the difference between the message of Jesus about the Kingdom and repentance and the message of the church about the person of Jesus?

When Jesus says believe in the gospel … we are to believe God is in the act of establishing the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

When the Church tells us to believe in the gospel … we are to believe in the good news that Jesus died for us and is risen from the dead.

The disciples themselves struggled with this distinction in this portion of the gospel.

The disciples tend to be looking for a real kingdom now, with Jesus and the Father in charge.  Everything that Jesus does and teaches is consistent with Kingdom theology.  With the two feeding miracles the disciples realize that Jesus is directly linked to the kingdom, but understanding is elusive.

They had just been fed, God through Jesus will give them bread, but “They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread.”  Mark 8:16

15 He enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  The leaven of the Pharisees was the desire to protect the kingdom from contamination by the unworthy.  N.T. Wright.

For the feeding miracles one only had to be there and desire to eat, all were fed.  No distinction.

  1. T. Wright: “The leaven of Herod is the vain hope and temptation to use the gospel as something that props up one’s own ambitions.”

In the end the disciples must understand that the path to the kingdom leads to the cross.

“Who do people say that I am?  Mark 8:27

“But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah. 8:29

30 Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.  Why?

  1. People will misunderstand and this will lead to his death before his work is completed.
  2. Jesus is not satisfied with the answer, he doesn’t really get it. His understanding of messiah is not adequate.  Peter’s vision is still distorted.  It will turn out that they will only really understand after the death and resurrection.

Titles for Jesus in Mark:

  • Messiah, the Christ
  • Son of God
  • Son of David
  • Son of Man

31 He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.

Our commentary: the human being.  “Adam could no longer claim full humanity as God had intended.  That was for Jesus, the Son of Man, to reestablish, by accepting the most basic human limitations, which is to suffer and die.  … Jesus did not only accept to die.  He gave his life as a ransom for many.  LaVerdiere.

Peter can accept Jesus as messiah, but not as Son of Man.  Jesus rebukes Peter but restores him also.  In the Greek: “go behind me.”

To go behind – means to follow Jesus.  To be a disciple means to go behind, to follow after te one who is the teacher.

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 8:34

Next comes a puzzling statement: 9:1 He also said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power.”  The Transfiguration is the key part of the answer.  Peter, James, and John are terrified and see the power and promise of the Kingdom.

Transfiguration is the key interpretive symbol for the gospel.  Is found in the middle of the story.

Life changing encounter with Jesus transforms us





Outline of chapter 8:

  • feeding of 4,000
  • confrontation with the Pharisees in Dalmanutha over request for a sign
  • disciples do not understand the bread / feeding
  • cure of blind man in Bethsaida
  • on the way to Caesarea Philippi – “Who do people say that I am?”


feeding of 4,000

Three days of fasting, in anticipation of a big event.  example Esther 4:15,16

Esther sent back to Mordecai the response:

“Go and assemble all the Jews who are in Susa; fast on my behalf, all of you, not eating or drinking, night or day, for three days. I and my maids will also fast in the same way. Thus prepared, I will go to the king, contrary to the law. If I perish, I perish!”


Placher notes on p. 109:

  • first feeding: 5 loaves, 12 baskets. 5,000 Israelite men
  • second feeding: 7 loaves, 7 baskets. 4,000 Gentiles fed.
    • four corners of world, 4,000 represents the whole world?
    • four basic laws that Gentiles must obey in living with Jews Acts 15:19,20
      • It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.
    • 7 laws of Noahic covenant Genesis 9:4-7
      • Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.
      • For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life.
      • If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; For in the image of God has man been made.
      • Be fertile, then, and
      • multiply;
      • abound on earth and
      • subdue it.”

The feeding occurs after 3 days.  After Jesus spends 3 days in tomb and is raised – the mission of the church, which includes going to the Gentiles, will begin.

Notice that it is “bread in the wilderness” – like the mannah.  Rabbis have always connected mannah to Torah.

Harrington p. 73: just before this the Syro-Phoenician woman asks for the crumbs from the table, now the Gentiles are given filling amounts of bread.


confrontation with the Pharisees in Dalmanutha over request for a sign

Myers p. 224: “Mark inserts this exchange hard on the heels of the second wilderness feeding as if to say that the “sign” of the kingdom is the very terrestrial vision of a new order where all can “eat and be satisfied”.”

Harrington p. 75: “The demand of a ‘sign from heaven’ is to test Jesus; some apocalyptic portent is envisaged.  The Pharisees imagine that their challenge creates a dilemma; if Jesus tries to give a sign, he will fail; if he refuses, he will lose popular support.”

Prophetic signs to prove their divine authority in OT – Moses and 10 plagues

2 Kings 20:8-11


Then Hezekiah asked Isaiah, “What is the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I shall go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day?”


Isaiah replied, “This will be the sign for you from the LORD that he will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward or back ten steps?”


“It is easy for the shadow to advance ten steps,” Hezekiah answered. “Rather, let it go back ten steps.”


So the prophet Isaiah invoked the LORD, who made the shadow retreat the ten steps it had descended on the staircase to the terrace of Ahaz.


Donahue p.250: “Mark does not deny that the mighty works of Jesus are manifestations of God’s power, but he insists that these works are experienced by people with faith (2:5, 5:34, 10:52); miracles do not produce faith.  The demands to Jesus to produce another sign and his denial of the sign at the end of a sequence of mighty works (Mark 7:24-8:10) foreshadows the mocking challenge to Jesus to come down from the cross ‘that we may see and believe’ (15:32).  Mark’s Gospel, which begins with a radical call to faith (1:15), ends with that same radical demand.”


disciples do not understand the bread / feeding

Placher p. 112: “The disciples are apparently complaining that they have only one loaf of bread.  One understands Jesus’ impatience.  Have they not yet realized that a shortage of bread is no problem when he is with them?  Indeed, Mark may be identifying the “one loaf with them in the boat” with Jesus himself.  We have been hearing about bread constantly for the last several chapters.  Now the word suddenly disappears, and Mark does not use it again until 14:22, when Jesus takes bread, blesses, and breaks it, and gives it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body.”  Is it already Jesus’ body that is that one loaf with them in the boat?”

Myers p. 224: “The term “leaven” (only here in Mark) obviously appears in relation to the metaphor of the “loaves,” a symbolic discourse mark is setting up here.  Mark is reminding the disciple / reader of the two main political forces in Galilee hostile to the kingdom project of reconciliation between Jew and gentile.   On the one hand the Pharisaic party opposes integration on grounds of social boundary and purity, as we have just seen.  On the other, the Herodian-sponsored program of hellenization offers a style of “integration” based on cultural imperialisms and collaboration with Rome.  Those who resist such a program are disposed of, as in the case f John the Baptist.  Either “leaven” will destroy the delicate social experiment of the “one loaf”.”

Myers p. 226 (on the mission of the church / community of Mark): “The task of forging this new community is like a harrowing voyage across deadly waters; there is enough bread for their journey, but there is only one loaf.  Do the disciples in Mark’s story see this?  They do not.  And on this troubling note, Mark opens the second half of his Gospel – with a story about Jesus’ restoration of sight to the blind.”

Harrington p. 76,77: ‘It would appear that Mark has some Jewish-Christian disciples primarily in view.  The kind of situation that Paul encountered in Jerusalem and Antioch (Gal 2) would also have cropped up again at a later date in other areas.  It would not have been easy for Pharisaic Jews, coming to Christianity, to shrug off their ingrained prejudice and enter into warm fellowship with Gentiles.”  a lifetime of learning that Gentiles were dirty and unclean and that one should not ever eat with them.


cure of blind man in Bethsaida

Placher p. 114: “The contemporary scholar Ira Driggers suggests that Mark is anticipating his own them: the healing of the blind man requires two stages just as, we shortly learn, the disciples need first to realize that Jesus is the Messiah and then understand that he must suffer.  Certainly Driggers’s interpretation best focuses on this passage’s place in the text as a whole, for Mark is leading his readers to the first human confession of Jesus’ identity.”        Or, possibly before resurrection clarity contrasted with post-resurrection clarity for the disciples.

Harrington p. 77: “The story is a sign of coming to faith.  It tells us that Jesus alone could cure the blindness of the disciples, and it show, too, that their lack of understanding was so serious that it could be penetrated only gradually.  The second half of the gospel will show how imperfect that first glimmer of understanding was and how Jesus will have to struggle with their persistent obtuseness.  The readers of the gospel are reminded that only the Lord can grant understanding.”

on the way to Caesarea Philippi – “Who do people say that I am?”

on the return of Elijah: Malachi 3:23 :

“Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, Before the day of the LORD comes, the great and terrible day, To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the land with doom. “

This is the very last line of the book of the prophet Malachi.  It is the very last line of the OT in Christian bibles (not Jewish bibles) .   We placed this book there to emphasize that John the Baptist and Jesus represented the fulfillment of OT prophecies related to the Messiah and the Messianic age.


Placher p. 115:  they are now “on the way”    ultimately to Jerusalem and the cross, going by way of Caesarea Philippi which represents the Romans / secular rulers

Placher p. 116: “It also indicates the extent of the paradigm shift Jesus is demanding.  For all the differences in the pictures of the Messiah anticipated by various first-century Jews, they shared a hope of triumph.  somehow the Messiah would win victories, defeat Israel’s enemies, restore Israel’s greatness.  The idea of a suffering Messiah was radically new. “

John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972) p. 129: “The cross of Calvary was not a difficult family situation, not a frustration of visions of personal fulfillment, a crushing debt, or a nagging in-law; it was the political logically-to-be-expected result of a moral clash with the powers ruling his society.”

Myers p. 228: the failure of Peter to “get it” is intended by Mark perhaps to be a jolt to all leaders and followers – do I really get it?

Harrington p. 82: “Here, more obviously than elsewhere, Mark is writing for his community.  Here, above all, he is concerned with Christology.  The confession of Peter is the facile profession of too many of Mark’s contemporaries: You are the Christ.  Everything depends on what they mean by that profession and its influence on their lives.  They cannot have a risen Lord without a suffering Messiah.  They cannot be his disciples without walking his road of suffering.”

Myers p. 229 reflects on the theme throughout this first half of Mark on food / feeding / eating  / bread etc.. which now will disappear until the Last Supper.  “The world Mark portrays is one in which crowds often prevent the community from eating (3:20, 6:31), crowds that are themselves hungry (6:36, 8:2).  The disciples are expected to respond to this reality (6:37), for Jesus recognizes that there must be sustenance “on the way”(8:3).”

Outline of chapter 9:

  • teaching – some will not taste death
  • transfiguration
  • teaching – Elijah
  • healing – boy possessed by a mute spirit



teaching – some will not taste death

Mark may intend the Transfiguration, which follows, to fulfill this prediction.  The Kingdom HAS come, but not fully.

Many commentators consider this verse  as  the conclusion to the previous passage (on taking up the cross to follow Him) and would start chapter 9 with the transfiguration (v. 2).



The pace of Mark is fast – partly because it is a short gospel, partly because it contains a great deal of narrative and not so much “teaching” material.  A lot is also due the Mark’s use of connecting phrases such as “six days later” or “immediately they went” etc. as in this case.  It makes the gospel almost breathless – he did this, then he did that, a few days later he did this, then he went there and said thus and such ….. right up to the passion.

This is the midpoint of the gospel.  In chapters 1-8 Jesus has been in Galilee and in Gentile territories calling disciples, announcing the kingdom, freeing people from that which oppresses them.  Now he will turn, in chapters 9 through 16 of the Gospel, toward Jerusalem and the cross.   This divine blessing on Jesus marked the first part of his ministry, now the second part (toward Jerusalem), and will mark the third part (resurrection, the coming of the Kingdom).

Byrne p. 144: this is the second of three places in Mark where Jesus is declared Son of God: baptism, transfiguration, and by the centurion after death.  (beginning, middle , and end)

Perkins p. 630: “The three disciples who are singled out for this manifestation of Jesus’ identity as Son of God are the ones who witnessed the healing of Jairus’s daughter (5:37).  They will also witness the agony in Gethsemane (14:33).”    However – these three do not appear to develop any special insight as a result.  They will fail Jesus just as Peter does.

Both Moses and Elijah had conversations with God on mountains.

1 Kings 19: 8,9

He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb. There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him, “Why are you here, Elijah?” …



Williamson p. 158: high mountain = near heaven, cloud = divine presence, voice = that of God, bright garments = glory of the divine presence /fire as reflected on face of Moses.  Booths may be a connection to Feast of Booths / promise of Sabbath rest at the coming of the Kingdom.

Normally the booths reference is understood to be an attempt on the part of the disciples to STAY on the mountain, to STAY in realm of religious experience instead of continuing the journey to Jerusalem and toward suffering / passion.

Byrne p. 146: “This makes clear that Jesus is to undergo this fate not just as Messiah but as “beloved Son.”  What God did not in the end require of Abraham – the sacrifice of his beloved only son (Gen. 22) – God will require of Godself for the salvation of the world.  This is the supreme issue with which the disciples will have to wrestle for the remainder of the gospel: how can Jesus be Messiah – and indeed God’s beloved Son – and yet be destined to die on a cross?”  Not only throughout the gospel – but throughout the early church.

Williamson p. 159: “The language of Mark 9:2-8 is primarily that of theophany, but the vision of Jesus in glory is apocalyptic and eschatological.  The evangelist and his readers, standing after the resurrection of Jesus, would understand the scene as a glimpse into the future, a revelation of Jesus as son of God and Son of man whose imminent coming in glory would consummate the end-time he had announced and inaugurated in his ministry.”



Exodus 13:20-22  cloud

Setting out from Succoth, they camped at Etham near the edge of the desert.   The LORD preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire to give them light. Thus they could travel both day and night.   Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people.

Exodus 19:7 – 10  cloud

So Moses went and summoned the elders of the people. When he set before them all that the LORD had ordered him to tell them, the people all answered together, “Everything the LORD has said, we will do.” Then Moses brought back to the LORD the response of the people. The LORD also told him, “I am coming to you in a dense cloud, so that when the people hear me speaking with you, they may always have faith in you also.” When Moses, then, had reported to the LORD the response of the people, the LORD added, “Go to the people and have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow.


Numbers 9:15-17 cloud

On the day when the Dwelling was erected, the cloud covered the Dwelling, the tent of the commandments; but from evening until morning it took on the appearance of fire over the Dwelling.   It was always so: during the day the Dwelling was covered by the cloud, which at night had the appearance of fire.  Whenever the cloud rose from the tent, the Israelites would break camp; wherever the cloud came to rest, they would pitch camp.

Exodus 34:28-30       radiance


So Moses stayed there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the LORD. When Aaron, then, and the other Israelites saw Moses and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become, they were afraid to come near him.


teaching – Elijah

Jesus identifies John the Baptist as Elijah returned in this passage.


healing – boy possessed by a mute spirit

from the heights of the mountain and the religious high there and back to the real world – where Satan and oppression reign.  Note the boy is thrown down to the ground by the demon.

Williamson p. 163: the glory of Jesus is paired with the frustration and incompetence of the disciples.  What were the arguments about?  Mark doesn’t say but the implication is that they were arguing about the disciples’ inability to heal the boy and what it might mean.

Williamson p. 166: “Prayer in Mark is not pious manipulation of God to get what we want, but communing with God in the wilderness where Satan is confronted and overcome and wrestling alone in the night to submit one’s own will to that of God.”


Jesus again predicts his passion

Williamson p. 168:  this occurs in Galilee and that is significant.  “Galilee is a symbol for the place from which Jesus calls persons to follow him, to which he bids them return to watch for his coming, and through which he leads his own disciples.  It is our own home turf, on which we become strangers and pilgrims as Jesus leads us on the way to Jerusalem.  When the text speaks of Jesus passing through Galilee with his disciples, it speaks of us.”

Perkins p. 635: “Despite the extraordinary power exhibited in the exorcisms, Jesus still must suffer.  The return through Galilee from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem is not the occasion for a new mission but for instruction of the disciples, wherein Jesus predicts the passion and resurrection for the second time.”

Perkins p. 636 – fear and silence plays an important role in the passion – and perhaps is foreshadowed here – the disciples are now afraid to ask Jesus questions.



NEXT WEEK: Mark chapter 9:33 through 10


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