GOSPEL OF MARK 2018 06 CH 9, 10


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 Gregory Wolfe

Jesus travels in earlier chapters now stops for awhile.  This part is mostly private instruction and catechetical.  Parabolic style.  Time to stop and think.

 Mark 9:30 to 32: They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.

The gospel of Mark is punctuated with reminders that the journey with Jesus will end with the passion in Jerusalem.  3 times.  After each one comes an event that shows the disciples in a negative light.  Their misunderstanding is followed by a teaching.   A moment of openness.

9:33  They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”  34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.

10:32 They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them.

On the way: this is both literal movement and theological / spiritual movement.  A metaphor for Jesus’ life, passion, and resurrection.  Occurs also in Acts, early church.  Becomes a designation for the Christian life.  We are to think: How are we to apply these stories and lessons in our own lives?

Arguments while on a trip?

Jesus reacts 2 ways:

  1. 35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.” 38

Disciples must have the kingdom attitude of the servant, not of the king such as Herod.

  1. John complains that another person was expelling demons in Jesus’ name. Mark 9:40, 41:  . 40 For whoever is not against us is for us.  Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
  2. Adults influencing children, the innocent.

Mark 9:49-50  49 “Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

  1. Chapter 10:1-12  What conditions for divorce?  Jesus asks that they look at the intentions of marriage, not at divorce.  Shock: “ 10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” 13”
  2. Wealth is no indication of a persons relationship with God.

Mark 10:32:  They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.

Then: third prediction.  After John asks about his eventual reward.  Jesus responds with  question: Mark 10:38  “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  Reply: we can.  But they do not understand.

Jesus is calling them to RENUNCIATION:

  • A word we don’t hear to much these days and therefore perhaps it can offer us a renewed challenge. Anything that stands between us and God.

Ends with Blind man Bartimaeus.  Now on the outskirts of Jerusalem in Jericho, about 15 miles away.

Mark 10:47 “On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

Mark 10:48  “48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”

Example of persistent prayer.  Without sight Bartimaeus goes straight to Jesus.

Mark 10:51  The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”

Just as we want to see, to be in the Kingdom.  Let us claim our own blindness and ask for sight, and follow the Lord.



teaching – the one who is greatest is the servant of all

Williamson p. 170: “Jesus does not despise the desire to be first, but his definition of greatness stands the world’s ordering of priorities on its head and radically challenges a fundamental human assumption about achievement.”

Williamson p. 170: “Original readers of Mark would readily have seen in Jesus’ embrace of the child his self-identification as lowliest, least, and servant of all.”

Perkins p. 637: “The shocking element in this episode cannot be appreciate by modern readers.  Our social conventions have exalted childhood as a privileged time of innocence, this romantic view is usually imported into these passages.  However the child in antiquity was a non-person.  Children should have been with the women, not hanging around the teacher and his students.  To say that those who receive Jesus receive God does not constitute a problem.  A person’s emissary was commonly understood to be like the one who sent him.  but to insist that receiving a child might have some value for male disciples is almost inconceivable. … This example treats the child, who was socially invisible, as the stand-i9n for Jesus.”

teaching – who is not against us is for us

It’s not that the charismatic  other teacher was not following Jesus – but was not following or under the control of  the 12.  Something perhaps common in the early church?  Paul’s battles with the church in Jerusalem seen in this light?

Byrne p. 154: “What determines the “reward” one will receive (at the judgment) is not whether one is inside or outside the community but whether one has performed the service expected of the community.”  (both casting out demons, giving a cup of water)


teaching – on sin

The brief exploration of Gehenna (worm …) is probably an ancient scribal  insertion into the text – after Mark but before official adoption of the text by the church as scripture.

Bryne p. 155: perhaps a deliberate surgery to preserve the whole body?  Perhaps the Roman penal practice where someone sentenced to death could substitute mutilation?  Rather than focus on the extreme apocalyptic type of vision – focus instead on what is being affirmed – the extraordinary value of the Kingdom of God.

We read these verses as metaphors, believing that Jesus did not intend us to actually do them.  Other verses – No divorce, this is my body – we read literally.   What criteria do we use to decide?

teaching – metaphor of salt

Leviticus 2:13   ritual cereal offerings

However, every cereal offering that you present to the LORD shall be seasoned with salt. Do not let the salt of the covenant of your God be lacking from your cereal offering. On every offering you shall offer salt.

Williamson p. 172: “The argument has a coherence deeper than catchwords: Since undisciplined disciples risk the fire of gehenna at the last judgment, the hardships that disciples undergo now are disciplines like the fire of a sacrificial offering that purifies, or like salt which stings and smarts but is preservative in its effect.  Jesus on his way to Jerusalem is the supreme example of the sacrificial offerings “salted with fire.””




Outline of chapter 10:

  • Pharisees challenge on the issue of divorce
  • Jesus and the disciples – let the children come to Him
  • Jesus encounters a rich young man – What do I need to do to be saved?
  • Teaching – how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom
  • Teaching – those who suffer for the kingdom will be rewarded a hundred-fold
  • prediction of the passion
  • the request of James and John to sit at His right and left
  • encounter and healing of the blind man Bartimaeous


In this chapter Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom of God continue to challenge the every day customs and practices of his time – even those of “good” and / or “religious”  folks.

Boring p. 285-285: “Already in 3:31-35, the Markan Jesus had announced the formation of a new family that transcended the most sacred obligations and relationships of the conventional family.  …  The religious and political tensions of mark’s situation had indeed led to the breakup of families – is this an essential cost of discipleship?  Can an authentic disciple have a spouse and children?  And what is their status within the community?  Mark’s literary and historical context, including the persecution of (Jewish-) Christians at the time of the 66-70 revolt, is primary for understanding the section.  Families were divided against each other (13:12).  Marriages came apart under the stress.  Disciples were having to make decisions about financial and social matters.  Within the framework of the “way to Jerusalem” announced at 8:31, the Markan Jesus spells out some implications of discipleship for marriage and divorce, relation to children, property, family relationships and church leaders.”



Pharisees challenge on the issue of divorce

Mark continually presents the Pharisees as “testing” and arguing with Jesus.  It’s hard for us to know, this far removed, whether this was actually the case or whether or not ordinary and good-natured rabbinic discussion / “sacred arguing” was taking place between rabbis (including Jesus) and their followers.  I tend to think that, at least at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, it was primarily a case of “sacred arguing”, perhaps degenerating to the harsher stage once the established Pharisees and authorities had decided that Jesus was a “loose cannon” and therefore dangerous to the status quo.

Deut. 24: 1-4 is the only legal reference to divorce in the Torah:

When a man, after marrying a woman, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house, if on leaving his house she goes and becomes the wife of another man, and the second husband, too, comes to dislike her and he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house, or if this second man who has married her dies, then her former husband, who dismissed her, may not again take her as his wife after she has become defiled. That would be an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring such guilt upon the land the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage.

Divorce was taken for granted in Judaism and in the Gentile societies around them.  What WAS subject to debate / discussion was the grounds for divorce.  There are recorded differing opinions by rabbis at the time of Jesus and after in the Talmud  – what does “something indecent”(can also be translated as “something objectionable”)  include?   Adultery for sure, but bad cooking?  Just don’t like her anymore?     Most rabbis had a pretty broad interpretation and permitted the equivalent of “no-fault” or easy divorce.  There was nothing more to it than described above – write out “I divorce you” on a piece of paper and hand it to her.

Jewish law at the time of Jesus did not permit women to divorce their husbands but Roman law did.

The piece of paper was important – it proved that a previously married person was now free to marry again.

It’s hard for us to grasp this situation since we have since had more than 1,000 years of seeing marriage within  legal and sacramental lenses.  Back then – it was strictly a private contractual matter between 2 families – albeit with serious economic implications for both extended families.  States did not license it, there were no ceremonies in the synagogue or at the courthouse, no ministers or blessings either.  Families did indeed celebrate it (wedding at Cana).

France p. 388: “The legal provision of  Moses in Dt. 24 was not intended as a statement of God’s purpose for marriage, but as a regrettable but necessary means of limiting the damage when that purpose for marriage has already been abandoned.  It is a provision to deal with human (hard-heartedness), not a pointer to the way things ought to be.  The marriage ethics of the kingdom of God must be based not on a concession to human failure, but on the pattern set out in God’s original creation of man and woman.  What God has joined together must not be separated by human initiative.”



Jesus and the disciples – let the children come to Him

France p. 397: “It is the literal children whom Jesus tells the disciples to allow to come to him, but the reason is that they belong to and represent a wider category of the “little ones”, who are the ones who matter to God.”   (their parents, all the anonymous “lowly” ones of the world)

Most scholars do not see any “special” or liturgical blessing involved here by Jesus.  It was normal for a religious elder to bless others.


Jesus encounters a rich young man – What do I need to do to be saved?

This next encounter involves a rich young man – a person of great status in the world.  Does the Kingdom of God belong to them?

“Good teacher” – France p. 402 suggests that Jesus suspects he is being flattered so that he will  tell the man what he wants to hear.  Others simply believe that he was sincere and that Jesus was almost over-reacting in a desire to keep the Messiah / King thing under wraps.

France p. 399: “Seen in that wider perspective, the story of the rich man is more than simply an expression of Jesus’ attitude to wealth; it is part of a broader critique of conventional human values.  But that does not mean that it is not to be interpreted as a statement on affluence.  Like each of the preceding pericopes, it both contributes to the overall re-education of the disciples and carries its own specific and uncomfortable message.  In Jewish society it was generally taken for granted that wealth was to be welcomed as a mark of God’s blessing; rabbis like Hillel and Akiba who rose from obscurity and poverty to wealth and influence are commended without embarrassment.  But this quite natural valuation is turned on its head by Jesus.”

Christianity and Judaism continue to look at wealth from different perspectives today.

Placher p. 145 quotes Frederick Buechner (“Telling the Truth” p. 63):  How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God? – harder than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, ‘harder than for Nelson Rockefeller to get through the night deposit slot of the First National City Bank.”

France p. 405 absolutely rejects the conjecture that there was a gate to the city of Jerusalem called “the eye of the needle” or anything like it.  Preachers have suggested such a gate in which the camel would be stripped of all his burdens, able to kneel and crawl through.  Hence the rich should have hope.  “That which Jesus presented as ludicrously impossible is turned into a remote possibility: the rich person, given sufficient unloading and humility, might just possibly be able to squeeze in.  That was not what Jesus’ proverb meant, and it was not how the disciples understood it.”

Placher p. 146 says that others try to translate camel as “rope” – but a rope cannot pass through the eye of a needle either.  (It would be a less jarring pairing however.)  “The reality is that for most of Jesus’ or Mark’s audience a camel was the largest animal they would ever see, a needle’s eye the smallest aperture they knew about, and one going through the other was impossible.”

Boring p. 292,293   How the church / preachers have tried to deal with this text in history:

  1. Needle’s Eye = a gate in Jerusalem that might be difficult but possible for a camel to enter through. No evidence for this.  First raised in 9th
  2. This was for a very particular historical situation (following the physically present Jesus around Galilee and to Jerusalem), was not applicable as a rule outside of this situation. (Note that even the 12 did not give up all their stuff, they only left it at home / behind.)
  3. This was directed to a particular person and only to that person, is not for all of us. Perhaps Jesus saw in him some traits (greed etc.) that uncorrected would have kept him out of the kingdom.
  4. A rejection of a literal interpretation – give up things “spiritually” but not in reality.
  5. Jesus’ intent was to make it clear that everyone stood in need of grace, that none of us can make the sacrifices necessary to be saved on our own. Only God’s grace can save us.
  6. There are levels of disciple ship. Some of us are called to sacrifice more (and will be rewarded more), others of us can / do settle for something less.  AKA “evangelical counsels”

Boring p. 293 suggests it is really a parable.

Myers p. 272 suggests that Jesus was responding to (presumed) exploitation of others by the rich man – without repentance and making amends he cannot be a follower of Jesus.

However – it remains God’s kingdom, not ours.

prediction of the passion

In the prediction of the suffering to be undergone at the hands of Gentiles Jesus uses 4 verbs that relate to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah  (mock, spit, scourge / beat, kill)

Isaiah 50:6

I gave my back to those who beat me,

my cheeks to those who tore out my beard;*

My face I did not hide

from insults and spitting.c


Isaiah 53:5

But he was pierced for our sins,

crushed for our iniquity.

He bore the punishment that makes us whole,

by his wounds we were healed.


Isaiah 53:8,9

Seized and condemned, he was taken away.

Who would have thought any more of his destiny?

For he was cut off from the land of the living,

struck for the sins of his people.


He was given a grave among the wicked,

a burial place with evildoers,

Though he had done no wrong,

nor was deceit found in his mouth.



the request of James and John to sit at His right and left

France p. 414: Incongruously – Jesus has just told the disciples that they are going to Jerusalem where he will be humiliated and will die – and they ask about sitting at his side in his glory.  They are not referring to “in the (heavenly) kingdom”.  Note that Jesus reminds them that status in the true kingdom cannot be earned.

“Cup” in OT is frequently a reference to suffering.


Psalm 75: 5-9

So I say to the boastful: “Do not boast!”

to the wicked: “Do not raise your horns!

Do not raise your horns against heaven!

Do not speak with a stiff neck!”


For judgment comes not from east or from west,

not from the wilderness or the mountains,

But from God who decides,

who brings some low and raises others high.


Yes, a cup is in the LORD’s hand,

foaming wine, fully spiced.

When God pours it out,

they will drain it even to the dregs;

all the wicked of the earth will drink.


Lamentations 4:21-22

Rejoice and gloat, daughter Edom,

dwelling in the land of Uz,

The cup will pass to you as well;

you shall become drunk and strip yourself naked!


Your punishment is completed, daughter Zion,

the Lord will not prolong your exile;

The Lord will punish your iniquity, daughter Edom,

will lay bare your sins.


France p. 415: “… Why must he die?  The ransom saying thus brings the central section of the gospel to an appropriate conclusion, and one which prepares the reader for the arrival in Jerusalem and the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus’ warnings.”

At the end of this part: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Theologically we know “all (who will accept it)” but the gospel text says “many” so our liturgical translations of Eucharistic prayers will now go from “all” to “many” in Advent.  The principle that they are following is that quotes from the bible be exact quotes and not approximations.

encounter and healing of the blind man Bartimaeus

this portion of the gospel (part 2) began with a healing of a blind man and ends with one.   Who is blind?  The Pharisees, those who encounter Jesus (like the rich young man) and turn away, and especially, the disciples.

Bartimaeus is another unheralded one, another little one, with zero status in the world .  Set free from his blindness he follows Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.  The crowd that tries to stifle him is analogous to the disciples keeping the children away.

Boring p. 306 notes that the blind man casts away his cloak – his only possession?  If so, is he meant to be seen as the counter-point to the rich young man?  I think so.  Hence – the rich young man story was not so much an introduction of a doctrine related to wealth as the first part of a compare/contrast set of stories.  One rejects a full commitment to Jesus, the other embraces it.

Comments are closed.