Lou Barbieri


Author. Although none of the gospels names its author, each has had a fairly consistent testimony in church history. That John Mark is the author of the second gospel is the consistent widespread traditional view. Papias gives the first witness to Mark’s authorship of the second gospel. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Rome, and Ignatius, as well as others, agree. The internal evidence for authorship is extremely weak. There is a brief incident in 14:50–52 that might refer to the author. In the confusion over Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane, a young man, grabbed by one of the soldiers, ran away into the night leaving behind the sheet that had been wrapped around his body. No other gospels record this. It is possible that the young man could have been Mark, and this was his way of saying he was there.

Ten references to Mark occur in the NT (Ac 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37, 39; Col 4:10; Phm 24; 1Pt 5:13; and 2Tm 4:11). The Jerusalem church met in his home so perhaps he came from a wealthy family (cf. Ac 12:12). When Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch for ministry, they brought Mark along (cf. Ac 12:25). He accompanied them as a "helper" on their first missionary journey (cf. Ac 13:5), but left in the middle of the trip and returned home (cf. Ac 13:13). This became the focus of controversy when the second missionary journey began (cf. Ac 15:37–39). As a result, Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus; Paul took Silas and headed overland for Asia Minor. That Mark became an effective servant cannot be denied. Mark was with Paul in Rome when the apostle wrote Colossians (cf. Col 4:10) and Philemon (cf. Phm 24) and also with Peter in "Babylon," when 1 Peter was written (cf. 1Pt 5:13). Paul made a concluding admission concerning Mark when he told Timothy, "Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service" (cf. 2 Tm 4:11).

Although Mark was the writer of the second gospel, there is good indication the person behind the book was Simon Peter. That a relationship existed between the two is verified both outside and inside this gospel. Outside the gospel: (1) Papias commented: "Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatever he remembered of the things said and done by the Lord, but not however in order" (Cited by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. III.xxxix.15). (2) Peter said Mark was with him in "Babylon" (cf. 1Pt 5:13). (3) The second gospel covers the same material mentioned in Peter’s report to the church at Jerusalem (cf. Ac 10:34–43). (4) Peter was aware of his imminent death and declared he was taking steps to ensure his brethren would be able to remember what he had taught (cf. 2Pt 1:13–15). Was Peter filling Mark’s mind with stories from Jesus’ life so he could write them down? Internal evidence also points to a relationship between Peter and Mark: (1) The second gospel basically begins with Peter’s call to follow the Lord. (2) The second gospel clearly has an eyewitness behind it. The stories concerning Jesus appear in the present tense, which pictures them as actually occurring. There are about 150 historic presents in this gospel compared with 78 in Matthew and only four in Luke. (3) The second gospel relates a number of facts about Peter not found in the other gospels, and some favorable details about Peter are omitted (cf. 1:36; 11:21; 13:3; 16:7). (4) This gospel gives special attention to the ministry of Jesus in Galilee, especially Capernaum, the place of Peter’s residence.

Date. Dates for the writing of the second gospel range from AD 44 to 75. Documentary theories on the writings of the Synoptic Gospels require that Mark be the earliest of the gospels (for the issues related to gospel critical studies, see the introduction to the commentary on Matthew). There has been a tendency in recent scholarship to date the writing of all the NT books earlier than previously thought. Part of the reason for this is that the destruction of Jerusalem (in AD 70) is never mentioned in the New Testament. That fact would have been extremely significant in a number of the gospel stories, and, if it had indeed occurred, surely one or more of the gospel writers would have mentioned it. A quote from Irenaeus must be evaluated when considering Mark’s date: "Matthew also issued a written gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome, and laying the foundation of the church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter" (Against Heresies, III, i, 1). The word "departure" is the word exodus, used in Scripture for physical death (cf. Lk 9:51). If that was what Irenaeus was communicating, the second gospel could not have been written until after Peter’s death. According to Eusebius, Mark wrote the gospel based on Peter’s lectures on the life of Jesus in Rome and was approved by Peter. Mark’s gospel was circulated privately while Peter lived, and then Mark published it after Peter’s death. In what year did Peter die? Tradition states Peter died under the persecutions of Nero, which began in AD 64. Many believe that Peter’s death may have occurred around AD 66 or 67. After his death, there was a desire to commit to writing Peter’s stories concerning Jesus. Mark was the natural choice to pen the account. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit moved him along (cf. 2Pt 1:21) to communicate the stories without errors. The actual writing probably took place in AD 67 or 68.

Recipients. Mark seems to have written the second gospel for a Gentile audience, and in particular he may have had Romans in view. Several factors point to this conclusion.

1. The second gospel has the fewest quotes and allusions (63) to the OT of all the gospels. A Gentile reader would not have been interested in or familiar with its contents.

2. Mark interprets the Aramaic words found in the gospel. For example the cry of Jesus from the cross, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" is translated "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" (cf. 15:34).

3. Mark explains geographical locations in connection with his stories. The location of the Mount of Olives "opposite the temple" is spelled out in 13:3.

4. There are no references in Mark to the Jewish law. There were so many items of importance to Jewish people that related to the law, yet Mark never mentions them.

5. Mark explains Jewish customs. "Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands" (cf. 7:3). Such a custom would have been known and practiced by Jews (cf. 14:12 and 15:42).

6. Mark presents Jesus as the mighty worker, a man who conquers by doing. Romans were concerned with a person’s production, not his words. The effective service of Jesus was of greater significance than His lineage or claims.

Although there is no direct reference to a city in the gospel, tradition says Mark wrote this book from Rome. Several lines of evidence support this contention.

1. Mark used a number of Latin words, even though there were Greek equivalents: cf. two lepta (12:42), "modius" for bushel (4:21), "speculator" for executioner (6:27), "census" for tribute (12:14), the "Praetorium" for the palace (15:16), and "centurion" for centurion (15:39, 44, 45).

2. Roman divisions of time are used in this gospel, four "watches" in the night, whereas in Jewish reckoning there were only three.

3. Mark referred to Alexander and Rufus (15:21), sons of Simon of Cyrene, the one who carried Jesus’ cross. They were personal acquaintances of the author and his readers. Paul referred to a "Rufus" and called him "a choice man in the Lord" (cf. Rm. 16:13). That these two men named Rufus are the same individual may have some warrant.

Purpose. The occasion prompting the writing of this gospel is not known. The compulsion of the Holy Spirit working in Mark’s life is paramount. But after Peter’s death there was a desire within the church at Rome to have his great teachings written down. Mark was the natural choice to do the job. Peter had spent time preparing him for the task (cf. 2Pt 1:13–15).

Several outstanding characteristics are apparent in Mark. First, the second gospel is the gospel of action. Events in this gospel move rapidly. About two of every three verses begin with the word "and," a device for action. This is further seen in a key word in the gospel: "straightway" or "immediately."

Second, Mark pictures Jesus as the Servant of the Lord, the reason such a stress was placed on immediacy of action. When considering a servant, one is primarily interested in his service. Jesus’ servitude is emphasized in the key verse in Mark: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (10:45).

Third, this gospel emphasizes Jesus’ miracles. This reflects the servant character of the Lord, for as a servant His miracles are prominent. However, only two miracles are unique to the second gospel: the healing of the deaf and dumb man (7:31–37) and the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida (8:22–26).

Fourth, Mark emphasized common, familiar aspects of life. He gave attention to such ordinary features as boating and fishing, animals, clothing, housing, coins, and divisions of time.

Fifth, Mark is the gospel of vivid detail. Special attention is given to such particulars as the looks and gestures of the Lord (3:5; 10:16). In the story of the feeding of the five thousand men, only Mark’s account gives the vivid detail of "green" grass (6:39).

Background. Where does the material written by Mark end? The options are the gospel ends at 16:8, at 16:20, or that another ending should be added either after 16:8 or 16:20. Additional material may have become lost over the centuries, but it was part of the early texts.

The evidence to support the ending of the gospel of Mark comes down to the question, "Which is the best Greek text?" The issue revolves around whether one considers the majority of the manuscript evidence to be what supports one’s conclusion or whether one regards certain ancient texts as a better and more faithful rendering of the original Greek. The majority of the manuscripts support the reading of Mark’s gospel through 16:20. The older manuscripts (e.g., Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, both fourth century) support the shorter ending at v. 8.

Some internal arguments may be hard to follow unless one has competent ability in the original language. The vocabulary and theology of vv. 9–20 are quite different from the earlier portions of the gospel. It seems that the internal evidence substantiates the claim that Mark’s manuscript should conclude at v. 8. If the gospel does end at v. 8, how can the addition of vv. 9–20 be explained? Certainly it would not have simply been lost. The gospel of Mark was probably written on a scroll, and the conclusion of the gospel would have been rolled up on the inside. It was more common for the first portion to be removed for some reason or simply become worn out through use. Perhaps over the decades, as the gospel was copied, it was felt that the ending at v. 8 was much too abrupt and not an appropriate conclusion. The most common suggestion has been that Aristion, a disciple of the apostle John, made the addition, perhaps even under the authority of John. Some, while recognizing that vv. 9–20 are not Markan, nevertheless conclude that they are a part of the manuscript in the same sense that Deuteronomy 34, concerning the death of Moses, and Joshua 24, concerning Joshua’s death, were added. Do vv. 9–20 fit the same criteria? Some believe they do. Perhaps Mark himself intended to add to the manuscript but may have died before he could do so. The problem of the ending of Mark’s gospel probably will not be solved as long as people live in physical bodies on this earth.


I. The Introduction of the Servant of the Lord (1:1–13)

A. By Proclamation (1:1–8)

B. By Identification (1:9)

C. By Authentication (1:10–11)

D. By Temptation (1:12–13)

II. The Presentation of the Servant of the Lord (1:14–3:5)

A. By Direct Testimony (1:14–15)

B. By Personal Enlistment (1:16–20)

C. By Demonstrating Authority (1:21–3:5)

1. Over Demonic Forces (1:21–28)

2. Over Disease (1:29–34)

3. Over Personal Direction (1:35–39)

4. Over Leprosy (1:40–45)

5. Over Forgiveness of Sins (2:1–12)

6. Over Men (2:13–14)

7. Over Traditions (2:15–22)

8. Over the Sabbath (2:23–3:5)

a. Sabbath Issue Questioned (2:23–28)

b. Sabbath Miracle Performed (3:1–5)

III. The Opposition to the Servant of the Lord (3:6–8:26)

A. The Pharisees’ Conclusion (3:6)

B. The Multitude’s Confusion (3:7–12)

C. The Servant’s Decision (3:13–19)

D. His Family’s Intervention (3:20–21)

E. The "Official" Conclusion (3:22–4:34)

1. The Accusation (3:22)

2. The Denial (3:23–30)

3. The Ramifications (3:31–35)

4. The Instruction (4:1–34)

a. A Parable Taught (4:1–12)

b. A Parable Explained (4:13–20)

c. Further Parabolic Instruction (4:21–34)

F. The Servant’s Authentication in Spite of Opposition (4:35–5:43)

1. To the Apostles (4:35–41)

2. To the Region of Decapolis (5:1–20)

3. To the "Religious" Leaders (5:21–43)

a. The Request (5:21–24)

b. The Interruption (5:25–34)

c. The Fulfillment (5:35–43)

G. The Rejection of Nazareth (6:1–6)

H. The Ministry to Combat Opposition (6:7–13)

I. The Civil Ruler’s Opposition (6:14–29)

1. The Fear of Herod (6:14–16)

2. The Actions of Herod (6:17–29)

J. The Servant’s Instruction in View of Opposition (6:30–56)

1. The Intended Retreat (6:30–32)

2. The Actual Reality (6:33–44)

3. The Authenticating Signs (6:45–56)

a. Walking on the Water (6:45–52)

b. Healings at Gennesaret (6:53–56)

K. The Pharisees’ Continued Opposition (7:1–23)

1. The "Violation" Stated (7:1–5)

2. The Servant’s Explanation (7:6–13)

3. The Servant’s Warning (7:14–23)

L. The Servant’s Retreat from Opposition (7:24–8:9)

1. To the Region of Tyre (7:24–30)

2. To the Region of Decapolis (7:31–8:9)

a. Healing of the Deaf Man (7:31–37)

b. Feeding of the 4,000 (8:1–9)

M. The Pharisees’ Final Demand (8:10–21)

1. The Demand (8:10–11)

2. The Servant’s Explanation (8:12–13)

3. The Servant’s Warning (8:14–21)

N. A Concluding Miracle (8:22–26)

IV. The Instruction of the Servant of the Lord (8:27–10:52)

A. Instruction Concerning His Person (8:27–30)

B. Instruction Concerning His Program (8:31–9:13)

1. His Coming Death (8:31–33)

2. His Requirement for Followers (8:34–38)

3. His Coming Kingdom Pictured (9:1–10)

4. His Relationship to Elijah (9:11–13)

C. Instruction Concerning the Impossible (9:14–29)

D. Instruction Concerning His Upcoming Death (9:30–32)

E. Instruction Concerning Pride (9:33–37)

F. Instruction Concerning Partisan Spirit (9:38–50)

G. Instruction Concerning Divorce (10:1–12)

H. Instruction Concerning Faith (10:13–22)

1. Faith as a Child (10:13–16)

2. Faith for Eternal Life (10:17–22)

I. Instruction Concerning Wealth (10:23–31)

J. Instruction Concerning His Near Future (10:32–34)

K. Instructions Concerning Positions in the Kingdom (10:35–45)

L. Instruction Concerning Faith (10:46–52)

V. The Rejection of the Servant of the Lord (11:1–15:47)

A. The Presentation of the Servant (11:1–26)

1. The Triumphal Entry (11:1–11)

2. The Judgment Announced (11:12–14)

3. The Cleansing of the Temple (11:15–19)

4. The Judgment Fulfilled (11:20–26)

B. The Controversies with the Servant (11:27–12:40)

1. With the Religious Leaders (11:27–12:12)

a. The Question of Authority (11:27–33)

b. The Parable for Instruction (12:1–11)

c. The Leaders’ Response (12:12)

2. With the Pharisees and Herodians (12:13–17)

3. With the Sadducees (12:18–27)

4. With the Scribes (12:28–34)

5. The Response of the Servant (12:35–44)

a. The Question of Challenge (12:35–37)

b. The Warning (12:38–40)

c. The Proper Illustration (12:41–44)

C. The Predictions of the Servant (13:1–37)

1. The Questions of the Disciples (13:1–4)

2. The Response of the Servant (13:5–37)

a. Coming Tribulation (13:5–23)

i. The First Half of the Tribulation (13:5–13)

ii. The Second Half of the Tribulation (13:14–23)

b. Coming Triumph (13:24–27)

i. Return of the King (13:24–26)

ii. Regathering of Believers (13:27)

c. Concluding Teaching (13:28–37)

i. The Fig Tree (13:28–32)

ii. The Steward (13:33–37)

D. The Preparatory Events Surrounding the Servant (14:1–42)

1. The Plot of the Leaders (14:1–2)

2. The Anointing by Mary (14:3–9)

3. The Agreement with Judas (14:10–11)

4. The Passover Meal (14:12–26)

a. Preparation (14:12–16)

b. Participation (14:17–21)

c. Initiation (14:22–26)

5. The Prediction of Denial (14:27–31)

6. The Garden of Gethsemane (14:32–42)

E. The Arrest and Trials of the Servant (14:43–15:20)

1. Arrest in Gethsemane (14:43–52)

2. Trial before the Council (14:53–65)

3. Prediction of Denial Fulfilled (14:66–72)

4. Second Trial before the Council (15:1)

5. Trial before Pilate (15:2–15)

6. Mocking before the Roman Soldiers (15:16–20)

F. The Crucifixion of the Servant (15:21–32)

G. The Death of the Servant (15:33–41)

H. The Burial of the Servant (15:42–47)

VI. The Resurrection of the Servant of the Lord (16:1–20)

A. The Revelation of the Women (16:1–8)

B. The Appearances of the Servant (16:9–14)

1. To Mary (16:9–11)

2. To Two Disciples (16:12–13)

3. To the Eleven (16:14)

C. The Commission of the Servant (16:15–18)

D. The Ascension of the Servant (16:19–20)


I. The Introduction of the Servant of the Lord (1:1–13)

A. By Proclamation (1:1–8)

1:1. Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is fully sinless man and fully God.

1:2–8. Jesus was preceded by His ambassador as prophesied. Isaiah is named (v. 2) but see also Mal 3:1. Together they present three factors: the herald, the Lord, and the wilderness. The coming of John and Jesus to the wilderness is fulfillment of the promised salvation of which Isaiah spoke. John’s messenger role prepared the way, linking his ministry to the prophetic emphasis. He preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (v. 4). Ritual cleansings were prescribed by the law and were commonly practiced, but a one-time baptism was unknown in early (intertestamental) Judaism except for Gentiles converting to Judaism. The noun baptism means "the act of immersing" or "dipping" (it does not mean "an identification with"), and here indicates that one has repented and been spiritually cleansed in preparation for the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom He would bring. Those who came in saving faith (see the comments on Mt 3:5–12) received forgiveness of sins. John’s ministry created excitement as all the country of Judea was coming and submitting to baptism (v. 5). He dressed as a prophet (clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist.) His wilderness diet was locusts (the insect or the fruit of the carob tree) and wild honey (v.6). This was not the totality of his diet, but it demonstrated a simple lifestyle. His preaching pointed to someone far greater than himself. John baptized with water but the One coming would baptize with the Holy Spirit (v. 8; see the comments on 1Co 12:12–13).

B. By Identification (1:9)

1:9. Jesus came from Nazareth to the Jordan where John baptized Him. Total immersion was the common Jewish method of ritual cleansing, and was likely the form of baptism John conducted. Jesus was identifying Himself with His forerunner and his message of repentance in preparation for the coming Messiah.

C. By Authentication (1:10–11) (see also the comments on Mt 3:15–16)

1:10–11. As Jesus came out of the water immediately the heavens were opened and the Spirit, like a dove, descended on Him. The opening of the heavens is significant. God had not spoken through any prophet for centuries. The Father declared: You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased, which reflects both Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. All three members of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are present at the same time.

D. By Temptation (1:12–13)

1:12–13. The temptation is connected with the preceding by immediately. Jesus was impelled (a strong word, "to drive") into the wilderness by the Spirit. This was part of God’s will, for Jesus was there for forty days. He was tempted by Satan and was with the wild beasts, which stresses the hostile environment. The number forty is used in Scripture of a time of testing (cf. Dt 8:2; Nm 13:25, 14:33–34). Satan means "an adversary" or "opponent." The specifics of Satan’s temptations are not given, but when they were complete, the angels ministered to Him with sustenance and encouragement.

II. The Presentation of the Servant of the Lord (1:14–3:5)

A. By Direct Testimony (1:14–15) (see also the comments on Mt 14:1–12)

1:14. Jesus’ ministry began when John was taken into custody. No details about the arrest are given here (cf. 6:14–29). With John’s removal Jesus began to preach the gospel of God in the region of Galilee.

1:15. The gospel began with the declaration the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Israel knew of the coming Messiah who would reign on David’s throne. But the idea of repentance and believing in the gospel implied there was a question concerning the institution of the kingdom. The nation needed to turn from its confidence in a physical relationship to Abraham and believe the good news concerning Jesus. Although there are two aspects in repentance, there is only one act. As one turns from one position, one immediately turns to the second.

B. By Personal Enlistment (1:16–20)

1:16–18. Jesus encountered brothers, Simon and Andrew, employing their trade. He said: Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men. It was not uncommon for men to follow a learned rabbi for instruction. Jesus was choosing followers for a far greater task than any ever attempted.

1:19–20. James and John, possibly fishing partners with Peter and Andrew (cf. Lk 5:7), were enlisted to follow Jesus, departing so quickly they left their father Zebedee in the boat. Jesus’ sovereign authority and the radical obedience of these men are obvious.

C. By Demonstrating Authority (1:21–3:5)

As Jesus began His ministry, everyone was asking, "Does He have the power to accomplish what He promises?" In this section, Jesus shows the extent of His authority over both the physical and spiritual realms.

1. Over Demonic Forces (1:21–28)

1:21–22. Capernaum was located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. On the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and began to teach. Those hearing Him were astonished for He taught with His own inherent authority (exousia) as opposed to contemporaries who usually cited the noted rabbis to substantiate their own teaching.

1:23–28. A man with an unclean spirit reacted to Jesus’ authoritative teaching. His speech reflected significant knowledge. First, the demon knew Jesus of Nazareth and that Jesus would one day be his Destroyer/Judge. "Have You come to destroy us?" he asked. The men in the synagogue were amazed at Jesus’ teaching, but the demon knew His presence spelled his ultimate destruction. Jesus rebuked the demon, "Be quiet and come out of him!" Jesus has authority to silence all creatures and direct their movements. Leaving the man, the demon threw him to the ground, causing him to go into convulsions. The people were all amazed that Jesus taught with His own authority and that even the unclean spirits … obey[ed] Him. That the news about Him spread is not surprising.

2. Over Disease (1:29–34) (see also the comments on Mt 8:14–17)

1:29–31. They left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon Peter and Andrew. There Peter’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever. Learning of the illness, Jesus healed her, and she began to wait on those who had come from the synagogue.

1:32–34. When the Sabbath ended, crowds appeared outside the house. Reports of His healings had rapidly spread. Many brought ill or demon-possessed acquaintances. The whole city had gathered at the door is probably hyperbole. Jesus healed many and demon-possessed individuals were set free. Physical disease and demonic possession are clearly distinguished, with Jesus’ authority demonstrated over both.

3. Over Personal Direction (1:35–39)

1:35–39. After a strenuous day, in the early morning Jesus went to a place to be alone to pray. The content of His prayer is not revealed. Peter and his companions searched (lit., "hunted") until they found Him. Everyone is looking for You, they said. Their goal was to bring Jesus back to Capernaum to continue His healing ministry. But Jesus’ primary ministry was not to provide physical healing but spiritual salvation. His authority enabled Him to direct His own steps. Therefore He instructed the disciples, telling them that they needed to go to other towns that He might preach there also. They traveled throughout all Galilee preaching and casting out demons to demonstrate His authority.

4. Over Leprosy (1:40–45) (see also the comments on Mt 8:2–4)

1:40–42. A leper came, falling before Jesus, and beseeched Him to be made clean. Leprosy was a diagnosed skin condition that caused ceremonial uncleanness. It is not the same as modern leprosy, known as Hansen’s Disease. Because of ritual uncleanness, a leper could not move freely through society. That this leper came to Jesus was a bold move on his part, yet he was certain of Jesus’ power to heal him. Jesus was moved with compassion and performed an unheard of act by touching him. His words, I am willing; be cleansed, imply a radical healing took place. This miracle had never been observed in the lifetime of anyone present. The OT records two individuals healed of leprosy: Moses’ sister Miriam (cf. Nm 12) and the Syrian Naaman (cf. 2Kg 5). But Scripture instructs a person cleansed of leprosy to offer appropriate sacrifices (cf. Lv 14:1–32).

1:43–45. Jesus gave a stern warning to the healed leper sending him away: See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest. It was important that this man go to Jerusalem and follow the cleansing Moses commanded (Lv 14:1–33). His action would bear testimony to the religious leaders that something unique was happening in their midst necessitating a complete investigation. One can only speculate about the commotion when this man showed up in the temple claiming to have been cleansed from leprosy. The man departed and began to tell others of his cleansing. This is not to say he did not also present himself to the priests. But he was so excited about his cleansing he wanted to tell others. The crowds so mobbed Jesus He could no longer publicly enter a city. He stayed in unpopulated areas, but people continued coming to Him from everywhere.

5. Over Forgiveness of Sins (2:1–12) (see also the comments on Mt 9:1–8)

2:1–2. Jesus returned to Capernaum, probably to Peter’s home, but so many were gathered together it was impossible to enter. Jesus sat and spoke the Word of God to those who would listen.

2:3–7. Four men came carrying a paralyzed man on a pallet, but entrance was impossible. They climbed to the roof, dug through the thatch, and lowered their friend down, still on his pallet. As Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, Son, your sins are forgiven. Evidently the physical infirmity that brought about his paralysis was connected with sin. This man’s sins were at that very moment permanently forgiven. The scribes, however, concluded Jesus’ statement was blasphemy because only God can forgive sin. If Jesus was speaking the truth, He would have to be God. Their logic is correct, but they failed to accept the possibility Jesus could be God. Yet Jesus knew what they were thinking.

2:8–12. His question exposed their thoughts. They were the sinful ones in this story, for they had come with the specific purpose of finding accusations to destroy Him. The discussion revolved around two statements, both easily stated. But it would be easier to say, Your sins are forgiven, because who could determine whether it had actually occurred. But if one says, Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk, and the person fails to move, the speaker is clearly an imposter. Therefore, Jesus told the paralytic to get up, pick up his pallet, and walk. If he remained prostrate, Jesus would be proven a fake, and neither statement would have validity. Such a blasphemer would be worthy of death. The paralytic responded immediately, obeying Jesus’ command. The result was amazement and the people glorified God: We have never seen anything like this. Jesus’ miraculous work was far beyond their comprehension, demonstrating His authority.

6. Over Men (2:13–14) (see also the comments on Mt 9:9, particularly for the description of tax gatherers)

2:13–14. Jesus went along the shore of the Sea of Galilee with multitudes thronging about Him. He was teaching everywhere He went. Levi, the son of Alphaeus, was sitting in his tax booth, and Jesus said to him, Follow Me! He immediately rose, left a corrupt but lucrative profession, and followed Jesus. He became known as Matthew (cf. Mt 9:9; 10:3). Whether he changed his name or had been given both names cannot be determined.

7. Over Traditions (2:15–22) (see also the comments on Mt 9:14–17)

2:15–17. When Levi decided to follow Jesus he gave a farewell dinner for his friends to introduce them to Jesus (cf. Lk 5:29–39; and see also the comments on Mt 9:10–13). Jesus was reclining at dinner with many tax collectors and sinners, Levi’s friends, along with His disciples. Some were observing this banquet, but were not participating in the meal. They would never have broken bread with individuals who failed to keep the law and their traditions. They questioned, if Jesus was indeed a holy man, why would he be eating with such people? They interrogated the disciples, but when Jesus learned of the discussion, He responded with a proverb that it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. Jesus was not interested in dealing with people like these scribes who considered themselves righteous, not sinners in need of repentance (cf. Mk 1:15). Jesus wanted to reach those who acknowledged their sinfulness and were willing to turn from it.

2:18–22. Some of John’s disciples and Pharisees asked Jesus about fasting, their common practice. The Mosaic law required fasting only on the Day of Atonement (cf. Lv 16:29–34; 23:26–32; Nm 29:7–11), but by the first century, its practice in Judaism had increased to twice a week. Why did Jesus’ disciples not fast? His response came from a custom of the time and a metaphor that John the Baptist had used (cf. Jn 3:29). When celebrating at a wedding, did the associates of the bridegroom fast? Jesus was picturing Himself as a bridegroom at a feast, but He indicated this joyous situation would change. A time would come when He would be taken away from them (cf. Is 53:8), and in that day they would fast. Two parables provide additional information to the question of v. 18. First, one would not patch an old garment with new cloth, for if the repaired garment were washed, the patch would shrink and pull away, resulting in a worse tear. The second parable related to wineskins. The fermentation process produces expansion. New wineskins have elasticity and are able to stretch. But once stretched, they cannot expand further. If one fills old wineskins with new wine, the skins will burst and the wine will be lost. Jesus was teaching He had not come merely to reform Judaism but to present previously unrevealed truths.

8. Over the Sabbath (2:23–3:5)

a. Sabbath Issue Questioned (2:23–28) (see also the comments on Mt 12:1–8)

2:23–24. They passed through the grainfields on the Sabbath. Jesus’ disciples began to pluck some of the grain and eat it. The corners of fields were left for the poor to gather, and anyone could go into a field and take what he could eat (cf. Dt 23:24–25). The Pharisees were not questioning the legality of their eating, but they were questioning the disciples’ actions on the Sabbath. Their argument was that picking the grain constituted harvesting, rubbing the kernels of grain between their palms was threshing, and blowing away the chaff was winnowing. The disciples were working on the Sabbath, and that was not lawful (cf. Ex 34:21).

2:25–28. Jesus’ defense of the disciples’ actions came from Scripture. He recalled David’s flight from Saul (cf. 1Sm 21:1–6) when David and his companions became hungry. The comparison is between David and his men and the greater Son of David and His disciples. David came to the tabernacle asking the priest for food. The only thing available was bread from the table in the holy place meant for the priests (cf. Ex 25:23–30). Nevertheless, that bread was given to David and his companions. Why? Because the human need for food transcended the law. It is noted that this occurred in the time of Abiathar. The high priest actually was Ahimelech, Abiathar’s father, but Abiathar became a more prominent figure in Israel’s history. This was the customary Jewish way of placing a historical event into an OT time frame. Jesus concluded: The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. The religious leaders had made the Sabbath into something far less than God intended. Sabbath rest was to be a blessing to people, not a curse. As Lord, He can command what should transpire on any given day.

b. Sabbath Miracle Performed (3:1–5) (see also the comments on Mt 12:9–14)

3:1–5. Jesus entered the synagogue, probably in Capernaum, and saw a man whose hand was withered. People with physical impairments were usually ostracized from the community since deformity was viewed as an indication of some terrible sin. That this man was conspicuously seated in the synagogue suggests he was a "plant." They were watching Jesus, hoping He would try to heal this man so they could accuse Him. Jesus was never concerned by men’s threats. If something should be done, He would do it, regardless of the outcome. He called forth the man, turned to His accusers, and asked a significant question: Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill? These religious leaders should have known what was right and what was wrong, but they kept silent. It is ironic that religious leaders, who should be interested in doing what was right, were in the process of doing harm on the Sabbath. They were plotting how they might kill Jesus. Jesus looked at these accusers with anger, for the hardness of their hearts brought Him continual grief. He said, "Stretch out your hand." As the man obeyed, healing was instantaneous and complete. Jesus did not violate the Sabbath. He had not even touched the man, but simply spoke words. His accusers were left with no accusations, but Jesus’ authority was clearly seen.

III. The Opposition to the Servant of the Lord (3:6–8:26)

The Servant of Jehovah had been presented working in various areas to demonstrate His authority. But would the people accept His authority? A developing negative conclusion is now presented, for opposition to the Servant of the Lord was growing.

A. The Pharisees’ Conclusion (3:6)

3:6. One would think the religious leaders would fall at Jesus’ feet in worship, but the opposite occurred. The Pharisees went out and began conspiring with the Herodians about how they might destroy Him. They not only failed to do good on the Sabbath, but they actively plotted how they might do away with Jesus. The combination of Pharisees and Herodians was unusual, for the Herodians championed the political status quo under the Romans, while the Pharisees longed for the coming of the Messiah to remove Roman domination. How was it possible for such a group to join with Pharisees, the conservative purists? Their mutual suspicion of Jesus drew together these two antagonistic groups in a bizarre alliance.

B. The Multitude’s Confusion (3:7–12)

3:7–12. Jesus departed from Capernaum and with His disciples withdrew to the sea. Wherever Jesus went, multitudes followed. People from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, and Idumea (Edom) appeared. People from the eastern side of the Jordan and Tyre and Sidon in the north were now following Jesus. They heard about all that He was doing and wondered if He could be the promised Messiah. They were confused because the religious leaders failed to recognize Him. Jesus instructed His disciples to keep a boat ready for a quick departure should the crowd press too strongly. As Jesus healed many, news of His ability spread. People with many afflictions pressed in, seeking to touch Him, anticipating healing. In addition to those with physical infirmities, people possessed with unclean spirits were also coming. The spirits knew Jesus (cf. 1:23–26) and they cried out, You are the Son of God! The religious leaders failed to understand Jesus, but demons clearly understood. Demonic testimony might confuse people, so Jesus commanded them to keep quiet.

C. The Servant’s Decision (3:13–19)

3:13–15. Jesus went up one of the Galilean mountains and summoned those whom He Himself wanted to follow Him. This handpicked group was chosen to be with Him so He could send them out to preach. Twelve disciples communicating the same message could cover a larger area and speak to more people. He also encouraged them to cast out the demons, demonstrating authority. Only God has greater authority than demonic forces.

3:16–19. The twelve "apostles" appear in three additional passages (cf. Mt 10:2–5; Lk 6:14–16; and Ac 1:13). Simon, a fisherman, was named Peter at his first meeting with Jesus (cf. Jn 1:42). "Peter" means "a rock" in Greek, which is what he became in the early church. James and John, sons of Zebedee, appear next. Jesus gave these two the nickname Boanerges, which means "Sons of Thunder." Why this is recorded here is not clear (cf. Lk 9:54; Mk 9:38), but it may be included to explain what kind of men Jesus called as His disciples, including thunderous men like James and John. Possibly Mark was making a more precise identification of these two men since James (literally "Jacob") and John were common Jewish names. Andrew, a fisherman with his brother Peter, was one of two apostles with Greek names. Philip, the other disciple with a Greek name, was from Bethsaida, Peter and Andrew’s town. When Jesus called Philip, he recruited Nathaniel (cf. Jn 1:43–47). Bartholomew, connected here with Philip, could be the same person. Matthew, Levi the tax collector (cf. Mk 2:14), means "the gift of God." Thomas, Didymus, "the twin," (cf. Jn 11:16), is known as "doubting" Thomas. He wanted to be certain Jesus had risen from the dead (cf. Jn 20:25). It is rarely mentioned he courageously said, "Let us also go, so that we may die with Him" (cf. Jn 11:16). James, the son of Alphaeus, an inconspicuous scriptural figure, is possibly "James, the less" (cf. Mk 15:40), meaning "short." Thaddaeus might be "Judas the son of James," or "Judas not Iscariot." Perhaps Jesus’ betrayal by Judas Iscariot produced the name change. Simon the Zealot is then named. Some texts translate "Zealot" as "the Canaanean." The term however has nothing to do with ethnic (Canaanite) or geographic (Cana) origins. It was used of Jewish extremists organized for overthrowing the Roman government by violent rebellion, even advocating murder when necessary to advance their cause. The final apostle is Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. "Iscariot" (Hb. ish-keristra) means "a man of Kerioth," a town in southern Judea. If that is correct, Judas was the only non-Galilean apostle.

D. His Family’s Intervention (3:20–21)

3:20–21. Jesus came home, implying He returned to Peter’s house in Capernaum (cf. 1:29). Again a crowd gathered, making it impossible for Jesus to eat. He was completely occupied with ministry needs. His own people may refer to extended family members who lived nearby. They were concerned for Him and the family’s reputation so they went to take custody of Him saying, He has lost his senses.

E. The "Official" Conclusion (3:22–4:34)

1. The Accusation (3:22)

3:22. Jesus’ claims required investigation. Scribes came from Jerusalem to examine His actions and teaching. They concluded Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul, the Baal worshiped at Ekron centuries earlier. This meant Jesus was demonically possessed and His power was Satanic.

2. The Denial (3:23–30) (see also the comments on Mt 12:22–32)

3:23–30. Jesus engaged the scribes and began speaking to them in parables (for a definition of "parable," see the comments introducing Mt 13). Jesus rarely defended Himself, but the charge that He was empowered by Satan had to be addressed. He responded, How can Satan cast out Satan? If Satan was casting out Satan, would his kingdom not be divided against itself? Jesus carried the analogy of kingdom division further: If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. If a "house" (family) was divided against itself, it would not remain powerful for long. In conclusion Jesus applied everything He had said to Satan, who was not in the process of being defeated. His kingdom was powerful and his demons active. No one could enter a strong man’s home and take away his property unless he could first bind the strong man. Only then could the intruder plunder the home. If Jesus was casting out Satan’s demons, does that not imply He had greater power and authority than Satan? Truly I say to you means Jesus was saying something of great importance. All acknowledged sin will be forgiven man, even blasphemies against Jesus Himself. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would never be forgiven, for it is an eternal sin. Religious leaders should have recognized God’s power at work. They might have misunderstood Jesus, but not the divine power He was demonstrating. Their conclusion was Jesus had an unclean spirit and His power was Satanic. It was not too late to change their minds. But if they failed to change, their sin would have serious personal and national consequences. It would lead to the rejection of their King and the postponement of His kingdom.

3. The Ramifications (3:31–35) (see also the comments on Mt 12:46–50)

3:31–35. Suddenly His mother and His brothers arrived. "His own people" (cf. v. 21) may have voiced their concern over Jesus’ behavior to Mary. She and her unnamed sons sent word to Jesus when they could not enter the crowded building. Learning of the situation, Jesus said, Who are My mother and My brothers? The implication of this rhetorical question was not to repudiate family values that God established at creation. Their interruption implied they had a claim on Him taking precedence over other matters. Jesus said, whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother. He was asserting physical relationships were not the proper access to Him. Obediently doing the Father’s will gives evidence one is properly related to Jesus.

4. The Instruction (4:1–34) (see also the comments on Mt 13:1–23)

a. A Parable Taught (4:1–12)

4:1–2. Jesus continued teaching, but the multitude was so great he could not communicate effectively. He got into a boat (cf. 3:9), and from the sea He taught in parables to those gathered on the shore.

4:3–9. Possibly at the moment He said Listen! He pointed to someone in an adjacent field doing what He was describing. As seed is sown, it falls on different soils. Seed falling on the road becomes food for birds. Seeds falling on the rocky ground might immediately spring up. But with shallow soil, the sun dries them out and the plants quickly wither. Seed falling among the thorns would be choked, resulting in no crop. Some seeds, however, fell into good soil and yielded a crop in varying amounts. Jesus encouraged the multitude to listen carefully to His words. They heard with their ears, but understanding occurs in the heart.

4:10–12. Getting away from the multitude, His followers and the twelve asked Him about the parables. Jesus indicated He told parables to reveal truth to His followers. They were being given the mystery of the kingdom of God. "Mystery" implies a previously unrevealed truth now revealed so the instructed may know. It is known because God chooses to reveal it. The promised Davidic kingdom was not a mystery. But not everything about that kingdom program was revealed in the OT. Jesus communicated new things to His disciples. Parabolic teaching carried an aspect of judgment. This may seem harsh, but the historical context gives clues to understanding. The crowds, especially the religious leaders, had heard Jesus teach. Instead of responding in faith, they were rejecting Him, concluding He worked by Satan’s power (cf. 3:22–30). Such individuals would not receive further truth. But they could still come in saving faith to Jesus.

b. A Parable Explained (4:13–20)

4:13–20. Jesus knew they did not understand. If they could not understand simple parables, how would they understand more complicated ones? The sower was explained as one sowing the word. The emphasis is on the four kinds of soils, not the sower. The word sown beside the road fell on unprepared individuals, and Satan snatched it away. The word sown on the rocky places represented individuals who received the word with joy, recognizing it as truth. But the reception was superficial and change did not follow. Seeds germinate because there is life in the seed. But persecution’s impact is similar to hot sun on rootless plants. A third response occurred as seed was sown among the thorns. There was a response, but thorns choked out the truth and no fruit developed. Thorns that arise include the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things. Finally some seed fell into prepared hearts producing fruit: thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. Although one cannot be dogmatic, if genuine conversion results in a changed life that produces fruit (cf. Mt 7:16, 20; Lk 3:8), perhaps only this fourth response indicates genuine salvation. The first three responses produced no fruit indicating there was no permanent change. But the purpose of this parable is not to elaborate on genuine conversion versus reformation. The parable is explaining why individuals responded as they did to Jesus.

c. Further Parabolic Instruction (4:21–34)

4:21–25. Jesus continued using common objects. One does not light a lamp and place it under a basket or bed. That would diminish the light or possibly extinguish it. It is placed on a lamp stand so light fills the room. The gospel is not to be kept secret either. A person is judged by the light he receives, so one should be careful what he listens to. God gives additional revelation to individuals who respond positively to light. Those who turn from the truth may find that truth taken away from [them].

4:26–29. God’s rule is like a man who casts seed upon the soil. After sowing he goes to bed at night and gets up by day. A farmer learns patience, for how seeds sprout he does not know. He cannot give life to the seed, but his job is to sow it. The crop arrives in stages: first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. The harvest comes through God’s marvelous provision, not through man’s efforts. So is the coming of this mystery form of God’s kingdom during the present age, prior to its climactic future arrival.

4:30–32. The kingdom of God is pictured like a mustard seed, their smallest known seed. Though tiny when sown, it becomes a large plant, often more than ten feet tall. The emphasis is the contrast between its beginning and ending size. When grown, it can sustain the birds of the air on its branches, holding their nests under its shade. Jesus was teaching that God’s kingdom would begin small but would grow large in number (see also the comments on Mt 13:31–32).

4:32–34. Jesus taught many parables and communicated truth as His hearers were able to hear it, but He was explaining everything privately to the disciples. Thus, the purpose of parables was fulfilled: Truth was revealed to His followers but concealed from rejecting individuals (cf. Mt 13:10, 36).

F. The Servant’s Authentication in Spite of Opposition (4:35–5:43)

1. To the Apostles (4:35–41) (see also the comments on Mt 8:23–27)

4:35–36. After a day of ministry, Jesus said, Let us go over to the other side, a five-mile trip to a region where Jesus was unknown. The disciples had a boat ready (cf. 3:9) so they departed quickly. Other boats were with them, but what happened to them is not revealed.

4:37–38. They departed in clear weather, but a fierce gale of wind arose and waves were breaking over the bow. Jesus’ interaction with the multitudes had resulted in physical exhaustion. He boarded the boat, retreated to the stern, and quickly fell asleep. The disciples roused Him crying that they were perishing. Jesus’ presence in the boat did not prevent the difficult situation. Nor did His sleep indicate a lack of care for His followers. Rather, that the omniscient Son of God directed them into the boat, knowing a storm was coming, indicates that Jesus intended to use the storm to teach His disciples.

4:39–41. Jesus rebuked the wind (Hush) commanding it be quiet. To the sea He said be still (literally "be muzzled"). It was as though He were placing His hand over the sea. Immediately it became perfectly calm. Jesus did not stop with the physical elements. The greatest danger was the disciples’ unbelief. He rebuked them: Why are you afraid? After months following Jesus, why did they not have greater faith? Now they were very much afraid. Their reverential awe was far greater than their fear of the storm. They were standing in the presence of divine power. They had never seen physical elements respond to a human’s command. Jesus’ point was to use the calming of the storm to reveal how powerful He really was, even to reveal His deity.

2. To the Region of Decapolis (5:1–20) (see also the comments on Mt 8:28–34)

5:1–5. Jesus and the disciples arrived in the country of the Gerasenes, a region largely populated by Gentiles. A demon-possessed man who was dwelling among the tombs met them. His demonic strength kept anyone from being able to bind him, but by night and day his shrieks were heard as he gashed himself with stones.

5:6–10. The man bowed down before [Jesus] The demon cried out, What business do we have with each other? He knew Jesus as the Son of the Most High God. He continued, I implore You by God, do not torment me! He understood he was a creature under Jesus’ authority and that his ultimate end was separation from God. Jesus actually initiated the encounter. He had been saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" Jesus asked the demon his name. My name is Legion; for we are many, he replied. A Roman legion’s maximum strength was six thousand men. The demon continued begging Jesus not to send them out of the region. They needed to possess something or they would be forced into the Abyss (cf. Lk 8:31).

5:11–13. A large herd of swine was feeding nearby. Since demons are unclean spirits and pigs unclean animals, they probably thought their request would be favorably received. When given permission they entered the swine and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned. The herd numbered about two thousand pigs.

5:14–17. The herdsmen realized they were in trouble. The pigs had been entrusted to them. How would they explain the loss? They reported what happened and many came out to see for themselves. They were surprised to see Jesus and the formerly demon-possessed man sitting quietly fully clothed. The story of the swine was repeated many times. The impact on the pigs seems to have been of greater concern than the impact on the man. One would expect great joy over the healing of this poor man. Instead they asked Jesus to leave their region, perhaps because they feared His ongoing presence might bring additional financial loss.

5:18–20. As Jesus was departing, the delivered man wanted to go with Jesus and become a disciple. The greater need for this man was to return to his home and report what great things God had done for him. He could now return to his estranged family with a testimony of God’s work in his life. He did become a great testifier for Jesus in the region of the Decapolis. He faithfully proclaimed his testimony and everyone was amazed.

3. To the "Religious" Leaders (5:21–43) (see also the comments on Mt 9:18–26)

a. The Request (5:21–24)

5:21–24. As Jesus arrived on the west side a large crown gathered welcoming Him. A synagogue official, Jairus, approached Him. Synagogue officials were responsible for the administrative details of the synagogue, such as determining who would pray and read Scripture in services. This position was looked on with honor. Jairus fell at His feet begging for help. His little girl was near death. If Jesus would come and lay [His] hands on her she would be healed. Jairus had observed this before (cf. 3:1). Jesus departed with Jairus with a large crowd following.

b. The Interruption (5:25–34)

5:25–29. A woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years was in the crowd. The nature of her illness made her ceremonially unclean (cf. Lv 15:25). She had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and spent all her money, but had grown worse. Because of her condition, she did not directly confront Jesus. Her plan was to come up behind Jesus and touch His garments (perhaps a reference to the ceremonial fringes that were part of the shawls worn by Jewish men). The Lord rewarded her faith. When she touched His garments, the hemorrhaging stopped. She knew she had been healed of her affliction through the object of faith, Jesus.

5:30–34. Jesus sensed power had gone out from Him. Stopping, He asked, Who touched My garments? The question was almost humorous. Surely the disciples thought, "Lord, everyone is touching You." But Jesus wanted the woman who had done this to come forward to clarify what had happened. She approached in fear, fell down in worship, and told Him the whole truth. Jesus called her Daughter implying a special relationship had started between them. She was now viewed as one of His children. He said, your faith has made you well; Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction. This woman received physical and spiritual healing. When anyone comes to faith in Christ, peace is established between that person and God (cf. Rm 5:1).

c. The Fulfillment (5:35–43)

5:35–37. A group arrived from Jairus’s house with sad news. His daughter had died and he should not trouble the Teacher anymore. Nothing could be done. Jesus ignored their words but gave two present-tense commands to Jairus: Do not be afraid, and only believe, or "keep on believing." If Jesus could heal Jairus’s daughter of illness, could He not also do something about her death? Jesus took along Peter, James, and John to observe the miracle, possibly as part of the special training these three in His innermost circle should receive.

5:38–40a. At Jairus’s home, an assembled group was weeping and wailing. Jesus told them to stop, for the child has not died, but is asleep. By this figure Jesus taught death is a temporary condition, much like sleep. The crowd’s repeated laughter indicated that most of these people were insincere. They were simply there to do a job.

5:40b–43. Jesus took Jairus, his wife, and his three companions into the room where He took the girl by the hand. He said to her in Aramaic, Talitha kum! which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" "Talitha" might have been an affectionate term for "girl." The phrase, I say to you, shows Jesus’ authority. Someday He will call all people from the grave (cf. Jn 5:28–29). The girl arose and began to walk around. The age of the girl, 12 years, and the length of time the woman suffered the physical infirmity are the same. The notation of 12 years probably emphasizes the difference between the woman and the girl. The former had 12 years of misery, the latter 12 years of happy childhood. The occupants of the room were completely astounded, but Jesus issued two directives. First, He ordered them to not make known what had happened, for that might attract additional people for the wrong reasons. His second directive displayed His compassion for the little girl. He encouraged her parents to give her something to eat.

G. The Rejection of Nazareth (6:1–6) (see also the comments on Mt 13:54–58)

6:1–3. Jesus left Capernaum accompanied by His disciples and came to Nazareth, His hometown. As a rabbi with a growing reputation, Jesus would have been asked to speak in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Those who listened were astonished, marveling at His wisdom and wondering about its source. They also wondered about the miracles He was performing. They had seen Him work with wood as their carpenter for many years. They acknowledged He was the son of Mary, and His brothers James, Joses, Judas, and Simon are mentioned along with unnamed sisters. These people were saying, "We know this Jesus. He is common. He is one of us." They stumbled over Him and failed to follow Him.

6:4–6. Tragically, even His own family disbelieved Jesus’ Messianic claims (cf. Jn 7:1–5). Yet some of His family later became His followers. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem, according to Ac 15:13, and was the author of the epistle that bears his name. James’s brother wrote the book of Jude (see Jd 1). Since Nazareth did not believe in Him, He only healed a few sick people who came to Him. Their unbelief caused Jesus to wonder (cf. Mt 8:10). He left Nazareth and traveled around the villages of Galilee teaching.

H. The Ministry to Combat Opposition (6:7–13) (see also the comments on Mt 10:1–14)

6:7–11. The time arrived for the apostles to begin their ministries. Jesus sent them out in pairs, giving them authority over the unclean spirits, which demonstrated God’s authority. They were told to take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff, to secure no food or a traveling bag, or take money in their belt. They could wear sandals but should not bring an extra pair or take a second tunic. No elaborate preparations should be made, for He would provide for them. In every town they were to secure lodging and remain in that home until their ministry concluded. Rejection should not surprise them. Their message concerning Jesus would undoubtedly find opposition. But they should shake the dust off the soles of [their] feet, demonstrating that they did not take the rejection of the message of Jesus personally. The people were not rejecting the messengers but the One who sent them, Jesus.

6:12–13. The disciples went out and preached the same message as John the Baptist and Jesus, a message of repentance. Their hearers were steeped in traditions, and they needed to look to the true understanding of God’s wishes for mankind. They demonstrated their authority by casting out demons and anointing many sick people with oil, bringing healing.

I. The Civil Rulers’ Opposition (6:14–29) (see also the comments on Mt 14:3–12)

1. The Fear of Herod (6:14–16)

6:14–15. News of the Twelve’s ministry reached Herod, a son of Herod the Great named Antipas, who ruled Galilee and Perea. As Jesus was becoming better known, some were saying He was John the Baptist, risen from the dead. Others suggested He was Elijah, or a prophet like one of the prophets of old.

6:16. Herod concluded Jesus was John the Baptist, risen from the dead, because he had issued the order to behead John.

2. The Actions of Herod (6:17–29)

6:17–20. John had been preaching against Herod’s marital situation. On a trip to Rome, Herod had stayed with a half brother, Philip, who was married to Herodias. Though he was married, Herod fell in love with his sister-in-law and persuaded her to return with him to Israel. They divorced their spouses and married, totally contrary to Mosaic law. John the Baptist fearlessly denounced them, for the Mosaic law applied equally to all in Israel, even rulers. Herodias became so angry with John she wanted to put him to death. But Herod had locked him in prison thinking he could silence his preaching. Herod was actually afraid of John for he was a righteous and holy man. He enjoyed listening to him, but was confused by John’s words. He did not want to recognize his own sin and repent.

6:21–29. Herod was hosting his birthday party with his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee present. During the party, the daughter of Herodias (Salome) danced for the guests. No Jewish mother would have encouraged her daughter to dance before a group of men. Salome’s dance greatly pleased Herod and his dinner guests, prompting him to say, Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you. He even promised her up to half of my kingdom. This hyperbolic statement meant he wanted to be very extravagant in his dealings with her. Salome asked her mother what she should ask for. Herodias responded, encouraging her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Salome returned to the king and asked for John’s head on a platter. This saddened the king, for he did not want to kill him, and he realized his wife had tricked him. Since he had taken an oath, he sent an executioner who carried out the sentence. The head of John the Baptist was brought to the girl and she brought it to Herodias. Some of John’s disciples buried his decapitated body and reported the news to Jesus (cf. Mt 14:12).

J. The Servant’s Instruction in View of Opposition (6:30–56) (see also the comments on Mt 14:13–21)

1. The Intended Retreat (6:30–32)

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported what they had accomplished. Jesus realized they needed to get away, for people were coming and going and they did not even have time to eat. They departed by boat to go to a secluded place to talk without interruption.

2. The Actual Reality (6:33–44)

6:33–36. However many people went around the shore on foot, arriving before Jesus and the disciples. The news spread that Jesus was back, and a large crowd was waiting on the shore. Jesus viewed the crowd as an opportunity for ministry. He felt compassion for them viewing them as sheep without a shepherd. Therefore he taught them throughout most of the day. As it grew late the disciples suggested that He send the people into surrounding villages to secure food.

6:37–44. Jesus’ answer probably startled the disciples: You give them something to eat! Philip’s calculation (cf. Jn 6:7) was two hundred denarii (about eight months of labor) would be necessary to provide something for each person. Jesus encouraged them to see how many loaves of bread they had. Their search produced five loaves and two fish. The assembled crowd reclined by groups on the green grass and in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, blessed them, and began to break them into baskets given to the disciples. These were served to the crowd, but the miracle occurred in Jesus’ hands as He multiplied the food. The disciples however were the ones who brought the food to the people. They would continue to serve their Lord in years to come, but their supply and strength for ministry would always come from the Lord Himself. All ate and were satisfied. When the meal was over twelve … baskets of leftovers were gathered. The number fed was 5,000 men, but women and children were also present (cf. Mt 14:21).

3. The Authenticating Signs (6:45–56) (see also the comments on Mt 14:22–36)

a. Walking on the Water (6:45–52)

6:45–46. Following the miracle, Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him … to Bethsaida, on the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus dispersed the multitude and departed to a mountain to pray.

6:47–50a. When evening came, the boat with the disciples was in the middle of the sea. They were straining at the oars because a northerly wind was driving them off course. About the fourth watch of the night (3:00 to 6:00 a.m.), Jesus decided to join them on the sea. The One who had created water could walk on it. He intended to pass by them. The verb to pass by (parerchomai) is used in the Septuagint for appearances of Jehovah (cf. Ex 33:19, 22; 34:6; 1Kg 19:11), commonly called theophanies, when God was described as "passing by" an OT character. Jesus’ deity is indicated by the use of the verb in this passage. The disciples all saw Him and were frightened, thinking He was a ghost.

6:50b–52. But Jesus spoke to them. Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid. "It is I" (lit., "I am"), could have been an echo of the OT formula of God’s self-revelation, "I am who I am" (cf. Ex 3:14). When Jesus got into the boat, the wind immediately stopped. The disciples were utterly astonished because they failed to gain insight from the incident of the loaves. Indeed, their hearts were hardened. These miracles coming in close proximity should have reminded them that Jesus is the Son of God who has power over creation. He can create food; He can walk on water.

b. Healings at Gennesaret (6:53–56)

6:53–56. Many scholars believe the storm drove them off course and they landed at Gennesaret on the northwest corner of the sea. It would not prove to be a place of solitude, as the people there recognized Jesus. Some of these people might have been at the recent feeding of the 5,000. They brought to Jesus those who were sick. Many were seeking to touch the ceremonial fringe of his cloak, perhaps a result of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood (cf. 5:25). Those who touched His cloak in faith were healed.

K. The Pharisees’ Continued Opposition (7:1–23) (see also the comments on Mt 15:1–20)

1. The "Violation" Stated (7:1–5)

7:1–2. Pharisees and scribes had come from Jerusalem to investigate Jesus. Scribes were professional students who defended scriptural and traditional law. They would be quick to point out violations of the law or traditions. They had seen unnamed disciples eating their bread with impure hands.

7:3–5. Impure hands meant "unwashed" hands, an issue of ceremonial washings extremely important to Pharisees. They would not eat a meal until they carefully washed. This was a tradition passed down by Jewish elders, not part of the law. This practice was followed with things like washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots. Jesus was asked, Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders? See the comments on Mt 12:1–8 for a discussion of oral traditions of the Jewish leaders. As the head of the group, Jesus was being held responsible for their actions.

2. The Servant’s Explanation (7:6–13)

7:6–7. Jesus took the offensive using scriptural arguments. He said Isaiah rightly called these individuals hypocrites. As in Isaiah’s day, they were seeking to honor God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him (cf. the comments on Is 29:13). Jesus’ reference to Isaiah indicates that the opposition He faced from the Jewish leaders was a pattern that was not new.

7:8–13. They were substituting the ideas of men for clearly stated doctrines. They were neglecting the commandment of God and holding to the traditions of men. See the comments on Mt 12:1–8 for a discussion of oral traditions of the Jewish leaders, and Mt 15:1–9 for Matthew’s version of this episode. The fifth commandment, Honor your father and your mother (cf. Ex 20:12), is used to illustrate. The religious leaders had avoided this commandment by saying a possession was Corban, or given to God. One’s parents could not benefit from that thing, so it would be easy to deprive them of possible aid. The possession devoted to God would still be retained by the individual. By making a vow (cf. Nm 30:1–2), they could set aside a clear commandment of God. They were therefore invalidating the word of God through their traditions.

3. The Servant’s Warning (7:14–23)

7:14–16. Jesus turned to the issue of the true source of defilement. Nothing entering from the outside defiles a person, but it starts within and proceeds outward. This contradicted the rabbinic view then current, but it is a biblical view of defilement (cf. Jr 17:9–10; Ec 9:3).

7:17–23. Cf. the comments on Mt 15:10–11. Jesus left the multitude and probably entered Peter’s house in Capernaum. The disciples questioned Him about the parable just presented. Jesus rebuked them: Are you so lacking in understanding also? The religious teachers were teaching that people were defiled because something unclean contacted their bodies. Jesus said that things coming into the body never touch the heart, but go into the stomach and finally are eliminated. Food never touches the heart, the true source of defilement. Jesus’ words did not formally end Levitical distinctions between clean and unclean animals. Jesus was explaining the true source of defilement. Evil comes out of the heart. Evil thoughts are pictured in the twelve following words in the text. The first six are plural; the last six singular. The plural nouns describe various wicked acts: fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting, and wickedness. The six singular nouns picture internal attitudes: deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these proceed from within and cause defilement. Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and clarified the true source of defilement.

L. The Servant’s Retreat from Opposition (7:24–8:9)

1. To the Region of Tyre (7:24–30) (see also the comments on Mt 15:22–28)

7:24–30. From Capernaum, Jesus went to away to Tyre and Sidon, attempting to keep His location secret. Word of His arrival circulated and a Gentile woman of the Syrophoenician people (not race as in the NASB, a term that identifies people by biological characteristics whereas the Greek word describes people by their descent) with a demon-possessed daughter sought Him out. She fell at His feet and kept asking Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter. He responded that He could not take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. Jesus was not equating Gentiles with dogs as the Pharisees might have done. His point was to compare the position of privilege of the Jewish people as God’s covenant people (in this analogy, the "children") with the relative lack of privilege of the Gentiles ("the dogs," not having the same benefits as the children). The woman saw herself as one of the canines in the room. She addressed Jesus as Lord, reminding Him that even the puppies were able to catch scraps falling off the table around the children. She was only asking for a small blessing, and her answer demonstrated true humility. When she arrived home she found her daughter released from the demon.

2. To the Region of Decapolis (7:31–8:9)

a. Healing of the Deaf Man (7:31–37)

7:31. Jesus left Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis, a journey of some miles. He was avoiding the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the multitudes seeking miracles, and the religious leaders with their controversies.

7:32–35. In Decapolis one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty was brought to Him. They asked Jesus to lay His hand on him to bring about his healing (cf. 6:5). Jesus took the man away from the multitude. He put His fingers into his ears, spat on the ground, and touched the man’s tongue. These acts communicated to the man that He was about to do something to affect his ears and tongue. He looked up to heaven, showing help was coming from above. With a deep sigh, Jesus spoke to the man: Ephphatha! (Aramaic meaning "Be opened!"). The deaf man’s ears were opened and he began speaking plainly. Jesus not only healed his deafness but also his speech.

7:36–37. Jesus ordered that the details of this miracle not be broadcast, but this kind of news was hard to keep quiet. The people were utterly astonished, saying Jesus had done all things well. Jesus was able to make deaf people hear and dumb people speak.

b. Feeding of the 4,000 (8:1–9) (see also the comments on Mt 15:32–39)

8:1–3. There was again need for food for a large crowd. Jesus said to His disciples, I feel compassion for the people. Some had been listening to His teaching for three days. Many had come from great distances, and He did not want to send them away hungry.

8:4–9. The disciples’ comments seem surprising since they had seen Jesus feed 5,000 men, plus women and children (cf. 6:30–44). Some believe this story is a distortion of that miracle, but evidence requires this miracle to be unique (cf. 8:19–20, where Jesus’ mention of both miracles in the same context supports a distinction between them). Jesus did not rebuke them for their failure to remember, but asked them to gather the food they possessed. This clearly fixed in their minds the inadequacy of their supply, for they found only seven loaves of bread.

Jesus told the people to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and gave it to the disciples to distribute. Again the multiplication occurred in the hands of the Creator, but the disciples served the food. A few small fish were also served and they ate and were satisfied. Seven large baskets, baskets capable of holding a man (cf. Ac 9:25), were gathered. On this occasion about 4,000 were fed before Jesus sent them away.

M. The Pharisees’ Final Demand (8:10–21) (see also the comments on Mt 16:1–12)

1. The Demand (8:10–11)

8:10–11. Jesus and the disciples crossed the sea to Dalmanutha, possibly near modern-day Tiberias. They were met by Pharisees, who were seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. They wanted a miraculous display to prove His claims. The religious leaders were saying they rejected all His previous miracles. They were hoping for a public failure that would discredit Him.

2. The Servant’s Explanation (8:12–13)

8:12–13. Jesus sighed deeply in His spirit and asked: Why does this generation seek for a sign? They should have accepted the miracles of Jesus and not have looked for something spectacular. No sign would be given now. Jesus and the disciples simply departed for the other side of the lake.

3. The Servant’s Warning (8:14–21)

8:14–16. In their haste the disciples failed to take provisions, and they only had one loaf of bread. Jesus gave a solemn warning: Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. Leaven, yeast, combined with flour, permeates the whole loaf. Jesus was warning the disciples about the sin of the Pharisees (cf. 8:11) and Herod. The former were noted for their hypocrisy, and the latter represented a worldly group with an intense interest in political power. However, the disciples completely missed Jesus’ intention. When He mentioned "leaven," they began to discuss their failure to bring bread.

8:17–21. Jesus clarified He was not merely talking about bread. That they had failed to bring bread was irrelevant. He said, Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? He quoted Ezekiel, who lived among rebellious people, without eyes to see or ears to hear (cf. Ezk 12:2). This description should not have characterized the Twelve, although Jesus had said (cf. Mk 4:11) this would be true of the crowds. His disciples should have seen and heard. He reminded them of the feeding of the 5,000 (cf. 6:33–44) when they picked up twelve small baskets of leftovers, and the feeding of 4,000 men (cf. 8:1–9) when they collected seven large baskets. They recalled the facts from each miracle, but they did not understand their significance. Jesus concluded: Do you not yet understand?

N. A Concluding Miracle (8:22–26)

8:22–24. They came to Bethsaida, near the area where the feeding of the 5,000 had occurred. When Jesus was recognized, they brought a blind man asking for His touch, thinking that would bring healing (cf. 1:41; 5:41; 6:5; 7:32). Jesus led the man out of the village to get with him alone. He spit on the man’s eyes, laid His hands on him (cf. 7:31–37), and asked, Do you see anything? He responded, I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around. Since he recognized trees and men, he must have had sight previously, though it is possible that the upright nature of both trees and men that he had previously experienced with his other senses may have prompted his comparison.

8:25–26. Jesus laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time. The man looked intently and was restored, seeing everything clearly. This unique miracle occurred in stages. Did Jesus not have the necessary power to heal this man with one touch? Yes, but since the miracle occurred in stages initiated by Jesus, there must be a reason. Perhaps through the two stages Jesus was showing the disciples that their faith and knowledge of the person of Jesus was becoming clearer all the time, as this man’s sight. It is also possible that Jesus performed two distinct miracles, the first being the man’s ability to see, and the second his comprehension of what he saw. Jesus sent the man to his home for a testimony, not back to Bethsaida.

IV. The Instruction of the Servant of the Lord (8:27–10:52)

A. Instruction Concerning His Person (8:27–30) (see also the comments on Mt 16:13–20)

8:27–28. Jesus and His disciples headed for Caesarea Philippi, twenty-five miles north of the Sea of Galilee. As they traveled Jesus questioned them: Who do people say that I am? The disciples responded as before (cf. 6:14–16): John the Baptist … Elijah … one of the prophets, all flattering suggestions.

8:29–30. Jesus questioned them specifically: But who do you say that I am? Peter answered for the group saying: You are the Christ, the anointed One by God, the Messiah. The great blessing on Peter (cf. the comments on Mt 16:17–18) is not recorded here. Jesus warned the disciples to tell no one about this disclosure. The concept of the Messiah had become quite distorted in Israel, differing from OT predictions. The concept of a suffering Messiah who would redeem His people had virtually been lost, being replaced with a political emphasis. Until He could explain the true concept, the disciples were to say nothing. The true concept would clearly explain His death and resurrection.

B. Instruction Concerning His Program (8:31–9:13) (see also the comments on Mt 16:21–17:13)

1. His Coming Death (8:31–33) (see also the comments on Mt 16:21–26)

8:31–32a. Following the testimony concerning His person as Messiah, Jesus began to teach His disciples of His coming death, this first of three such predictions in this gospel (cf. 9:31; 10:33–34). The Son of Man must suffer many things and be killed (cf. Is 52:13–53:12). He would be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, the Sanhedrin, the group that would ultimately have to officially condemn the Son of Man. But after three days Jesus would rise again. Jesus plainly stated the matter of His coming death.

8:32b–33. This revelation was not in keeping with the disciples’ understanding of Messiah’s actions. It is not surprising that Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. His understandable reaction is nevertheless presumptuous. Jesus could not allow Peter’s words and actions to stand. He turned and looked at all the disciples, who probably were in agreement with Peter’s rebuke. He said to Peter, Get behind Me, Satan. Peter and Satan were not the same individual. Jesus’ rebuke does not indicate that Peter was demon possessed but rather that he was acting as Satan’s spokesman at this moment. He was encouraging Jesus to follow the route Satan suggested earlier: that He could have the glory without the cross (cf. Mt 4:8–9). Peter’s mind was set on man’s interests, not on God’s.

2. His Requirement for Followers (8:34–38)

8:34. Jesus summoned the crowd and said: If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. Denying self does not mean a denial of one’s personality, but a denial of self-centeredness and placing Jesus on the throne of one’s life. Taking up one’s cross was not a Jewish metaphor, but a common figure to the readers. A condemned criminal often carried the crosspiece of his cross, if not the entire cross, to his place of execution, showing Rome had authority over him. When a disciple takes up his cross in a decisive act, he is acknowledging Christ’s authority over his life. When the disciple follows Him, His will is revealed daily, and the disciple continues to follow.

8:35–38. Four statements elaborate on Jesus’ words, each beginning with the preposition, for. Who would not wish to save his life? Yet, if one seeks the wrong things, he will lose it. If one loses his life for the cause of Christ and the gospel, he will save it. One who understands the person of Jesus Christ and the need of the lost will live his life to proclaim the good news. In a rhetorical question Jesus asked: For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? There is much to be gained in this world, but what if a person should gain everything the world has to offer? How much could he take with him beyond the grave? A second rhetorical question follows: For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? There is nothing one can give in exchange for his soul. In a final statement Jesus reflected on His return to this earth in power and glory as Judge. People who have not committed themselves to Jesus as Savior are classic examples of those who live in an adulterous and sinful generation. Therefore when He comes in the glory of the Father with the holy angels to exercise judgment, they will be denied admission to the millennial kingdom.

3. His Coming Kingdom Pictured (9:1–10) (see also the comments on Mt 17:1–13)

9:1–4. Jesus mentioned His glorious return and that some standing there would not die until they saw the kingdom of God come in power. Six days later He took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain, probably Mount Hermon, where He was transfigured before them (cf. v. 1). "Transfigured" is similar to the English "metamorphosis," a change from within. His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, purer than any launderer could achieve. Elijah and Moses were there talking with Jesus about His departure (cf. Lk 9:31), or death. Elijah and Moses represent the Prophets and the Law.

9:5–6. Peter reacted: Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Peter thought this was the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Zch 14:16), which recalled Israel’s wilderness wanderings followed by blessing in the land, picturing millennial glory. Peter thought the kingdom had come, but he really did not know what to answer and was terrified.

9:7–8. A voice said: This is My beloved Son, listen to Him! (cf. 1:11). Listen to Him connects Jesus with "the Prophet" promised in Dt 18. Moses and Elijah disappeared; Jesus is the final form of God’s revelation (cf. Heb 1:1–2a). How was this a taste of the kingdom (cf. v. 1)? First, it occurred on earth, where Jesus will reign. Second, Jesus was glorified, as He will be then. Third, all necessary kingdom people are represented: saints in physical bodies (the three disciples), saints who experience death and resurrection (Moses), and saints who will not die but be translated to heaven (Elijah).

9:9–10. Coming down from the mountain, Jesus told the disciples not to relate to anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man rose from the dead. They continued to discuss what rising from the dead meant. Messiah’s death and resurrection were not yet clear to them.

4. His Relationship to Elijah (9:11–13) (see also the comments on Mt 17:10–13)

9:11. Elijah’s appearance prompted their question. Did Elijah’s presence on the mount satisfy prophecies concerning his coming (cf. Mal 4:5–6)? Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?

9:12–13. Jesus affirmed Elijah must prepare the way for Messiah (Mal 4:5–6). They misunderstood, however, that Messiah would be treated with contempt. Elijah had come, but His predicted suffering was necessary (cf. Pss 22:1–18; 69:1–21; Is 52:13–53:12). John the Baptist’s ministry fulfilled the prophecy if the nation believed (cf. Mt 11:14). The appearance of two witnesses (cf. Rv 11:3–12) will complete the prophecy before Jesus’ second coming.

C. Instruction Concerning the Impossible (9:14–29) (see also the comments on Mt 17:14–21)

9:14–16. Returning from the mountain, Jesus and the three discovered the nine disciples arguing with scribes over their failure to exorcise a demon (v. 18). The crowd began running up to greet Him, so He inquired about the discussion.

9:17–19. One responded to Jesus that he was looking for him, but encountering the nine disciples, sought their help. His demon-possessed son was mute, possibly also deaf (cf. v. 25.) The demon would seize the boy, slamming him to the ground. He would foam at the mouth, grind his teeth, and stiffen his body. Although the disciples had been given authority over demons (cf. 6:7), they could do nothing. Jesus, probably addressing the nine disciples, called them an unbelieving generation and commanded, Bring him to Me!

9:20–24. The demon threw the boy into a convulsion, and he fell to the ground rolling around and foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked how long he had been like this. The father responded, From childhood, adding the demon often tried to throw the boy into the fire and into the water to destroy him. Finally he said, But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us! Jesus replied: If You can? All things are possible to him who believes. The father cried, I do believe; help my unbelief. While he believed, faith is never perfect. Unbelief always potentially exists.

9:25–27. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit: come out of the boy and do not enter him again. The father had to be encouraged. His son was set free, and he would never be possessed again. The demon threw the boy into terrible convulsions and he fell down. Some thought he had died, but Jesus took him by the hand and raised him (cf. 5:41).

9:28–29. In a house the disciples questioned Jesus: Why could we not drive it out? Apparently they had previously been successful (cf. Lk 10:17). Jesus said, This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer. Some manuscripts add "and fasting," probably added later to support asceticism. Exorcising a demon was not automatic based on past performance. Even for the disciples who had been granted authority over demons in Jesus’ name, prayerful dependence on God’s power was required.

D. Instruction Concerning His Upcoming Death (9:30–32)

9:30–31. Jesus and His disciples began to go through Galilee, arriving in Capernaum (v. 33). He was teaching that He was about to be delivered into the hands of men (cf. Ac 2:23) who would kill Him, but He would rise three days later (cf. 8:31).

9:32. The disciples did not understand. They were not anticipating a dying Messiah but were also afraid to ask for clarification. Perhaps Jesus’ previous rebuke of Peter (cf. 8:33) prompted their silence. Jesus’ words had a devastating effect on their hope of His reign.

E. Instruction Concerning Pride (9:33–37) (see also the comments on Mt 18:1–5)

9:33–34. Jesus asked the disciples what they had been discussing. They became silent, for they had been discussing which one of them was the greatest. Perhaps the selection of the three to accompany Jesus to the transfiguration fueled their competitive fires.

9:35–37. Jesus began to discuss positions of authority (cf. 10:43; Mt 23:8; Lk 22:24). If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all. Kingdom positions are determined by willingness to serve. He sat a child in their midst. Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me. Kingdom positions are also based on acceptance of others. Key marks of Jesus’ servants are humility and service.

F. Instruction Concerning Partisan Spirit (9:38–50) (see also the comments on Mt 18:7–14)

9:38. John recalled an incident when the disciples observed an outsider casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They tried to prevent him because he was not following us. This is an illustration of narrow exclusivism and an attempt to divert Jesus’ attention from the embarrassing discussion. The disciples could not exorcise a demon (cf. 9:14), but they were preventing someone who was doing so.

9:39–41. Jesus said they should not have hindered the individual. One cannot perform mighty works in His name, and then speak evil of Him. For he who is not against us is for us, (cf. Mt 12:30). There is no neutrality with the person of Jesus. Giving a cup of water to someone in His name, a hospitable and humble act, could produce a reward. Such behavior should be typical of genuine followers of Jesus.

9:42–43. He continued with instructions concerning offending others. Surely the man casting out demons was offended by their rebuke. It would be better for one to have a millstone hung around his neck and be cast into the sea than to cause someone to stumble. Little ones is probably an affectionate label Jesus used to refer to anyone who follows Him, whether young or old. If one’s hand causes stumbling, it would be better to enter life crippled than have two hands and go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.

9:44–48. Reference to the foot and eye logically follows. It would be better to enter life without a foot or an eye than, having two feet and two eyes, be cast into hell. Jesus was not teaching mutilation. One could remove a hand, foot, or eye and still be a terrible sinner. He was pointing out that sin originates in the heart (cf. 7:18–23), not in bodily parts. Gouging out the eye or cutting off the hand and foot are surely hyperbolic statements, but suggest extreme measures to avoid sin. Hell (ge-Henna, Hb. for the Valley of Hinnom) is a real place. Hinnom was Jerusalem’s garbage dump (cf. 2Kg 23:10) where its refuse was deposited and burned; the part not on fire was usually infested with worms. Isaiah 66:24 pictures eternal torment as external (fire) and internal (worms). The eternal separation of the wicked from God is clearly presented in v. 48. Verses 44 and 46 are not in the better manuscripts, probably inserted for emphasis.

9:49–50. Fire in the phrase salted with fire is probably not the fire of judgment as it is in vv. 43 and 48. Salted with fire appears to be parallel with being salted in v. 50, and there it seems to be a good thing. Fire in vv. 49–50 may refer to the refining and purifying that will take place as His followers are persecuted, and they will be persecuted because they are different from the unsalted world. Even though their salty distinctiveness will attract opposition, they are nevertheless to have salt in [themselves] (maintain their unique flavor, i.e., their counter-cultural values and influence in the world, as in Mt 5:13–16). Though they can expect antagonism from the world, they must be at peace with one another. Discussing who was greatest (cf. Mk 9:33) was inappropriate in light of Jesus’ command to be at peace. They should not be clamoring for positions and promoting themselves.

G. Instruction Concerning Divorce (10:1–12) (see also the comments on Mt 19:1–9)

10:1–2. Jesus crossed the Jordan; crowds gathered, and He taught them. Some Pharisees asked whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. Divorce was considered a gift from God, but denied to Gentiles.

10:3–9. Jesus asked what their authority Moses would say. They responded, Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away (cf. Dt 24:1–4). This safeguard protected wives, since written charges were required. Jesus did not deny Moses permitted divorce, but said it was because of their hardness of heart. Jesus referred to creation when God initiated marriage. God made them male and female (cf. Gn 1:27). For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, the two shall become one flesh. (cf. Gn 2:24). Physical oneness produces a union unlike any other on earth. Only death terminates this union (though see the comments on Mt 19:9). What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. People are not to separate the lifelong commitment God established.

10:10–12. No discussion followed between Jesus and the Pharisees, for His teaching was clear. But later the disciples began questioning Him. Jesus clarified when a man divorces his wife and marries another, he commits adultery against her. Some believe exceptions could be adultery (cf. Mt 19:9) and/or desertion (cf. 1Co 7:15); see the comments there. The same applies if a woman divorces her husband and marries another. Divorce initiated by women was uncommon among Jews, though Herodias had divorced Philip to marry Antipas (see the comments on Mk 6:17–20; Mt 14:3–5).

H. Instruction Concerning Faith (10:13–22)

1. Faith as a Child (10:13–16)

10:13. Parents arrived bringing children so Jesus might touch them, showing Jesus’ growing respect. The disciples rebuked them, sensing Jesus was moving with purpose toward Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9:51), where He would be crucified. They thought His time could be better spent with adults.

10:14–16. Jesus issued two commands: to allow the children to come, and to stop hindering them from doing so. He said, the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. "Kingdom of God," refers to God’s rule over one’s life. Unless one receives God’s rule with a childlike faith and dependence upon God, he will never enter His kingdom. Jesus took the children in His arms and blessed them (cf. Gn 48:8–20).

2. Faith for Eternal Life (10:17–22) (see also the comments on Mt 19:16–23)

10:17–19. A man knelt before Jesus asking: Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (cf. Jn 6:28). His identification, "Good Teacher," used a word rabbis refused to apply to humans. Jesus responded: Why do you call Me good? He was not denying He was good, but was helping the man understand with whom he was speaking. Did he truly recognize Jesus as God? If so, was he open to Jesus’ words? Jesus recalled five commandments the man knew (cf. Ex 20:12–16): murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, and honoring one’s parents. Jesus omitted covetousness, though some believe Do not defraud was synonymous. Others believe Jesus omitted covetousness because that was the man’s problem.

10:20–22. He replied, I have kept all these things from my youth up. He believed from his youth he had kept these commandments. However, he sensed something was missing (cf. Mt 19:20). Jesus issued two commands: He was to sell his possessions, giving the proceeds to the poor, and come follow Him. The man’s countenance fell and he left grieving for he owned much property. He had done everything, but he treasured his possessions more.

I. Instruction Concerning Wealth (10:23–31) (see also the comments on Mt 19:24–30)

10:23–25. Jesus commented, How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples were amazed. If the wealthy could not enter the kingdom, who could? Jesus’ hyperbole about a camel going through a needle’s eye was well-known. Jesus was speaking about literal camels and needles, but suggestions have been given to accomplish this feat.

10:26–27. The disciples understood: Then who can be saved? Jesus said men find some things impossible, but with God all things are possible (cf. Gn 18:14), indicating that one’s entrance into the kingdom and eternal life are dependent upon God, not human effort.

10:28–31. Peter reminded Jesus the disciples had left everything to follow Him. He was saying, "What’s in it for us?" Jesus said those who have left valued assets and relationships for the Lord’s sake (cf. 8:35) will be recompensed a hundred times as much … in the present age. There will be other possessions and houses, brothers and sisters and mothers in fellow believers. There will be persecutions, but also rewards and in the age to come, eternal life. Many, like the rich man, appear to be prominent, but will ultimately be last (actually, not admitted at all). Those with more humble positions, like the disciples, will someday find themselves first (cf. Mt 19:30; 20:16; Lk 13:30).

J. Instruction Concerning His Near Future (10:32–34) (see also the comments on Mt 20:17–19)

10:32–34. The purposefulness of Jesus’ walk (cf. Lk 9:51) amazed the disciples, but a sense of foreboding was developing because of opposition. He said for the third time (cf. 8:31; 9:31) that He would be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and condemned to death (cf. 14:55–64). They could not execute anyone, but would deliver Jesus to the Gentiles (cf. 15:1) for the crucifixion. They would mock Him (cf. 15:16–18), spit on Him (cf. 15:19), scourge Him (cf. 15:15), and kill Him (cf. 15:24, 37). After three days He would rise from the dead (cf. 16:1). Jesus and the gospel writer did not present the Jewish people as solely guilty for the death of Jesus—rather, human responsibility for the crucifixion was a conspiracy of guilt between the Jewish leaders and Gentile rulers and soldiers, permitted by the sovereign plan of God (cf. Ac 2:23; 4:27–28).

K. Instructions Concerning Positions in the Kingdom (10:35–45) (see also the comments on Mt 20:20–28)

10:35–36. James and John asked Jesus to grant an unspecified request. He refused to commit Himself, but asked them to be specific.

10:37–40. They wanted privileged places at His right and left hands in His coming kingdom. Had Jesus not just announced He was going to Jerusalem to die? Their request resurfaced the issue of greatness (cf. 9:33ff.), which Jesus had already settled. He asked if they were able to drink the cup He would drink and be baptized with the baptism with which He would be baptized. The cup pictures divine judgment on human sin (cf. Ps 75:8; Is 51:17–23; Jr 25:15–28; 49:12; 51:7; Lm 4:21–22; Ezk 23:31–34; Hab 2:16; Zch. 12:2). Sharing one’s cup meant sharing an experience. To be immersed in water implies becoming overwhelmed by the water. Jesus was about to experience betrayal and death. His question asks if they were ready to follow in His footsteps and also experience death. They responded We are able. Jesus said they would share His suffering: James through martyrdom (cf. Ac 12:2), John through persecution and exile (cf. Rv 1:9). However, granting kingdom positions was not His to give, but was His Heavenly Father’s.

10:41–45. When the others learned about this discussion, they became indignant with James and John. Another discussion on servanthood followed (cf. 9:35–37). Jesus explained Gentile rulers loved to exercise authority over people. His followers must not do that. One wanting to be great must become a servant; one wanting to be first, a slave. Jesus humbled Himself, taking on the role of a servant, when He came to earth and veiled His deity. He came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom (cf. Is 53:11), the price to free a captive or a slave. Jesus gave Himself for ("in the place of") many, the single life benefiting the many. The debt of sin owed by the sinner was owed to God, not to Satan (cf. Rm 3:23–26). Jesus’ followers must reflect His humility.

L. Instruction Concerning Faith (10:46–52) (see also the comments on Mt 20:29–34)

10:46–49. In Jericho Bartimaeus sat beside the road asking for alms. When he learned Jesus was passing by, he cried out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus did not object to this Messianic title. Many rebuked Bartimaeus, telling him to be quiet. He paid no attention, but continued crying out for mercy using the title Son of David. Jesus commanded him to come forward.

10:50–52. Casting aside his cloak, which may have held his collected alms, he jumped up approaching Jesus. He asked Bartimaeus what he wanted of Him. He called Jesus Rabboni, "My Master" (cf. Jn 20:16), and asked for his sight. This was not unreasonable. The Messiah would give sight to the blind (cf. Is 61:1). Jesus said, Go; your faith has made you well. As with the woman with the hemorrhage (cf. 5:34) and others, faith produced healing and a changed spiritual condition. Bartimaeus was restored and began following Jesus, unlike the rich young man (cf. 10:22). He may have followed Him to Jerusalem where he would have given an offering for his healing.

V. The Rejection of the Servant of the Lord (11:1–15:47)

A. The Presentation of the Servant (11:1–26) (see also the comments on Mt 21:1–22)

1. The Triumphal Entry (11:1–11)

11:1–3. Coming from Jericho, Jesus entered Bethany on the Mount of Olives. He sent two disciples to nearby Bethphage to find a colt tied. If questioned about their actions, they should say, The Lord has need of it.

11:4–6. They found the colt, though challenges came from bystanders (cf. Lk 19:33). After speaking Jesus’ words, the disciples received permission to take the animal.

11:7–11. They brought the colt to Jesus, and He rode it into Jerusalem. Accompanying pilgrims removed their coats and spread them in the road with leafy branches from trees as a gesture of respect. They began crying Hosanna! a Hebrew word meaning "Save us now!" (cf. Ps 118:25–26, a Psalm of Ascent sung by pilgrims). They shouted, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord and Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Jesus’ actions had a Messianic intent, showing fulfillment of Zch 9:9. Jesus entered the temple, probably the Court of the Gentiles, and returned to Bethany.

2. The Judgment Announced (11:12–14)

11:12–14. On the next day, Jesus headed for Jerusalem. He became hungry, but spied a fig tree in leaf with no fruit on it. He said, May no one ever eat fruit from you again! The disciples later called Jesus’ words a curse (cf. v. 21). Although it was not the season for figs (v. 13), by the time a fig tree is in leaf, it should have fruit on it, even if it is unripe. Hence, this fig tree, despite its leaves, was actually barren. Jesus was demonstrating the danger of spiritual hypocrisy as evident in the temple leaders: all the trappings of religion (leaves), without true transformation (no fruit).

3. The Cleansing of the Temple (11:15–19)

11:15–16. They entered the temple, and Jesus began to drive out those who were buying and selling (cf. Jn 2:13–16, which occurred earlier). Jesus dealt with money changers and those selling doves. Their exorbitant prices were not in keeping with the spirit of the temple. Jesus also stopped those carrying merchandise through the temple, using it for shortcuts.

11:17–19. The temple was to be a house of prayer for all the nations (cf. Is 56:6–7). They had turned it into a robbers’ den (cf. Jr 7:11), making what should have been a place for prayer and worship, a place of merchandise. When the chief priests and the scribes heard what Jesus was doing, they recognized He was claiming greater authority than the high priest. But they were afraid of Him because of the multitude who viewed Jesus as Messiah. To keep their power the chief priests and scribes had to destroy Jesus. That evening Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany.

4. The Judgment Fulfilled (11:20–26)

11:20–21. On Tuesday morning, Jesus and His disciples passed the fig tree now withered from the roots up. No one would ever eat its fruit again (cf. v. 14). Peter said, Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.

11:22–26. Jesus encouraged the disciples, Have faith in God. Besides the lesson of spiritual hypocrisy, Jesus used the cursed fig tree for a second lesson, specifically, on the power of faith. The key to this teaching is the object of faith. The focus of faith must be on the sovereign Lord, not on faith itself. Since He was standing on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ hyperbole becomes clear. He was referring to that mountain and the Dead Sea, visible fifteen miles away, when He said the person of faith could say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea.’ A "mountain" pictured an obstacle in one’s path (cf. Zch 4:7). Prayer can remove great obstacles. Therefore He said, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. But everything must be right with the Heavenly Father, which includes a forgiving spirit. Problems between individuals must be confronted and forgiveness sought. Verse 26 is not in the best manuscripts, but is the logical outcome of v. 25 (cf. Mt 6:15).

B. The Controversies with the Servant (11:27–12:40)

1. With the Religious Leaders (11:27–12:12)

a. The Question of Authority (11:27–33) (see also the comments on Mt 21:23–27)

11:27–30. Members of the Sanhedrin, guardians of Israel’s religious life, confronted Jesus in the temple: By what authority are You doing these things? They were referring to His triumphal entry and the cleansing of the temple. Also they asked, Who gave You this authority to do these things? Jesus countered with one question, which if they would answer, He would answer their questions: Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Jewish people revered God’s name and did not want to use it in vain; therefore, "heaven" became a euphemism for God. Jesus’ question was basically, "Was John’s authority from God or men?"

11:31–33. The religious leaders realized Jesus had them in a quandary. If they answered John’s authority was from God, He would say, Then why did you not believe him? But if they answered from men, they were afraid of the people, for they considered John a prophet. A crowd had gathered so they responded, We do not know. Since they refused to answer, Jesus refused to reveal His authority, which came from God directly and not any man. This would be objectionable to Jewish people in that it was thought that only Moses received authority directly from God. All other authority was passed down from one authority to the next (cf. Pirke Avot 1:1 in the Mishnah). Therefore, Jesus’ authority, which came directly from the Father, identified Him as "the prophet like" Moses (Dt 18:15–19).

b. The Parable for Instruction (12:1–11) (see also the comments on Mt 21:33–46)

12:1–8. Jesus spoke in parables, but only one is recorded. Why only one is given is not explained. A man planted a vineyard, doing everything necessary to make it productive. He rented it to caretakers and departed. At harvest, he sent a slave to receive some of the produce. But they beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another slave but he was physically abused. A third slave sent was killed. Jesus added, and so with many others. Finally the owner’s beloved son was sent. The renters said, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, thinking by eliminating him, the field would be theirs. The murdered son’s body was discarded, thrown over the vineyard’s wall.

12:9–11. Jesus asked the leaders what they thought the owner would do. They responded that he would come and destroy the vine-growers, and give the vineyard to others (cf. Mt 21:41). An immediate application is made using Psalm 118:22. The imagery changes to a stone which the builders rejected, which becomes the chief corner stone. Jesus continued: This came about from the lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes. This was God’s plan and the application was clear. The vineyard was Israel and the religious leaders the caretakers who had poorly treated God’s servants and would reject and participate in killing the beloved Son, Jesus. At question is the identity of the "others" to whom the vineyard would be given. Although some see in this the church replacing Israel, the parable is addressing the religious leaders of Israel. Jesus is saying that the rejection of the Messiah will lead to a change of leadership over Israel (the vineyard) from the Sanhedrin to the faithful remnant of Israel (cf. Rm 11:1–6), the Jewish followers of Jesus the Messiah.

c. The Leaders’ Response (12:12)

12:12. The religious leaders understood Jesus spoke against them and wanted to seize Him. They feared the people who a few days before were shouting "Hosanna!" in His honor. What would happen if Jesus were suddenly removed? They left Him and went away.

2. With the Pharisees and Herodians (12:13–17) (see also the comments on Mt 22:15–22)

12:13–15a. Some Pharisees and Herodians approached Jesus to trap Him in a statement. These two groups were usually opponents: the Herodians were always for the political status quo and were sympathetic to the Romans, while the Pharisees looked forward to the coming of Messiah to remove Roman oppression (see comments at 3:6). They said flattering things about Jesus: He was truthful deferring to no one, He was not partial to any, and He taught the way of God in truth. They asked, Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?

12:15b–17. Jesus knew they were hypocrites, seemingly asking a sincere question, but wanting to trap Him. He requested a denarius, the small Roman coin that paid the questionable poll-tax. He asked, Whose likeness and inscription is this? The reigning Roman Emperor was Tiberius Caesar. They replied, Caesar’s. Jesus said they should pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Since they were using Roman coins, they were under Rome’s authority and were benefiting from it. But Jesus added, render to God the things that are God’s. God’s authority must be acknowledged. The people were amazed having never heard anything like this. Jesus was teaching the principle of obedience to governmental authority so long it does not force disobedience to God, found elsewhere in the NT (Ac 5:29; Rm 13:1–7; 1Pt 2:13–14).

3. With the Sadducees (12:18–27) (see also the comments on Mt 22:23–33)

12:18–23. The Sadducees, the "religious aristocrats" of Judaism, next questioned Jesus. They acknowledged only the book of the Law (the five books of Moses), rigorously opposing Pharisaic traditions. While the Pharisees believed in the resurrection from the dead, the Sadducees denied it, claiming that this doctrine was not found in the Law. These Sadducees spoke to Jesus of levirate marriage (cf. Dt 25:5–10). If a man died with no male heir, his brother was to marry the widow. If they produced a male child, that child would be named for the dead brother, keeping his name in the family inheritance. They speculated about a family of seven brothers, the first of whom died, leaving no offspring. The second brother married the widow, but he too died, leaving no offspring. This happened to all seven brothers, and finally the women died. Whether this story was true or one adapted from Tobit (cf. Tb 3:8) cannot be proven. They asked, in the resurrection, which one’s wife will she be? Since they denied the resurrection, this was clearly a ridiculous illustration. They were picturing resurrection life as an elevation of the pleasures enjoyed on earth, the sexual relationship of husbands and wives being one.

12:24–27. Jesus said they were wrong. They did not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God. God is able to raise the dead, and resurrection life will be different from what is presently known. Marriage will not be necessary because, after the resurrection, humans will be like angels in heaven, who do not die. Since they never die, reproduction is unnecessary. They truly did not understand the resurrection. Jesus defended the doctrine of resurrection using the Law, the Sadducean source of authority, citing God’s conversation with Moses at the burning bush (cf. Ex 3:6). God said, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. If the Sadducees were correct, those men were dead and gone when God spoke. He should have said, "I was the God." But they were alive, and he was still their God. The Sadducees were greatly mistaken.

4. With the Scribes (12:28–34) (see also the comments on Mt 22:34–40)

12:28. One of the scribes recognized Jesus answered them well. He asked, What commandment is the foremost of all? Religious leaders had discovered 613 commandments in the Law, 365 negative and 248 positive. Many of the commandments had champions who argued for their validity as the greatest. Which one was greatest?

12:29–31. Jesus answered the foremost was the one recited every day: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord (cf. Dt 6:4). A person should love the Lord with his heart, soul, mind, and strength. But Jesus added: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (cf. Lv 19:18). Some streams of first-century Judaism (e.g., the zealots) taught that one should love his neighbor and hate his enemy (cf. Mt 5:43). Jesus taught that "neighbor" meant anyone in need (cf. Lk 10:29–37). Uniting love for God and neighbor is truly the greatest commandment.

12:32–34. The scribe said Jesus was correct. He repeated His words, substituting pronouns for God’s name. To love God and one’s neighbor was more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Jesus responded, You are not far from the kingdom of God. Here was a Pharisee who understood the true intent of the law and was close to believing in Jesus. Realizing they were about to lose one of their own, His opponents stopped asking questions.

5. The Response of the Servant (12:35–44)

a. The Question of Challenge (12:35–37) (see also the comments on Mt 22:41–46)

12:35–37. Jesus asked a question concerning the person of the Messiah. How could the scribes say the Christ (Gk. for the Messiah) was the son of David? Jews knew the Messiah had to come from David (cf. Is 9:2–7; 11:1–9; Jr 23:5ff.; 30:9; Hs 3:5; Am 9:11). But the teaching about Messiah had degenerated into the one-dimensional view of an earthly deliverer coming to overthrow Israel’s enemies. The Messiah was also to be a divine spiritual deliverer. Jesus quoted Psalm 110 where David declared: The Lord [Yahweh] said to my Lord [Adonai], ‘Sit at My right hand, Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet.’ Yahweh tells Adoni He is to sit at His right hand, the place of honor while waiting for God to subjugate His enemies. David was calling the Messiah "Lord." Robert Alden notes, "The vowels in the Hebrew expression for ‘my lord,’ which the Jewish scribes put in, indicate a human title, but the inspired consonantal text would allow either a human or divine title" (Psalms: Songs of Discipleship, [Chicago: Moody, 1976], 31–32). Moreover, even the word commonly understood as a human title, Adoni, is occasionally used of God in the OT (Jos 5:14; Jdg 6:13). It is evident from this context that Jesus understood the word translated "Lord" as a reference to the Messiah and to be a divine appellation. His point is that if the Messiah is God, He must be more than a mere man coming in David’s line to overthrow enemies. The large crowd enjoyed the way Jesus confounded the religious leaders. It was doubtful they fully understood, but they knew He was teaching with authority.

b. The Warning (12:38–40)

12:38–40. Jesus warned them about the scribes’ actions. (See Matthew 23 for His complete indictment.) They loved receiving respectful greetings in the market places and wanted the chief seats in the synagogues, those closest to the biblical scrolls. They cherished places of honor at banquets (cf. Lk 14:8). Their worst behavior was taking advantage of the weakest links of society, especially widows. They spoke long prayers, giving an appearance of piety, but inside their concerns were about position, power, and money. They would receive a greater judgment. Jesus’ indictment did not pertain to all scribes and Pharisees but rather to the religious hypocrites among them. Even the Talmud, reflecting the view of Rabbinic Judaism, cited seven categories of scribes and Pharisees and found six of them to be hypocritical and quite in line with Jesus’ description of them (cf. b. Sotah 22b; J. Berakhot 14b).

c. The Proper Illustration (12:41–44)

12:41–42. Jesus sat down opposite the treasury in the Court of the Women. Into marked receptacles worshippers placed offerings, and Jesus was observing their giving. Rich people were contributing large sums. A poor widow offered two small copper coins, two leptas, the smallest in circulation, worth 1/64th of a denarius. This was the amount that the Temple authorities gave to the poor so they could obtain bread for the day. If she planned to give this back to God, it seems reasonable that she could have kept one, at least to obtain half of a food allotment.

12:43–44. Jesus told His disciples this widow had contributed more than all the others, not more in quantity, for some gifts were large. The others gave from their surplus; but this woman gave sacrificially, since she contributed all she owned. As she departed, she had nothing to purchase food until she found work or until God provided. But she believed God would sustain her. The amount of the gift one gives is not the greatest significance. Commitment of heart and sacrifice mean more to God.

C. The Predictions of the Servant (13:1–37)

1. The Questions of the Disciples (13:1–4) (see also the introductory material on the Olivet Discourse and the comments on Mt 24:1–3)

13:1–2. As Jesus left the temple, a disciple noted the marvelous stones and buildings of the complex. Jesus’ words of coming destruction (cf. Mt 23:38–39) precipitated his remarks. He responded, Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down. This hyperbole pictures massive coming destruction. The Roman legion in AD 70 utterly destroyed the temple and Jerusalem. For an understanding that does not see AD 70 in the Olivet Discourse, see the material introducing the comments on Mt 24, as well as those on 24:1–2.

13:3–4. As they rested on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem must have been beautiful with the sun setting behind the city. The disciples asked Jesus when these things would occur and what would be the sign of their fulfillment. Their questions prompted Jesus’ longest sermon in this gospel (cf. Mt 24–25; Lk 21:5–36). Their questions related to the temple and end-time events leading to Messiah’s kingdom, not questions concerning the church, which is never mentioned in this gospel (though, for a different approach, see the comments on Mt 24–25).

2. The Response of the Servant (13:5–37)

a. Coming Tribulation (13:5–23)

i. The First Half of the Tribulation (13:5–13) (see also the comments on Mt 24:4–14)

13:5–8. Jesus warned the disciples of deceivers who will come in His name, each one even declaring that he is the Messiah. There will be wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes, and famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Jesus was picturing the coming of the end of days with the birth of a child. A woman’s labor can extend for some time before the birth.

13:9–13. Jesus’ warnings were for the disciples and future generations. There would be religious persecution and political oppression. They would be brought before courts and into synagogues because of their testimony for Jesus. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations during the tribulation. When brought before officials, believers need not worry beforehand concerning what to say. The Holy Spirit will speak for them. Persecution could arise within a family or among friends. Jesus said, You will be hated by all, but the one who endures to the end … will be saved. In this context the end is the end of the tribulation (though, for a different approach, see the comments on Mt 10:22). Those living to that point will experience deliverance, for believers in Jesus will enter His kingdom as physical subjects.

ii. The Second Half of the Tribulation (13:14–23) (see also the comments on Mt 24:15–28)

13:14–18. The sign indicating the middle of the tribulation is the abomination of desolation (cf. the comments on Dn 9:24–27). An abomination was any detestable object in the OT usually connected with idolatry. This abomination will stand where it should not be, in the temple (cf. Mt 24:15). A coming world dictator will make a covenant with Israel (cf. Dn 9:27) starting Daniel’s 70th "week." Halfway through the seven years his true character will emerge. He will demand everyone worship him (cf. the comments on 2Th 2:3–4). Those in Judea should flee to the mountains. One on the housetop should not go into the house for anything. One in the field should not attempt to retrieve his cloak. Circumstances will be difficult, and they should pray it might not happen in winter when travel will be difficult.

13:19–23. The following days will produce a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation. Unless the Lord terminated the time, no life would survive. But for the sake of God’s chosen (i.e., individuals from all races who will come to faith following the rapture), those days will end (cf. 13:13). False messiahs would arise, but Jesus warned, Do not believe him, even if he produces signs and wonders (cf. Dt 13:1–3). Jesus’ warnings should enable believers to respond properly.

b. Coming Triumph (13:24–27) (see also the comments on Mt 24:29–31)

i. Return of the King (13:24–26)

13:24–26. After the tribulation, disturbances will affect the sun, moon, and stars (cf. Is 13:9; Ezk 32:7; Jl 2:1; Am 8:9; and Zph 1:14–16). This could imply physical forces will be subject to new dynamics resulting from the tribulation’s natural calamities. This climaxes in the return of the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

ii. Regathering of Believers (13:27)

13:27. When Jesus returns, He will send His angels to gather together His elect from the four winds, those who became believers during the tribulation (cf. v. 13). OT saints will probably be resurrected at this time (cf. Dn. 12:2, 13) as well as tribulation martyrs. These are gathered to enter the millennial kingdom Jesus will inaugurate.

c. Concluding Teaching (13:28–37)

i. The Fig Tree (13:28–32) (see also the comments on Mt 24:32–35)

13:28–29. Jesus concluded with two parables (see the comments on 3:23). When a fig tree’s branches became tender and leaves appeared, it would soon be summer. Jesus declared, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. People hearing Jesus did not see all these things. That is why Jesus’ prophecies were not completely fulfilled in Jerusalem’s AD 70 destruction.

13:30–32. The generation seeing all these things will not pass away until all has been fulfilled. A future generation will see the culmination of God’s plan. Only the Father knows when this will come to pass. Neither the angels nor Jesus in His incarnate state know that time. For the significance of the prophetic timing of But of that day or hour no one knows (v. 32), see the comments on Mt 24:36.

ii. The Steward (13:33–37)

13:33–37. Since no one knows the time, all are admonished: Take heed, keep on the alert. A second parable spoke of a man who departed on a journey. His slaves were given responsibilities in his absence. Whenever he returned, the doorkeeper should be awake to welcome him, demonstrating his faithfulness. Jesus’ admonitions were given to all: Be on the alert! Expectancy should characterize every believer’s life.

D. The Preparatory Events Surrounding the Servant (14:1–42)

1. The Plot of the Leaders (14:1–2) (see also the comments on Mt 26:3–5)

14:1–2. Passover annually recalled Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, and Unleavened Bread their quick departure (cf. Ex 23:14–17, 34:23; Dt 16:16). The chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to seize Jesus and kill Him. Recent events and intense debates convinced them Jesus must be destroyed. The most propitious time would not be during the festival. The huge crowds, including many Galileans, might provoke unwanted riots.

2. The Anointing by Mary (14:3–9) (see also the comments on Mt 26:6–13)

14:3–5. As Jesus ate in the home of Simon the leper, a woman (cf. Jn 12:1–3), entered with an expensive vial of pure nard, aromatic oil from India. She poured the contents over Jesus’ head. Some disciples responded with indignation, the most vocal being Judas Iscariot (cf. Jn 12:4). He believed the perfume had been wasted, for its value was over three hundred denarii, a worker’s pay for an entire year. The perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor, a generous deed expected during Passover (cf. Jn 14:20). In light of Judas’s character, his real concerns were selfish (cf. Jn 12:6). They were scolding her, a word used of the snorting of horses.

14:6–9. Jesus said to leave her alone. They would always have the poor around to whom they could minister (cf. Dt 15:11), but He would not always be with them. She anointed His body for burial. Perhaps as she listened at Jesus’ feet (cf. Lk 10:39), she truly understood He was about to die. Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world this gracious act would be remembered. That happens whenever this Scripture is read.

3. The Agreement with Judas (14:10–11) (see also the comments on Mt 26:14–16)

14:10–11. This wasteful act was in Judas’s thinking as he went off to the chief priests to negotiate Jesus’ betrayal. More than this act was involved, however, because Satan entered into Judas (cf. Lk 22:3). Jesus’ goals were clearly spiritual, and Judas’s hopes of power were crushed. He rationalized he could at least come out with monetary gain. The authorities were delighted and promised to give him money, thirty pieces of silver (cf. Mt 26:15), the price of a slave (cf. Ex 21:32; Zch 11:12). Thus, Judas began seeking an opportune time to betray Jesus.

4. The Passover Meal (14:12–26)

a. Preparation (14:12–16) (see also the comments on Mt 26:17–19)

14:12–16. Jesus and His disciples stayed in Bethany, but the Passover lamb had to be eaten in Jerusalem. The disciples asked Jesus where they should make preparations for the meal. Two disciples (cf. Lk 22:8) were sent to Jerusalem and told to look for a man … carrying a pitcher of water. Some think this was a prearranged sign, but it could have been a reflection of Jesus’ omniscience. The disciples were to follow him to a home and say to the owner: The Teacher says, ‘Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’ A large upper room furnished and ready was where the meal was prepared. They found everything as Jesus said.

b. Participation (14:17–21) (see also the comments on Mt 26:20–25)

14:17–18. Jesus came with the Twelve to the upper room. This meal was normally eaten between 6 p.m. and midnight. As they were eating, Jesus made a shocking announcement: one eating with them would betray Him.

14:19–21. Each disciple said, Surely not I? The identity of the betrayer was not revealed. If the disciples had known Judas’s intentions, they would never have let him leave the room (cf. Jn 13:27–30). The betrayer was one who dipped with Him in the bowl (cf. Ps 41:9), probably a reference to sharing the bitter herbs. It was a treacherous act to eat with someone and then betray him. The Son of Man would accomplish God’s will. Jesus’ death was under God’s providence, planned before creation. But Judas also acted freely as a morally responsible individual. It would have been good for that man if he had not been born. Judas would suffer the consequences of his unbelief.

c. Initiation (14:22–26) (see also the comments on Mt 26:26–29)

14:22–24. As they ate, Jesus took some (unleavened) bread (or Matzah) and after a blessing, broke it and gave it to them, saying, Take it; this is My body. The bread had not become His body, but the bread represented His body. He followed with a cup, probably the third cup, the "cup of blessing." He gave thanks, gave it to them; and they all drank. He said, This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. The wine represented His blood. The word covenant spoke of an arrangement made by one party, God Himself, and it had been sealed by Jesus’ blood. In light of all the symbolic foods eaten at a Passover meal, Jesus’ disciples would not have taken His words about the bread and wine literally.

14:25–26. Jesus said He would never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when He would drink it in the kingdom of God, an anticipation of His coming earthly kingdom. Ending the meal, they sang a hymn, probably from Pss 115–118 and then started walking to the Mount of Olives heading to Bethany.

5. The Prediction of Denial (14:27–31) (see also the comments on Mt 26:30–35)

14:27–28. Jesus said the disciples would all fall away that evening (cf. Zch 13:7). However His death was not the end, for He was going to rise. Then He would meet them in Galilee.

14:29–31. Peter reacted strongly to Jesus’ words. It was inconceivable he would forsake his Lord. Others might fall away, but Peter insisted that he never would. Jesus responded, before a rooster crows twice Peter would deny Him three times (cf. 14:72). Yet Peter insisted he would never forsake his Lord, and all the disciples agreed.

6. The Garden of Gethsemane (14:32–42) (see also the comments on Mt 26:36–46)

14:32–34. Jesus and the Eleven came to Gethsemane, a place well known to them. Eight disciples were told to stay behind, but Peter and James and John continued on with Jesus (cf. 5:35–43; 9:2–9). In His hour of need, Jesus desired the companionship of these three. He began to be very distressed and His soul was deeply grieved to the point of death. The cross was drawing near, and the enormity of bearing the sin of the world was pressing on Him. The disciples were to remain and keep watch.

14:35–38. Jesus began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. Abba! is an affectionate Aramaic word like the English "Dad" or "Pa." This term showed the intimacy of the relationship between the Father and Jesus. He asked that the cup might be removed. The cup was a picture of death and judgment falling on Jesus as He bore sin. There would be a sense of separation between Jesus and the Father, and He did not look forward to that. He submitted to the Father’s will: not what I will, but what You will. Returning to the three, He found them sleeping. His statement, Could you not keep watch for one hour? might indicate the length of His prayer. He encouraged them to continue watching and praying.

14:39–42. Jesus prayed the same words as before. Returning, He found the disciples sleeping. When awakened they did not know how to respond (cf. 9:6). The details of Jesus’ third period of prayer (cf. Mt 26:44) are not given, but Jesus returned again and said, Are you still sleeping and resting? He had prayed the hour might pass (cf. v. 35), but the time had come. He was about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. The betrayer (cf. vv. 18–21) was outside the garden, and they would meet momentarily.

E. The Arrest and Trials of the Servant (14:43–15:20)

1. Arrest in Gethsemane (14:43–52) (see also the comments on Mt 26:47–56)

14:43–46. Judas arrived with an armed crowd. That Judas is called one of the twelve shows the horror of his deed. Roman soldiers were the ones legally carrying swords, those with clubs were part of the temple guard, representing the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Roman soldiers were present to preclude resistance. Pupils often greeted rabbis with a kiss, and that was the chosen signal. The one Judas kissed should be lead away under guard. They laid hands on Him, and seized Him, with no resistance from Jesus.

14:47–49. One of the disciples, probably Peter (cf. v. 29; Jn 18:10), drew a sword in defense. Striking the slave of the high priest, he cut off his ear. Jesus immediately stopped this defense but asked why they had come with swords and clubs in the middle of the night as though He were a robber? Throughout the past week He had been daily in the temple teaching. Why had they not seized Him then? He understood His arrest occurred to fulfill the Scriptures (cf. Is 53; Zch 13:7).

14:50–52. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples all left Him and fled. However, one did not flee. A certain young man was following, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body. This unidentified young man was probably Mark himself. He was showing he was present at this event. He was seized, but pulled free of the garment and escaped naked.

2. Trial before the council (14:53–65) (see also the comments on Mt 26:57–68)

14:53–54. Jesus was taken to the house of the high priest, Caiaphas. The Sanhedrin (the chief priests and the elders and the scribes) had to be awakened. These 71 men were the supreme ruling body in Israel. Peter followed at a distance, entering the courtyard and warming himself by the fire with those who had arrested Jesus.

14:55–59. The Council began seeking testimony to convict Jesus. They could not execute anyone (cf. Jn 18:31), but their recommendations to Roman officials were considered. They could not find evidence, though many were giving false testimony and their testimony was not consistent. Mosaic law required at least two agreeing witnesses (cf. Dt 17:6; 19:15). Some heard Jesus say, I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands. Jesus never said He would harm the physical temple, but was speaking about His own body (cf. Jn 2:21).

14:60–65. Caiaphas finally questioned Jesus: "Surely you are going to answer these accusations, are you not?" He was tempting Jesus to say something that might be used against Him. Jesus kept silent, for no charges had been specified. Caiaphas asked a second question: Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? He used the euphemism, "Blessed One," for God. Jesus’ answer was clear: I am (cf. Ex 3:14). Jesus continued, those hearing Him would one day see Him as The Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power. They also would see Him coming with the clouds of heaven. They were judging Him, but one day He would judge them. The high priest tore his garments, an act forbidden by law (cf. Lv 10:6; 21:10). He declared all had heard the blasphemy, the penalty for which was death (cf. Lv 24:15–16). They all condemned Him. Taking the law into their own hands, they treated Jesus as a criminal. They spit at Him, demonstrating contempt, blindfolded Him, beat Him with their fists, and asked Him to prophesy. If He was the Messiah, He would know who struck Him. This was a crude misrepresentation of Is 11:2–4, that the Messiah would not judge by what He saw or make decisions by what He heard. Jesus was entrusted to the officers who arrested Him, who also treated Him unworthily, slapping Him with their hands.

3. Prediction of Denial Fulfilled (14:66–72) (see also the comments on Mt 26:69–75)

14:66–72. While Jesus was before the Sanhedrin, Peter was undergoing a trial in the courtyard (cf. v. 54). A servant-girl saw Peter. You also were with Jesus the Nazarene. Peter stated he did not know what she was talking about. The same girl again said, This is one of them! Again he denied it, but his speech betrayed him. A bystander said, Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too. He had to do something drastic. He began to curse and swear. This does not mean Peter used profanity; rather he placed himself under an oath. He said he did not know this man, deliberately avoiding the name "Jesus," denying his Lord. Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered the Lord’s words (cf. v. 30) and began to weep.

4. Second Trial before the Council (15:1) (see also the comments on Mt 27:1–2)

15:1. Early in the morning the Sanhedrin assembled. Night trials were illegal, but after sunrise they formalized their conclusions. The Romans would never execute Jesus for blasphemy, so the charge was changed to treason (cf. Lk 23:2) and Jesus was led to Pilate.

5. Trial before Pilate (15:2–15) (see also the comments on Mt 27:3–26)

15:2–5. Pilate, the fifth procurator appointed by Caesar, began reigning in AD 26. He questioned Jesus concerning His being King of the Jews. Jesus’ answer, It is as you say, has been understood two ways. Some say Jesus was noncommittal: "You say that, not I." Others believe He answered emphatically: "You said it!" The chief priests began to accuse Jesus of treason, but He gave no defense (cf. 14:60). Although encouraged to speak, Jesus remained silent, rare action by one condemned.

15:6–11. A Roman custom designed to win over the Jewish people was the release of a requested prisoner during the feast. Barabbas was a well-known insurrectionist who had committed murder. Pilate expected Jesus to be the choice. He had seen through the chief priests, knowing Jesus had been delivered because of their envy. But he did not count on their influence on the crowd. In light of the early morning hour (15:1), it is likely that this was not a random crowd but a group the chief priests specially gathered to support their wishes concerning Jesus. They began asking for Barabbas.

15:12–15. Pilate asked what he should do with their King when He should have ordered Jesus’ release. They answered: Crucify Him! He asked regarding what evil Jesus had done since He found no fault in Him. They shouted louder, Crucify Him! He gave in, releasing Barabbas. Jesus was subjected to a brutal beating using a leather whip studded with pieces of bone, lead, or brass, and delivered up to be crucified.

6. Mocking before the Roman Soldiers (15:16–20) (see also the comments on Mt 27:27–32)

15:16–20. Jesus was taken into the Praetorium, the governor’s residence. The cohort, possibly as many as 600 men, mocked Jesus, dressing Him in purple and placing a crown of thorns on His head. They cried, Hail, King of the Jews! They beat Him about His head with a reed and spat on Him. They bowed, mocking Him, not only because of His kingship claim but also because of their hatred for the Jews. They removed the cloak, restored His garments, and led Him out for crucifixion.

F. The Crucifixion of the Servant (15:21–32) (see also the comments on Mt 27:33–44)

15:21. A condemned prisoner carried his cross to the place of execution. It is not surprising that Jesus’ beating left Him unable to bear His own cross, so Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service.

15:22–26. Jesus was brought to a well-known place called Golgotha, or Place of a Skull. The English word "Calvary" comes from the Latin word for skull, calvaria. Perhaps the rock there looked like a skull or maybe, as the site of crucifixions, it was associated with skulls. They offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to help His pain, but He refused it. All the details of crucifixion are not given here. Victims were stripped and their arms were tied or nailed to the crosspiece. It was fitted onto a post embedded in the ground. Death came through dehydration or asphyxiation as victims found breathing difficult. The soldiers divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots to determine their take (cf. Ps 22:18). Jesus was crucified about 9:00 a.m. (the third hour) although Jn 19:14 places the crucifixion at the sixth hour. Most likely, Mark used Jewish time reckoning (third hour = 9:00 a.m.) while John used Roman time reckoning (sixth hour = 9:00 a.m.). A placard placed on the cross listed the crimes that prompted the execution. Judging from the reports of all four gospels, the inscription probably read, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."

15:27–28. Jesus was crucified with two robbers, probably insurrectionists associated with Barabbas. The better manuscripts do not include v. 28, a verse probably added to show these events fulfilled OT prophecy.

15:29–32. Passersby shouted abuses against Jesus, ridiculing Him. The claim He was going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days was recalled (cf. 14:58–59). They challenged Him to come down from the cross, a virtual impossibility. The leaders who condemned Jesus came to make sure the execution was completed. They said Jesus had supposedly saved others but could not save Himself. If He had saved Himself, all of mankind would have been lost. If Jesus would come down from the cross, they would see and believe! That is highly unlikely. They were convinced Jesus was unworthy of their worship. The two crucified with Jesus reproached Him, but later one asked to be remembered when Jesus came into His kingdom (cf. Lk 23:39–43).

G. The Death of the Servant (15:33–41) (see also the comments on Mt 27:45–56)

15:33–37. From noon until 3:00 PM, darkness fell over the whole land, an indication of God’s judgment. In fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus cried: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? an Aramaic expression: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (cf. Ps 22:1). Jesus sensed the Father’s abandonment as He bore the world’s sin. Bystanders said, He is calling for Elijah. A sponge, filled with sour wine, was offered to Jesus. They waited to see if Elijah would come.

15:37–39. Jesus uttered a loud cry (cf. Jn 19:30), and breathed His last. When He died, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, something humanly impossible, thus inaugurating access for mankind into God’s presence through His blood (cf. Heb 10:19–20). The centurion said: Truly this man was the Son of God! Whether he believed Jesus was "the" Son of God or was acknowledging an extraordinary death cannot be determined from this text. Compared to other statements in this context, he seems to have been affirming Jesus’ deity.

15:40–41. Some of the last witnesses of Jesus’ death were women looking on from a distance. Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and Joses, and Salome had assisted Jesus during His ministry (cf. Lk 8:1–3), which freed Him from routine chores.

H. The Burial of the Servant (15:42–47) (see also the comments on Mt 27:57–66)

15:42–45. Jesus died on the preparation day, a Greek term for "Friday." Removal of His body from the cross and its entombment needed to occur quickly, for Sabbath began at sundown (cf. Dt 21:22–23). A prominent member of the Council, Joseph of Arimathea, was waiting for the kingdom of God (cf. Jn 19:38; Lk 23:51). He boldly went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body, marking him as a disciple of Jesus. Pilate wondered if Jesus was dead, since crucified men could linger for days. When the centurion affirmed Jesus’ death, Pilate granted the body to Joseph. Allowing the body to be properly buried, rather than dumped into an unmarked grave or the city dump, might have been Pilate’s final attempt to get back at the Jews. Whatever Pilate’s reason, Joseph’s burial of Jesus in his own tomb fulfilled Isaiah’s prediction that the Servant would be "with a rich man in His death" (Is 53:9).

15:46–47. Joseph purchased items and secured help to bury Jesus’ body (cf. Jn 19:39–40), which was washed, wrapped in a linen cloth, and laid in a tomb. A stone was rolled against the entrance to keep out wild animals and grave robbers. The two Marys observed the burial. They knew exactly where Jesus was buried, and would return to this location.

VI. The Resurrection of the Servant of the Lord (16:1–20)

A. The Revelation of the Women (16:1–8) (see also the comments on Mt 28:1–8)

16:1–4. Sabbath was a time of inactivity. When it ended, the two Marys and Salome (cf. 15:40) bought aromatic oils, which were poured on grave wrappings to counteract the odors of decaying flesh. They arrived at the tomb shortly after sunrise on Sunday. Remembering the large stone covering the entrance, they wondered, Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb? They were not aware of extra precautions taken by the Jewish leaders, including the sealing of the tomb (cf. Mt 27:62–66). They were surprised to see the extremely large stone removed and the tomb open.

16:5–8. They saw a young man … wearing a white robe, an angel (cf. Mt 28:2–5) who told them not to be amazed. He knew they were looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who had died, but was raised. He pointed to where the body had laid. The women were instructed to go and tell His disciples and Peter, words of reassurance for Peter. Although he had denied his Lord, he was forgiven and still considered part of the apostolic band. All the disciples fled, but they were still "His disciples." Jesus was going into Galilee, where they would see Him (cf. 14:28). The women fled from the tomb, and trembling and astonishment gripped them. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. The full ramification of the announcement was not understood.

B. The Appearances of the Servant (16:9–14) (see also the comments on Lk 24:13–15)

Bible scholars do not agree on this gospel’s ending. Verses 9–20 are not found in two manuscripts that, according to many, are among the most important, but they are found in the majority of inferior NT manuscripts. Some manuscripts add verses after v. 8, some after v. 20. There is no clear manuscript evidence to support the inclusion of these verses. Since these verses are questioned, it would not be wise to base any doctrine or experience on a verse found only in this section. Nevertheless, in what follows, these verses will be discussed and suggestions given to the various problems.

1. To Mary (16:9–11)

16:9–11. Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. After the meeting, Mary reported to Jesus’ followers who were still mourning and weeping. When they learned Jesus was alive and Mary had seen Him, they refused to believe it. This could reflect their culture, for a woman’s testimony was not highly regarded.

2. To Two Disciples (16:12–13)

16:12–13. Jesus later appeared in a different form to two disciples on their way to the country (cf. Lk 24:13–35). That He appeared in "a different form" could mean they did not recognize Him when He first appeared. When they reported the Lord had appeared to them, they too were met with unbelief. The idea of a resurrected Jesus had not worked its way into every disciple’s heart.

3. To the Eleven (16:14)

16:14. Jesus appeared to the eleven … as they were reclining at the table. He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart. Had He not said He would rise from the dead? They should have believed the reports coming from faithful followers.

C. The Commission of the Servant (16:15–18)

16:15–18. Jesus commanded His disciples: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (cf. Mt 28:19–20) and in response many would believe. In the early church belief in Jesus was immediately followed by baptism. Believing and being baptized, linked by a single Greek article, demonstrate an inward act in the heart followed by a public profession of that faith. New Testament writers assumed under normal circumstances believers in Jesus would be baptized. That baptism is not a requirement for salvation is demonstrated by the second half of the verse, which declares the one who disbelieves is condemned. As the disciples proclaimed the gospel, signs would accompany them (the apostles and not all believers in general, cf. Ac 2:43; 2Co 1:12) demonstrating their authenticity. In His name they would cast out demons (cf. Mk 6:7; Lk 10:1–20) demonstrating the messenger had greater power than Satan. They would speak with new tongues. This ability (to speak in earthly foreign languages not previously learned) occurred on the Day of Pentecost (cf. Ac 2:1–12) and was repeated later in the church (cf. Ac 10:46; 19:6; 1Co 12:10). Two signs have caused difficulties. It may be best to understand the first two as conditional clauses, in this manner: if anyone is compelled to pick up serpents, or is required to drink deadly poison, he shall not be hurt. There are no illustrations of either of these in the NT. However, Paul did not suffer after inadvertently picking up and being bitten by a snake (Ac 28:3–5). Finally they would lay hands on the sick, and they would recover (cf. Ac 9:12; 28:8; Jms 5:14), signs carried out throughout the book of Acts.

D. The Ascension of the Servant (16:19–20)

16:19–20. When Jesus finished His post-resurrection ministry, He was received up into heaven, which the disciples witnessed. That He sat down at the right hand of God must be accepted by faith. The ascension was a fulfillment of Ps 110:1, which Jesus mentioned earlier (cf. Mk 12:13, 36). On the Day of Pentecost Peter quoted that passage, saying Jesus had been exalted to the Father’s right hand in heaven (cf. Ac 2:33–36). Jesus said He would be seated at the right hand of God (cf. Mk 14:62). It is not surprising when Jesus ascended, He sat down at God’s right hand, the place of privilege and authority. From this position He entered a new work in heaven, His work on earth was completed. He continues to work on earth today through His followers, who went out and preached everywhere. The Lord also confirmed their testimony by the signs that followed. Many signs were prevalent in the church’s early days, but as time passed they diminished (cf. Heb 2:3–4). Although spectacular signs have diminished, the testimony has continued throughout the world and people believe in the Servant of the Lord, the One who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.


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Wuest, Kenneth S. Mark in the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1950.


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