Second Act. Passion Predictions: Mark 8.31-10.52
Scene 1. I Am Going to Jerusalem to Die: Mark 8.31-10.52
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He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where
“‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ Everyone will be salted with fire.
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
“What did Moses command you?” he replied.
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
I tell the story in my book God’s EPIC Adventure about the death of my dad. I believe that he knew that he was close to death several weeks before the event occurred. Here is what I wrote there:
My dad was born in 1893 and lived into the twentieth century until he was seventy-seven years old. My wife Donna and I visited my hometown in Florida for about a month before he died. During that time, we were planning a wedding service to honor my mom and dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. As we would sit around the living room and openly plan, he was silent, except on occasion when he would simply say, “I’m not going to be here!” We would ask where he was going to be and he would answer the same, “I’m not going to be here!”
On the day that we left to travel to Washington D.C to teach in a local community of faith, we stood in the front yard, car packed and ready to go. As I hugged my dad, he whispered in my ear, “Good-bye, son.” I pulled back from him and said, “we’ll be back in a short bit of time for the wedding anniversary service.” He smiled and said, “Good-bye, son.” It sounded so final.
Donna and I traveled to Washington D.C. and then to Kansas City, MO. We were to be with a church in North Kansas City for ten days so we decided to spend the night in a motel before settling into wherever the church was going to house us. It was Monday night, so I watched Monday Night Football and thought of my dad, because that was his favorite night of the week during football season.
The next morning as we arrived at the church, the pastor met us and told me that a family member had called and wanted me to return his call. As my brother-in-law answered the phone, I sensed that something was amiss. He spoke very gently and said, “Winn, your dad died early this morning in the hospital.” It dawned on me what “Good-bye, son” meant.
We made arrangements to go to Florida for his funeral service. When we arrived, we found out that on his last Sunday he was in church for both services, he made his way on his walker to the altars in front of the church and knelt and prayed. This was not his custom to do such. When he was leaving the little sanctuary, he hugged each person and told them good-bye. They, like me, had no idea what he was saying.
He left the Sunday morning service and the family drove him to his favorite cafeteria to eat. I had eaten with him hundreds of Sundays in cafeterias. Sunday afternoon he asked to take a ride for about an hour. Dad loved to drive and just look around, even though he had seen these sites for many years. Sunday night came and went. The next day, he simply sat around his home during the day and then watched Monday Night Football. He went to bed a little after midnight, but woke up having a difficult time breathing early in the morning on Tuesday. The local hospital was only two blocks away. As he lay in the hospital bed with my oldest brother holding him up, he passed on to the other side with a quiet sigh!
I believe that my dad knew in advance that his day to go home was shortly ahead. Like Paul, he had fought a good fight, he had finished the course, he had kept the faith and in a moment of time that defies description, as a faithful servant he slipped into the arms of Jesus awaiting life after life after death.
What was beautiful about the whole set of circumstances was that he was allowed to say good-bye to everyone he loved, eat at his favorite watering hole, take a sightseeing ride, and watch his final Monday Night Football game. Then, he went home. (Winn Griffin. God’s EPIC Adventure. Harmon Press. 2007. 270-271)
Jesus seemed to know that his death was close at hand. Here’s how Mark tells his story.
Observing Mark’s Story
Mark begins a new section, which is the last section of his book, which deals with the death and resurrection of Jesus. In this section, he tells several stories that happen during a week of crisis (Mark 8.31-9.29). He continues by sharing some of the teaching material of Jesus (Mark 9.30-50), and, finally, gives six stories, which demonstrate his training of the disciples (Mark 10.1-52).
Interpreting Mark’s Story
Scene 1. Passion Prediction 1 (Mark 8.31-9.1)
Immediately after the confession of his Messiahship, Jesus tells his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer, be rejected, put to death, and, finally, rise from the dead. As usual, this revelation is beyond the disciples’ ability to cope. Their traditional view of the Messiah did not include suffering and dying. Peter again steps to the front and protests what Jesus is saying. Jesus rebuked him in clear language. Jesus heard the words of Satan coming from the mouth of Peter. He understood these words as an attack on him to get him to avoid doing what the Father had told him to do: go to the cross and give himself as a sacrifice. This was another attempt by Satan to try to divert Jesus’ own destiny.
We have developed such a lovie-dovie view of Jesus. Mark apparently had seen something that we might not want to see about Jesus, i.e., he was stern and straightforward when he needed to be. One wonders if today, Jesus followers could hear or would recognize Jesus when he speaks to the church today or to an individual.
Then, in a paradoxical way, Jesus says that a person who wants to preserve his life will lose it, but a person who loses his life for the sake of the gospel will preserve it. This is a wordplay on the terms lose and life. A person who decides to maintain a self-centered life in this world will ultimately lose his life. However, a person who gives his life (loses it) and becomes loyal to the gospel of Jesus by denying and cross-bearing will preserve his life.
The section concludes with two questions. The word soul in these verses does not mean a separate part of man in some three-part make-up of man. Soul is a word that means the whole of a human being, his or her complete person/self. It is not good to gain the world and forfeit your life. Being ashamed of (to reject) Jesus is to reject him in favor of the pleasures of this present evil age.
Finally, Jesus finishes this short teaching session by telling those listening to him on this occasion that some of them would not die until they saw the kingdom of God coming in power. Most likely this saying means the transfiguration that is the next event in the story of Mark.
The Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9.2-13)
The account of the Transfiguration illustrates that the ministry of Jesus and his identity of the king of the kingdom of God was confirmed. Jesus selected Peter, James, and John and took them up on a high mountain where they could be alone. There Jesus was transfigured in the presence of these three disciples. The word transfigured means to change into another form. It is not merely changing one’s outward appearance, which the disciples saw. It was a complete metamorphosis. Two First Testament men, Elijah and Moses, appear with Jesus on the mountain. They are representative of the Law and the Prophets, which attest to the mission of Jesus to bring the kingdom of God. Again, Peter speaks showing he does not understand this mind-boggling event. He wanted to prolong this event by building three shelters, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Again, the voice of God confirms the ministry of Jesus to bring the kingdom. Moses and Elijah disappear leaving only Jesus, which suggests that Jesus, not Moses or Elijah, was God’s authorized ruler and spokesman.
It is interesting that in the arena of the church that I grew up in, Pentecostal, that there were real experiences with Jesus, but the ongoing response was to try to duplicate the experience over and over again usually by repeating what had happened thinking that that caused the event in the first place. I spent twenty-five years in the Vineyard. The presence of the Trinity manifested on many occasions. But, it seems to me that over the years, certain keywords like “come Holy Spirit,” became rote in prayer, hoping to drum up the presence of the Spirit as was the case in the beginning. One wonders why Jesus didn’t have such an experience over and over again as the one here presented by Mark. Could it be, that we get bogged down in the experience itself and just simply, as a creature of habit, invoke it over and over again, when in fact, there are a great number of experiences available through the Spirit for many occasions in our lives that will simply be different but just as powerful as the first one that we continue to try to mimic?
On the descent from the mountain, Jesus told the three to keep silent until he was raised from the dead. This perplexed the disciples. In the question about Elijah, Jesus says in a veiled way that this was fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist.
The Healing of a Boy with an Evil Spirit (Mark 9.14-29)
In this story, Jesus is just returning from this great experience that had occurred on the mountain with Peter, James, and John. When he came down, there had been a debate between the remaining disciples and the scribes. When one compares debating with what Jesus said and the end of this section (Mark 9.29), one should be quickly able to discern that the reason the disciples could not cast the demon out was that they were arguing instead of praying. We are all guilty of such a mistake from time to time. A subtle form of unbelief had crept into the band of disciples. They had been tempted to believe that the gracelet that had flowed through them (Mark 6.7) as a conduit worked in their prayers, not their arguments. That kind of subtlety i.e., arguing, could have encouraged them to believe in themselves rather than God. They had to learn that their previous success in expelling demons provided no guarantee of continued power. Rather, the power of God must be asked for on each occasion, in radical reliance upon God’s ability alone to flow through them.
How often do we see those who may have had success in de-demonizing, someone, simply try to do the same thing at another time, mistakenly thinking that they possess a gift that they can conger up anytime. When it doesn’t work, the blame game starts.
The dialogue of the man with Jesus may have gone something like this: “If you can do anything, and I do believe you can, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus saw the glimmer of faith in the statement and picked up the father’s phrase. “Did you say, If you can and I believe you can. Why? Don’t you know that everything can be done for anyone who has faith.” The response from the father is, “I do have faith. Help me in the little faith that I have.”
Scene 2. Passion Prediction 2 (Mark 9.30-50)
Jesus announces his death and resurrection the second time. He adds some information that he had not previously shared. The disciples still did not get it. They began arguing, this time about who is going to be the greatest. Jesus uses a small child to demonstrate who is the greatest. A child was the least significant person in Jewish and Roman society. The message to the disciples: the greatest are those who will serve those who others feel are insignificant, which is a valuable lesson. One should not strive for position, power, or prestige; one should work toward the goal Jesus here lays down: serve those who are deemed insignificant.
Then, Jesus uses the incident of the unauthorized exorcist to teach his disciples about exclusiveness. The against us and for us words suggest that there is no room for neutrality in one’s thinking about Jesus. Neutrality is not an option. One either bellies up to the bar and denies and follows.
Jesus, then tells, his disciples that care should be taken not to cause others to stumble through temptation. The use of the word salt suggests that the disciples are the preservatives, which he has placed in the world to bring the message of the kingdom. Let it be so for us as well!
Training Disciples (Mark 10.1-52)
Jesus now begins a journey through the region of Judea teaching and healing. The stories Mark chooses to tell in this section describe the mission of Jesus as the suffering servant.
His first teaching occasion arose when the Pharisees asked about divorce (Mark 10.1-12). This was an attempt on their part to get Jesus into trouble, especially with Herod Antipas and Herodias as he was then in their region of rule who were practicing partners in divorce and remarriage. His teaching on divorce is related to his continued teaching on the need for absolute fidelity to the king of the kingdom. The Pharisees, as Israel’s spiritual leaders, should have been representatives to Israel as a faithful bride of God, but instead, they were more interested in exception clauses than absolute fidelity to the King.
Jesus goes back beyond Moses to talk about the indissoluble union of male and female in marriage. He cuts across the strict interpretation of Moses by Shammai (no divorce except for the wife’s infidelity) and the liberal belief of Hillel (divorce of the wife for any reason). He teaches mutual fidelity between husband and wife. Breaking the bond on either side by adultery cannot be sanctioned. Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees. They commit adultery by deserting the only bridegroom who can save them, the king of the kingdom.
Divorce and remarriage has become a mark of the Christian church or maybe better written, a blotch.
From marriage, Mark turns his attention to children (Mark 10.13-16). The theme continues to be one of an attitude of servanthood. The disciples fall prey to the cultural understanding of children as they rebuked those who brought the little ones to Jesus. He rebukes them and, in a turn of irony, tells them they must become like children, i.e., despised in society if they want the kingdom to flow through them. Well, so much for seeking a reputation by many church leaders and church attendees today.
Once, I remember being together with a group of church leaders and the speaker was telling them how much favor they had gained with the local government officials as if that was somehow a mark of success. All I could think of what this story in Mark. For the most part, our thinking errs because we are not aware of the stories in Scripture.
To enter the kingdom Jesus uses wealth as a teaching tool (Mark 10.17-31). This is the story of the rich young man who had difficulty giving up all his wealth to the poor to follow Jesus. This is the famous eye of the needle story. You may wish to note that there was never a real gate in Jerusalem called the eye of the needle. This gate was made up by Theophylact, a twelfth-century commentator who had trouble dealing with the words of Jesus. The point of the story is that it is impossible for one who trusts in his riches to enter the kingdom of God. When riches rule, God does not! If this statement is true, then who can be saved, asked the disciples. Answer: the one who inherits real riches in this life is the one who becomes a true follower of Jesus through denying and following.
Scene 3. Passion Prediction 3 (Mark 10.32-52)
For the third time, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection (Mark 10.32-34). He gives his disciples more information about this event than in the former two accounts.
In this story about James and John wanting to become big shots in the kingdom (Mark 10.35-45), Jesus responded with the heart of the gospel message in verse 45. He told his disciples that his ministry was coming into the slave market and buying the freedom of the slaves. This is captured in the word ransom. To be great is to be willing to serve, not to be served. Let that sink in.
The final story in this chapter is the healing of the beggar Bartimaeus (Mark 10.46–52). The blind man was questioned by Jesus about what he wanted. He said he wanted to see. Jesus’ question was not designed to get information, but to encourage Bartimaeus to articulate his need and express his faith. In addition to giving physical sight to the man, the story tells us about the need of all disciples to come from spiritual darkness to spiritual light. This is the last healing Jesus performs that Mark records.
Living into Mark’s Story
- What does being bought out of a slave market mean to you (10.45)?
- Read Mark 11.1-12.44
Easy to Understand
Tom Wright. Mark for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone [Paperback]
Winn Griffin. Gracelets: Being Conduits of the Extravagant Acts of God’s Grace [Paperback]
Ben Witherington III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary.
William L. Lane. The Gospel according to Mark: The English Text With Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)