Review: Mark (TNTC), Eckhard Schnabel

Mark (Tyndale New Testament Commentary) Review

The first commentary on the Gospel of Mark was written in the sixth century, and between “AD 650 and 1000, thirteen major commentaries were written on Matthew, but only four on Mark” (Strauss, 20). Despite the long neglect, much study has been done over Mark’s short Gospel for more than the last century.

Eckhard Schnabel, Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell and author of Acts (ZECNT), Early Christian Mission (2 volumes), and 40 Questions on the End Times, replaces Alan Cole’s Mark volume in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series with a Christmas meal—441 pages of commentary on the shortest Gospel. While adding to the growing list of commentaries, Schnabel (who is also the TNTC’s series editor) did not write a commentary of commentaries on Mark. Instead, writing for pastors, students, and laypeople, he comments on the meaning of Mark through theological reflection, historical points of reference, the meanings of words, and the literary development of the characters.


Schnabel gives very little attention to Markan priority (whether Mark’s Gospel was written first), saying that Markan priority “continues to be plausible,” but that “these questions are more significant for commentaries on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke” (4). Thankfully, Schnabel examines the text and not a possible Markan community behind the text, though he does acknowledge future Mark’s clarifications for Gentile readers (14, 162).

He takes Mark to be the actual author (12), probably writing from Rome for various churches (14) anywhere between 50–64 AD. We don’t know what Mark’s sources are, but if Papias is correct, Mark’s “most significant — and perhaps the only — source” was Peter (18). Mark ends his Gospel at 16.8. Abrupt endings are attested in antiquity, and within the Bible Jonah ends abruptly and Acts ends with Paul still alive and his legal case unresolved. To paraphrase Demetrius (whom Schnabel quotes), some points need to be worked out be the hearers themselves (22-23).

Schnabel disregards William Wrede’s hypothesis of Mark’s “Messianic secret.” If there is nothing messianic about Jesus or his ministry, then there is no explanation for his death, nor is there any explanation as to how his disciples transformed their “unmessianic master into the Messiah after Easter” (25).

Mark does not have a “vendetta” against the disciples (29), but merely gives an “unvarnished” (aka, authentic) look at their pre-resurrection responses to Jesus (30). Nobody imagined a Messiah who would die, and though on occasion Jesus does rebuke the disciples, he often explains himself to them.

Schnabel divines Mark into four pairs of three’s:

  1. The Beginning of the Gospel (1.1–13)
    1. Heading (1.1)
    2. Jesus and John the Baptist (1.2–8)
    3. Jesus declared Son of God and conflict with Satan (1.9–13)
  2. Jesus’ Messianic Authority (1.14–8.21)
    1. The kingdom of God and Jesus’ authority (1.14–3.6)
    2. The Twelve and the kingdom of God (3.7–6.6)
    3. The Mission of Jesus Messiah and the Twelve (6.6–8.21)
  3. Jesus’ Messianic Suffering (8.22–15.47)
    1. The revelation of the Messiah’s suffering (8.22–10.52)
    2. The confrontation in Jerusalem (11.1–13.37)
    3. The suffering and death of Jesus Messiah (14.1–15.47)
  4. Jesus’ Resurrection Announced (16.1–8)
    1. The women at Jesus’ tomb (16.1–5)
    2. The announcement of Jesus’ resurrection (16.6–7)
    3. The reaction of the women (16.8)


4:10–12: Jesus tells parables to conceal the kingdom of God from outsiders. They are intentionally veiled. Many cannot see or hear the kingdom of God in Jesus’ miracles, exorcisms, and through his teachings. Judgement will come because they do not want to truly listen to God (13.1–37). Schnabel interprets through the lens of the kingdom of God that has come in Jesus (1.14–15).

6:49–50: Jesus’ “I am” statement (see also 14.62) is not a declaration of divinity.

7:24–30: Having just taught his disciples about what is clean and unclean (vv. 14–23), Jesus enters “unclean” Gentile territory. Jesus doesn’t “change his mind” when the Syro-Phoenician woman gives the right answer; rather, she passes his test. She (a Gentile “dog”) can eat the crumbs under the table simultaneously while the children (Israel) are eating. Though Jews generally saw dogs as unclean, “dog” (kynarion) here is a pet “present at a meal in the house” (173). This Gentile woman has more spiritual discernment than the Jewish leaders.

8:1–10: Mark is not repeating himself here; this is not the same event as in 6.30–44. Jesus is in Gentile territory (Isa 25.6; 49.6; Acts 1.8; 2.39).

13:24–27: Jesus’ second coming is at a separate, indeterminate time from 13.1–23. Jesus no longer focuses on the city of Jerusalem, the local councils, or even the seasons (winter, v. 18), but on “the sun, the moon, the stars, the clouds, the ends of the earth and the ends of heavens” (330).

14:35–36: Jesus “does not have inner doubts about the value of his death. Jesus’ prayer to be spared death conveys the excruciating anguish that senses the terrible reality of suffering the judgment of God, dying as a ransom for the many (10:45), shedding his blood to seal the new covenant (14:24), dying as a sin offering (Rom 8:3), becoming the place of God’s atoning presence (Rom 3:25), becoming a curse for us (Gal 3:13) ” (364).

14:51–52: Whoever this young man is, he shows that all have forsaken Jesus. In terror, the young lad would prefer to be shamefully naked and save his own skin than to be caught being with Jesus.

Schnabel provides much good historical and factual information on various people (Pilate, p. 394-95; the Sanhedrin, p. 373), places (Jerusalem, p. 261), and the timing of the Passover (350-51). Some of these details seem a bit much, such as the possible “House of Peter (1.29–31), heights of various mountains in Israel, and how a clay lamp was made in Galilean workshops (4.21). It can make the text seem too busy, and I personally think some of these details would work better as footnotes. Still, his points on why people go “up” to Jerusalem (247), just how the friends could dig their way through the roof of a house (65), or who Barabbas was (400), help make sense of the text. Schnabel is a careful exegete and historian. 

Unfortunately, there are no indices in this volume (or in any of the Old and New Testament series).


I’ve read (chunks of) quite a few Markan commentaries. Schnabel’s volume isn’t going to break new ground, but he is trustworthy when it comes to biblical exegesis and exposition. He keeps the Gospel’s context in view in his theology sections, making sure that he doesn’t interpret something apart from anything else Mark has said, and points to Christ as our one and true Savior whose death ransomed sinners and inaugurated the new covenant. The pastor, student, Bible college teacher, and layperson would be filled with this huge 441 page meal.


  • Author: Eckhard J. Schnabel
  • Series: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (June 6, 2017)

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Mondays With Mark (7:31-8:26)


Having now broken down a barrier between ministering to Jews and Gentiles [7.19], and having healed a demon-possessed daughter of a Gentile woman [7.29-30], we will see Jesus’ counted ministry into the Gentile arena, and the lack of understanding from those who hold the most responsibility to understand. Mark places five scenes one after the other to develop the theme of seeing eyes and hearing ears.

7.31-37, Jesus Heals a Deaf Man

Jesus goes to the east (Gentile) side of the Sea of Galilee, where a deaf and mute man is brought to Him. The Greek word for mute (μογιλάλος mogilalos) is found only twice in the LXX, here and in Isaiah 35.6. Whereas Isaiah 35 addresses Israel’s end-time hopes, Mark shows them as being fulfilled in Jesus [2 Cor. 1.20]. Jesus takes the man away fro the crowds, put His fingers in his ears, spat and touched his tongue, looked up to heaven, sighed, and said, “Ephphatha” (“Be opened”), and the man could hear and speak. In the end the people are astonished and proclaim God’s glory [Isa. 35.5-7; 64.2]. As strange as this section is, it looks very similar to the final section in 8.22-26, though there will be some differences. What is important though is how it is Gentiles who proclaim the mighty works of Jesus.

“He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

8.1-10; Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

This scene is very similar to the scene in 6.30-44. Jesus has compassion on the multitude for they have been with Him for three days, they have not eaten, they may faint on the way (a motif picked up in the following chapters), and have come from afar (alluding to Gentiles [Josh. 9.6; Acts 2.39; Eph. 2.12-13, 17]?). God’s grace is also available for Gentiles. Yet still the disciples do not see how Jesus can feed all of these people in the wilderness [8.4]. Being fishermen [1.16], they ironically are ably to bring only a few fish to Jesus [8.7].

While Elisha fed 100 men with 20 loaves [2 Kings 4.42-44], Jesus will feed 4,000 with seven loaves and has fed 5000 with 5 loaves. Jesus is the greater Elisha. Jesus does what God can do, has compassion on His people [Is. 41.17] and feeds them in the wilderness [Ex 16].

Is there significance in the numbers of people, baskets, and fish in Mark’s two feedings? Perhaps there is, but can we really know? If so, there certainly isn’t the room for it now.

“…and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples…. And they ate and were satisfied.”

8.11-13; The Pharisees Demand a Sign

the Pharisees begin to argue [1.27; 9.10, 14, 16; 12.28] with Jesus. The disputing Pharisees have taken up a significant portion of Mark’s account (2.6-12, 16-17, 18-22, 23-28, 3.1-5, 7.1-23). Yet Mark’s previous miracle sequence makes the impending rejection by the Pharisees even harder to understand. Only people with closed eyes and hearts could fail to appreciate that Jesus was working by the power of God.

They want an irrefutable sign from heaven. Perhaps they wanted fire to fall down? Whatever the case be have been, they are testing Him [8.11]. This same word for test is used in Mark 1.13 when Satan tested Jesus in the wilderness. They wanted God to prove Jesus’ authenticity. But would it really be irrefutable? They accused Jesus of casting out demons under the power of Beelzebub in 3.22. Why wouldn’t they do it here too?

Jesus has just been the greater Moses and has provided manna to 4,000 (and 5,000 plus) people. Now Israel’s leaders are complaining and demanding a sign from the Bread of life just like the rebellious generation of Israelites in the wilderness [Ex. 17.1-7; Ps 78.41, 56].

Only the blind could fail 2 see what God was doing. Signs in mMark are viewed negatively by reflecting a lack of belief [8.11] or a readiness to be deceived [13.4, 22]. The Pharisees placed inappropriate demands on God’s work, dictating what it should look like by seeking a specific indicator. The demand for a sign was a sign in and of itself; one of unbelief. The seed Jesus has sown has fallen on hard ground and the Pharisees don’t want it.

A  Herod’s Wrong Attitude to Miracles/Signs [6.14-29]
++B  The Narration of the First Feeding Miracle [6.30-44]
++++C  Accounts of Various Other Miracles [6.45-7.37]
++B’ The Narration of the Second Feeding Miracle [8.1-10]
A’  The Pharisees’ Wrong Attitude to Miracles/Signs [8.14-21]*
*Geddert, pg. 186, Mark [BCBC]

Unlike the Gentile woman [7.24-30], the Pharisees were blind to what Jesus was doing. She didn’t have to have the main course. The crumbs would be just as suitable. The Pharisees, on the other hand, despite being the children fed first, were like dogs biting the hand that fed them.

“Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 

8.14-21; The Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod

How much time has passed since the last feeding? Mark doesn’t say, but the disciples get on the boat with only one loaf. They’ve Jesus perform two large feeding miracles. He cautions them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. Leaven is often (but not always [Mt. 13.33]) as sign of sin and evil [Mk. 8.15; Lk. 12.1; 1 Cor. 5.8]. Because the disciples are so dense they don’t understand the connection.

Leaven of the…

Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ death will be due to pressure placed upon political leaders by others with power. Both Herod and Pilate acknowledge the innocence of their victims, but will chose to gain the favor of world in exchange for their souls. The concerns of the world choke out the Word they heard. Yeast works through whole batch, the whole person, and corrupts entirely.

Herod committed adultery, murder, and was guilty of political ambition. He didn’t demand a spectacular sign, but he did misinterpret the miracles of Jesus as an indication that John the Baptist had been raised. The Pharisees saw what Jesus was doing, they saw the finger of God at work [Ex. 8.19], but they rejected the same finger that they claimed to follow for they followed their own ambitions and selfish gain.

Though the disciples understood Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom, they failed to manifest Kingdom values. They forgot Jesus’ warning about the blindness of the Pharisees [Mt. 15.13-14] and the two miraculous feedings. Why did He feed the multitudes? Was it to show a sign? No. It was because He had compassion. Jesus is the great King we serve, the great Shepherd who has compassion on His sheep.

“Are your hearts hard?”

But the disciples may suffer from being blind and deaf: “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? and do you not remember?” [8.18]. This is a reference back to Jeremiah 5.21-23 where Israel’s lack of understanding leads her into exile.

Israel professes loyalty to the Lord, but hardens their hearts against His correction. The beginning of wisdom is the fear the Lord, but Israel doesn’t fear YHWH, although it is YHWH who controls the unruly and roaring sea (which was viewed as an entity of chaos). Though Jesus controls and walks on water the disciples do not understand. Isreal’s rebellious hypocrisy would be their downfall [Mk 13].

But Jesus’ questions, are not statements. He is warning the twelve of the seriousness of rejecting Him.

They have seen many things and have not understood, but they have one thing in their favor: unlike those whose hearts are truly hardened, they keep following Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God [1.1] has just healed a deaf man, and will soon heal a blind man. If He can do that, surely He can and will heal His blind and deaf disciples.

The Gentile woman is happy with under-the-table puppy-crumbs. The disciples have had baskets of leftover bread, but they don’t understand. In fact, they won’t for a while. Yet despite His warning [8.15], the disciples will give Jesus leavened responses [8.32; 9.5-6, 18, 32, 34, 38; 10.28, 37, 39, 41]. But Jesus is patient in His discipleship.

“Do you not yet understand?” 

8.22-26; Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida

In 7.31-37 Jesus healed a deaf man. Now, He will heal the blind. Yet also, it is the disciples who need eyes to see and ears to hear [8.18]. The two miracles combine to show what can and must happen to the disciples. In this miracle, with the first touch Jesus causes the man to see [8.24]. With the second touch, He causes the man to understand what he sees [8.25]. 7.37 ended in a doxology of sorts, praising God for His good work through Jesus’ healing. The current section just seems to end. Yet in the next section Jesus will ask two questions: “Who do people say that I am?” [8.27] and “Who do you say that I am?” [8.29].

The Gentiles have responded to Jesus’ miracles with amazing insight [7.37]. How will the disciples respond?

How will you respond?

“You are the Christ.” 

Other Mondays with Mark

Mondays with Mark (6:1–56)

These are supposed to be summaries. But they’re not. I can not.


Last time we saw Jesus show His authority over the elements of creation: nature, demons, illness, and death. Even in the impossible the King has all authority. He encourages those who fear to have faith. But as we turn to Mark 6, we see what happens when faith is overrun by fear and doubt. Acceptance turns into rejection, a clear motif in this chapter (and continuing from the previous!).

A   vv. 1-6, There’s No Place Like Home

Jesus and His disciples return home, and when the Sabbath rolls around Jesus teaches in the synagogue. As usual, people are astounded at his wisdom and the mighty works performed by His hands. Yet they don’t attribute His mighty deeds to demonic forces, nor to Yahweh Himself. In fact, they don’t really know what to do with Jesus. They know Him. They think they know Him. By calling Him the Son of Mary, they might be insinuating that His birth was illegitimate. Jesus’ family misunderstood His ministry (3.21), and now His whole town does likewise.

A prophet isn’t even accepted into His own town, yet Jesus isn’t just a prophet. He’s the Son of God! But while the people are astonished at what Jesus can do, He marvels at their lack of belief. He can only perform a few miracles because of it, probably meaning not many came to Him believing for healing.

Jesus has been rejected by the Pharisees and Herodians (3.6), His family (3.21), the scribes (3.22), the Gentile city of Gerasa (5.17), the mourners in Jairus’ house (5.40), and now by His own townspeople. This theme will only increase as the chapter goes on.

B   vv. 7-13, Send Them Away

Jesus’ commands to His disciples to go out and expand the ministry of Jesus occurs in-between a tale of two rejected prophets. Their provisions are minimal: sent off in pairs for protection and/or to provide a dual-witness (Dt. 19.15), a staff for walking and protection, and can stay in houses for protection. They are to travel light and simple, but not experience much hardship.

In v11 Jesus instructs them on how to respond to rejection which, if any city does not receive them, they are to shake the dust off rom their feet upon exiting the city. Interestingly enough, We never see Jesus go back home after this point (at least in Mark). Like John (and Jesus), they proclaim that people should repent. Like Jesus, they cast out demons and heal the sick (though, unlike Jesus, they anoint them with oil). The similarity with John brings us to the next pericope dealing with the John the Baptist’s rejection.

A’   vv. 14-29, Off With Your Head

John the Baptist confronts Herod about his adultery with Herodias (the wife of Herod’s brother). Probably by the request of Herodias, Herod throws John in prison. Herod finds John to be righteous and holy (6.20) and does not want to harm him. Though he is perplexed, Herod enjoys hearing John. One commentator said, “Herod loved to be upset by John.”

But the deceptive wife of a king still wants that prophet dead (a la Jezebel [1 Kings 18.4, 13; 19.1-2]?). A party is thrown, her daughter dances, the men enjoy it, a promise is made, and a promise has to be kept because Herod is surrounded by political officials. The seed was sown, but Herod was too busy reveling in the pleasures and cares of this world (4.18-19).

It’s sad that Herod actually loses less face by beheading a prophet of God than he would be breaking an improper oath. The head of John the Baptist is brought on a platter, during the celebration, to Herodias. If John the Baptist’s handing over (1.14) led to this, what might Jesus’ handing over (3.19) lead to (9.12-13)?

B’   v. 30, The Return Home

Here is effective storytelling. Mark adds the rejection of John the Baptist in-between the disciples’ missionary journey to provide the sense of a time lapse. But we also see the double-sidedness of the Gospel. John the Baptist sacrificed himself for his message, while the disciples return with a successful missionary message.

Was John’s ministry a failure? A tragedy? A defeat? No, because while John is martyred, we now have 12 new disciples who will be leading the charge.

vv. 31-44, The Hunger Games

The plan was to rest. But the crowds changed their plans. And they were hungry. And they were just sheep without a shepherd. But we know what they didn’t: Jesus is the Good Shepherd whose motivation is love. He doesn’t disperse the flock but provides for their needs and has them sit down on green grass (Ps. 23.2?). Despite their doubt (6.37), the disciples play an active role in participating in Jesus’ miracle. Jesus feeds 5,000 people (and that’s just the men!). He feeds more than Elijah ever fed, and He is a greater Moses for He didn’t ask for manna or quail from the Father, but He performed the miracle by His own volition (still following the will of His Father, of course).

Is there a rejection here? Not explicitly, but the disciples do have reservations about Jesus’ ability to perform miracles.

vv. 45-52, There’s No Place Like Home

This is the second of three boat scenes Mark gives gives us (first: 4.35-41; third: 8.14-21). In the evening (6-9pm) Jesus has His disciples get into a boat to go to the other side, and then goes up to the mountain to pray. He deliberately waits the entire night to go help them at the fourth watch (3-6am). The disciples spend the night fighting waves; Jesus spends it praying.

Why does Jesus wait so long? His purpose is to walk past them (6.48), but His own disciples fail to recognize Him (6.52). They have eyes, but do not see (8.18). Jesus intends to pass by before them to assure and lead them (Ex. 33.15-23, 19 ). But in fact, His own disciples think He’s a ghost (which is ironic, considering Greco-Romans didn’t believe ghosts could walk on water).

“Mark presents the disciples’ insistence on believing the absurd emphasizing their failure to believe in Jesus. Jesus identifies himself, the disciples are astonished, they lack understanding, and the reason is because their hearts were hardened (6:51–52). The disciples clearly want Jesus to be something that he is not, to the point that they are willing to believe the absurd when Jesus approaches them as something much grander than they had imagined. Gods and divine men walk on water; ghosts do not” (pg. 14, Jason Combs, A Ghost on the Water? Understanding an Absurdity in Mark 6:49–50).

The disciples have misconstrued Jesus’ messiahship.

vv. 53-56, Healing the Sick

In the end, despite the rejection, the misunderstanding, the confusion, the crowds still come to Jesus. The recognize Him and run around their region to bring all the sick to Him, if only to touch the fringe of His garment. These crowds don’t fully understand who He is, but they know He can perform miracles.

One day Jesus will be given a final rejection, but it will not be because the crowds wished it on Him. It will be something much more sinister. A sinister group that Jesus has already dealt with in Mark will go head-to-head with them again in the very beginning of chapter 7.

Other Mondays with Mark

Mondays with Mark (3:1–6)


In my previous post I gave a brief summary of Mark 1-2 along with the first 4 of the 5 conflicts found in Mark 2.1-3.6. Today I’ll go through the final conflict [ending the chiasm, Mk. 3.1-6] where we see the sort of heart that the Pharisees have compared to the kind of heart Jesus has.

2.1-3.6 is divided up into 5 sections:

Healing [2.1-12]
        B Eating [2.13-17]
               C Fasting and Piety [2.18-22]
        B’ Eating [2.23-28]

A’  Healing [3.1-6]

Again He entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.
And they watched Jesus, to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
And He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”
And He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.
And He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him.

While there’s a lot here, I simply can’t cover everything. In fact, even what I am putting into this post risks overkill. So I will try to focus on Jesus’ use of Deuteronomy 30.15 here in Mark 3.4, why He uses it, and what it means to us today.


The imagery of withering rarely (or never) owns a positive image in the Old Testament. It is sometimes used when speaking of God’s judgment (of Jeroboam [1 Kings 13.4], of Wicked Shepherds [Zech. 11.17], and of Israel in Exile [Jer. 12.4]). It is the opposite image of the prosperous tree in Ps 1.3.

By being withered, the Jewish leaders may have thought this man to be judged by God. And being judged by God, they wouldn’t want to help him.

Why Use Deuteronomy 30.15 Here?

In verse 4, in asking “Is it lawful” Jesus is dealing with the law. “To do good or to do harm…” echoes the very choice the Law itself offers in Deuteronomy 30.15 (See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil).

In Deut. 29 Israel has just witnessed Yahweh’s mighty deeds: delivering them from Egypt. They had yet to receive a heart to understand, but through the long provision (Passover protection, Red Sea crossing, provision of manna and water, battles won, etc.) in the desert, God brought Israel to a point where they could understand. In having this understanding, Israel was warned of the severe consequences of turning away from God to walk in “hardness of heart” against Him.

Then Deut. 30 assumes they will turn away! God will “drive them to nations” and “later restore them if they repent” [Deut. 30.1-3]. Moses then reminds the Israel that the covenant can be fulfilled because it is on the heart and is so close it can be spoken from the lips.

God sets two options before the people: Life/Good/Blessing or Death/Evil/Cursing. Israel is to obey the commands of God, walking in His ways, and they will have life. Whereas apostasy from Yahweh leads to death. Israel’s fate lays in their own hands.

Decisions, Decisions

Mark 3.6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him.

Jesus’ question, like that of Moses, calls for a decision. Does Jesus have authority as the Son of Man, the Lord of the Sabbath, to do good and heal on the Sabbath? Like the terms of the covenant, His terms are clear: Israel must choose.

Yet, as Mark 3.5 show us, Jesus is grieved at the Pharisees’ hard hearts for they have rejected walking in God’s ways of “life and good” for their own ways of “death and evil.” The Pharisees offer no mercy to this man, while Jesus offers healing and gives him a new hand in the house of the Lord.

The high point of the exodus was Yahweh’s self-revelation through His Word. It was near enough for Israel to hear and speak. Now the people can hear, see, touch, and even smell Jesus! Jesus upholds the heart of Torah, fulfills it, and surpasses it. He does only what the Torah could point to by doing only what God can do [1.44]. But having rejected the heart of the Torah, Israel’s leaders reject the Son of Man. The sin here is rejecting, not God’s will in Torah, but His will in Jesus Christ [3.34-35].

Just as rebellious Israel in Deuteronomy had hard hearts despite God’s mighty deeds, so do the leaders of Israel in Jesus’ day possess hard hearts despite Jesus’ mighty deeds. Moses warned Israel that God opposes hard-hearts, and it would be the reason why Yahweh would become their enemy and send a rebellious Israel into exile. It would be the reason for the cleansing of [11.15-17] and destruction of the Temple [13.2].

Defiled Hearts

In Mark 2.12, the people praise God for Jesus’ healing the paralyzed man. Here, there is no praising God. Instead, the Pharisees show their defiled hearts [Mk 7.20-21] by their desire to kill the Son of God [Mk 12.7-8]. 

They hold counsel with the Herodians (rich families who favored the rule of Herod the Great, another person who doesn’t understand the works of Jesus [Mk. 6.14; 8.15]) on how to destroy Jesus.

Jesus was accused of blasphemy in Mk. 2.7 [A  Mark 2.1-12], but now [A’  Mark 3.1-6] the religious leaders are blaspheming Jesus by plotting to kill God’s anointed Messenger. We will see more on blasphemy in chapter 3. The plots to kill look forward to an ominous time when the Bridegroom will be taken away.

I leave you with this: Do we have the heart of the Pharisees or that of Jesus? Do we honor God with our lips but have hearts that are far from Him [Mark 7.6]? Do we speak evil of one another, judging one another, also speaking evil of the one true Lawgiver? The one who is able to save and destroy [James 4.11-12]? Are we angry at our own hard hearts [Mark 3.5]? So much so that we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God [1 Pet.5.5-7]?

Other Mondays with Mark

Mondays with Mark (1–2)


In my last post on the Gospel according to Mark I showed a structure to Mark 2.1-3.6. On this post I hope to show the connection between Mark 1 and 2, along with what the 5-tier structure means, why it’s important, and why we should care. What do we do with it?

Mark 1

Mark has written 2.1-3.6 in such the same way. Mark 1.1-3 brings together a collection of verses from Ex. 23.20Mal. 3.1; and Isa. 40.3. (v2 in some translations say “As it is written in Isaiah” rather than “the Prophets.” This isn’t a mistake on Mark’s part. Of the three OT references, the focus is on the Isaiah quotation). Read the surrounding contexts of the 3 OT references, but essentially Malachi shows God (Yahweh) as the one who is going to come like a refiner’s fire and purge the temple of its uncleanness.

Yahweh’s messenger is John the Baptist who will prepare the way for the Lord, Jesus, who is Mark’s main focus. John prepares that way, and who comes? Not Yahweh, but Jesus. In fact, looking through Mark, Jesus’s actions and words are that of which only Yahweh can do and say. (More on that in another post).

Jesus begins his ministry after John the Baptist (the old way; Mk. 2.21) is put in prison. Now the ‘new wine’ (Jesus; 2.22) comes onto the scene. He calls disciples, and begins to cleanse Israel. He casts out unclean spirits (demons; Mk. 1.27Isa. 19.1), heals many (Mk. 1.29-34), Preaches in Galilee (1.35-39), and cleanses a leper (1.40-45). And through this becomes hugely popular.

Mark 2 

Here’s where this chiasm comes into play. Mark 2 brings us to sudden conflict where the scribes and Pharisees plan to stop this  unmerited popularity. This was inserted into my last post, but I’ve added it again to remind you of Mark’s structure.

2.1-3.6 is divided up into 5 sections*:

A Healing [2.1-12]
        B Eating [2.13-17]
               C Fasting and Piety [2.18-22]
        B` Eating [2.23-28]
A` Healing [3.1-6]

But not only is there a mirror image, but with each step the conflict grow more tense and abrupt.
*This chiasm comes from the IVP’s Dictionary of Biblical Imagery.

The Controversy Rises

A  Anger is mental [2.1-12]
   B  Anger directed toward disciples [2.13-17]
      C  Anger directed at disciples [2.18-22]
          D  Anger is directed at JC [2.23-28]
              E  Anger is mental, now including a plot to kill Jesus [3.1-6]

The Terrible Two’s

In Mark 1, Jesus, the one who was to come, enters in on the scene presenting the “second exodus” and what God’s kingdom would look like by performing miracles of healing and cleansing (and soon forgiveness). Mark 2, Jesus’ popularity is now contested. His popularity with the religious crowd is zero to none. We see the conflict with the religious elite start early in Mark’s gospel.

Following the chiasm of 2:1–3:6

A  Healing (2:1–12)

Jesus forgives and heals a paralyzed man. Forgiveness is something that only God can do, so the scribes mentally accuse Him of blasphemy. Yet, so that they may know [8.11-12] He was the Son of Man who “has” authority to forgive sins, He then heals the man. And the people glorify God.

B  Eating (2:13–17)

Jesus calls a filthy tax collector who accepts and holds a dinner party where all feel welcome [reclined; 2.15]. The Pharisees verbally express their disapproval to the disciples, where Jesus answers telling them He came [1.38; 4.21; 10.45] to call sinners. Mark 1.14-15 shows us what Jesus was calling them to “repent, and believe in the gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” 

Jesus, the great physician, came to call sinners, the sick, and not the “self-” righteous, to the gospel.

C  Fasting and Piety (2:18–22)

Jesus is bringing in the new era. While John the Baptist and his disciples fasted in mourning over the sins of the people and in anticipation of God’s kingdom, and while the Pharisees (and their admirers) fasted for religious reasons, Jesus disciples did not fast. What’s the deal, Jesus? The disciples had the bridegroom [Yahweh: Hos. 2.16, 19-20; Jer. 5.7; Jesus: 2 Cor. 11.2] with them giving way to, not mourning, but celebration. Jesus doesn’t mix with the old traditions of Judaism. The unshrunken cloth will tear the old garment, and the new wine will burst the old wine skins.

2.19 is the first allusion to Jesus’ death. He is the bridegroom who will be taken away. We see a glimpse of how this will play out in the last section.

B’  Eating (2:23–28)

The Pharisees criticize Jesus as a Teacher of the Torah by asking Him why His disciples are breaking the law on the Sabbath. Yahweh was the Lord of the Sabbath because He instituted the Sabbath [Gen. 2.3] and gave the Law in Exodus [20.8]. Yet here Jesus says that, as the Son of Man, He was Lord of the Sabbath. The followers of Jesus live in a constant Sabbath rest insofar as they live in the kingdom” (L.D. Hurst, Jesus and the Gospels Dictionary; Ethics of Jesus).

“Certainly the Jesus of Mark, who has authority to exercise the divine prerogative of forgiving sins (2:10), whose coming changes fasting to feasting (2:19), who came to seek and save the lost (10:45), could think this way” (Stein, Mark, p. 150).

A’  Healing (3:1–6)

Where is this? I want to elaborate on this one a bit more, so I’ll save it until next time. 

Breaking Point

Those who ought to know who Jesus is, the ones who should be welcoming Him into their presence, are the same ones who are criticizing Him because of the hardness of their hearts [2.73.5]. Jesus is the ‘new wine’, but new wine can not be placed in old wine skins. Jesus is bringing in a new way, ushering in a new era, better than what the Law could give [Heb. 7.18-22]. He does what God does by forgiving sins, perceiving hearts, and having authority over the Sabbath and the Torah. But we’ll see in the next section that the Pharisees reach a breaking point where they will plot out a need to put Jesus to death, the time surrounding when the bridegroom will be taken away.

Upcoming Posts

In my next post I’ll talk about the final scene and what Jesus did to really grind the Pharisees’ gears. I’ll include a look at how Mark presents Jesus to be closely tied with Yahweh.

Other Mondays With Mark

Mondays with Mark


Though I’ve delayed putting this up (because I thought this would be brief), I’ve decided to put up a little bit of Mark that I’ve gathered over the past few weeks. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been able to co-teach the gospel according to Mark here at the Calvary Chapel Bible College in York, UK. It’s been a terrific experience for me, and I hope that I continue to have the chance to continue in teaching. 

The Gospel of Mark has been overlooked to often in favor of the other three Gospels (two of which are the Synoptic gospels – Matthew and Luke) which are much longer than Mark. Even throughout Church history it took some time for a “commentary” to come out on Mark, and it was a blip on the radar in an ocean of glaciers of any other biblical book to read/study/teach.


Though I’ve heard Mark is “action-packed” it was hard for me to believe, at least, until I actually started studying it. Jesus is always on the move, is always doing something grand, is always confounding the Pharisees, is always saying more about Himself than the scribes would like to admit, etc. The first class I taught was on Mark 2.13-3.6, which is actually part of a bigger section starting with 2.1 [2.1-3.6]. Essentially, this ‘bigger’ section can be divided up into 5 pieces called a chiasmus [chiastic structure].

A What-mus?

Before going into Mark, here’s what a chiasm(us) is (essentially). A technical definition of a chiasm = the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism. (It’s like the shape of an X split down the middle).

Phrases following this pattern include:

  • “I mean what I say” and “I say what I mean.” 
  • “Oh, you haven’t, haven’t you?”
  • Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” 
  • “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”
  • “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

Suzy Q’s Visual Example

Suzy Q goes to the zoo and sees…

A  Lions
    B  Tigers
              C  Bears
                      D  Oh my! [High Point/Focus; Suzy Q runs back & sees…]
              C’  Bears

       B’  Tigers
A’  Lions

…after seeing too much, Suzy Q goes back home.

So there is a mirror [or ‘reversed’] image used to show the high point of the story, with any repetition being like the left and right sides of a stereo speaker (according to Peter Gentry). 

Mark 2 

Here’s where this chiasm comes into play. After showing Jesus to be wildly popular in Mark 1Mark 2 brings us to sudden conflict where the scribes and Pharisees plan to stop this unmerited popularity.

2.1-3.6 Is divide up into 5 sections:

A  Healing (2.1-12)
        B  Eating (2.13-17)
               C  Fasting and Piety (2.18-22)
        B’  Eating (2.23-28)
A’  Healing (3.1-6)

But not only is there a mirror image, but with each step the conflict grow more tense and terse.

The Controversy Rises

A  Anger is mental (2.1-12)
    B  Anger directed toward disciples (2.13-17)
        C  Anger directed at disciples (2.18-22)
             D  Anger is premeditated and directed at JC (2.23-28)
                   E  Anger is mental, but now includes a plot to kill JC (3.1-6)

Upcoming Posts

Why does this structure matter? In my next post will develop the relationship of Mark 1 to Mark 2, and how Jesus popularity is contested by the religious elite early on in Mark’s Gospel, and how this 5-tier structure actually fleshes itself out in Mark 2.

Other Mondays with Mark