ACCORDING TO MARK
With people, places, definitions ...
Part 2 of 2, chapters 11-16
TOWARDS THE END Spring c AD30
THE FINAL ENTRY OF JESUS INTO JERUSALEM
(also Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19)
Mark 11:1-11 - When they were approaching Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage and Bethany on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, he sent off two of his disciples with these instructions, "Go into the village just ahead of you and as soon as you enter it you will find a tethered colt on which no one has yet ridden. Untie it, and bring it here. If anybody asks you, 'Why are you doing this?', just say, 'The Lord needs it, and will send it back immediately.'"
So they went off and found the colt tethered by a doorway outside in the open street, and they untied it. Some of the bystanders did say, "What are you doing, untying this colt?", but they made the reply Jesus told them to make, and the men raised no objection. So they brought the colt to Jesus, threw their coats on its back, and he took his seat upon it.
Many of the people spread out their coats in his path as he rode along, and others put down straw which they had cut from the fields. The whole crowd, both those who were in front and those who were behind Jesus, shouted, "God save him! -
'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' (Psalm 118:26)
God bless the coming kingdom of our father David! God save him from on high!"
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple and looked round on all that was going on. And then, since it was already late in the day, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
THE CURSED FIG-TREE THAT WITHERS AWAY
(also Matthew 21:18-22)
Mark 11:12-14 - On the following day (after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem), when they had left Bethany, Jesus felt hungry. He noticed a fig-tree in the distance covered with leaves, and he walked up to it to see if he could find any fruit on it. But when he got to it, he could find nothing but leaves, for it was not yet time for the figs. Then Jesus spoke to the tree, "May nobody ever eat fruit from you!"
And the disciples heard him say it.
JESUS DRIVES THE BUYERS AND SELLERS FROM THE TEMPLE
(also Matthew 21:12-17; Luke 19:45-48)
This is the second recorded incident of this nature. The first came in John 2:12-25 at the start of Jesus' three year ministry
Mark 11:15-19 - Then (after cursing the fig-tree on the short journey from Bethany) they came into Jerusalem and Jesus went into the Temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of the dove-sellers, and he would not allow people to carry their water-pots through the Temple. And he taught them and said, "Doesn't the scripture say,
'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?' (Isaiah 56:7).
But you have turned it into a
'den of thieves!' (Jeremiah 7:11)"
The chief priests and scribes heard him say this and tried to find a way of getting rid of him. But they were in fact afraid of him, for his teaching had captured the imagination of the people. And every evening he left the city.
THE CURSED FIG-TREE THAT WITHERS AWAY - Concluded
Jesus talks of faith, prayer and forgiveness
Mark 11:20-26 (Verse 20 ....) One morning (after Jesus had overturned the money-changer's tables, and returned to Jerusalem as he did every day .....) as they were walking along, they noticed that the fig-tree had withered away to the roots. Peter remembered it, and said, "Master, look, the fig-tree that you cursed is all shrivelled up!"
"Have faith in God," replied Jesus to them. "I tell you that if anyone should say to this hill, 'Get up and throw yourself into the sea', and without any doubt in his heart believe that what he says will happen, then it will happen! That is why I tell you, whatever you pray about and ask for, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, you must forgive anything that you are holding against anyone else, and your Heavenly Father will forgive you your sins."
- Some manuscripts add a verse 26 to Mark's account - "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your sins."
THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS IS QUESTIONED
(also Matthew 21:23-27; Luke 20:1-8)
Mark 11:27-33 - So they came once more to Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the Temple (after teaching about the cursed fig-tree that had withered away), the chief priests, elders and scribes approached him, and asked, "What authority have you for what you're doing? And who gave you permission to do these things?"
"I am going to ask you a question," replied Jesus, "and if you answer me, I will tell you what authority I have for what I do. The baptism of John, now - did it come from Heaven or was it purely human? Tell me that."
At this they argued with each other, "If we say from Heaven, he will say, 'then why didn't you believe in him?' but if we say it was purely human, well ..." For they were frightened of the people, since all of them believed that John was a real prophet.
So they answered Jesus, "We do not know."
"Then I cannot tell you by what authority I do these things," returned Jesus.
THOSE WHO WON'T ACCEPT GOD: "THE WICKED TENANTS OF THE VINEYARD"
(also Matthew 21:33-46; Luke 20:9-19)
Mark 12:1-12 - Then he began to talk to them (... the chief priests, elders and scribes in the Jerusalem Temple) in parables.
"A man once planted a vineyard," he said, "fenced it round, dug out the hole for the wine-press and built a watch-tower. Then he let it out to some farm-workers and went abroad. At the end of the season he sent a servant to the tenants to receive his share of the vintage. But they got hold of him, knocked him about and sent him off empty-handed. The owner tried again. He sent another servant to them, but this one they knocked on the head and generally insulted. Once again he sent them another servant, but him they murdered. He sent many others and some they beat up and some they murdered. He had one man left - his own son who was very dear to him. He sent him last of all to the tenants, saying to himself, 'They will surely respect my own son.' But they said to each other, 'This fellow is the future owner - come on, let's kill him, and the property will be ours! So they got hold of him and murdered him, and threw his body out of the vineyard. What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard is going to do? He will come and destroy the men who were working his vineyard and will hand it over to others. Have you never read this scripture -
'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?' (Psalm 118:22,23)"
Then they tried to get their hands on him, for they knew perfectly well that he had aimed this parable at them - but they were afraid of the people. So they left him and went away.
THE PHARISEES AND HERODIANS QUESTION HIM - PAYING TAXES
(also Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-26)
Mark 12:13-17 - Later (after Jesus had finished the parable of the wicked tenants of the vineyard) they sent some of the Pharisees and some of the Herod-party to trap him in an argument. They came up and said to him, "Master, we know that you are an honest man and that you are not swayed by men's opinion of you. Obviously you don't care for human approval but teach the way of God with the strictest regard for truth - is it right to pay tribute to Caesar or not: are we to pay or not to pay?"
But Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, "Why try this trick on me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it."
So they brought one to him.
"Whose face is this?" asked Jesus, "and whose name is in the inscription?"
"Caesar's," they replied. And Jesus said, "Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God!" - a reply which staggered them.
THE SADDUCEES QUESTION HIM - RISING FROM DEATH
(also Matthew 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-40)
Mark 12:18-27 - Then (after the Pharisees' question on taxes) some of the Sadducees (a party which maintains that there is no resurrection) approached him, and put this question to him, "Master, Moses instructed us that if a man's brother dies leaving a widow but no child, then the man should marry the woman and raise children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers, and the first one married and died without leaving issue. Then the second one married the widow and died leaving no issue behind him. The same thing happened with the third, and indeed the whole seven died without leaving any child behind them. Finally the woman died. Now in this 'resurrection', when men will rise up again, whose wife is she going to be - for she was the wife of all seven of them?"
Jesus replied, "Does not this show where you go wrong - and how you fail to understand both the scriptures and the power of God? When people rise from the dead they neither marry nor are they given in marriage; they live like the angels in Heaven. But as for this matter of the dead being raised, have you never read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him in these words,
'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? (Exodus 3:6,15)
God is not God of the dead but of living men! That is where you make your great mistake!"
A TEACHER OF THE LAW (OR SCRIBE) QUESTIONS HIM - THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
(also Matthew 22:34-40)
Mark 12:28-34 - Then one of the scribes approached him. He had been listening to the discussion (between the Sadducees and Jesus about resurrection from the dead), and noticing how well Jesus had answered them, he put this question to him, "What are we to consider the greatest commandment of all?"
"The first and most important one is this," Jesus replied -
'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength' (Deuteronomy 6:4,5).
The second is this,
'You shall love your neighbour as yourself' (Leviticus 19:18).
No other commandment is greater than these."
"I am well answered," replied the scribe. "You are absolutely right when you say that there is one God and no other God exists but him; and to love him with the whole of our hearts, the whole of our intelligence and the whole of our energy, and to love our neighbours as ourselves is infinitely more important than all these burnt-offerings and sacrifices."
Then Jesus, noting the thoughtfulness of his reply, said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God!"
After this nobody felt like asking him any more questions.
JESUS IN RETURN, ASKS A QUESTION - ABOUT THE EXPECTED MESSIAH
(also Matthew 22:41-46; Luke 20:41-44)
Mark 12:35-37 - Later (after the debate on the greatest commandment), while Jesus was teaching in the Temple he remarked, "How can the scribes make out that Christ is David's son, for David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said,
'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool' (Psalm 110:1).
David is himself calling Christ 'Lord' - where do they get the idea that he is his son?"
The vast crowd heard this with great delight.
JESUS CRITICISES THE TEACHERS OF THE LAW (OR SCRIBES) AND THE PHARISEES
(also Matthew 23:1-39; Luke 20:45-47)
Mark 12:38-40 - .... and (at the end of his debate with the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees) Jesus continued in his teaching, "Be on your guard against these scribes who love to walk about in long robes and to be greeted respectfully in public and to have the front seats in the synagogue and the best places at dinner-parties! These are the men who grow fat on widow's property and cover up what they are doing by making lengthy prayers. They are only adding to their own punishment!"
JESUS COMPARES THE RICH MAN'S GIVING WITH THE WIDOW'S OFFERING!
(also Luke 21:1-4)
Mark 12:41-44 - Then (after warning the people to be on their guard against the scribes) Jesus sat down opposite the Temple almsbox and watched the people putting their money into it. A great many rich people put in large sums. Then a poor widow came up and dropped in two little coins, worth together about a halfpenny. Jesus called his disciples to his side and said to them, "Believe me, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. For they have all put in what they can easily afford, but she in her poverty who needs so much, has given away everything, her whole living!"
JESUS DESCRIBES THE END-TIMES AND HIS RETURN
(also Luke 17:20-37; Matthew 24:1-51; Luke 21:5-38)
Mark 13:1-27 - Then as Jesus was leaving the Temple (after his debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees), one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Master, what wonderful stonework, what a size these building are!"
Jesus replied, "You see these great buildings? Not a single stone will be left standing on another; every one will be thrown down!"
Then while he was sitting on the slope of the Mount of Olives facing the Temple, (the apostles) Peter, James, John and Andrew said to him privately, "Tell us, when will these things happen? What sign will there be that all these things are going to be accomplished?"
So Jesus began to tell them: "Be very careful that no one deceives you. Many are going to come in my name and say, 'I am he', and will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, don't be alarmed. such things are bound to happen, but the end is not yet. Nation will take up arms against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in different places and terrible famines. But this is only the beginnings of 'the pains'. You yourselves must keep your wits about you, for men will hand you over to their councils, and will beat you in their synagogues. You will have to stand in front of rulers and kings for my sake to bear your witness to them - for before the end comes the Gospel must be proclaimed to all nations. But when they are taking you off to trial, do not worry beforehand about what you are going to say - simply say the words you are given when the time comes. For it not really you who will speak, but the Holy Spirit.
Jesus foretells utter misery
"A brother is going to betray his own brother to death, and a father his own child. Children will stand up against their parents and condemn them to death. There will come a time when the whole world will hate you because you are known as my followers. Yet the man who holds out to the end will be saved.
"But when you see
'the abomination of desolation' (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11)
standing where it ought not - (let the reader take note of this) - then those who are in Judea must fly to the hills! The man on his house-top must not go down nor go into his house to fetch anything out of it, and the man in the field must not turn back to fetch his coat. Alas for the women who are pregnant at that time, and alas for those with babies at their breasts! Pray God that it may not be winter when that time comes, for there will be such utter misery in those days as had never been from the creation until now - and never will be again. Indeed, if the Lord did not shorten those days, no human beings could survive. But for the sake of the people whom he has chosen he has shortened those days.
He warns against false christs, and commands vigilance
"If anyone tells you at that time, 'Look, here is Christ', or 'Look, there he is', don't believe it! For false christs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders, to deceive, if it be possible, even the men of God's choice. You must keep your eyes open! I am giving you this warning before it happens.
"But when that misery is past,
'the light of the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give her light; stars will be falling from the sky and the powers of heaven will rock on their foundations' (Isaiah 13:10; 34:4).
Then men shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send out his angels to summon his chosen together from every quarter, from furthest earth to highest heaven.
BEING PREPARED FOR THE END-TIMES AND THE RETURN OF JESUS: "THE LESSON OF THE FIG-TREE"
(also Matthew 24:32-35; Luke 21:29-33)
Mark 13:28-33 - "Let the fig-tree illustrate this for you: when its branches grow tender and produce leaves, you know that summer is near, at your very doors! I tell you that this generation will not have passed until all these things have come true. Earth and sky will pass away, but what I have told you will never pass away! But no one knows the day or the hour of this happening, not even the angels in Heaven, no, not even the Son - only the Father. Keep your eyes open, keep on the alert, for you do not know when the time will be.
BEING PREPARED FOR THE END-TIMES AND THE RETURN OF JESUS: "THE FAITHFUL SERVANTS AND THE RETURNING MASTER"
Mark 13:34-37 -"It is as if a man who is travelling abroad had left his house and handed it over to be managed by his servants. He has given each one his work to do and has ordered the doorkeeper to be on the look-out for his return. Just so must you keep a look-out, for you do not know when the master of the house will come - it might be late evening, or midnight, or cock-crow, or early morning - otherwise he might come unexpectedly and find you sound asleep. What I am saying to you I am saying to all; keep on the alert!"
THE PLOT TO KILL JESUS
(also Matthew 26:3-5; Luke 22:1-2; John 11:45-57)
Mark 14:1-2 - In two days' time (after Jesus had spoken of the end-times and his second coming) the festival of the Passover and of unleavened bread was due. Consequently, the chief priests and the scribes were trying to think of some trick by which they could get Jesus into their power and have him executed. "But it must not be during the festival," they said, "or there will be a riot."
THE ANOINTING OF JESUS AT BETHANY
(also Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:1-8)
In this account, Mary the sister of Martha anoints Jesus. An earlier story in Luke 7:36-50 (included in the parable of "The Two Debtors") is generally considered a different incident perhaps involving Mary of Magdala, otherwise known as Mary Magdalene:
Mark 14:3-9 - Jesus himself (again after teaching about the end-times) was now in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. As he was sitting at table, a woman approached him with an alabaster flask of very costly spikenard (or nard) perfume. She broke the neck of the flask and poured the perfume on Jesus' head. Some of those present were highly indignant and muttered, "What is the point of such wicked waste of perfume? It could have been sold for over thirty pounds (traditionally a year's wages) and the money could have been given to the poor." And there was a murmur of resentment against her. But Jesus said, "Let her alone, why must you make her feel uncomfortable? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You have the poor with you always and you can do good to them whenever you like, but you will not always have me. She has done all she could - for she has anointed my body in preparation for burial. I assure you that wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the whole world, this deed of hers will also be recounted, as her memorial to me."
JUDAS ISCARIOT DECIDES TO BETRAY HIM
(also Matthew 26:14-16; Luke 22:3-6)
Mark 14:10-11 - Then (after the anointing of Jesus) Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. And when they heard what he had to say, they were delighted and undertook to pay him for it. So he looked out for a convenient opportunity to betray him.
THE LAST SUPPER
(also Matthew 26:17-29; Luke 22:7-30; John 13:1-30; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
Mark 14:12-25 - On the first day of unleavened bread (again, as Judas prepares to betray Jesus), the day when the Passover was sacrificed, Jesus' disciples said, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
Jesus sent off two of them (Peter and John) with these instructions, "Go into the town and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water (an unusual sight as only women usually carried water). Follow him and say to the owner of the house to which he goes, 'The Master says, where is the room for me to eat the Passover with my disciples?' And he will show you a large upstairs room all ready with the furnishings that we need. That is the place where you are to make our preparations."
So the disciples set off and went into the town, found everything as he had told them, and prepared for the Passover.
The last supper together: the mysterious bread and wine
Late in the evening he arrived with the twelve. And while they were sitting there, right in the middle of the meal, Jesus remarked, "Believe me, one of you is going to betray me - someone who is now having his supper with me."
This shocked and distressed them and one after another they began to say to him, "Surely, I'm not the one?"
"It is one of the twelve," Jesus told them, "a man who is dipping his hand into the dish with me. It is true that the Son of Man will follow the road foretold by the scriptures, but alas for the man through whom he is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had never been born."
And while they were still eating Jesus took a loaf, blessed it and broke it and gave it to them with the words, "Take this, it is my body."
Then he took a cup, and after thanking God, he gave it to them, and they drank from it, and he said to them "This is my blood which is shed for many in the new agreement. I tell you truly I will drink no more wine until the day comes when I drink it fresh in the kingdom of God!"
THE LAST NIGHT CONTINUED AND THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
(also Matthew 26:30-46; Luke 22:31-46; John 13:31-38; 18:1-2)
Mark 14:26-42 - Then (after the Last Supper) they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
"Every one of you will lose your faith in me," Jesus told them, "As the scripture says:
'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered' (Zechariah 13:7).
Yet after I have risen, I shall go before you into Galilee!"
Peter's bold word - and Jesus' reply
Then Peter said to him, "Even if everyone should lose faith, I never will."
Believe me, Peter," returned Jesus, "this very night before the cock crows twice, you will disown me three times."
But Peter protested violently, "Even if it means dying with you, I will never disown you!" And they all made the same protest.
The last desperate prayer in Gethsemane
Then they arrived at a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to the disciples, "Sit down here while I pray."
He took with him Peter, James and John, and began to be horror-stricken and desperately depressed.
"My heart is nearly breaking," he told them. "Stay here and keep watch for me."
Then he walked forward a little way and flung himself on the ground, praying that, if it were possible, he might not have to face the ordeal.
"Dear Father," he said, "all things are possible to you. Please - let me not have to drink this cup! Yet it is not what I want but what you want."
Then he came and found them fast asleep. He spoke to Peter, "Are you asleep, Simon? Couldn't you manage to watch for a single hour? Watch and pray, all of you, that you may not have to face temptation. Your spirit is willing, but human nature is weak."
Then he went away again and prayed in the same words, and once more he came and found them asleep. they could not keep their eyes open and they did not know what to say for themselves. When he came back for the third time, he said "Are you still going to sleep and take your ease? All right - the moment has come: now you are going to see the Son of Man betrayed into the hands of evil men! Get up, let us be going! Look, here comes my betrayer!"
JESUS IS BETRAYED AND ARRESTED
(also Matthew 26:47-56; Luke 22:47-54a; John 18:3-12)
Mark 14:43-52 - And indeed, while the words ("here comes my betrayer!) were still on his lips, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived with a mob armed with swords and staves, sent by the chief priests and scribes and elders. The betrayer had given them a sign; he had said, "The one I kiss will be the man. Get hold of him and you can take him away without any trouble." So he walked straight up to Jesus, cried, "Master!" and kissed him affectionately. And so they got hold of him and held him. Somebody present drew his sword and struck at the High Priest's servant, slashing off his ear. Then Jesus spoke to them "So you've come out with your swords and staves to capture me like a bandit, have you? Day after day I was with you in the Temple, teaching, and you never laid a finger on me. But the scriptures must be fulfilled."
Then all the disciples deserted him and made their escape. There happened to be a young man among Jesus' followers who wore nothing but a linen shirt. They seized him, but he left the shirt in their hands and took to his heels stark naked (traditionally the young John Mark, author of this Gospel who would vividly remember such a small yet personal detail).
After his arrest Jesus appears before three separate authorities:
(1) Annas still a "chief priest", and the Sanhedrin of which Caiaphas is the High Priest;
(2) Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator of Judea and Samaria; and
(3) Herod Antipas, Jewish tetrarch of Galilee and Perea visiting Jerusalem at that time.
Pontius Pilate actually sentences Jesus to death by crucifixion
JESUS IS TRIED BEFORE THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES; PETER BETRAYS HIM
(also Matthew 26:57-27:2; Luke 22:54b-23:1; John 18:13-28)
Mark 14:53-72 - So they (members of the armed crowd) marched Jesus away to the High Priest in whose presence all the chief priests and elders and scribes had assembled. (Peter followed him at a safe distance, right up to the High Priest's courtyard. There he sat in the firelight with the servants, keeping himself warm.) Meanwhile, the chief priests and the whole council were trying to find some evidence against Jesus which would warrant the death penalty. But they failed completely. There were plenty of people ready to give false testimony against him, but their evidence was contradictory. Then some more perjurers stood up and said, "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this Temple that was built by human hands and in three days I will build another made without human aid.'"
But even so their evidence conflicted. So the High Priest himself got up and took the centre of the floor.
"Have you no answer to make?" he asked Jesus. "What about all this evidence against you?"
But Jesus remained silent and offered no reply. Again the High Priest asked him, "Are you Christ, Son of the blessed one?"
And Jesus said, "I am! Yes, you will all see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, coming in the clouds of heaven."
Then the High Priest tore his robes and cried, "Why do we still need witnesses? You heard the blasphemy; what is your opinion now?"
And their verdict was that he deserved to die. Then some of them began to spit at him. They blindfolded him and then slapped him, saying, "Now prophesy who hit you!"
Even the servants who took him away slapped his face.
Peter, in fear, disowns his master
In the meantime, while Peter was in the courtyard below, one of the High Priest's maids came and saw him warming himself. She looked closely at him, and said, "You were with the Nazarene too - with Jesus!"
But he denied it, saying, "I don't understand. I don't know what you're talking about." And he walked out into the gateway, and a cock crew.
Again the maid who had noticed him began to say to the men standing there, "This man is one of them!"
But he denied it again. A few minutes later the bystanders themselves said to Peter, "You certainly are one of them. Why, you're a Galilean!"
But he started to curse and swear, "I tell you I don't know the man you're talking about!"
Immediately the cock crew for the second time, and back into Peter's mind came the words of Jesus, "Before the cock crows twice, you will disown me three times."
And he broke down and wept.
JESUS IS TRIED BEFORE THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES - Concluded
Jesus before Pilate
Mark 15:1 The moment daylight came the chief priests called together a meeting of elders, scribes and members of the whole council, bound Jesus and took him off and handed him over to Pilate.
JESUS BEFORE THE ROMAN PONTIUS PILATE; THE SENTENCE
(also Matthew 27:11-26; Luke 23:2-25; John 18:29-19:16a)
Mark 15:2-15 - (Jesus has been taken to Pilate by the chief priests and members of the Sanhedrin .....) Pilate asked him straight out, "Well, you - are you the king of the Jews?"
"Yes, I am," he replied.
The chief priests brought many accusations. So Pilate questioned him again, "Have you nothing to say? Listen to all their accusations!"
But Jesus made no further answer - to Pilate's astonishment.
Now it was Pilate's custom at festival-time to release a prisoner - anyone they asked for. There was in the prison at the time, with some other rioters who had committed murder in a recent outbreak, a man called Barabbas. The crowd surged forward and began to demand that Pilate should do what he usually did for them. So he spoke to them, "Do you want me to set free the king of the Jews for you?"
For he knew perfectly well that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him through sheer malice. But the chief priests worked upon the crowd to get them to demand Barabbas' release instead. So Pilate addressed them once more, "Then what am I to do with the man whom you call the king of the Jews?"
They shouted back, "Crucify him!"
But Pilate replied, "Why, what crime has he committed?"
But their voices rose to a roar, "Crucify him!"
And as Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd, he set Barabbas free for them, and after having Jesus flogged handed him over to be crucified.
JESUS IS ILL-TREATED AND TORTURED
(also Matthew 27:27-31; Luke 22:63-65; John 19:1-3)
Mark 15:16-20 - Then the (Roman) soldiers marched him away inside the courtyard of the governor's residence and called their whole company together. They dressed Jesus in a purple robe, and twisting some thorn twigs into a crown, they put it on his head. Then they began to greet him, "Hail, your majesty - king of the Jews!"
They hit him on the head with a stick and spat at him, and then bowed low before him on bended knee. And when they had finished their fun with him, they took off the purple cloak and dressed him again in his own clothes. Then they led him outside to crucify him.
HIS CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH
(also Matthew 27:32-50; Luke 23:26-46; John 19:16b-30)
Mark 15:21-37 - They compelled Simon, a native of Cyrene in Africa (the father of Alexander and Rufus), who was on his way from the fields at the time, to carry Jesus' cross.
Alexander and Rufus - Both men possibly became Christians and friends of Mark. Some 25 years later, a Rufus is included in the apostle Paul's greetings at the end of his Letter to the Romans. Only a few years later, Mark was probably writing his Gospel in Rome where this same Rufus could still have been living -
They took him to a place called Golgotha (which means Skull Hill) and they offered him some drugged wine, but he would not take it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his garments, drawing lots to see what each of them would get. It was about nine o'clock in the morning when they nailed him to the cross. Over his head the placard of his crime read, "THE KING OF THE JEWS." They also crucified two bandits at the same time, one on each side of him. And the passers-by jeered at him, shaking their heads in mockery, saying, "Hi, you! You could destroy the Temple and build it up again in three days, why not come down from the cross and save yourself?"
The chief priests also made fun of him among themselves and the scribes, and said, "He saved others, he cannot save himself. If only this Christ, the king of Israel, would come down now from the cross, we should see it and believe!"
And even the men who were crucified with him hurled abuse at him.
At midday darkness spread over the whole countryside and lasted until three o'clock in the afternoon, and at three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Psalm 22:1)
Some of the bystanders heard these words which Jesus spoke in Aramaic - Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?, and said, "Listen, he's calling for Elijah!"
One man ran off and soaked a sponge in vinegar, put it on a stick, and held it up for Jesus to drink, calling out, "Let him alone! Let's see if Elijah will come and take him down!"
But Jesus let out a great cry, and died.
SUPERNATURAL EVENTS AS JESUS DIES
(also Matthew 27:51-53; Luke 23:44-45)
Mark 15:38 - The curtain of the Temple sanctuary was split in two from top to the bottom.
SOME OF THE PEOPLE PRESENT
(also Matthew 27:54-56; Luke 23:47-49; John 19:25-26a)
- The identity of all the women has not been completely solved:
Mark 15:39-41 - And when the centurion who stood in front of Jesus saw how he died, he said, "This man was certainly a son of God!"
There were some women there looking on from a distance, among them (using the number order from Matthew above):
(1) Mary of Magdala,
(2) Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses (or Joseph), and
(3) Salome (probably the wife of Zebedee).
These were the women who used to follow Jesus as he went about in Galilee and look after him. And there were many other women there who had come up to Jerusalem with them.
(also Matthew 27:57-66; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42)
Mark 15:42-47 - When the evening came, because it was the day of preparation, that is the day before the Sabbath, Joseph from Arimathaea, a distinguished member of the council, who himself prepared to accept the kingdom of God, went boldly into Pilate's presence and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised that he should be dead already and he sent for the centurion and asked whether he had been dead long. On hearing the centurion's report, he gave Joseph the body of Jesus. So Joseph brought a linen winding-sheet, took Jesus down and wrapped him in it, and then put him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the solid rock, rolling a stone over the entrance to it. Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joses (or Joseph, brother of the apostle James the Younger) were looking on and saw where he was laid.
The life and ministry of Jesus on earth is over - tortured to death on a Roman cross and consigned to the grave. Everything he did, no matter how wonderful or wise - his miracles, his parables, the Sermon on the Mount - mark him as a superb teacher, a miracle-worker, a man of unsurpassed personality, but still a man. And sometimes,almost a madman from his seemingly more outrageous statements and claims.
In evidence of failure, his followers are desolate, mostly scattered and without hope. The few that remain prepare to give him a proper burial. There seems nothing left to suggest the birth, 2,000 years ago of a life and world-changing religion that claims to be unique, to come directly from the creator God of the universe, and which is offered freely to all the people of Earth and perhaps beyond.
THE NEW BEGINNING Spring cAD30
THE EMPTY TOMB
(also Matthew 28:1-8,11-15; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-13)
Mark 16:1-8 - When the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James (the Younger), and Salome (mother of the apostles James and John) bought spices so that they could go and anoint him. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb, just as the sun was rising.
"Who is going to roll the stone back from the doorway of the tomb?" they asked each other.
And then as they looked closer, they saw that the stone, which was a very large one, had been rolled back. So they went into the tomb and saw a young man in a white robe sitting on the right-hand side, and they were simply astonished. But he said to them, "There is no need to be astonished. He has risen; he is not here. Look, here is the place where they laid him. But now go and tell his disciples, and Peter, that he will be in Galilee before you. You will see him there just as he told you."
And they got out of the tomb and ran away from it. They were trembling with excitement. They did not dare to breathe a word to anyone.
- Mark's Gospel ends here in most of the early manuscripts.
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AND HIS APPEARANCES TO HIS DISCIPLES
(also Matthew 28:9-10,16-17; Luke 24:13-44; John 20:14-21:14; Acts 1:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Mark 16:9-14 - (The Gospel now continues with possibly an ancient addition to Mark's account .....) When Jesus rose early on that first day of the week (the Sunday), he appeared first of all to Mary of Magdala, from whom he had driven out seven evil spirits. And she went and reported this to his sorrowing and weeping followers. They heard her say that he was alive and that she had seen him, but they did not believe it.
Later, he appeared in a different form to two of them (disciples, but not apostles of Jesus) who were out walking, as they were on their way to the country (on the road to Emmaus). These two came back and told the others, but they did not believe them either. Still later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at table and reproached them for their lack of faith, and reluctance to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
HIS COMMISSION TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE WORLD
(also Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:45-50; John 21:15-23; Acts 1:6-8)
Mark 16:15-18 - Then (after his appearances to Mary of Magdala, the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, and the eleven apostles, and continuing the ancient addition to Mark ....) he said to them, "You must go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. He who believes it and is baptised will be saved, but he who disbelieves it will be condemned. These signs will follow those who do believe: they will drive out evil spirits in my name; they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous it will do them no harm; they will lay their hands upon the sick and they will recover."
JESUS ASCENDS TO HEAVEN
(also Luke 24:51-53; Acts 1:9-11)
Mark 16:19-20 - After these words to them (the commission to preach the Gospel to the world, Mark's Gospel concludes .....), the Lord Jesus was taken up into Heaven and was enthroned at the right hand of God. They went out and preached everywhere. The Lord worked with them, confirming their message by the signs that followed.
In a short time, the disciples, totally demoralised by the death of Jesus are transformed. They are soon taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ fearlessly to much of the known world and often in the face of every form of opposition, persecution, and soon, brutality, torture and death.
The Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of the New Testament reveal part of this early story that continues to the present day.
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