The Gospel of Mark (chapters 6-10)

Northminster folks are reading through Mark’s gospel in preparation for 3W on September 15th (you can find details here).

Mark is the earliest and shortest of the gospels. And for centuries it was assumed to be the simplest. Mark was seen as a fast-paced summary of the high points of Jesus’ three year ministry. End of story.

Then almost twenty centuries after the gospel was written some scholars began to give Mark a closer look, and they realized that John Mark was a more careful craftsman than readers had thought.*

Consider the case of Mark’s famous brackets.

In chapter 8 there is the story of the healing of a blind man (Mark 8:22-26). In chapter 10 there is another healing of a blind man (Mark 10:46-52). Looking closely raises some questions. Like, Why would Mark include two such similar healing stories? Why put them so close together? Aren’t these paragraphs the only mention of blindness in the gospel? (Answer: Yes). Is Mark trying to tell us something? (Yes, again.)

After the first blind man is healed, Jesus asks his small group of disciples what people are saying about him and who they think he is. Simon Peter then confesses, “You are the Messiah” (8:29).

Immediately Jesus begins to explain what kind of Messiah he is: the Suffering Servant the prophet Isaiah had described. Jesus carefully explains that he is going to suffer, be rejected and killed, and rise from the dead (8:31). “He spoke plainly about this,” Mark tells us (8:32), but the disciples do not understand.

Two more times Jesus tries to instruct them on what will happen to him—suffering, rejection, execution, resurrection (Mark 9:31 and 10:33-34)—but his closest followers cannot see it.

Then, as Jesus is leading them to Jerusalem and the cross, they encounter blind Bartimaeus who shouts, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:46-52).  Jesus asks this second blind man the oddest question in scripture: “What do you want me to do for you?” Is he kidding? The fellow is blind, for goodness sake, he wants to see.

Son of David is another way of saying Messiah. The fact is, despite his physical blindness, Bartimaeus “sees” who Jesus is when Simon, Andrew, James, John and the others cannot see.

The two healings of blind men bracket (and underline and highlight) the blindness of the disciples to the kind of savior Jesus will be—the innocent victim who absorbs all of the violence the world can inflict; the Suffering Servant who demonstrates with his life/death /resurrection that “God works all things into good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes” (Romans 8:28).

*I love the story Annie Dillard tells about her creative writing class at Hollins College. She says the professor would take the students out into a field with instructions to look around and then to write about what they saw. The professor would wander among the students, reading what they had written and always instructing, “That’s good. Now look again.”  Annie’s point is the key to all good writing (and reading, it turns out) is to look, then look again.
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11 Responses to The Gospel of Mark (chapters 6-10)

  1. Kasey Buckland says:

    Holy cow! Mark 10 is full of things!
    1-so what’s the ‘real deal’ with divorce. Why would Moses allow it and then Jesus turn it over? I know divorce is never ideal but are there ever exceptions?
    2-The rich man that wouldn’t sell everything and follow him….how can we wrestle with having earthly possessions and still be living God’s direction? How can we make sure we are selling “our earthly possessions” according to today’s standards?
    3-It seems like Jesus gets frustrated with the disciples so frequently because “they just don’t get it.”  how/why did he choose those guys? Why not some of the people he had healed that could speak to his proof in their life?  
    4-Sounds like some of the people he healed were allowed to tag along for a while or sent away but never asked to stay- why?

  2. beth mc. says:

    I’m catching up on allll my reading, and my posting! Here’s a question from the earlier chapters – I think Logan wrote about this too:

    Mark 1:1-14 – John the Baptizer and Jesus are both calling people to “repent.”
    Mark 6:7-13 – Jesus sends the twelve disciples out in pairs, and they call people to “repent.”

    We’re used to thinking about repent as “feeling bad about your (individual) sins” – but isn’t there something a little different going on here? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here – join the kingdom” – Jesus is all about proclaiming/naming God’s kingdom and calling people to live in it. What is this “kingdom” about? And by the way – why is this “kingdom” so threatening to the Israelite religious leaders and, later in the story, to Rome’s leaders in this little piece of the empire?

  3. logan jones says:

    Sammy … in Chapter 11 > Why does Jesus meet the Fig Tree with such disappointment? I mean, why does he expect it to bear ‘fruit’ if it’s not the season for it, as is mentioned. Is that fair of Jesus to expect … and then get all hot and bothered and curse it … really!? Like the Pharisees etc. I am kinda scared of Him here, is that what Mark intended you think? Or am I missing some “elephant in the room”?


  4. beth mc. says:

    (earlier chapters – still behind in my questions!) I’m looking at the geography in Mark. Jesus’ ministry starts out in Galilee, his home region. Then in the middle of Mark, he expands to the “transjordan” region where there are Gentiles, and also goes farther north. Then he starts talking about “the son of man is going to suffer and be killed,” and it’s then that he heads down to Jerusalem. I’d like to know some more about what this path tells us. Some questions:
    1 – Galilee was sort of “the sticks,” right? What was the society like there? I’ve heard they were peasants, and then I’ve also heard they were craftspeople (carpenters, fishermen etc.) who were not too badly off…Unsure about all that.
    2 – How did Jesus see his mission? It looks like he is casting wider and wider circles as time goes by – starts off “at home,” then ranges further afield, then even interacting with Gentiles, and then he sets off for the power center of Jerusalem.
    3 – Significance of Jerusalem: back to the question of why would he be opposed by the “powers that be” – Jerusalem was the Jewish political power center, yes? Kind of the hub where Jewish leadership intermeshed with Rome’s oversight of this region. And in walks Jesus claiming – what? The kingdom of God, the renewal of God’s covenant with Israel. Who were the people in Jerusalem who were vested with authority/power (scribes, Pharisees, high priest, Herodians, Pilate), and why was Jesus’ message a threat to them? (okay, that’s a pretty broad question, isn’t it?)

  5. beth mc. says:

    What was the purpose of Jesus’ miracles? How were they viewed by the people who were present – i.e., I feel like I’ve heard somewhere that there were other rabbis who healed, etc. Did the healings seem as “supernatural” to people then as they do to us now?

    Related question: Mark and the other gospels sort of leave the impression that Jesus just picked out random people to heal — a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue on Sabbath, a demoniac who lived in a Gentile region, a woman who was bleeding, a little girl whose father was an official in the synagogue etc. But don’t the stories that Mark chooses to include tell us something about who Jesus is and what his mission is? In other words, they aren’t random, they are symbols that are pointing to something beyond just the healing incident.

  6. beth mc. says:

    One more, then I’ll quit for now. Mark 4:33-34: Why did Jesus speak in parables to the crowds “in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen,but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'”

    Seems to kind of fit with that whole thing of telling people not to talk about being healed.

  7. Sherida Kemp says:

    Hey Sammy, I read the Bible with two different translations. My question is in reference to Mark 9:17-29-the boy with the dumb spirit. Jesus drove this spirit out. Later, when the disciples were alone with Jesus, they asked Him why THEY couldn’t drive that spirit out. In the KJV (and other transcripts), He states that this kind of spirit can only be driven out through prayer AND fasting. The NIV (and other transcripts) states prayer only. Is this merely a translation issue or was fasting in addition to prayer actually required for this type of spirit? Weren’t the disciples already praying as they drove out spirits? (I would think so) Apparently this spirit required more…something. Are there situations or circumstances in our lives that require more than praying, but…something such as fasting?

  8. Mary Beth El-Shafie says:

    Oops! I posted some of my comments on the wrong blog article! (Ch 1-5) instead.

    • Beth Mc. says:

      MB – For posting on the wrong page, thy name shalt be stricken from the record of Those Who Are Allowed to Post Comments. lol

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