Mark 8:27 – 10:52


8:27 From there Jesus and his disciples went off to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; on the way he was questioning his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” “Some,” they said, “say you are John the Baptist, others that you’ re Elijah, and still others say you’ re one of the prophets.”2 29 Then he kept asking them, “But who you do you say I am?” Peter then answered,3 “You are the Messiah.” At this Jesus told them sharply not to tell anyone about him.4

31 Then he began explaining to them that the Son of Man must suffer a lot, must be put on trial by the elders and high priests and scribes, be put to death — and then, three days later, he must rise from the dead;5 32 he told them this repeatedly in all candor.6 Then Peter took him aside and started scolding 7 him. 33 At that he turned and then, with a look at his disciples, he scolded Peter, telling him, “Get behind me, Satan! It’s not God’s thoughts you are thinking, but human thoughts.8

34 Then he summoned the crowd together with his disciples and told them,9“Anyone who wants to follow my course must deny himself, must carry his cross and keep following my course.1035 In fact, anyone who wants to hold on to his life is going to lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s sake will hold on to it.11 36 What good does it do anyone to win a whole world of profit if his life is lost in the process? 37 What is there that is worth trading one’s life for? 38 Anyone who disdains me and what I say in this evil world-age, you can be sure, will be repudiated by the Son of Man when he comes in his father’s glory with the holy angels.”12 9:1 Then he told them, “Take my word for it: some of the people standing here will not experience death before they’ ve seen God’s reign fully established in power.”13

2 Six days later.14 Jesus took along Peter and James and John15 and brought them with him up onto a high mountain all by themselves. There Jesus was transformed before their eyes: 3 his clothes turned gleaming white, far whiter than any power known on earth can whiten it. 4 Then Elijah appeared before them along with Moses and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter’s response to this was to say to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here; let’s build three huts, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah 6 (in fact Peter had no idea how to respond to what had happened; he and James and John were terrified).16 7 Then a mist came and overshrouded them, and a voice came out of the mist, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!”17 8 Then suddenly they looked around and could see only Jesus alone with them.

9 As they were on their way down from the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.18 10 They kept this statement to themselves even as they were pondering in their minds what “rise from the dead” means. 11 Then they questioned him, “What do the scribes mean when they say Elijah has to come first?”19 12 “Elijah does come first,” he told them, “and gets everything ready. And how is it that scripture say about the Son of Man: ‘he is destined to suffer much and be humiliated?’ 13 But I’ll tell you this much: Elijah has come, and they did as they pleased to him, exactly as scripture says of him.”20

14 And when they came to the disciples they saw a sizable throng around them and scribes putting questions to them. 15 Then right away the whole throng saw him; astounded, they rushed up to greet him. 16 Then he asked them, “What were you arguing about among yourselves?” 17 Then one of the throng answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you with a mute spirit. 18 Whenever the spirit comes over him it brings him into convulsions and makes him foam at the mouth and gnash his teeth and get a dry throat. I tried to get your disciples to exorcise the spirit but they couldn’t do it. 19 Then Jesus told them in response, “Untrusting generation, how long am I going to be before your eyes? How long am I going put up with you?21 Bring him to me.” 20 They brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit had seen Jesus, it immediately brought the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground, foaming at the mouth. 21 Then Jesus questioned his father: “How long has this been happening to him?” “Since he was a child,” said the father. “Sometimes it has even dashed him into waters to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have pity upon us and help us.” 23 Then Jesus said, “as for the being able, anything is possible for one who trusts.” 24 All at once the child’s father cried out, saying, “I do trust, please help my want of trust!” 25 Then as Jesus saw that the throng was moving right along with them, he scolded the unclean spirit and said, “Deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and don’t go back into him any more.” 26 Then the spirit cried out and made the child writhe and then left him, and the child was then like a corpse (several were saying that he had died). 27 But Jesus took his hand and lifted him up, and he stood up. 28 Then when he had entered the house his disciples by themselves put to him the question, “Why couldn’t we exorcise the spirit?” 29 Then he told them, “This kind of spirit cannot be exorcized except by prayer.”22

30 Then they went away and traveled through Galilee; Jesus didn’t want anyone to recognize him; he was teaching his disciples, explaining to them, “The Son of Man is being given over into the hands of men who will put him to death, and after he has been put to death he will rise three days later. 32 But they didn’t understand what he said and were afraid to question him about it.23

33 Then they came to Capernaum. And when he was inside the house he questioned them, “What were you talking about on the road?” 34 But they kept still, since what they’d discussed on the road was which one of them was greater.”24 35 Then Jesus sat down and called the twelve to him and told them, “Anyone who wants to be foremost is going to be last of all and to wait upon everyone.2526 36 Then he took a child in his arm and placed it in their midst; he embraced it and told them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes one child such as this in my name welcomes me. And if one welcomes me, it’s not just myself that he welcomes but rather the one who sent me.”

38 Then John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man exorcising demons in your name and tried to stop him doing it, since he wasn’t one of our followers.” 39 But Jesus said, “Don’t try to stop him: anyone one who performs a miracle in my name is hardly going to be able to curse me! 40 Anyone who’s not opposing us is on our side!.27 41 The fact is, nobody who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, will ever go unrequited. 42 But if anybody lays snares in the way of even one of these little ones who trust me,28 he’d be better off thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck. 43 If your hand makes you sin, cut it off! It’s better for you to enter into life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell-fire. 45 And if your foot makes you sin, cut it off! It’s better for you to enter into life lame that to be thrown into hell-fire having two feet. 47 And if your eye makes you sin, pluck it out! It’s better for you to enter into God’s reign with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell-fire, where the worm gnawing the damned never dies and the fire is never quenched.29 49 Everyone’s salt is going be tested by fire; and if that salt loses its saltiness, what will you do to make it useful? Be well-seasoned yourselves and be at peace with each other.30

10.1 From there he went on and came to the area of Judaea on the far side of the Jordan, where crowds gathered again about him; and as was his way, he once again proceeded to teach them. 2 And Pharisees approached and, to test him, put to him the question3132 whether a man is allowed to divorce his wife. 3 His response to them was, “What did Moses tell you to do?” 4 To which they replied, “Moses allowed a man to draw up a writ of separation and put her away.” 5 Then Jesus told them, “It was because of your stubborn human nature that he prescribed for you this procedure, 6 but ever since the world was created, ‘God made human beings male and female; 7 that is the reason that a man is to leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one; so they are no longer two but one. 9 Therefore what God has linked into a pair a human being should not separate.

10 And when they were back in the house his disciples asked him about this.33 11 He told them, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another, then she commits adultery.34

13 Then people were bringing him children to put his hands upon; his disciples scolded the people, 14 but when Jesus saw it he was upset and told them, “Let the children come to me-don’t try to stop them! The reign of god is over just such as they are. 15 Take it from me: anyone who doesn’t accept God’s reign as a child does, won’t enter into it.35 16 Then he put his arms around them and blessed them as he put his hands upon them.

17 And as he went out onto the road a man36 ran up to him and kneeled down before him, then began to question him, “Good teacher, what should I do to make eternal life my lot?” 18 Jesus told him, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good but God alone.37 19 You know the commandments: ‘Don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t defraud, respect your father and mother.'” 21 But the man said, “Teacher, I’ve kept all these commandments since I was little.” 21 Then Jesus looked at him and loved him,38 then he told him, “You’re missing just one thing: go, sell all that you have and give it to beggars, and you’ll have treasure in heaven-and then come here and follow me.” 22 But the man grimaced at what Jesus said and went off in sorrow; the fact is that he had great wealth.39

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who are rich to enter into God’s realm.” 24 His disciples were astounded at what he said, but Jesus reiterated his comment: “Children, how hard it is to enter into God’s realm! 25 It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into God’s realm.” 26 At this they were overwhelmed and said to each other, “How can anyone at all be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “Insofar as it lies within human beings, it can’t be done, but that’s not so with God; anything is possible with God.”40

28 Peter went on to say to him, “Hey, we’ve left everything behind and followed you!” 29 Then Jesus said, “Take it from me, there isn’t a soul that has abandoned his home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property41 for my sake and for the gospel’s sake42 30 who won’t get a hundred times as much — households and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and property along with persecution now in this age,43 and eternal life in the age-to-come. 31 And lots of people who are now foremost will be at the very end, and those at the very end will be foremost.”44

32 They were on the road traveling up to Jerusalem; Jesus was ahead of them. They were astounded, but those who followed him were afraid. And yet again he took aside the twelve and started explaining to them what must happen to him. 33 “Take note: we are going up to Jerusalem; the Son of Man will be taken into custody by the high-priests and the scribes; they will condemn him to death and will deliver him over to the Gentile authority. 34 Then they will mock him and spit on him and flog him and put him to death, and three days later he will rise.”45

35 Then he was approached by James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who said to him, “Teacher, we want you to fulfill our request. 37 “What is your request?” he asked them. 37 They said, “grant us to sit one on your left side and the other on your right side in your glory.” 38 Then Jesus said to them, “You don’t understand what you’re asking for. Can you drink the cup that I am drinking or undergo the baptism that I am undergoing?”46 39 They said, “We can.” Then Jesus told them, “You will drink the cup that I am drinking and you will undergo the baptism that I am undergoing, 40 but sitting on my right or on my left isn’t mine to grant; it’s for those appointed to it.”

41 When the ten heard about it they started grumbling about James and John. 42 Then Jesus called and lectured to them, “You know that the so-called rulers of the Gentiles like to boss them and their big men make them feel the weight of their authority over them. 43 That’s not your way; rather, anyone who wants to be “big” among you will be the one who serves your needs. 44 And anyone who wants to be foremost among you will be everyone’s servant. 45 The fact is that the Son of Man didn’t come to be served to but to serve others47 and to give his life as a ransom for many people.48

46 They came to Jericho, and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable throng, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting beside the road. 47 When he heard that this was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David,49 pity me. 48 Then several people told him in no uncertain terms that he should be still, but all the more he would cry out, “Son of David, pity me!” 49 Jesus halted and said, “Call him.” They called the blind man and told him: “Cheer up and get up; he’s calling you.” 50 Then he threw off his coat and jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” To which the blind man replied, “To make me see, Rabbi.” 52 Then Jesus told him, “Go on, your faith has made you whole.” Then right away the man recovered his sight and began to follow him on the road.50

Next Chapter

Mark 8:27-10 Notes

1 The sequence extending from 8:27 through the whole of chapter 10 focuses ever more sharply upon Jesus’ nature and destiny as well as upon the nature and destiny of true disciples of Jesus as the master and his entourage move onwards to Jerusalem. While other aspects of Jesus’ ministry continue to be narrated, the sequence is discernibly punctuated, as has been shown by Norman Perrin, by three parallel cycles of successive episodes including (1) pointed predictions by Jesus of his forthcoming arrest, execution, and resurrection (8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34), (2) ensuing demonstrations by one or more disciples that they have wholly failed to understand what Jesus has told them of his destiny and their own (8:32-33, 9:33-34, 10:35-40, (3) expositions by Jesus to the disciples and the entourage regarding the nature of discipleship and its costs (8:33-9:1; 9:35-37; 10:41-45). At the end of this sequence, Jesus is ready to enter into Jerusalem.

2 The question put by Jesus to his disciples and their varied responses clearly and deliberately echo those raised by public opinion and Herod Antipas in 6:14-16.

3 Now the question is whether the disciples are any more perceptive than others offering hypothetical answers. While the response of Peter may indeed reflect the fact that Simon Peter first identified Jesus as the Messiah, Mark seems throughout the present sequence and the remainder of the gospel to portray Peter fundamentally as the spokesperson for the disciples and their understanding of Jesus’ identity and of their own roles.

4 Jesus’ Messianic identity: There is only one clear reference to himself as “Messiah” by Jesus in Mark’s gospel: 9:41, “Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink on grounds that you belong to Messiah, …” Elsewhere this name is in Mark’s title (1;1, “Beginning of the gospel of Jesus Messiah …”), is used by the High Priest accusatorily (14:61, by scoffers at the crucifixion (15:32), and in a cryptic controversy formulation about scribes equation of the Messiah with the Son of David (12:35). While Jesus has been recognized as “the Holy One of God” by a demon in 1:24, is called “Son of God” by demons in 3:11 and 5:7, and is addressed by the blind beggar, Bartimaeus of Jericho, as “Son of David,” in almost every such instance Jesus has strictly charged those so addressing him not to reveal his identity. And so here too, Jesus commands his disciples not to express publicly the fact that he does not disclaim this title. The fact is, however, that Jesus clearly prefers to speak of himself publicly as “Son of Man”–in two instances as one holding authority to forgive sins on earth (2:10) and to declare the true nature of the Sabbath (2:28), in nine instances as the Suffering Servant whose destiny is arrest, humiliation, execution, resurrection, and return to establish the Reign of God (8:31, 8:38, 9:9, 9:12, 10:33, 10:45, 13:26, 14:41, 14:62). It may be that Jesus prefers not to be acclaimed as “Messiah” because that title implies political claims of authority that could be misleading insofar as he renounces the use of divine power in the face of the opposing authorities. At any rate, the episode immediately following this demonstrates clearly that Peter’s identiication of Jesus as Messiah by no means implies that Peter understands who Jesus really is or what his destiny is.

5 This is the first of three predictions by Jesus of his destiny in Jerusalem; the others are at 9:31 and 10:33-34. Here the items are explicit: great suffering, trial by the Sanhedrin (indicated by naming the three constituent groups), execution, and resurrection.

6 This brief comment clearly indicates that the evangelist allows no possibility of Jesus being misunderstood: “repeatedly” is here implicit in the imperfect tense of the Greek verb ἐλάλει, “in all candor” by the adverb παρρησίᾳ.

7 “started scolding”: while there’s no indication of what precisely Peter may have said, Jesus’ response makes it clear that Peter (a) has no doubt that the title Jesus used in the prediction, “Son of Man,” must refer to Jesus himself, whom Peter has just identified as “Messiah,” and (b) cannot accept the notion that the Messiah/Son of Man should suffer such humiliation and death, even if the sequence culminates in resurrection.

8 That Jesus should explicitly discern in Peter’s perspective a Satanic temptation surely throws light backwards upon the Temptation narrative of Chapter 1 where Jesus, driven by the Spirit to the wilderness immediately after experiencing his entitlement as God’s anointed (1:9-13) as well as forwards upon the Temptation scene in Gethsemane (14:32-42): Jesus’ acceptance of his designation as God’s anointed implies acceptance of his execution; the ordeal or test is a test of his faithfulness when Satan challenges him to suppose that he can avoid his doom.

9 That Jesus looks at all the disciples as he speaks these words to Peter would seem to indicate that he suspects or discerns that Peter has voiced aloud to Jesus what all of them thought, and for that reason the rebuke addressed to Peter applies in fact to them all. And that is why he immediately summons his entire entourage and expands upon the implications of his death-doomed Messiahship for what being his disciple implies.

10 Discipleship is characterized in the dominical dictum as an ineluctable emulation of Jesus’ doom; aorist imperatives (ἀπαρνησάσθω, ἀράτω) point to the total commitment of the disciples to self-abnegation and the certain peril of execution, while the present imperative (ἀκολουθείτω) underscores the need for unrelenting persistence on the course once accepted.

11 The phrases “hold on to life” (ψυχὴν σῶσαι) and “lose life” (ἀπολέσαι ψυχήν) are difficult to translate in a way that conveys their simultaneous literal and figurative senses in this paradoxical statement. “Hold on to life” means something like “attempt to elude death” while “lose life” means “waste, squander, make fruitless”; in the second sense, “lose life”-for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s-means “accept martyrdom, one’s death as a testimony to commitment to Jesus and the gospel,” while “hold on to life” means “keep one’s selfhood intact so as to preserve one’s integrity and also to gain resurrection with Jesus.

12 Now the antithesis is phrased more directly in eschatological terms: the alternatives confronted by the would-be disciple involve respectively (a) avoidance of suffering and death (ψυχὴν σῶσαι) or (b) faithful martyrdom in this world-age (ἀπολέσαι ψυχήν) and (b) rejection by Jesus as Son of Man at his return or (a) acknowledgement as one who will participate in the world-age-to-come.

13 More clearly than anywhere else in this gospel, the imminence of the Eschaton is stated: it will come within the lifetime of some who are hearing the prophecy. The precise language underscores the implications so that there is here, as in Jesus’ passion-prediction of a few verses above, no missing the time reference: the perfect participle ἐληλυθυῖαν indicates the Eschaton as a fait accompli.

14 While it can hardly be doubted that this temporal reference was intended by the author to convey a clear meaning to his readers, its precise meaning is no longer transparent to readers now, nor is it useful, in my opinion, to speculate regarding it. It is perhaps worth noting what is perhaps obvious, however: that this narrative, like that of the baptismal and temptation in chapter 1, describes a happening that transcends the ordinary space-time dimensions of the Marcan narrative sequence.

15 In this instance Andrew is missing from the “inner circle” of Jesus’ disciples; cf. 5:37, 14:33; all four are present for the “apocalyptic discourse” at 13:3.

16 The evangelist apparently intends the reader to understand the state of Jesus here as glorified in a transcendent setting wherein Elijah and Moses are also present; while Peter and James and John perceive the other two, they quite clearly do not understand what is happening: to be sure, only Peter speaks, but surely he expresses the bewilderment of the other disciples as well.

17 Unquestionably readers are intended to recall the narrative of Jesus’ baptism in 1:11; there the experience of divine acknowledgement of Jesus’ status was Jesus’ alone; here the “inner circle” of disciples are made privy to the divine acknowledgement and explicitly told to pay heed to Jesus’ authoritative utterances. It is hardly coincidental that this follows immediately upon the narrative of the discussion of Jesus’ identity and his pronouncements on that occasion in chapter 8:27-9:1.

18 While this is similar to earlier instances of the so-called “Messianic secret” in that silence regarding Jesus’ Messianic identity is enjoined, there is the new element that a terminal point is indicated for revelation of the secret and of the event that these disciples have just witnessed: it is only after the resurrection of Jesus that his Messianic identity is to be publicly revealed.

19 Despite Jesus’ previous explicit prophecy of the resurrection of the Son of Man (8:31), it is clear that there is no more understanding on the part of Peter and the others now than there was at that time. They are evidently cognizant of a tradition invoked by the scribes that the prophet Elijah will reappear before the end-time, but they clearly do not understand what that means.

20 Although Jesus does not make explicit to whom he is referring when he speaks thus of Elijah, the evangelist clearly intends the reader to understand these words as spoken of the appearance and fate of John the Baptist as narrated earlier in chapters 1 and 6.

21 Evidently the appellation, “untrusting generation” (γενεὰ ἄπιστος), is addressed specifically to the disciples who could not exorcise the mute spirit; their failure to do that was consequent upon their failure to trust himself, which is to say, it was another instance of what has already been highlighted in every previous narrative about the disciples, whether of the inner circle or the rest of them: they do not understand the identity of Jesus and do not really have trust in him. This same point is highlighted again in verse 23, below, “anything is possible for one who trusts.”

22 Jesus’ response to the disciples who could not exorcize the spirit should be understood in accordance with his earlier castigation of their want of trust. They cannot even pray successfully if they do not trust (cf. 11:19-24, Jesus’ explanation of the withering of the fig-tree that he had cursed earlier in the day).

23 This is the second of the three passion-predictions that punctuate this whole narrative sequence (cf. note 1 above); as previously the disciples fail to understand what Jesus has said and means, and in this instance they do not even ask questions as they have done when he has spoken “in riddles.”

24The question is evidence of the disciples’ failure to understand what Jesus has attempted to explain to them: that the role of the Son of Man involves humiliation and acceptance of death, and that one who is a disciple of Jesus as Son of Man is to follow in his footsteps and accept the same destiny, a destiny inconsistent with claim to superior status.

25 The phrasing of this dominical saying is comparable to that of the teaching about discipleship following the first passion-prediction, 8:34ff. Here too is sharp eschatological antithesis between exalted status in the age-to-come and humiliation in this present world-age. Discipleship must involve servanthood, being the one who waits upon everyone.

26While the tradition regarding the child and Jesus’ utterance regarding the child may originally have been independent of the Marcan context, it is clear that Mark intends the reader to discern in the unassuming guilelessness of the child the stance appropriate to a disciple-the stance that he himself assumes and that his followers ought also to assume: the child’s opennesss to God is exactly the stance expected of a disciple as it is the stance exemplified by Jesus.

27While on the surface it might appear that the focus has shifted to a new topic or to several disparate sayings, this is actually a continuation of the discussion of discipleship that began with 9:33. What Jesus asserts here is wholly consistent with what has been noted earlier about the difficulty of distinguishing “insiders” and “outsiders” in the “household” of Jesus (cf. 3:5-31 and notes there, also 4:10-13 and notes there). While one might wish to interpret these sayings in terms of what can be known about distinct sectarian groups claiming commitment to Jesus at the time of this gospel’s composition, there is scarcely sufficient evidence to draw significant conclusions. What does seem evident is that this evangelist readily accepts that there may be believers committed to and acting in the name of Christ who are not associated with the Twelve or with the entourage ordinarily associated with him.

28Verses 41-42 develop further the theme that those who are authentically committed to Christ are “little ones who believe” (τῶν μικρῶν τῶν πιστευόντων) who should be welcomed even as himself (cf. 9:37 above), with the addition that discipleship necessarily involves a sensitivity to those who, whether recognized as such or not, may be members of the “household” of Christ.

29While it would be methodologically wrong to let Matthew’s usage of verses 43-48 influence our understanding of how the verses are to be understood in the Marcan context, it is worth noting that Matthew too places these verses in the context of relationships between believers. The recurrent verb in verses 42-48 is σκανδαλίζω, which literally means “cause to stumble” and that’s the way it has been translated in verse 42; in verses 43-48 it has been translated as “cause to sin.” How can hand, foot, and eye “cause one to sin?” No doubt it can be readily shown how these verses have a validity in a literal sense, but the context seems to require them to be understood in a broader sense to refer to distinctive behavioral patterns that are disruptive of relationships with other members of the “household” of Christ. In my own judgment, the focus in these verses is very close to that of Paul ‘s discussion of “food offered to idols” in 1 Cor 8 and 10 and of how tastes and scruples in eating, drinking, etc. may upset relationships between believers.

30 The discourse concludes with the saying on “salt,” which must here refer to the temperament that disciples must sustain as they interact with each other and with others who are committed to Christ. All this is set in the context of eschatological testing that lies ahead for everyone who claims to be an authentic disciple; that is consistent with what has been said in 8:34-9:1 of those who would “follow the course” of Jesus, but the focus in the present discourse is specifically upon the temperament to be sustained by believers toward others who belong to the “household” of Jesus.

31Presumably, although the evangelist does not say so explicitly, this continues the sequence of questions posed to Jesus by Pharisees (2:16, 18, 24; 3:6; 7:1, 3, 5; 8:11, 15); there will be more questions put to him in Jerusalem (12:13) in controversies engineered to demonstrate that Jesus’ teaching and practice are counter to the Mosaic law.

32In the present instance, although it may appear that Jesus rejects the Mosaic teaching, in fact he contrasts God’s will regarding marital union of the sexes with human perversity accommodated by the Mosaic legislation. In view of the fact that he looks to the imminent coming of God’s reign, one should probably be wary of supposing that Mark views Jesus’ response here as establishing an ordinance regarding marriage.

33Once again the disciples require further instruction if they are to understand what Jesus has said publicly; the evangelist probably adds this little narrative episode not so much to clarify that teaching of Jesus in response to the Pharisaic question as to underscore once again the obtuseness of the disciples: they hear what Jesus says, but do not understand it (4:12, 8:17, 21).

34 Noteworthy here is that in Mark’s narrative Jesus’ perspective on marriage and divorce extends beyond Jewish practice to divorce and remarriage initiated by the woman.

35See 9:33-37 and note 27 there. What should be noted is that the disciples’ behavior regarding the children reveals that they failed to understand what Jesus said about them even so recently.

36“a man” (Greek ei{j, hEIS, here used in the same sense as the indefinite pronoun tiw, for which see BDAG, ei{j 3.

37What does Jesus imply with this question and comment? Probably there is more than one aspect here: (a) he is not to be understood primarily as a rabbi or moral preceptor; although he is discerned as teaching authoritatively in distinction from the scribes, he has publicly disclaimed Messianic titles, warning even his disciples against revealing his identity, and in reference to himself before the disciples he has clearly indicated his preference for the title, “Son of Man,” thereby evidently stressing his role as the one who will be humiliated, executed, and rise again; (b) in the narrative shortly prior to this Jesus distinguished between the will of God regarding marital union and stubborn human nature (sklhrokard¤a 10:35 and see note 32 above).

38This narrative comment, “and loved him,” has been noted and interpreted variously. I believe that Mark’s narrative comment is intended to convey not simply esteem for the human creature but rather admiration for this unnamed man’s discernment that “making eternal life one’s lot” is not simply a matter of observance of the commandments (cf. BDAG, ἀγαπάω, 2. “to have high esteem for or satisfaction with something, take pleasure in.”

39Essentially the bidding of Jesus here is not different from what was presented to the first four disciples in chapter 1: “Follow me,” it being implicit that all else that is part of one’s prior existence is abandoned; that much, at least, the first four did understand (cf. 1:16-20 and notes 30 and 32 there. Here, however, the implications of “leaving everything behind” (πάντα ἐφεῖναι, 1:18, 20, 10:28) are spelled out in terms suited to this man’s wealth. The reader must grasp the function of this episode as opening the way for the teaching of Jesus that follows immediately regarding the implications of following Jesus for one’s existence in this world and in the age to come–and the reader should also grasp the centrality of this teaching to the entire narrative sequence of 8:27-10:52 with its broad focus upon the identity of Jesus and the implications for the nature of discipleship.

40While the comment on wealth as an impediment to entrance into God’s realm (and following Jesus) has been indicated previously (cf. the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower, 4:19 ” but current concerns and the lure of riches and desires for everything else come in and choke off the message and it goes fruitless.”), the reader should discern all aspects of the linkage with the immediately preceding narrative, including (a) Jesus’ implicit stress on the goodness of God as opposed to human perversity, (b) the degree of discernment in Jesus’ wealthy interlocutor that entrance into God’s realm means more than observance of commandments, and (c) that God’s goodness can and does indeed outweigh human perversity.

41This is a still more exhaustive definition of “leaving everything behind” (cf. note 39 above) than any offered previously, befitting the more exhaustive commentary on the nature of discipleship constituting this entire narrative sequence.

42Are these two terms, “for my sake” and “for the gospel’s sake” synonymous or redundant? Surely the evangelist intended to make an implication clear by adding the latter term: what is pointed to thereby is what was only hinted at in the original invitation of Jesus to Peter and Andrew in 1:16 “Come after me, and I’ll make you become fishers of human beings,” but will be spelled out in detail in the apocalyptic discourse, 13:9-13: as John the Baptist and Jesus himself must proclaim the gospel and face execution for its sake, so must that be the expectation of those who would follow Jesus.

43As verse 29 spelled out exhaustively the meaning of the recurrent phrase, “leaving everything behind,” so this formulation spells out exhaustively the meaning of what Jesus said more cryptically in 3:31-35 regarding Jesus’ real family and in the parable of the house of the strong man immediately preceding that. The additional item, “along with persecution now” spells out the implications of “and for the gospel’s sake.”

44The dominical saying that is used in so many different contexts as a sort of “punch-line” to teaching passages should be understood in this immediate context as anticipating the discourse on hierarchy that follows the request of James and John (10:35-45).

45This is the third and final of Jesus’ passion predictions; see note 1 above; while it is difficult to see how any of the three passion predictions could have been misunderstood, this one is more explicit than either of those preceding it, and it is misunderstood all the more egregiously by James and John, who in the episode to follow are surely voicing an attitude and expectation that all of the Twelve share.

46 “drink the cup undergo the baptism “: As the cup in the Gethsemane narrative (14: 36) already carries the implication of acceptance of execution, so must we also understand that baptism, as in the teaching of Paul (Rom 6:3), carries the very same implication. Jesus asks the two disciples if they are able to do this, but it seems evident that they do not understand the implication, inasmuch as they look toward the glorious age-to-come and a kingship of Jesus, the high privilege of which they wish to share. In his response Jesus indicates that in time James and John will come to accept execution for the sake of Jesus and the gospel, but privileges in the age-to-come are not and cannot be his own or the disciples’ concern at this point in their respective destinies.

47The grumbling of the other ten disciples at the request of James and John surely implies that they have shared the same hopes of authority and privilege as have the sons of Zebedee. It may be that Mark is cognizant of the tradition found in Mt 19:28 and Lk 22:30, that the twelve are to sit in judgment upon the twelve tribes of Israel when the Son of Man sits on his throne of glory, but if he does know that tradition, he would seem here to be discouraging any expectations of such authority and status; rather Jesus here chooses to underscore the servant status of himself as Son of Man in this world age and to urge servanthood and subordination upon the disciples as well as the only appropriate status at which they should aim.

48give his life as a ransom for many people”: cf. 14:24, Jesus’ word over the cup of wine as “my blood of the covenant, poured out for many people.”

49Blind Bartimaeus of Jericho is the only figure in Mark’s gospel to address Jesus with the Messianic title of “Son of David.” Although Jesus responds to this address and this call for mercy, he will question the propriety of this designation for the Messiah in 12:35-37 as he teaches in the Temple precinct.

50On the surface this episode would appear to be no more than an additional report of a healing miracle performed by Jesus, but in view of the fact that this entire sequence has focused upon Jesus’ teaching about the identity and nature of the Messiah as well as of true discipliship and upon the utter failure of the disciples to understand this teaching, we must wonder whether this healing of a blind man is not intended by the evangelist to bear the same sense as the healing of a blind man at the end of the previous sequence (see 8:22-26 and note 40 there). If this is so, then it indicates that there is still hope for the blindness of the disciples to be healed, even as Jesus has indicated to James and John that they would drink his cup and undergo his own baptism. Thus the sequence telling of the journey to Jerusalem, the repeated predictions by Jesus of his coming suffering and execution and the repeated demonstrations by disciples that they have not understood what Jesus has been teaching them nevertheless ends with a hopeful sign that Jesus can and does indeed heal human blindness.