Good morning! It’s hard to believe, but with today’s reading, (Mark 10-11) we are already two thirds of the way through Mark’s gospel. We cover a fair amount of familiar ground here because Matthew used Mark to shape his gospel.
After the touching description of Jesus’ welcome to children in chapter 10, Jesus converses with a rich man about entering eternal life. This man is not described as “young” as in Matthew, but otherwise the stories are much the same. However, I’m struck here by the way Mark leaves a promise at the end: “for God all things are possible.” The cheeky disciples (eager for praise as usual) start to count what it has cost them to follow Jesus. He promises them much more in return, “with persecutions”. I’m not sure what he means by this but I have to think that he’s being tongue-in-cheek to describe the material wealth of following him. The only possible way I can see to take him at face value is if Jesus means that disciples will gain the property and family of the whole Christian community (which held all things in common in the earliest churches). Either way, Jesus returns to a steadfast theme: the first will be last and the last first. Then, proving that he is not above the humble path he calls them to, he again foretells his death and resurrection. Notice that no prediction of his suffering and death comes without the promise of resurrection. This promise through Jesus makes the perils of discipleship easier to bear.
With Mark 11, Jesus enters Jerusalem for his final days. Note that in this telling, Jesus comes on the back of a colt, whereas in Matthew it’s a colt and a donkey! Matthew wants to underscore Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecies, and both animals are mentioned in an earlier messianic verse so both feature in Matthew’s tale. However, we’ve already seen that Mark is less concerned with prophecy fulfillment than Matthew was, and he doesn’t quote the prophets in the same way upon Jesus’ entry into the city. Another difference with Matthew is that the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree is split into two parts here, with the cleansing of the temple in the middle. This is a gospel literary device we’ll see used especially in Luke, whereby what is on the inside of a story sandwich is to be interpreted by what’s on the outside. Mark is effectively saying that the temple is like the fig tree when Jesus first arrives, producing no fruit. Therefore, the temple will be like the fig tree when Jesus leaves, withering away and never giving fruit again. Verse 25 is a remnant that seems out of place; it sounds like it belongs with a section on the Lord’s Prayer, but we don’t get that in Mark (only in Matthew and Luke). Here’s where a Bible that shows the gospel passages in parallels, or at least a study Bible with some good notes, can be especially helpful. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Mark 12-13. Thanks for reading!