New Testament in Review: Mark 9-16
Thank you for coming back to read more of this series, The New Testament in Review.
So we’ve seen some of Jesus’s humanity coming through. He’s made mistakes, not known things that one would assume God would know. And he is getting crabby. Damned crabby. And it isn’t just with the Pharisees, which is who we would expect. Jesus is getting very crabby with his Disciples, too, which always makes for enjoyable reading.
In my previous entry, we found that Mark really isn’t all that interested in chronicling what Jesus said. Instead, he is focusing – sometimes in scary detail – the miracles that Jesus performed. Mark is very much a fan of “Show it, don’t tell it.” So we have a Jesus who doesn’t speak very much and gets crabby with his disciples while putting on a brave face and healing the wounded and possessed.
Apparently Matthew and Mark were smoking the same dope that made them see Moses and Elijah chatting with a glowing, dazzling white Jesus. Do all the gospels have this same story? Is it possible this was a group hypnosis-type deal? Or that someone said “hey, you’ll never believe what I saw!” and the Gospel authors just picked up on it? It’s odd, because I don’t remember anything in the Old Testament that said Moses nor Eligja would be raised from the dead. Did I miss it? Jesus says that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated, or something like that. I say: “Damn, that was some awesome grass y’all were smoking. Do you have some left over?”
Jesus continues to get crabbier and crabbier. In verse 19, Jesus starts slagging on the gathered followers: “You unbelieving generation! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you?” Jesus said this in response to another miracle: the Disciples weren’t able to drive out an unclean spirit from a young boy, so the father asked if Jesus could. The “unclean spirit” actually sounds like epilepsy: “Whenever it brings on a seizure, it throws him to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes stiff.” (v. 18) Which isn’t a slight: curing epilepsy is still pretty damned impressive.
Jesus continues to be snippy with most everyone. He rebukes the Pharisees (no big surprise there), but also his Disciples (“Jesus saw this, he became furious and told them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and stop keeping them away.'”) At least the children still made Jesus happy, and brought out the sweetness in Jesus again as he gently blessed the children.
Jesus packs up and leads a caravan – including his Disciples and those who follow Christ’s teachings – and head towards Jerusalem. On the way, Jesus tells his Disciples the fate awaiting him. James and John say that they will join him, if they can sit at his left and right hands in heaven. In Matthew, it is the mother of James and John who makes this request. Interesting that it is J&J directly here… Either way, there’s definitely a power struggle going on with the Disciples.
The caravan is close to Jerusalem now, but Jesus wants to ride instead of walk into the city. I think this was to fulfill a prophecy. You know, I gave Matthew a lot of grief for trying to shoehorn Jesus’s life into the existing prophecies. But Chris has been doing a lot of that himself. He could have walked into the city, but he chose to ride to fulfill the prophecy. That seems to be cheating a bit. Or maybe I am being too cynical. Again.
On the road into Jerusalem, Jesus got very hungry. He went up to a fig tree, but there were no figs on it. It wasn’t fig season, so one normally wouldn’t expect there to be figs. But this angered Jesus, and he cursed the fig tree. The tree withered and died. All for not having fruit in the time of the year that it isn’t supposed to have fruit. Jesus definitely had his unreasonable moments.
The fig tree was unreasonable, but also showed Jesus’s mood. At this point, Jesus is so filled with anger that he cannot hold it in anymore. The fig tree felt his wrath. As did those in the temple who were selling and buying (we all know that story). In his Gospel, Matthew explained why Jesus had gotten to this point. In Mark, Jesus has only said that he will be betrayed and killed. Mark has not shown the grief nor emotional turmoil Jesus has gone through. This is a huge difference in what the author’s of each gospel are trying to convey. Matthew wanted to paint Christ as human, with all of the emotions and fears and worries that come with being human. Mark wanted to show a Christ who is otherworldly, who is above normal humans and is annoyed by human frailty. Matthew’s Jesus is soft and caring, Mark’s is hard and cold, almost uncaring (except towards children).
In Mark, the Pharisees also played a slightly different role. Chapter 12 shows the same attempts to trap Jesus as are shown in Matthew. However, in this chapter the Pharisees are not necessarily unified, and need help from Herodians as well as Sadducees. One of the scribes present actually commends Jesus, saying:
Well said, Teacher! You have told the truth that ‘God is one, and there is no other besides him.’ To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Jesus continues to be cranky. One of the disciples comment on how beautiful the buildings in Jerusalem were. Christ’s answer: “Do you see these large buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another that will not be torn down.” Mark doesn’t record it, but I am sure the disciple said something along the lines of, “well, okay Mr. Crabby Pants.”
Jesus then describes what the end of the earth and his return will be like. This is much the same as in Matthew. He also gives a warning about what the disciples will be soon to suffer, including “you will be beaten in their synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings to testify to them because of me.” However, the disciples needn’t worry what to say, because “it won’t be you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Sounds like a good idea to me!
It’s Passover time, which means the end is nigh. Events here are pretty much exactly like in Matthew, with very minor exceptions. And one very weird exception. It’s just two verses (51-52), so I’ll quote it here in full: “A certain young man was following Jesus. He was wearing nothing but a linen sheet. They grabbed him, but he left the linen sheet behind and ran away naked.”
This is Mark’s view of the trial, verdict, death sentence and crucifiction. Mark also give a slightly-emotionless recount of what happened, but since the rest of Mark’s gospel is also slightly-emotionless, this seems right. Pilate goes out of his way to try and save Jesus, which is especially hard because Christ won’t speak a word in his own defense, and the Pharisees have whipped the crowd into a blood-thirsty mob. An example of Pilate’s attempt to save Jesus is when Pilate implores Jesus, “Don’t you have any answer? Look how many accusations they’re bringing against you!”
The torture of Jesus is pretty much exactly like in Matthew. Mark is rather detail-oriented: Jesus was crucified at 9:00 in the morning, the sky was darkened at noon (was there an eclipse then? Or just some poetic license?). The darkness lasted ’til 3:00pm, which is also when Jesus gave his last cry, then died.
Matthew seemed to completely ignore Mary Magdalene. Jealousy? Mark calls her by name as one of the people there when Jesus died, and when his body was laid in the tomb. I haven’t read ahead yet, but I’ll bet you a dollar that she is one of the first to see Jesus when Jesus is resurrected. I am thinking that Jesus and Mary were a bit more than friends – I have no problems accepting the idea that they were man and wife, actually. That’d definitely explain why Mary was there right up util the very end.
First thing’s first: You owe me a dollar. Mary Magdalene is definitely at the tomb when Jesus is resurrected. Well, within a few minutes of him being resurrected. When she gets there, Jesus has gone somewhere else, but an angel tells Mary that Jesus is back. He sends her to find the 11 (since Judas killed himself), but especially Peter, for some reason. Why exactly did Jesus like Peter so much? I think there must’ve been something else that I missed.
Oh, here’s something I didn’t know, though I am a moron for not making the connection: Jesus rose on the first day of the week! Hence Easter Sunday. But now either I am miscounting, or something is out-of-whack. If Christ died on a Friday afternoon and came back from the dead three days later, wouldn’t that be Monday? My brain hurts trying to figure this out. I mean literally hurts. I must have a headache…
Anyway, the first person that Jesus seeks out once he is physically back is Mary Magdalene. Which strongly hints at the very least that she Mary is Jesus’s favorite follower. If I were raised from the dead, my wife is the very first person I would want to say. I’m just saying.
Mary tells the 11 that Christ is risen, and they immediately disbelieve her. And really, how could that not be expected? Back in the early A.D.’s, women were looked down upon. They had no place in the temple, and no place among the disciples. When Jesus finally appears to the disciples, he basically tells them “Hey, listen to Mary next time, you fools!” Then he sends the disciples on to preach and heal in his name. And that is his last work on earth; Christ then ascends into the heavens.
New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Monday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.