Gospel of Mark Commentary

Gospel of Mark

I. Jesus comes preaching the Kingdom (1: 1-3:6)

A. Introduction to Jesus’ ministry: John the Baptist (1:1-15)

“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”  ~ Mark 1:1

Hilary, de Trin., iii, 11: He has testified, that Christ was the Son of God, not in name only, but by His own proper nature. We are the sons of God, but He is not a son as we are; for He is the very and proper Son, by origin, not by adoption; in truth, not in name; by birth, not by creation

“And after that John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying: The time is accomplished, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”Mark 1: 14-15

–> God used John the Baptist’s imprisonment bring forth Jesus’ true purpose in life – to teach the Gospel of God. This is another example of God using an evil act to bring forth a greater good.

–> As if he were to say: To this day the Mosaic law has been in full force, but henceforth the evangelical law shall be preached; which law is not undeservedly compared to the kingdom of God. Theophy. — Repent, therefore, says our Saviour, and believe the gospel; for if you believe not, you shall not understand; repent, therefore, and believe. What advantage is it to believe with good works? the merit of good works will not bring us to faith, but faith is the beginning of good works.  — St. Jerome, from Haydock’s Bible Commentary.

B. Calling of the disciples and Jesus’ powerful deeds (1:16-45)

And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.”Mark 1: 23-24

–> The Greek text has here the same as in Luke iv. 34, Let us alone. V. —I know who thou art. It is a common opinion, that the devil did not know for certain that Jesus was the true Son of God. Yet S. Mark’s words, both in this and v. 34, seem to signify he did know it. – Haydock’s Bible Commentary.

 And he saith to him: See thou tell no one; but go, shew thyself to the high priest, and offer for thy cleansing the things that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them. Mark 1:44

–> It was not the intention of Christ, that he should not tell any body; had that been his wish, he would easily have realized it: he spoke thus purposely, to shew us that we ought not to seek the empty praises of men. He bade him also offer the sacrifices prescribed, because the law remained in full force till the passion of Christ, in which was offered a perfect sacrifice, that did away with all the legal sacrifices. Nic. de Lyra.

C. Controversies with religious authorities (2:1-3:6)

“Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?  But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” Mark 2: 9-11

–>The Son of man. Jesus Christ here proveth that himself as man, and not as God only, hath power to forgive sins; by this, that he was able to do miracles, and make the sick man suddenly rise; so the apostles and their successors, though they be not God, may in like manner have authority from God to remit sins, not as God, but as God’s ministers, and acting in his name, and vested with his delegated authority. — On earth. This power which the Son of man hath to remit sins on earth, was never taken from him, but is perpetuated in his sacraments and ministers, by whom he still remitteth sins in the Church, and not in heaven only. Relative to sin, there is one court of conscience on earth, and another in heaven, and the judgment of heaven followeth and approveth this on earth; as is plain by the words of our Saviour, to Peter first, and then to all the apostles: Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall by bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. See Matt. xvi. 19. and xviii. 18. Whereupon S. Jerom sayeth: that priests having the keys of the kingdom of heaven, judge in some manner before the day of judgment. Ep. v. ad Heliod; and S. Chrys. more at large, l. iii. de Sacerd.

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  – Mark 2:17


“No man seweth a piece of raw cloth to an old garment: otherwise the new piecing taketh away from the old, and there is made a greater rent. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: otherwise the wine will burst the bottles, and both the wine will be spilled, and the bottles will be lost. But new wine must be put into new bottles. And it came to pass again, as the Lord walked through the corn fields on the sabbath, that his disciples began to go forward, and to pluck the ears of corn.” –  Mark 2: 21-23


II. Teaching and healing around the Sea of Galilee (3:7-6:6a) 

A. Reaction to Jesus: Who are the true relatives (3:7-35)

Amen I say to you, that all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and the blasphemies wherewith they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin. Mark 3: 28-29

–> See S. Matt. xii. 32. — Of an everlasting sin; i.e. of eternal punishment. Wi. — What is here called everlasting offence, is (as S. Matt. expresseth it) that which shall neither be remitted in this life, nor in the life to come; which words would not be true, says S. Austin, if some sins were not forgiven in the world to come. Now, as no mortal sin can be forgiven after death, there must necessarily be smaller transgressions, which we call venial; though many of our separated brethren will needs have all sins to be mortal; which is very far from a comfortable tenet.

And answering them, he said: Who is my mother and my brethren? And looking round about on them who sat about him, he saith: Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of God, he is my brother, and my sister, and mother.Mark 3: 33-35

Our Lord does not refuse to go out through any, the least, inattention to his mother; he wishes hereby, to teach us the preference we should give to the business of our heavenly Father, before that of our earthly parents. Neither does he consider his brethren as beneath his attention, but prefers spiritual before temporal duties; and shews us, that a religious union of hearts and feelings is far more lasting, and better rooted than any other ties of affinity or friendship whatsoever. Ven. Bede.

B. Disciples hear the parables (4:1-34)

“Hear ye: Behold, the sower went out to sow. And whilst he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate it up. And other some fell upon stony ground, where it had not much earth; and it shot up immediately, because it had no depth of earth. And when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And some fell upon good ground; and brought forth fruit that grew up, and increased and yielded, one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred.”  – Mark 4: 3-8

“He that soweth, soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown, and as soon as they have heard, immediately Satan cometh and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these likewise are they that are sown on the stony ground: who when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but are only for a time: and then when tribulation and persecution ariseth for the word they are presently scandalized. And others there are who are sown among thorns: these are they that hear the word, And the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts after other things entering in choke the word, and it is made fruitless. And these are they who are sown upon the good ground, who hear the word, and receive it, and yield fruit, the one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred.”  – Mark 4: 14-20

For she said: If I shall touch but his garment, I shall be whole. – Mark 5:28

–> Touch his garment. Almighty God is pleased to give occasionally to the relics and clothes of his pious and faithful servants, a degree of virtue. See Acts v, and xix, where the very shadow of S. Peter, and the handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched the body of S. Paul, and were brought to the sick, cured their diseases, and banished the wicked spirits. See S. Chrysostom, T. 5. contra Gent. in vit. Babylœ. S. Basil saith: “he that toucheth the bone of a martyr, receiveth in some degree holiness of the grace or virtue that is therein. Bas. in Psalm cxv.

And immediately Jesus knowing in himself the virtue that had proceeded from him, turning to the multitude, said: Who hath touched my garments?Mark 5:30

–> Virtue that hath proceeded from him. Virtue to heal this woman’s malady proceeded from Christ, though she touched but his coat: so when the saints by their relics and garments perform miracles, the grace and force thereof cometh from our Saviour; they being but the means of instruments of the same. B

C. Miracles of Jesus (4:35-5:43)

   i) Calmed the sea in the boat with the disciples.

   ii) Rebuked the man possessed with a “legion” of demons, who were sent into a herd of swine.

   iii) Woman touched his garment & was healed.

   iv) Jarius, a leader in the synagogue, daughter was raised from the dead.

D. Rejection at Nazareth (6:1-6a)

” And Jesus said to them: A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and in his own house, and among his own kindred.” Mark 6:4

III. Second cycle of teaching and powerful deeds (6:6b-8:21)

A. Sending out of the disciples/death of John the Baptist (6:6b-30)

B. Feeding, walking on water, healing (6:31-56)

C. Controversies over keeping the traditions (7:1-23)

And in vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines and precepts of men.” Mark 7:7

–> See the annotations Matt. xv. 9, 11. It is groundless to pretend from this text, that the precepts and traditions of the Church are not binding and obligatory, for Christ himself has commanded all to hear his Church, and obey their lawful pastors. These indeed may be called the precepts of men, but they are precepts of men invested with power and authority from God, and of whom Christ himself said, (Luke x. 16.) He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me.

“There is nothing from without a man that entering into him, can defile him. But the things which come from a man, those are they that defile a man.” Mark 7:15

D. Healings, feeding (7:24-8:10)

E. Demand for a sign: the “leaven” of the Pharisees (8:11-21)

“When also the seven loaves among four thousand, how many baskets of fragments took you up? And they say to him, Seven.” –  Mark 8: 20

IV. Discipleship: seeing and following (8:22-10:52)

A. Healing the blind (8:22-26)

B. Jesus is “messiah”; first passion prediction; discipleship means suffering (8:27-9:1)

“Then he saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Peter answering said to him: Thou art the Christ.” –  Mark 8:29

“And calling the multitude together with his disciples, he said to them: If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel, shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”  – Mark 8: 35-37

C. Transfiguration; disciples fail to heal; second passion prediction (9:2-37)

“And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”Mark 9:28

 “And sitting down, he called the twelve, and saith to them: If any man desire to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the minister of all.”  – Mark 9:34

D. Dispute over greatness / beware of temptation (9:38-50)

E. True discipleship: marriage, children, wealth (10: 1-31)

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing. And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her.” –  Mark 10: 9-11

“And Jesus looking on him, loved him, and said to him: One thing is wanting unto thee: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”Mark 10:21

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  – Mark 10:25

“Jesus answering, said: Amen I say to you, there is no man who hath left house or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, Who shall not receive an hundred times as much, now in this time; houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions: and in the world to come life everlasting.”Mark 10: 29-30

F. Third passion prediction / dispute over greatness (10:32-45)

“And they said: Grant to us, that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.”Mark 10:37

G. Healing the blind (10:46-52)

V. Jesus comes to Jerusalem as messianic king (11:1-13:37)

A. Entry to Jerusalem / cursing of the fig tree / cleansing the temple (11:1-25)

B. Controversies with religious authorities / parable of the wicked tenants (11:26-12:44)

And they say to him: By what authority dost thou these things? and who hath given thee this authority that thou shouldst do these things? – Mark 11:28

–> “It was a reasonable demand,” says Dr. Barrow, “which was made to our Saviour: tell us by what authority thou doest these things, and who hath given thee this authority. The reasonableness of it our Lord did often avow, declaring, that if by his doctrine and works he had not vouched the divinity of his authority, it had been no sin to disbelieve or reject him.” John v. 31, 36. x. 25, 37. and xv. 22, 24. Dr. Barrow on Supremacy, p. 49. — This principle, which supposes in pastors the necessity of a lawful mission, was formerly, and may still be, triumphantly urged against Luther, Calvin, Tindal, Cranmer, and all the first pretended Reformers of the Catholic Church. For whence, said the Catholics, did these innovators derive their mission? Who sent them to preach? Who gave them authority to reform and alter the whole state of God’s Church? Let them shew their commission for this purpose, eitherordinary or extraordinary. Unless they can do this, we have nothing to do with usurpers and intruders. . . . . If it be pretended that they hadextraordinary mission, immediately derived from God, why did they not shew their credentials, stamped with the broad seal of heaven; that is, why did they not by clear and evident miracles, such as Christ and his apostles wrought, attest their being thus extraordinarily commissioned for the extraordinary work of the Reformation? Without such proofs as these, no pretensions to an extraordinary mission, in opposition to the ordinary Church authority, can be admitted. Otherwise every fanatic or enthusiast, following his own caprice, may pretend to a call from heaven; and, upon this foolish plea, preach up his own dreams for the pure word of God, in contempt of all authority, whether of Church or State. If it be said that the missions of the first reformers were ordinary, and derived to them by the ministry of men, it behoves them to point out what men these were from whom they received this ordinary power. Were they Catholics or Protestants? Not Protestants, for they cannot name any such who commissioned them to preach; not Catholics, because the religion which Luther and his reforming brethren endeavoured to propagate, was a new religion, directly opposite to that of Catholics, and therefore could not be taught, in virtue of any commission from Catholics. And how can they preach unless they be sent? Rom. x. 15. If it be urged that Luther had received his orders in the Catholic Church, it is easily answered that this could not authorize him to commence preacher and teacher of another religion, any more than the orders which Mr. Whiston and Mr. Wesley might receive in the Protestant church of England could authorize them to teach a doctrine anathematized by that Church. Rutter.

And he began to speak to them in parables: A certain man planted a vineyard and made a hedge about it, and dug a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it to husbandmen; and went into a far country. Mark 12:1

Under these figurative modes of speech, or parables, Jesus Christ began to trace out for their reflection a true portraiture of their ingratitude, and of the divine vengeance. By this man we are to understand God the Father, whose vineyard was the house of Israel, which he guarded by angels; the place dug for the wine-vat is the law; the tower, the temple; and Moses, the prophets and the priests, whom the Jews afflicted and persecuted are the husbandmen or servants. —  S. Jerome

This parable is thus morally explained: Jesus Christ planted a Church with his own blood, surrounded it with evangelical doctrine, as with a hedge; dug a place for the wine-vat, by the abundance of spiritual graces which he has prepared for his Church; built a tower, by appointing his angels to guard each individual Christian, who are the husbandmen to whom he has let it out. Nic. de Lyra..

“And Jesus answering, said to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.”  – Mark 12:17

Although Christ clearly establishes here the strict obligation of paying to Cæsar what belongs to Cæsar, to the confusion of his very enemies, we shall still find them bringing forward against him the charge of disloyalty, as if he forbade tribute to be paid to Cæsar. Luke xxiii. 2. After the example of her divine Model, the Catholic Church has uniformly taught with S. Paul, the necessity of obeying the powers in being; and this not for fear of their wrath, but for conscience sake. Render to Cæsar the money on which his image is stamped, but render yourselves cheerfully to God; for the light of thy countenance, O Lord, is stamped upon us, (Ps. iv.) and not the image of Cæsar. S. Jerom. — With reason were they astonished at the wisdom of this answer, which eluded all their artifices, and taught them at the same time what they owed to their prince, and what they owed to God: and whoever hopes for the favour of heaven, must conscientiously observe this double duty to God and to the magistrate.

“For when they shall rise again from the dead, they shall neither marry, nor be married, but are as the angels in heaven.”Mark 12:25

And Jesus answering, said, teaching in the temple: How do the scribes say, that Christ is the son of David? For David himself saith by the Holy Ghost: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself calleth him Lord, and whence is he then his son? And a great multitude heard him gladly.  – Mark 12: 35-37

This interrogation of Jesus instructs us how to refute the adversaries of truth; for if any assert that Christ was but a simple and holy man, a mere descendant of the race of David, we will ask them, after the example of Jesus: If Christ be man only, and the Son of David, how does David, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, call him Lord? The Jews were not blamed for calling him the Son of David, but for denying him to be the Son of God. Ven. Bede.

C. How disciples are to react to the coming destruction of Jerusalem / no one know the hour of the parousia (13:1-37)

“And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake. But he that shall endure unto the end, he shall be saved.”Mark 13:13

VI. Jesus’ passion and death (14:1-16:8a)

A. Woman’s anointing / Judas’ betrayal (14:1-11)

” And when he was in Bethania, in the house of Simon the leper, and was at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of precious spikenard: and breaking the alabaster box, she poured it out upon his head.”Mark 14:3

B. Last Supper (14:23-31)

“And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye. This is my body. And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them. And they all drank of it. And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many. Amen I say to you, that I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had said an hymn, they went forth to the mount of Olives.” – Mark 14: 22-26

C. Gethsemane: Jesus’ prayer/arrest (14:32-52)

 And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping. And he saith to Peter: Simon, sleepest thou? couldst thou not watch one hour?Mark 14:37

D. Trials of Jesus (14:53-15:20)

And Jesus said to him: I am. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven. – Mark 14:62

E. Crucifixion / ‘Truly this was the Son of God’ (15:21-41)

F. Burial of Jesus / empty tomb: ‘He has been raised (15:42-16:8a)

And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they come to the sepulchre, the sun being now risen.  Mark 16:2

And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned. Mark 16: 15-16

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