These are some of my notes for Sunday, January 10, 2010 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible Series.
Books referenced in these notes are:
1. Gospel of Mark: New International Greek Testament Commentary by R.T. France
4.College Press NIV Commentary: Mark by Allan Black
Earlier opposition tended to come from Jerusalem scribes (3:22, 7:1), but here the Pharisees seem local Galileans, who meet Jesus on His arrival begin to “question/argue/dispute” (Greek root suzeteo) with Him. Their aim is not to learn however, but but to put Him on the spot, in hopes of discrediting Jesus in the people’s eyes, to whom He is as popular as He is unpopular with the Pharisees and Herodians. (France)
What the Pharisees ask Jesus for is a sign, Greek semeion, not generally used in the Synoptic gospels as “miracle” (unlike John’s gospel, where that is its virtual translation). The desired sign, however, is supernatural, for it is to be “from the heaven”. The notion of an authenticating sign for prophets is biblically based. Moses had his share (Ex 4:1-9, 29-31; 7:8-22), as did Elijah (1 Kgs 18:38) and Isaiah (Is 7:10-17;38:7-8). But signs could be done by Evil, too (Ex 7:11-12; Dt 13:1-3; Mk 13:22; 2 Th 2:9; Rev 13:11-15). Here the Pharisees ask for a sign to tempt/test Jesus (Greek peirazo). The Pharisees are presumably asking for a sign such as God opening the heavens and declaring Jesus to be his Son, an unambiguous sign requring no interpretation. There were such signs in Jesus’ ministry: at His baptism (John 1:32-34), the transfiguration (Mark 9:7), and a more largely witnessed heavenly speech before a crowd in Jerusalem during the last week of Jesus’ life (John 12:28-29). (France, College Press)
Notice the double use of “this generation”, which implies Jesus is thinking of more than the Pharisees in front of Him in His complaint against the demand for a proving sign. Indeed many interpreters think that this is an important turning point in Jesus’ mission, where He essentially stops trying to win over the general public in order to focus on completing the training of the disciples.(France)
Sighing deeply: Greek anastenazo, to sigh or groan, usually aloud, but here the addition of “in His spirit” indicates a more internal emotional response.(France)
No sign shall be given: This translates a Semitic idiom, “if a sign be given” literally, the implication being “this will never happen, or else God do something terrible to me”.(France)
Jesus suits His deeds to His words, climbing in the boat and leaving.
The Greek here might well best be translated “they kept on discussing”, since v.14 would seem to indicate that the lack of bread was already being discussed before Jesus made his metaphoric statement. This means that Jesus’ forthcoming rebuke is not only about their lack of understanding of what He has said, but their apparent indifference to Him and His words.(France)
Jesus begins five verses of questions with which He rebukes the disciples. Verse seventeen’s questions might well be rendered“Why are you discussing bread still? Don’t you understand my metaphors yet? Have you become so hardened as to ignore me?”
The use of inoperative senses to describe people’s lack of spiritual awareness is a common theme in the OT. Jesus’ words seem most likely to derive from Is 6:9-10, but His wording is closer to Jer 5:21; Ezk 12:2, and Ps 115:5-6. Is 6:9-10 has already been used to describe the crowds around Jesus in Mark 4:12, and “hardened hearts” of the disciples themselves as an editorial comment in 6:52. Thus Jesus is putting the apostles at this point on the same level as the unbelieving crowds.(France)
While all this emphasis by Jesus on the numbers involved in the bread miracles might seem to be a mere complaint at the disciples’ lack of faith in Jesus’ desire and ability to take care of them, there is a bigger issue involved: the disciples’ have yet to put two and two together and realize that Jesus is more than another miracle-working prophet, even though the disciples witnessed the two bread miracles up close and gathered the abundant left-overs themselves. Thus the disciples have had many a sign given them, yet have still not learned the proper lesson from them.(France)
Villages/towns of Caesarea Philippi: Apparently Jesus and the disciples went not to the Hellenized Caesarea itself, but to the “suburbs” of that city, the villages nearby which it controlled. The idea is presumably, as in Mark 9:30-31, to isolate themselves for intense teaching.
Jesus begins, wisely, by asking the disciples the less awkward and less personal question: who do others say I am?
The disciples’ three answers all fit “prophet”, indeed as it says in the final clause, “one of the prophets”. Exactly what that means is hard to say. Presumably it indicates a powerful resemblance to the previous prophets without indicating a belief in actual reincarnation. Matthew’s parallel text adds Jeremiah to the list of prophets (Matt 16:14). (France)
The label of “prophet” is plainly a very honorable comparison. Indeed, invoking Elijah identified Jesus as the forerunner of the Messiah, who was expected from prophecy to reappear before the Messiah and the Day of the Lord (Mal 4:5). (France, NET)
This easy repetition of the crowds’ opinion of Jesus is not enough. Now Jesus asks what the disciples themselves think. They have been close witnesses of Jesus’ words and deeds, entrusted with the secrets of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11). What has their special access taught them?
Peter answers, presumably as the spokesman for all the disciples, especially since Mark has no Matt 16:17-19 to single out Peter. He declares Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the long-awaited special representative of God who would bring about a final visible rule of God on earth among all nations, issuing from Jerusalem and Israel, and lasting forever. This is not the obvious context of most messianic texts of the Old Testament, but the Jewish people had had several centuries to speculate on the meaning of these passages, and “Messiah” became a convenient shorthand for the eschatological and political hopes of the Jews, a person who blended soldier, prophet, and king in one supernaturally graced package.(France, Barclay)
He charged, strictly warned them: The Greek is epitimao, the same word used in commanding demons and raging storms. Jesus absolutely ordered the disciples not to speak of Him as messiah to outsiders.(France)
Why? There’s been reams written about the “messianic secret”, but the simple traditional answer still has much value. Jesus’ notion of the messiah is so different from the commonly-held one, that the term “messiah/Christ” would be totally inappropriate and introduce a complete misunderstanding of Jesus and His mission.(France)
The son of man: This title was coined by Jesus, not only from Dan 7:13 but from the use of the term as “human being” and “someone”, an indirect way of saying “myself”. It was His chosen substitute for “messiah/christ”, which was so laden with misunderstanding. (France)
Must: What made the degradation of the messiah necessary? Scripture, as later spelled out in Mark 9:12; 14:21,49. (France)
Which Scriptures? Traditionally Ps 22, 69, 118; Zec 9-14 (11:4-14;12:10-14; 13:7-9); and especially Is 53. (France)
Elders, chief priests, scribes: Pretty much an open identification of the rejecters as the Sanhedrin, since these three groups were who made that body up.(France)
Rise after three days: Matt. And Luke use “on the third day”, presumably because non-Jewish readers would not know the common Jewish usage of “after three days” for “day after tomorrow”.(Josephus Ant. 7.280, 281;8.214,218).(France)
Each of Jesus’ passion predictions in Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34 mention the resurrection, yet a plain reading of the gospels shows the disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise again. Thus one must imagine the disciples couldn’t grasp the notion of resurrection (the common Jewish notion of resurrection has traditionally been corporate, on the Day of Judgment), and instead saw “rising” as a metaphor for vindication, not literal.(France)
About the only obvious sources for “three days” in the OT seem to be Jonah 2:1 and Hosea 6:2, and both are rather tenuous. (France)
He said this openly: “Openly” is the Greek parrhesia, “boldly, frankly, bluntly”.
Rebuke: Greek epitimao again, “commanded, ordered”. Obviously Peter spoke very forcefully against what Jesus said, even if it was in private.
While Jesus speaks directly to Peter, it is important to note that He is said to turn and look at all the disciples. If Peter’s confession of Jesus’ messiahship is made as the spokesman of all the disciples, this rebuke of Jesus’ idea of messianic fulfilment is also Peter acting as spokesman. And likewise so is Jesus’ own rebuke, for He also is said to “epitimao” (to use the root word) Peter. Obviously this was a heated encounter for all involved.(France)
“Get behind” or some form thereof is used in the gospels more commonly as positive “follow me”, but its stern negative character here is indicated by the addition of “Satan”. The use of the Adversary as a sort of description for the disciples’ mindset indicates how far from God’s ways is this rejection of Jesus’ death and suffering. The disciples are acting more for Satan than God in opposing Jesus’ passion. (France)
Jesus further characterizes the disciples’ thoughts as those of men, not God, indicating their continuing attachment to the notion of a triumphant military/ political messiah, despite Jesus repeatedly indicating the messiah was to act differently. Not only did the disciples’ ideas repeat the Satanic temptations that Jesus had rejected, but it could only be disheartening for Jesus to see that even those He plainly taught the truth of the messiah would not accept it. What hope then that the rest of the people could?(France)