Reading the Gospels: Mark, Chapters 9-12

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up into the mountains and His appearance is immediately transformed. His clothes become glistening white, and Elijah and Moses appear out of nowhere to chat with Him. If that weren’t enough, a cloud sidles over and a voice booms out:

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

When the voice stops, Elijah and Moses have vanished. They return to the multitudes and a man brings his son who is suffering from a spirit that causes convulsions, foaming at the mouth, teeth-grinding, and general wasting away. The man had previously asked the disciples to cast out the spirits, but they couldn’t do it. Jesus, in apparent disgust, says:

“Unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me.”

After finding out that the boy has had the spirit “from childhood” and telling the father that “all things are possible to him who believes,” Jesus commands the spirit to depart from the boy and never come back. It does, and the boy collapses. Everyone thinks he’s dead, but Jesus takes him by the hand, and the boy gets up.

They leave that town and pass through Galilee. He tells His disciples:

“The Son of Man is being handed over to the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, on the third day he will rise again.”

The next stop is Capernaum where Jesus asks his disciples what they have been arguing about. Not a peep is uttered, because the truth is they were arguing who was the greatest among them. Jesus, of course, deciphers this immediately and utters:

“If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”

The disciples ask Jesus about a man, not a follower, who has been casting out demons in His name. Jesus answers:

“Don’t forbid him, for there is no one who will do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is on our side.”

With a small child in his lap, he begins his speech:

“Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if he was thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around his neck. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off…”

Chapter 10

This chapter starts out with the Parisees asking Jesus if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. When Jesus asks them what Moses commanded, they say that Moses allowed divorce. Jesus answers:

“For your hardness of heart, he wrote you this commandment.”

Later, the disciples ask Him the same question. Jesus answers:

“Whoever divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery against her. If a woman herself divorces her husband, and marries another, she commits adultery.”

[We hear a lot from religious folks about gay marriage; I wonder why we don't hear more from them about straight divorce?]

Jesus then takes a bunch of kids in his arms and blesses them. Someone approaches and asks what he may do to inherit eternal life. Jesus recites the commandments, and the man says he has observed all the commandments from childhood.

“One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.”

The man’s face falls, because he has a lot of possessions. Jesus looks on and says to his disciples,

“How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus and the disciples head to Jerusalem. Along the way He tells them them:

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be delivered to the chief of priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death, and will deliver him to the Gentiles. They will mock him, spit on him, scourge him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

James and John walk up to Jesus and ask that they be allowed to sit at Jesus’ side, one on His left and one on His right. This gets the other 10 disciples into a tizzy. Jesus has to calm them all down with:

“Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be bondservant of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom from many.”

They come into Jericho. Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, starts shouting at Jesus to have mercy on him. People in the crowd try to hush him up, but Jesus calls to him and asks what Bartimaeus what He can do for him. The beggar asks that he may see again. Jesus restores his sight, and Bartmaeus follows.

Chapter 11

As the group approaches Jerusalem, Jesus sends two disciples into a village to get a donkey that’s tied up there. They bring the donkey back, cover it with their clothes, and Jesus hops on. Others spread tree branches on the road. In the evening, Jesus enters into the temple in Jerusalem, takes a look around, and then takes his disciples to Bethany for the night. On their return to Jerusalem the next day and Jesus is hungry. He looks for figs on a tree, but since it’s not the right season for figs, finds none. Jesus puts a curse on the tree.

They enter into the temple again and Jesus throws out all the merchants and money changers:

“Isn’t it written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers!”

The chief priests and scribes hear all this and seek out a way to destroy Him. They ask Jesus by what authority does He do things. Jesus says He’ll tell them if they first answer the question:

“The baptism of John–was it from heaven, or from men?

The priests huddle up. If they say “from heaven,” then Jesus will say “then why don’t you believe me?” If they say “from men” the crowd will go nuts because they believe John to be a prophet. So they cop out with a “We don’t know.” So Jesus says:

“Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Chapter 13

This chapter begins with a parable and then continues on with some Pharisees trying to trap Jesus with words. They ask Him if it’s lawful to pay taxes to Caesar to which Jesus replies:

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

They continue with the somewhat silly scenario of the wife of seven brother the question of whose wife will she be in the resurrection. Jesus says that when people rise, they are not married, but “are like angels in heaven.” Which is all besides the point. God, Jesus says,

“…is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

They then ask Him which commandment is greatest. Jesus says the first (love the Lord your God with all your heart) and the second (love your neighbor as yourself) are the greatest.

The chapter ends with people coming up and throwing money into the treasury. Some rich people “cast in much.” A poor widow comes up and tosses in two small brass coins. Jesus remarks:

“Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, for they gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.”

Next Week: Mark, Chapters 13-16 (the last chapters)

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