THE GOSPEL OF MARK - PRESENTATION 3
OF THE MIRACLES AND CONTROVERSY IN JESUS' MINISTRY
I. Beginning of Jesus's
Ministry and Call of the First Disciples
A. Typical for Mark,
the account moves quickly past John's arrest to the call of the first
B. There is a notion of crisis and the decisive repentance that is called for.
1. The time of fulfillment likely refers to the end of Israel's chastisement and beginning of a new era. See Isaiah 40:2, Lamentation 4:22.
2. The word for repentance (metanoia)
involves a radical change in direction.
C. The reference to the Kingdom of God recalls prophesies that the line of David would again be restored after seeming destruction, and the kingdom would now extend to all ages and peoples. See Isaiah 7:1-6; Ezekiel 37:23-24; Daniel 2:44.
- The Vatican II
Council described the Church as the kingdom of God on earth, awaiting
the fulfillment of the kingdom of God in heaven. Lumen Gentium
(The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) 5.
D. Jesus calls His first disciples with simply a word.
1. The power
of the words and deeds of Jesus is a common theme of Mark. The
power of prophets' words and deeds were also emphasized often in the
Old Testament. See, e.g., Ezekiel 37:4, 11, 2 Kings 19:19.
2. There is an
immediate, radical response, demonstrating the radical nature of following
E. The disciples
being fishermen may fulfill a prophesy about a great gathering of nations,
see Jeremiah 16:16, or reflect the virtues needed to evangelize (e.g.,
patience, perseverence, courage, flexibility, humility.)
F. Galilee may have been
chosen as the starting place because of the presence of fishermen, or
to fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah about a child king coming to bring
about a great age of light. Isaiah 8:23-9:6.
G. Mark refers to
Simon Peter primarily as Simon before his famous profession of faith
(Mark 8:29), and Peter after then, reflecting the change wrought by
II. Cure of the Demoniac,
Simon's Mother-In-Law, and many others
A. This episode begins
an extraordinarily active day. Mark is going to emphasize continually
the rapid change wrought by Christ.
B. The people recognize
Jesus as having authority, which can mean His own words had great persuasive
force, and that His words had the power to bring about change in people's
C. Immediately, the demons show up. This conflict with the demons is a constant theme of Mark.
1. The demons panic because they know who Jesus is.
2. Jesus is demonstrating
divine power here. For even the prophets did not expel demons.
The closest things to exorcisms in the Old Testament are the archangel
Raphael binding the demon Azmodeus and David calming Saul's tormented
soul with his music. 1 Sam. 15:14-23; Tobit 8:1ff. However,
even these scenes are not as dramatic as this exorcism.
D. With the cure of Simon' mother-in-law, Mark switches to a more ordinary situation.
1. The passage here indicates that Simon was at least at one time married. It is not clear whether his wife was still living. One the one hand, there is no mention of her. But 1 Cor. 9:5 may indicate he still had a wife.
- Celibacy would become a discipline of the priesthood because of the example of Christ, and His preaching about heaven and about the Church as His spouse. Before Jesus' time, celibacy was not a part of Jewish devotion, except among a few groups such as the Essenes.
2. Here it is the gestures of Jesus that save.
3. The mother-in-law's response
E. Then, Jesus performs healings and exorcisms in great number after sundown.
1. People may have waited until after sundown because it was the Sabbath.
2. Miraculous healings had occurred in the Old Testament, see, e.g., Isaiah 38:1, 2 Kings 5, but the rapidity here is unique. Again, Mark brings out the fact that Jesus is above all the kings and prophets of old.
3. But Jesus at the time concealed
His identity by refusing to let the demons speak.
III. Cure of the Leper
A. Leprosy was a
term for any sever skin condition. Thus, in general it could be
of a temporary or permanent variety. The fact that this miracle
made the crowds come in great numbers indicates that it was probably
a permanent type.
B. The Old Law provided
for a physical separation of lepers from the people (but not a total
exclusion) until and unless the leprosy went away, as confirmed by a
priest. Leviticus 13-14.
C. The Old Testament described cures of leprosy as indicating God overcoming the distance between Him and His human representatives (see Exodus 4:6), as forgiveness of sins (see Numbers 12:10), or as simply a show of god's mercy for His Chosen People and others (see 1 Kings 5). This cure seems more to be in the latter category.
The account here also emphasizes Jesus' emotion of pity and sternness
E. The warning not
to tell anyone is in part an attempt to avoid an overemphasis on physical
cures, such that people would ignore Christ's more important mission.
IV. Cure of the Paralytic
A. Here Jesus more explicitly connects forgiveness of sins and physical healing. The latter is a sign of the ability to do the former.
- The physical is subordinate
to the spiritual, but both are connected. There is a continuing
message for the Church.
B. The man's friends
bring him to Christ for healing. Many theologians, such as The
Venerable Bede and St. Thomas Aquinas, have drawn an analogy to the
faith of one person bringing another to conversion.
C. Jesus' divinity is indicated by His forgiveness of sins. The prophets could announce God's forgiveness, but would not forgive sins on their own. See, e.g., 2 Sam. 14:13-14, Isaiah 4:22. Jesus, however, claims this power as the Son of Man.
- The reference to
the Son of Man adds an element of forgiveness to the idea of an eschatological
judge described in Daniel.
D. The conflict with
the scribes over Jesus' ability to forgive sins begins a series of
five conflicts with various groups over Jesus' authority and mission.
V. Call of Levi.
A. Levi the tax collector
is identified with Matthew in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 9:9.
In the list of the Twelve, Mark refers to him as Matthew. Mark
3:17. It seems that there was a name change with his conversion
and new mission.
B. Mark once again
emphasizes the radical and decisive nature of following Jesus, as well
as the power of Jesus' call. Levi made a particularly dramatic
sacrifice here. For, having left his office, he could neither
return to it, nor shake off the negative reputation it would have given
C. Levi witnesses
to others, not by words, but by his actions and example. This
emphasis on action is a theme of Mark. This response contrasts
with the cured leper.
D. Jesus' response to the scribes of the Pharisees contains some sarcasm, for the Pharisees would have recited psalms reflecting the sinfulness of all of the people of Israel, (e.g., Psalm 51, 130), but by their attitudes exempted themselves.