Key Verses and Themes in Mark

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

Mark 1:16-20       As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

 

The first disciples are called while they are at work. Their relationship with their work is re-oriented by their new relationship with Jesus.

Mark 1:35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

Jesus frames the daylight hours (the time of work) with a commitment to prayer and communion with God.

Mark 2:3,5 Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them …When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

A man incapable of work is brought to Jesus. The story is not just about his healing, but about the place of corporate faith and mutual help.

Mark 2:14-17       As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples — for there were many who followed him.

Levi is called to discipleship; he responds by offering his home and wealth to honour Jesus, and to provide an opportunity for others to encounter him.

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath. (see context in 2:23-3:6)

The Sabbath rhythm is presented as valuable by Jesus, but as something for us to benefit from, not obsess about.

Mark 3:16-19       So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

 

The Twelve are appointed. The presence of nicknames in the lists hints at the importance of personality within the group. The naming of Judas is a sober reminder that many claim to follow Jesus, but are not aligned with the Kingdom. As we consider our relationships with Christian colleagues, both of these points are relevant.

Mark 4:35-41       (Jesus stills a storm on the Lake of Galilee, after his disciples wake him from sleeping on a cushion in the stern.)

Mark 6:45-52       (Jesus walks on the water.)

Mark 8:13-21       (Jesus takes a boat across the lake, but the disciples have forgotten to bring bread.)

Three parallel boat scenes that emphasize the disciples’ lack of understanding. This is part of Mark’s intention to portray the disciples as being in process, from failure to strength.

Mark 10:21-22     Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

The rich young man cannot bring himself to part with his possessions and the status that they represent. Status is as important as luxury in this story.

Mark 11:15-17     Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jesus disrupts economic activity in the temple, possibly because the particular practices he sees there are unjust or abusive.

Mark 12:15-17     “Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

Jesus replies to the difficult question of taxation by emphasizing the ultimate authority of God, yet without denying the validity of taxation.