THE GOSPEL OF MARK
Lesson 7: Chapters 9:9-10:52
The Continuation of Part III: The Mystery Begins to be Unveiled

Almighty Father,
In the wisdom of Your divine plan, Your Son became man for us. In His prefect atonement on the altar of the Cross, God the Son reconciled "the heart of the Father" to sinners whose lives are now hid in Jesus the Son. In His Resurrection, He freed us from our sins and restored our souls, giving us access to Your divine Presence through faith and the Sacrament of Christian baptism. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, in our study as the revelation of the mystery of the Christ continues to unfold for Jesus' Apostles and disciples in preparation for His Passion. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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And behold, I will send you Elijah the Thesbite, before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes; who shall again turn the heart of the father to the son, and the heart of a man to his neighbor. Least I come and smite the earth grievously.
Malachi 4:5-6 LXX (3:23-24 in some translations).
The wording is not the same in translations taken from the Jewish Masoretic text.

 

Note the extreme accuracy of [the prophetic] expression. He does not say "he will restore the heart of the son to the father," but "of the father to the son."
St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew Gospel of St. Matthew, 57.1

Chapter 9:9-48 ~ The End of the Galilean Ministry

Mark's favorite word, euthus, is found in Mark 9:15, 20, 24 and 10:52.

Mark 9:9-13 ~ The Coming of Elijah
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant. 11 Then they asked him, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 12 He told them, "Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him."

Coming down from the mountain after the Transfiguration experience, Jesus commands the three Apostles not to make known what they have discovered about Jesus' true identity (9:9). Notice he does not tell them to never tell about the experience. He only asks them to remain silent until His death and resurrection.

10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

It is a reasonable question. Did "rising from the dead" mean to have life returned so one could go one living a normal life as in the case of the little girl who was the daughter of the Synagogue official in Mark 5:38-43, or did it mean something else? Thinking about his question may have led them to consider the case of Elijah who was spared physical death and was then taken up into heaven (2 Kng 2:6-12).

11 Then they asked him, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
Peter, James and John Zebedee have confirmation of Jesus' true identity, but they are confused about the identity of Elijah who the 6th century BC prophet Malachi prophesied would return to announce the coming "Day of the Lord": And behold, I will send to you Elias [Elijah] the Thesbite [Tishbite], before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes; who shall turn again the heart of the father to the son, and the heart of a man to his neighbor, lest I come and smite the earth grievously (Mal 3:23-23/4:5-6 LXX).

This is the passage from Malachi that the Fathers of the Church quoted from the Septuagint and applied to John the Baptist, to the prophet Elijah, and to Christ the Son. St. John Chrysostom, the great Bishop of Constantinople (344/354-407) who was noted for both his eloquence and his orthodoxy, quoted this passage from the Septuagint and wrote: Note the extreme accuracy of [the prophetic] expression. He does not say "He will restore the heart of the son to the father," but "of the father to the son" (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew Gospel of St. Matthew, 57.1). Making a link between St. John the Baptist, Elijah and Jesus, St. John Chrysostom wrote that Jesus said St. John was Elijah because John's ministry was a Biblical "type" of Elijah. John came in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah to fulfill Elijah's original mission to call the covenant people to repentance (Lk 1:17). In Jesus' self-offering to the Father on the altar of the Cross, Jesus will turn the heart of God the Father to be reconciled with sinners whose lives are united to the life of Christ Jesus the Son (Mal 4:5-6 LXX) through faith and the Sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist (Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, 57.1; see quote at the beginning of the lesson)

The "day" the prophet Malachi refers to in the passage is not the day of the Last Judgment when God will smite the earth. It is instead the same day St. Peter will speak of on Pentecost Sunday when he quotes from the prophet Joel 3:1-4 in Acts 2:16-21 and announces that the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church is the great and awesome day the prophets wrote about in which men will be reconciled to God the Father through Christ the Son so that the day of the Final Judgment when God will "smite the earth" will be put off until a later time when the "harvest of souls" has come at the end of the Messianic Age.

12 He told them, "Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him."
Jesus clears up their confusion by identifying John the Baptist as the one who has come in the spirit of Elijah and includes that the "Son of Man" (referring to Himself) will also suffer at the hands of the same kind of men who killed the Baptist. He is alluding again to the prophecy of the Messiah as Isaiah's Suffering Servant as He did in the first prophecy of His Passion (Is 52:13-53:12).

The Transfiguration of the Christ presents the Apostles and the reader with the full mystery of Jesus' true identity. The miraculous transformation of the human Jesus into the glorified divine Son puts the coming Passion and death of Jesus into perspective by giving the Apostles the assurance that Jesus' suffering and death will end in the triumph of His glorious Resurrection on the third day. This is what He has tried to tell them (Mk 8:31-33) and which He will repeat two more times (Mk 9:30-32 and 10:32-34). In the continuing revelation of the "mystery," the hearts of His Apostles are being restored in preparation for the New Covenant Gospel that they will carry to the ends of the earth (Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:19-20; Lk 24:46). They will begin with the restoration of the Jews, as Jesus began with His healings and first miracle feeding, and then they will carry their restoration of hearts to the Gentiles, as Jesus did in the Decapolis with His second miracle feeding.

Mark 9:14-29 ~ The Mute and Deaf Epileptic Demoniac
14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed. They ran up to him and greeted him. 16 He asked them, "What are you arguing about with them?" 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. 18 Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so." 19 He said to them in reply, "O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him to me." 20 They brought the boy to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions. As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around and foam at the mouth. 21 Then he questioned his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" He replied, "Since childhood. 22 It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." 23 Jesus said to him, "If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith." 24 Then the boy's father cried out [immediately], "I do believe, help my unbelief!" 25 Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked he unclean spirit and said to it, "Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!" 26 Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse which caused many to say, "He is dead!" 27 But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. 28 When he entered the house, the disciples asked him in private, "Why could we not drive it out?" 29 He said to them, "this kind can only come out through prayer."

When Jesus and the three Apostles rejoin the nine Apostles and the disciples, they are greeted by a large crowd involved in a dispute that seems to center on the disciples. That they are "amazed" at the site of Jesus may suggest that Jesus' appearance still retained some vestiges of the Transfiguration experience like Moses' glowing face after being in the divine Presence (Ex 34:29-30). The same Greek verb is used for the women's amazement at seeing the angel who announces Jesus' resurrection (Mk 16:5). They are immediately drawn to Jesus and run up to greet Him.

17 Someone from the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. 18 Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so."
Jesus inquires about the nature of the dispute and discovers that His disciples have been unsuccessful in casting a demon out of a boy, a power Jesus gave them when He sent them on their missionary journey (Mk 6:7; Lk 9:1). Unlike other demons this one is mute and tortures the boy with fits that threaten his life.

Question: How is what happened after the revelation of the Trinity at Jesus' baptism similar to what happened now after the revelation of the Trinity at the Transfiguration? See Mk 1:10-13.
Answer: After the revelation of the divine Trinity and the affirmation of the voice of God from Heaven at Jesus' baptism, Jesus went forth to battle Satan in His temptation. Now, in the same way, after the revelation of the divine Trinity and the affirming voice from Heaven in the Transfiguration, Jesus again goes forth to battle the forces of evil.

While Jesus, Peter, James and John were on the mountain, the other nine Apostles were continuing their mission to heal, cast out demons, and preach the coming of the kingdom. Jesus tells them that their failure to cast out a demon on this occasion is because of their lack of faith (also see Mt 17:19-20; Lk 9:41). It is a failure which reflects badly on their credibility as Jesus' ministers. Perhaps they were intimidated by the power of the demon.

19 He said to them in reply, "O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?
Jesus repeats the words "how long" three times in verses 19 (twice) and 21. Jesus gave a similar indictment against His generation in Mark 8:38 where the Greek phrase was literally "adulterous and sinful" while here the word is "faithless." In Scripture "adultery" is a symbol for the covenant people turning away from God to worship false gods. In this case Jesus accuses them of lacking faith even though they have witnessed so many signs of God's presence and grace in Jesus' works (see Jn 12:37-40 in which Is 6:9-10 is quoted again).
Question: What other generation was repeatedly accused of such failures? How is this earlier generation like the Pharisees, scribes and elders and even like the disciples and the crowds of Jews? See Num 14:1, 11, 22-23; Dt 1:35.
Answer: It is the same kind of accusation God made against the Exodus generation. Like the religious leaders of Jesus time, they refused to recognize the "signs" of God's miracles and continually "tested" God, becoming an obstacle to God's divine plan. Even Jesus' disciples have trouble fully understanding the importance of His true identity and the mystery of God's divine plan.

The question is to whom is this rebuke addressed? Is it addressed to the disciples, who have failed to heal the boy because they did not have enough faith, or to the crowd, or to the scribes who are arguing with the disciples (verse 14)? Perhaps His rebuke is for all of them. Even Peter challenged God's plan concerning the prophecy of Jesus' Passion in Mark 8:32-33.

"Bring him to me." 20 They brought the boy to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions. As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around and foam at the mouth. 21 Then he questioned his father, "How long has thing been happening to him?" He replied, "Since childhood. 22 It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."
Jesus' command to bring Him the boy is in the plural, indicating that He is speaking to the disciples. The father brought his son to the disciples and now the disciples are to bring the boy to Jesus. This establishes the pattern for continued "healing" within the Church. Our priests bring those in need to Jesus who intercedes spiritually and physically through the priest who is His agent.

"But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." 23 Jesus said to him, "If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith." 24 Then the boy's father cried out [immediately], "I do believe, help my unbelief!"
Mark's account of this encounter is longer and contains more details than the same account in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (Mt 17:14-21 and Lk 9:37-43). Jesus' exclamation: "If you can!" expresses His astonishment that His powers could be questioned; it is also a call for confidence in Him since there is no limit to His powers. Jesus' reply that "everything is possible to one who has faith" recalls Jeremiah 32:17 ~ Ah, Lord GOD [YHWH], you have made heaven and earth by your great might, with your outstretched arm; nothing is impossible for you. His statement also speaks to the human capacity to open the way to God's great works through the power of faith. Later Jesus will express the same affirmation a little differently when He says "All things are possible for God" (Mk 10:27).

Only St. Mark's Gospel has the heart wrenching cry of the boy's father in response to Jesus telling him to have faith: 24 Then the boy's father cried out [immediately], "I do believe, help my unbelief!"
Question: The father's cry is the cry of us all: "Lord Jesus, I believe but help my unbelief!" Yet, that the man has asked Jesus to increase his faith is evidence of what?
Answer: The man's plea is in itself a confession of his faith in Jesus. He believes Jesus can not only heal his child but that He can reach into his heart and transform him, giving him the gift of the faith he needs.

25 Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked he unclean spirit and said to it, "Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!" 26 Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse which caused many to say, "He is dead!" 27 But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
The demon spirit attempts to take the life of the child as he exits the body, but Jesus intervenes to restore the child to life. "Raised" and "stood up" are two verbs that are used for the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospels and in the proclamation of Jesus' defeat of death in the writings of the early Church (see Mk 16:6, 9, 14; Acts 3:15; 10:41). In this passage, the verbs symbolically point to the dethronement of Satan in human beings that is always a reversal of death and a restoration to life.

28 When he entered the house, the disciples asked him in private, "Why could we not drive it out?" 29 He said to them, "this kind can only come out through prayer."
Question: The disciples ask Jesus why they were unable to heal the boy. What is His implied in His response? See verse 23.
Answer: Jesus tells them it was their "little faith" (verse 23). Not enough faith continues to be a problem for the disciples. He also tells them that in this case fasting and prayer working together with faith was necessary.

It is possible that their success during their mission has made the disciples come to rely on their own efforts instead of acknowledging that all such powers come only from God through them. Their failure is a lesson in humility. Keep in mind that "little faith" is not the same as "lacking faith" as in the case of Jesus' neighbors in Nazareth (Mt 13:58; Mk 6:9). Faith is a gift from God, but we can lose this precious gift if we fail to live, grow and persevere in faith to the end of our lives. St. Paul told St. Timothy: "Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith" (1 Tim 1:18-19).

Question: How do we live, grow, and persevere in faith? See Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32; Jam 2:14-26, and CCC 162.
Answer: In order to live, grow, and persevere in faith to the end we must:

  1. Strengthen our faith with the word of God in Sacred Scripture.
  2. Petition the Lord to increase our faith in our prayer life.
  3. Demonstrate our faith through love in action by good works.
  4. Cling to the hope of our salvation through the promises of Christ Jesus.
  5. Nourish our faith by regularly receiving the Eucharist and the other Sacraments.

This is the last exorcism in Mark's Gospel.

Mark 9:30-32 ~ The Second Prediction of the Passion
30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, "the Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise." 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.

As the time for His Passion is drawing closer, Jesus focuses His attention on preparing His disciples for the traumatic events and test of faith that they will experience. He is also equipping them for taking up their mission as His emissaries in carrying the Gospel of salvation to the world.

32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
Mark's Roman audience would find it inconceivable that someone who was divine could be killed by men, just as the Apostles and disciples found Jesus' statement incredible. Perhaps it wasn't so much that they did not understand but it was denial in that they did not want to understand. We might compare this lack of comprehension or unwillingness to understand to someone who has received the news that a loved one is going to die of a disease. They have seen Jesus' acts of power in conquering the force of storms and His authority over sickness and demons. It was probably inconceivable to them that He would not exercise the same power and authority over mere men.

Mark 9:33-37 ~ The Greatest in the Kingdom
33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" 34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. 35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me."

"On the way" will become a repeated refrain in this section of Mark's Gospel, but may not be translated literally in the English translation (8:37; 9:33, 34; 10:17, 32, 52 twice). Jesus and the Apostles travel to Peter's house in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee (verse 33). Perhaps the separation of the three from the other Apostles and their privilege of witnessing Jesus in His glory in the Transfiguration experience has made the others uneasy about where they stand in the Kingdom of the Messiah. Jesus knows what they were arguing about, but He wants them to admit to Him the nature of their dispute so He can provide a teaching moment for them. They probably do not answer because they are embarrassed, and they know He will not approve.

Question: In the secular world, what is greatness based on in their time and in ours?
Answer: In the secular world greatness is based on social rank, wealth, or a special ability.

It is Jesus' teaching in this passage that those standards of greatness in the world are not what count in His Kingdom. Jesus uses the visible metaphor of a little child from Peter's household as His teaching point. The Greek word in the Biblical text is paidion, a word used to refer to a child under the age of twelve (IBGE, vol. IV, Luke 9:47-48).

Question: Why does Jesus use a little child to illustrate His teaching point? What differentiates a little child from adults?
Answer: Adults are for the most part self-sufficient, but little children are vulnerable and completely dependent on someone else for their care or they cannot survive. A little child has no concern for rank or status and only seeks to please his parent.

Question: How is greatness measured in the Kingdom of Heaven unlike how greatness is measured on earth?
Answer: Greatness in heaven is measured by child-like humility, obedience, self-emptying and total dependence on God. Whoever is more child-like in this way is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Contrary to "greatness" according to the world's understanding, Jesus defines "greatness" in the Kingdom as childlike faith and humility.

Jesus is also using the little child as a metaphor for the lowly and vulnerable in society, in Hebrew the anawin. His disciples are responsible for serving the Kingdom by caring for those who cannot look after their own needs and who trust in God to rescue them. Provisions were also made for protection of the anawin under the Sinai Covenant, including the command that there should be none who were destitute among the covenant people (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; 25:35, 39; Dt 15:4; etc.).

Mark 9:38-41 ~ Using the Name of Jesus
38 John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us." 39 Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

John Zebedee, the "least" of the Apostles if Bible scholars are correct in identifying him as the youngest, has apparently not learned from the previous teaching. An unnamed man's success has evidently sparked the jealousy of the Apostles who were unsuccessful in casting the demon out of the boy earlier.
Question: What is Jesus' point in telling John and the others to let the man heal in His name?
Answer: The ministers of the Kingdom are not "exclusive" they are "inclusive." There is no room for jealousy in the spiritual warfare that is necessary to advance the Kingdom.

This incident is reminiscent of Joshua's complaint to Moses that there were two men in the camp who had not received Moses' anointing who were also filled with the spirit of God and were prophesizing in the camp (Num 11:24-29). But Moses rebuked Joshua in the same way Jesus rebuked John.

Mark 9:42-50 ~ Temptations to Sin and the Salt Parable
42 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin [skandalizo = stumble/offend], it would be better for him if a great [donkey] millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire [*44 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out.] 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. [*46 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out.] 47And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another." * Verses 44 and 46 are missing in some important early manuscripts. [..] = literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 124.

Still holding the little child on His lap, Jesus pronounces a divine judgment against anyone who seeks to lead "a child" who believes in Him into sin. In this passage the Greek verb skandalizo refers to what causes one to stumble into sin. These are Greek words from which we get our words "scandalize" and "scandal."
Question: How does the image of the child on Jesus' lap change to the "little ones who believe in me" in verse 42? Who are the "little ones"? See 1 Jn 3:1-2.
Answer: Jesus is no longer talking about the child on His lap; He is referring to the "children" of His kingdom, those who believe in Jesus and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.

In 9:36-37 the Greek word paidion (child under twelve) referred to a real child. But now the metaphor functions as a synonym for the disciples who are the "little ones" who believe. The judgment Jesus pronounces against those who cause His believers to "stumble" into sin or to lose their faith is found in all three Synoptic Gospels (see Mt 18:6 and Lk 17:2). The judgment imagery of a millstone being thrown into the sea is also found in Revelation 18:21-22. Such ultimate destruction is the judgment awaiting all unrepentant sinners and enemies of God who add to human suffering and seek to destroy the faith of the children of His Kingdom.

it would be better for him if a great [donkey] millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

A Greek text literally reads a "donkey millstone." It was the kind of millstone that was so huge that it took a donkey to turn it. Such a person who is immersed in sin will suffer the same fate as sin itself when God will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins (Mic 7:19).

Question: Can you think of any judgments by drowning of the wicked or enemies of God from the Old Testament or New Testaments? See Gen 6:5-7; 7:11-12, 17 and 22; Ex 14:26-28 and Neh 9:11; Mk 5:14; Rev 18:21.
Answer:

  1. The wicked in the Great Flood judgment
  2. The drowning of the Pharaoh and his army in the Exodus liberation
  3. The demons inhabiting the swine in Mark 5:14
  4. The judgment of the wicked city symbolically called "Babylon"*

*In the Bible, "Babylon" became the code name for any city of great wickedness as it is used in Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10 and 21 for the city in which Jesus was condemned to death and in which was found the blood of prophets and holy ones, Jerusalem (Rev 18:24; also see what Jesus said about divine judgment on Jerusalem in Mt 23:31-39).

Question: In verses 43-47 what literary form does Jesus use to make His point and what is His point?
Answer: Jesus is not speaking literally; he uses hyperbole to make His point that one must do whatever it takes to avoid sin and therefore to avoid eternal damnation. If someone brings scandal to Jesus' "children", the person or persons who are the agent/agents of the sin will not be able to avoid bearing responsibility for their actions.

In this passage Jesus describes Gehenna as a place of "unquenchable fire." For other references to Gehenna see Matthew 5:22, 29, 30, 10:28; 23:15 and 33. Jesus uses the word Gehenna as a metaphor for the place or state where the wicked are doomed to an eternal fiery punishment which is often referred to as the Hell of the damned. See CCC 1033-36, 1861 and the study entitled: "The Eight Last Things," lesson IV - Hell.(1)

Question In verses 42-50 what are three serious statements Jesus makes about sin and its impact.
Answer:

  1. Jesus says that anyone who causes one who believes in Him to sin will face divine judgment.
  2. God severely punishes acts of evil.
  3. Jesus sums up His comments on sin by saying that sin not only causes others to stumble into sin and brings suffering to the world but one must avoid sin at all costs because sin can ultimately lead to eternal death in Gehenna.

48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
This passage has three references (verses 43b, 44, 46 and 48) to Isaiah's image of divine judgment and Hell's unbearable torment in Isaiah 66:24 ~ They shall go out and see the corpses of men who rebelled against me; their worm shall not die, nor their fire be extinguished; and they shall be abhorrent to all mankind. The imagery is of God's enemies who are dead outside the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem; just as in the past the corpses and filth lay in the Valley of Gehenna outside the city of the earthly Jerusalem where huge fires were continually burning.

Many people, even Christians, find the Hell of eternal separation from God a difficult subject. Yet, the teachings of Scripture and the Church affirm the existence of Hell and its eternal dimension. The chief punishment of Hell is eternal separation from God where the unrepentant person, whose soul is lost in mortal sin, suffers the penalty of eternal fire. The Catholic Church teaches that God does not predestine anyone to Hell (CCC 1037) and the choice of eternal life or eternal damnation is the personal choice of every individual based on the choices they make in life (see Mt 25:31-46 and CCC 1033-36). In fact, the destiny God has planned for every human being is eternal life and He is not willing that anyone should perish; the choice of our ultimate destiny is our own (2 Pt 3:9; 1 Tim 2:3-4).

49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another."
Question: What three sayings does Jesus give about salt?
Answer:

  1. Everyone will be salted with fire.
  2. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor?
  3. Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.

That "everyone will be salted with fire" may refer to the fiery love of God that will test our works when we face divine judgment (Wis 3:1-7; Lk 16:23-24; 1 Cor 3:13-15; Purgatory in CCC 1030-32). In Scripture salt represented purity and preservation. It therefore became a symbol of the perpetual nature of the covenant (Lev 2:13; Num 18:19 literal translation; 2 Chr 13:5). As a symbol of the covenant, salt was sprinkled on all sacrifices that were placed on the altar fire (Lev 2:13; Ez 43:23-24), and babies born into the covenant were rubbed with salt after birth (Ez 16:14). Methodius, bishop of Olympus (d. 311) wrote: "According to Levitical law, every gift, unless it be seasoned with salt, is forbidden to be offered as an oblation to the Lord God. Now the whole spiritual meditation of the Scriptures is given to you as salt which stings in order to benefit. Without this disinfection, it is impossible for a soul, by means of reason, to be brought to the Almighty" (The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, 1.1).

In this little parable, Jesus is using salt as a metaphor for the Christian's positive influence. In Jesus' time salt was used to favor and to preserve food, and it was used as a disinfectant. But salt that had a high mineral content, like salt from the Dead Sea, could lose its flavor over time and become useless. As Jesus' disciples, we are to be "salt of the earth" (Mt 5:13) in that we must live according to Jesus' teachings in order to be a good influence in the world. Christians who lose their commitment to Christ are not able to be a force for good in sharing the Gospel of salvation. Jesus commands His disciples to keep the "salt" of their commitment alive so that they might have the unity that promotes peace.

Chapter 10: The Beginning of the Final Journey

In Chapter 10, Jesus begins His journey to Jerusalem which will reach its climax in the fulfillment of the three prophecies of His Passion. Along the way, He continues to encourage the faith and heal the blindness of His disciples and the covenant people to the truth of His identity. He also offers His teachings on moral law, on service and leadership, gives the third prediction of His Passion, and heals a blind man whose faith has saved him. The last is a symbolic act to visually illustrate His continuing admonition for the disciples to see and hear and understand as in the healing of the deaf man in the Decapolis in Mark 7:31-37 and the blind man of Bethsaida in the Galilee in Mark 8:22-26.

Mark 10:1-12 ~ Jesus Teaches on Marriage and Divorce
1 He set out from there and went into the district of Judea and across the Jordan. Again the crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom, he again taught them. 2 The Pharisees approached and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him. 3 He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They replied, "Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." 5 But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." 10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

Leaving the Galilee, Jesus and His disciples cross the Jordan River to the east bank and journey south toward Jerusalem. This was a favored route of most Jewish pilgrims traveling from Asia Minor and Mesopotamia for the pilgrim feasts in Jerusalem because it allowed them to avoid the dangerous, robber infested territory of the Samaritans on the west side of the river. Jesus had traveled to Jerusalem before by passing through Samaria (Lk 9:52-53; 17:11; Jn 4:4-42), but this time Jesus avoided Samaria by traveling through the Decapolis and Perea and then crossing over the river from the east to the west near Jericho (Mt 20:29; also see Mk 10:1; Lk 18:35; Jn 11:57). On His journey, great crowds of people continued to follow Him, receiving His gift of healing while the Pharisees continued to test Him, trying to discredit Jesus with the crowds of Jews who are following Him.

2 The Pharisees approached and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him.
The Pharisees approach Jesus again to "test" him, as Satan tested Jesus. As in the other times they have tested Jesus, the purpose is not to learn His true identity but to show their superiority and to discredit Him with the people (Mt 12:13; 16:1; Mk 8:11; Lk 11:52-53). It is ironic that it is their attempt to "test" Jesus and to reveal to the people that His true identity is not the Messiah that they reveal their true identity as "children of Satan" who stand in opposition to God's plan for man's salvation.

Question: How is their question not only a test but a trap?
Answer: They are hoping they can maneuver Jesus to say something they can use against him. If He rejects divorce for any reason they can perhaps put Him in the same position as John the Baptist who was condemned to death for his criticism of Herod Antipas and Herodias' divorces and their unlawful marriage. Or, if he approves of divorce without restrictions, they can accuse him of being like the heathen Gentiles.

3 He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They replied, "Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." 5 But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment."
The Pharisees are referring to Moses' pronouncement concerning divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 in which he permitted a man to divorce his wife for reasons of "unfitness." The problem was that Moses' permission for divorce in cases of "unfitness" could be widely interpreted.

Question: The Pharisees interpret Moses' decree in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 as a commandment, but how does Jesus correct their interpretation of that passage?
Answer: Jesus tells them that it was not so much a command but a concession because of the hard hearts of the Israelite men.

Jesus does not disclose in what ways the men of Israel demonstrated "hard hearts" when Moses permitted divorce, but it may be that Moses permitted divorce to prevent a much greater sin. It is possible that men who did not want to support an elderly wife were taking matters into their own hands and elderly wives were dying from "accidents."

6 "But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate."
In this passage Jesus quotes from two passages from the Book of Genesis. The first is from Genesis 1:27, God made them male and female, and the second is from Genesis 2:24, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.
Then Jesus defines marriage as God intended marriage to be defined when He officiated at the marriage of Adam and Eve: "So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate."

Question: How does Jesus turn their "test" against them?
Answer: Jesus turned their test against them by quoting from Sacred Scripture, asking them if they did not know the passages from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. He asks them if they are willing to dispute what God has commanded in those passages and interprets the passages to mean there can be no division/divorce when God has joined a couple in marriage.

In His declaration "what God has joined together, no human being [man] must separate," Jesus unequivocally affirms the sacred nature and the indissolubility of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. He also affirms God as both the Creator of man and woman and the author of the institution of marriage. See CCC 1614-16.
Question: In Jesus' definition of marriage, what other forms of unions are rejected as not of God? See CCC 1645, 2357-59, 2387-88, 2390-91, 2400.
Answer: Polygamy, homosexual unions, incest and free unions cannot be defined as marriage and are offenses against the dignity of marriage.

10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
The Old Covenant law already addressed cases of adultery for men and women, but the penalty for adultery wasn't divorce; it was death (Lev 20:10). Jesus' teaching on divorce was very clear: to divorce a wife, unless the marriage was unlawful under the Holiness Code of Leviticus 18:6-18, and to remarry another was the sin of adultery and a violation of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:14; Dt 5:18).(2)

In the Christian Church's first council in Acts chapter 15, the Apostles instructed faith communities in their Apostolic decree to avoid unlawful marriage (Acts 15:19-20) referring to marriages that were deemed incestuous. However, in the Church's power to "bind and loose," Jesus has given the Church the authority to make decisions in such matters as the annulment of marriages that never should have taken place because of fraud, deceit, or indecency. See CCC 1603, 1610.

Mark 10:13-16 ~ Jesus and the Children
13 And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." 16 Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

It is fitting that Jesus' pronouncement on children should follow immediately after His teaching on marriage. This is the second time Jesus has used a little child as an example of faith, trust, and vulnerability. In Mark 9:36-37, He used a little child in Peter's household as a symbol of faith and trust and in instructing the disciples on their role of service to the lowly. People were bringing their children to Jesus for Him to lay His hands upon them to give them His blessing. In trying to protect Jesus, perhaps so He can have the time to heal the seriously afflicted, the disciples are turning away parents who have brought their healthy children to Jesus. Instead of protecting Jesus, they have deeply offended Him. This is the only time in the Gospels that it is said that Jesus was "indignant," in the Greek, aganakteo; it is a term indicating "outraged at an offense," "moved with indignation" (IBGE, vol. IV, page 125; Thayer's Greek Lexicon, page 3). The tender affection Jesus shows the children illustrates what an extrodinarly loving man Jesus was during his earthly ministry.

 

Question: What surprising statement does Jesus make to His disciples concerning children in verse 14?
Answer: They must not be prevented from coming to Him because the Kingdom of God belongs to those like them.

He follows that statement by a definitive "Amen" in verse 15, saying that a child is the model disciple and whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.
Question: What does He mean by this statement in verse 15? See Mk 10:24; Rom 8:16-17; Gal 3:26-27 and CCC 1243-44.
Answer: Jesus will call His disciples "children" in Mark 10:24. St. Paul writes that everyone who comes to Christ in faith to receive the Sacrament of Baptism becomes a "child" in the family of God. As children, the baptized come into the Kingdom without status or earthly ambitions. In their total dependence upon God, they exemplify the only disposition that makes entrance into the kingdom possible; the desire to simply receive salvation as a pure and unmerited gift of God's grace.

16 Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
Jesus not only blessed the children by laying His hands on them but He also embraced them in His loving affection. His actions demonstrate that to enter the Kingdom is to enter into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ who is ready to bless and embrace God's children.

Jesus' command that children must be permitted to come to Him together with references of the baptism of whole households in Acts (16:15; 33; 18:8) and the fact that children (including Jesus) entered the Sinai Covenant soon after birth (Lev 12:1-8; Lk 21-24), formed the ancient Church's doctrine of infant baptism (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.22.4; Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, 8.3). Origen (185-254), Augustine (354-430) and other Church Fathers taught that infant baptism was a tradition received directly from the Apostles (Origen, Homilies on Romans, 5.9; Augustine, On Genesis, 10.23.39). And other of the Church Fathers considered it parental abuse to delay infant baptism that was necessary for salvation (i.e., Sts. Irenaeus, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine). See CCC 403, 1231, 1233, 1250-52, 1282, 1290.

Mark 10:17-22 ~ The Rich Young Man
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'" 20 He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

This story is found in all three Synoptic Gospels with only slight variations. The man in the encounter with Christ is described as a "young man" (neaniskos), in Matthew 19:20. He has been listening to Jesus' teachings and is concerned about his eternal salvation (it is not until verse 22 that we are told he is wealthy). He has everything he needs to enjoy this earthly life, but he understands that his wealth cannot buy his place in eternity.
Question: What three actions does he take and what is his question?
Answer:

  1. He runs up to Jesus
  2. He kneels before Jesus in humble submission
  3. He calls Jesus "good teacher"
  4. He asks Jesus what "good" he must do to attain eternal life.

Question: What does Jesus mean by His first response to the young man, answering his question with a question and then stating that no one is truly "good" except God. What is ironic about Jesus' exchange with the young man?
Answer: He asks the young man "Why do you call me good?" Then Jesus tells the young man that "no one is good except God alone," in other words that every man is a sinner. In His question, Jesus is subtly asking the young man if he has discerned Jesus' true identity as the only One who is good because He is without sin. The irony is that the young man is in fact addressing God.

Next Jesus answers the young man's question by reminding him that he knows the commandments, meaning the Ten Commandments and the other commands and prohibitions of the Law. Keep in mind that the young man is Jewish and the Old Covenant is still in effect and will continue to be in effect until Jesus' death and Resurrection.

Question: What is the pathway to salvation under the law of the Sinai Covenant? See Dt 30:16, 20; Ps 119:155, 166-68.
Answer: Under the Old Covenant, obedience to the commandments of God was the pathway to life; however, obedience could not promise eternal salvation.

Jesus then lists six commandments in verse 19 that are found in the Ten Commandments and in the extended teaching on the Law (to defraud was considered theft). These are not all the Ten Commandments but only those commandments dealing with love of neighbor, a command that is part of the Law of the covenant in Leviticus 19:18.

Question: Significantly what part of the Ten Commandments has Jesus not included?
Answer: Jesus has not included the first three commandments concerning love of God.

20 He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."
The young man responds that he has lived in accordance with those commandments that Jesus listed. In Matthew 19:20 the young man asks what is lacking in his life (verse 20), suggesting that he understood there was more than mere obedience to the Law to please God. His answer must have been sincere because St. Mark tells us Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking one thing ... (Mk 10:21). This is an earnest young man and Jesus sees spiritual potential for him in service to the Kingdom.

21b Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
Question: What does Jesus tell the young man he must do if he wants to have a greater share in the Kingdom and what is the invitation Jesus is alluding to? Jesus spoke of this in Mark 8:34.
Answer: He tells the young man if he wants to be "perfect" to give up every material possession to the poor and to follow Jesus as a disciple and then he will have "treasure in heaven" as opposed to earthly rewards. Jesus is making a distinction between obedience to the commandments that show the path to salvation and earthly blessings under the Old Law and the call to discipleship that gives an even greater eternal reward. He is also asking the young man to put love of God above earthly comfort and ambition.

Question: Where in the Gospels has Jesus asked for a standard of "perfection" before? Under the law of the Old Covenant people were commanded to be live by a standard of perfection in being "holy as God is holy" (Lev 11:44-45; 20:26; 21:8). See Mt 5:48.
Answer: It is a standard of perfection Jesus asked the faithful to strive for in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:48 when He said: "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

In Matthew 5:48 the Greek word "perfect" (tam) refers to the "wholeness" of God and His love for all people. This word only appears in Matthew 5:48 and in Matthew 19:21 in the Gospels. As you may recall in that passage in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus was concerned with the definition of love of one's neighbor. He urged the disciples to love even their enemies and used the example of God's loving care for all His creatures to challenge the disciples to avoid restricting their love only to those who love in return or who can benefit them. To be "perfect" is not possible on a human level; such perfection/wholeness can only come from God when we love as God loves.

22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Question: How does the young man respond to Jesus' invitation to discipleship? Why?
Answer: He sadly walks away. He loves God but not enough to be willing to give up all his material possessions and the rank it affords him to follow Jesus from place to place only depending on God to provide for his needs.

The young man will still have the path of life in living in obedience to God's commandments, but like all the Jews of Jesus' generation he will have to make the choice to receive an even greater portion of blessing only offered through faith in Jesus Christ. We do not know what will happen to the young man in whom Jesus saw the potential for holiness, but perhaps, later, he had the courage to give up what was temporal for a greater eternal reward.

Jesus invitation to the young man does not mean that He expects all who profess faith in Him to give up all their worldly possessions, but we must all be willing to make the sacrifice and we cannot treasure our earthly possessions more than we treasure our eternal salvation. St. Francis of Assisi was the "rich young man" who said "yes" and gave up all his worldly wealth to follow Christ.

Mark 10:23-27 ~ A Teaching on the Danger of Riches
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God!" 26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" 27 Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."

The Greek word for "camel" is kamelon while the word for "rope" is kamilon. The huge ropes to which the anchors of ships were tied were made of camel hair. This may be a play on words suggesting that it is easier not for the animal to pass through a needle than a rich man to enter the gates of heaven but Jesus may be using hyperbole to say that it is easier for the rope called a "camel" to pass through a needle used to make the fishing nets than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven. It is a comparison that would have appealed to the Apostles, many of whom were fishermen from the Galilee and familiar with ships and their equipment. St. Cyril of Alexandria suggests this is the comparison Jesus was making: By "camel" here he means not the living thing, the beast of burden, but the thick rope to which sailors tie their anchors. He shows this comparison to be not entirely pointless (as a camel would be), but he makes it an exceedingly difficult matter; in fact, next to impossible (Fragment from the Gospel of Matthew, 219).(3)

Question: Why is it hard for the rich to enter the gates of heaven? See Ez 7:19; Prov 30:8-9; Sir 31:5-7 and Mt 5:3.
Answer: The problem isn't the wealth but it is the self-sufficiency wealth gives a person. The wealthy often do not feel they need God because they believe their wealth affords them the power to handle any crisis they may face.

That is why Jesus listed "poverty of spirit" as the first Beatitude (Mat 5:3). The "poor in spirit" are contrasted with the "proud in spirit." Acknowledging we need God is the first step in the spiritual journey to salvation. See the teaching on the "poor in spirit" in the Beatitudes study.

26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" 27 Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."
Part of the disciples' astonishment may have been because according to the teachings of the Sinai Covenant having material blessings meant one was blessed by God (Lev 26:3-13; Dt 28:1-14). However, under the new order, the old temporal blessings mean nothing compared to blessings that are eternal.
Question: What is the significance of Jesus' response to the disciples in verse 27? See CCC 276, 308 and 1058.
Answer: Salvation is a gift of God; it is not something one can work for or purchase.

Mark 10:28-31 ~ The Reward of Personal Sacrifice
28 Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." 29 Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. 31 But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first."

Comparing the Apostles and disciples with the rich young man, Peter points out that he and the others have given up everything to follow Jesus. Notice that Peter acts as the spokesman of the group. According to the teachings of the Sinai Covenant having material blessings meant one was blessed by God (Lev 26:3-13; Dt 28:1-14). The Apostles and disciples understand that they have answered to a higher calling and want to know what their sacrifice will mean.

Question: What is the significance of Jesus' response to Peter in verses 29-30?
Answer: God will respond with graces that are far greater than the cost of their sacrifices.

Their sacrifices will give them an inheritance in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. The twelve will govern Jesus' earthly kingdom. They are the "foundation stones" on which Jesus will build the new Israel and they will rule from the "new Jerusalem" of the Church's authority over the earth. They will share in His glory and in His royal prerogative as judge when they rule over the twelve tribes of their kinsmen who they must call into the new age of the Kingdom (see Dan 7:13-14, Rev 21:12-14; CCC 765). The authority to judge/rule the 12 tribes may also be part of the Last Judgment. In the book of Revelation there are 24 elders who sit on thrones around the throne of God. It is difficult to determine from Revelation 4:3-4 the identity of the 24 elders, but many of the Fathers of the Church suggest they are the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel and the twelve Apostles.

31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
Again Jesus affirms His earlier teaching about rank in the Kingdom. There are two interpretations concerning the meaning of this saying. Considering His earlier teaching using a child as the model of discipleship, it may be that Jesus is saying that those who follow Him, serving in humility and not worrying about earthly rank, will be counted among the greatest in the Kingdom (Mt 10:14-15). But those disciples who expect recognition and rank on earth will receive their reward on earth and will not receive a greater share in heaven. Some of the Church Fathers like St. Cyril suggested this saying refers to the Old Covenant Church versus the New Covenant Church. The Israelites/Jews were called first to salvation but most rejected the Messiah, whereas the Gentiles were called last and because they embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior they became first in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (St. Cyril of Alexandria, Fragments on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 226).

Jesus will repeat this teaching in a visible demonstration at the Last Supper where John Zebedee, the youngest and therefore the least of the Apostles, will be seated at the place of honor next to Jesus (Jn 13:23), while Jesus, the Master, will wash the feet of His disciples, the duty of a servant (Jn 13:4-17).

Mark 10:32-34 ~ The Third Prediction of the Passion
32 They were on their way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. 33 "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles 34 who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise."

Each of the predictions of Jesus' Passion has had more details than the last.
Question: Why are the disciples both "amazed" and "afraid"?
Answer: They are amazed because of His determination to go to Jerusalem where He knows He will suffer and die. And they are afraid because they do not know what it will mean for them.

This prediction includes the information that the chief priests and the Roman authorities will be involved in His death. For the third time Jesus identifies Himself with the prophecy of Isaiah's suffering servant (Is 52:13-53:12). In verse 32, St. Mark reminds us that Jesus and His disciples are still on their journey to Jerusalem.

Mark 10:35-40 ~ The Ambition of the Sons of Zebedee
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 36 He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?" 37 They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." 38 Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" 39 They said to him, "We can." Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink, you will drink and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared."

Jesus' teaching on humility seems to have had very little impact on the Zebedee brothers (see 10:15, 28-31). They apparently heard the part about heavenly "rewards" but not the teaching on having the humility of a little child or the part in which Jesus said: 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. The brothers request the places of highest honor at the Messianic Banquet: "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."

38 Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" 39 They said to him, "We can."
James and John did not know what commitment they were making when they expressed their willingness to "drink" from Jesus' "cup." The brothers were probably thinking of the Old Testament prophets and their prediction of drinking from the cup of God's glory in the eschatological banquet and so they have asked for places on either side of the Master (see Is 25:6-9).
Question: But on the contrary, what does "the cup" from which Jesus will drink in Jerusalem represent? See Mk 14:36 and the chart on the "Symbolic Imagery of the Prophets".
Answer: Jesus is referring to His cup of suffering and the cup of God's wrath that He will accept on behalf of sinful mankind.

The Zebedee brothers were thinking of prophecies like the heavenly banquet in Isaiah 25:6: On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines ... But Jesus is speaking of His cup of suffering; it is the cup of God's wrath that He will accept in His sacrifice for the sins of the people: Awake, awake! Arise, O Jerusalem, you who drank at the LORD's hand the cup of his wrath; who drained to the dregs the bowl of staggering ... See I am taking from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall not longer drink. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, those who ordered you to bow down, that they might walk over you, while you offered your back like the ground, like the street for them to walk on (Is 51:17, 23).

39 Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink, you will drink and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared."
Question: What was Jesus' reply to their petition and the acceptance of His "cup"?
Answer: He told them He could not give them the places of honor they requested because that was the prerogative of God the Father, but they would indeed drink from His cup.

On this side of salvation history it is heart-rending to read the brothers' enthusiastic reply that they are ready to "drink from Jesus' cup." The irony is that they will each receive exactly what they have asked for. James was the first Apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:2), and John lived a long life of suffering for the sake of Christ's kingdom. But at this point, they are both very confident and ambitious; they believe that Jesus will reign in glory and they want to reign with Him.

Mark 10:41-43 ~ The Anger of the Ten Apostles
41 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. 42 Jesus summoned them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. 43 But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Unfortunately, the Apostles are acting more "childish" than "childlike."
Question: What is the response of the ten Apostles to this exchange between Jesus and the Zebedee brothers and what does Jesus tell them?
Answer: They are indignant that the Zebedee brothers should aspire to such an honor. Jesus returns to the theme of "the last goes first" and the importance of humility and service.

The question of rank among the Apostles began in with their argument concerning "who was greatest" in Mark 9:34. After the disciples experience their "dark night of the soul" in the crisis of Jesus Passion and crucifixion, the issue is never raised again. Through their suffering, they will all learn humility and obedience.

42 Jesus summoned them and said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
Their authority in His kingdom will not be like rank and authority in the Gentile kingdoms where the people are "slaves" to the rulers. They are to be the servants of the children of God. An ancient title for the Vicar of Christ is "servant of the servants of Christ."

43 But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
In this verse Jesus again identifies Himself as the prophesied "suffering servant." The ransom Jesus pays with His life will bring about the liberation of many and recalls the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12 ~ Because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses. His service will be His sacrificial death (also see 1 Tim 2:6 and 1 Pt 2:23-24).

Mark 10:46-52 ~ The Healing of the Blind Man from Jericho
46 They came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. 47 On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me." 49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, saying him, "Take courage; get up, he is calling you." 50 He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. 51 Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." 52 Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Jesus and His disciples have traveled southward down the length of the Jordan on the east side of the river and have come to the ford of the river across from the city of Jericho.
Question: What is historically significant about this ford across the Jordan River? Why is the crossing of the Jordan at this point significant for Jesus and the twelve Apostles? See Josh 3:1, 16.
Answer: It is where Joshua and the children of the 12 tribes of Israel crossed the Jordan River to begin the conquest of the Promised Land. Jesus is the new Joshua (their names are the same in Hebrew) and He and His 12 Apostles, who are the future spiritual fathers of the "new Israel," are beginning a "conquest" that will establish the Kingdom of the Church and open the gates to the Promised Land of Heaven.

46b And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.
Mark explains to his Greco-Roman audience the Aramaic meaning of the patronymic by which he identifies the poor, blind beggar: bar means "son" in Aramaic (in Hebrew the word for "son" is ben). Mark does not give the man's personal name but he is the only Gospel writer who identifies the blind man from Jericho by any name, even a surname. Bartimaeus is the only person to receive a healing by Jesus that Mark names in his Gospel and some Bible scholars have suggested he was still alive and known in the Church at the time Mark's Gospel was written.

47 On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me."
Question: What is significant about the way Bartimaeus addresses Jesus? See Ez 34:23-24; 37:21-24.
Answer: He addresses Jesus as the Davidic Messiah promised by the Ezekiel to restore and heal the nation of Israel.

You might ask how this man from Jericho knows enough about Jesus to believe that He is the Davidic Messiah. St. Mark concentrates about two-thirds of his Gospel narrative on Jesus' mission in the northern region of what was once ancient Israel, but we know from St. John's Gospel that Jesus attended the God ordained pilgrim feasts and so He must have made those three trips to Jerusalem each of the three years of His ministry for Passover/Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths (see Jn 2:13; 7:2, 10, 14; 12:1). In addition, St. John records that Jesus attended the national feast of Dedicated (Hanukkah) in John 10:22-23, which was not a feast that required national attendance. Therefore, it is possible that Jesus, the perfect Jew, attended all seven annual feasts every year in additional to the national feasts of Dedication/Hanukkah and Purim. If this is the case, the people of Judah had many opportunities to hear Jesus preach.

50 He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
The blind man threw off his cloak; it is probably the one item of value he owns, but nothing will hinder him from immediate access to Jesus the Messiah, unlike the rich young man in 10:17-22. Jesus asks him what he wants; the response is in itself a profession of his faith in Jesus Christ who tells him: "Go your way; your faith has saved you."

52b Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
Once again Mark's favorite word instills a sense of urgency.
Question: Where is it that Bartimaeus is following Jesus "on the way"?
Answer: He is following Jesus "on the way" to discipleship and to Jerusalem and to witness Jesus' Passion, death, and Resurrection.

In the story of Bartimaeus, Mark has continued with his subtheme of "hearing and seeing" in the deaf to whom Jesus restores hearing and the blind to whom He restores sight in fulfillment of what the prophets foretold about the Messiah (i.e., Mk 4:9, 12, 18, 20, 23, 24, 33; 7:16, 37; 8:18, 35, 22, 25) . Yet, many continue to be both deaf and blind to His true identity and what it means, which is also a fulfillment the prophecy of Isaiah in 6:9-10.
Question: What is ironic about Bartimaeus' unique greeting of Jesus in Mark 10:47-48, the same greeting of other blind men in the other Gospels (Mt 9:27; 20:30-31; Lk 18:38-39) and the greeting of the Gentile woman who Jesus complimented on her faith and then healed her daughter in Matthew 15:22? Mark does not record her greeting.
Answer: It is ironic that the blind men who cannot see Jesus' miraculous acts and a Gentile woman who is not a member of the covenant people are the only people outside the disciples who acknowledge Jesus' true identity as the "son of David," who is Messianic son of the Davidic kingdom.

Those who are truly blind and remain as "outsiders" are those people who witnessed Jesus' miracles and prophetic acts and still did not acknowledge His true identity. In this healing of blind Bartimaeus, not only were his physical eyes "opened" but he also had the opportunity to have his spiritual vision confirmed in recognizing the Messiah. The same kind of spiritual blindness that afflicted the people who refused to acknowledge Jesus as the promised Messiah in the first century AD is still present today in twenty-first century men and women who persist in rejecting Jesus' gift of love and salvation and ignore Jesus' invitation to "follow me."

We are all called, like Jesus' disciples and Bartimaeus, to "follow Him on the way": to take Him as our pattern, receive nourishment from His grace and let Him be the ransom for our sins. In the sacrifice of the Mass, we take part in His sacrifice and His Resurrection. Time is suspended and we are present at the Last Supper when Jesus began His walk to the Cross as He feeds the faithful the bread that became His Body and the wine that became His Blood. As we move forward to the altar, we receive the Body and Blood of the glorified, resurrected Christ and we proclaim to the world that we live with Him and for Him in the new life He gave us when we first experienced the Sacrament of Christian baptism.

Question for reflection or group discussion:
The Apostles' jealousy concerning the man who was successfully casting out demons in Jesus' name is a reminder of the tolerance Christians need to demonstrate with each other. It is more beneficial for the Kingdom when we set our differences aside (without compromising our beliefs) and work together to advance our Christian faith and to vanquish evil. In what ways can Catholics and Protestants work together to advance the Kingdom?

Endnotes:

1. Gehenna was the Valley of Hinnom, beginning west of Jerusalem and curving around to the south to join the Kidron Valley on the east side of the city across from the Mount of Olives. The Valley of Hinnom was a site associated with great evil in the Old Testament. It was where children had been offered in sacrifice to pagan gods in the mid-8th " mid-7th centuries BC, during the reigns of kings Ahaz and Manasseh, and during the 6th century BC in the time of the prophet Jeremiah (2 Kng 23:10; also 16:2-3; 17:17; 21:6; 2 Chr 28:3; 33:6; Jer 7:30-34; 32:35). Since the site was associated with great evil, it was not settled but was used as a place to burn garbage; hence it was a good visual image of judgment and the fires of the Hell of the damned (CCC 1033-37).

2. During this time the scholars differed in their opinion on the legitimate grounds for divorce. Rabbi Shammi took the more conservative view that a bill of divorcement could only be granted in cases of adultery or when a marriage violated the law concerning too close a degree of family relationship as stated in Leviticus 18:6-18. Rabbi Hillel took the liberal view that a bill of divorce could be given for any reason that displeased the husband.

3. Historians assert that there is no basis for the idea that Jesus was referring to a gate in Jerusalem called the "needle" that a camel could barely squeeze through (Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew, page 278).

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2014 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references:

Mk 9:9-31

CCC 649

Mk 10:16

CCC 699

Mk 9:23

CCC 1504-1510

Mk 10:19

CCC 1858

Mk 9:24

CCC 162

Mk 10:22

CCC 2728

Mk 9:31-32

CCC 557

Mk 10:28-31

CCC 1618

Mk 9:31

CCC474

Mk 10:32-34

CCC 557

Mk 9:37

CCC 1825

Mk 10:33-34

CCC 474

Mk 9:43-48

CCC 1033-37

Mk 10:34

CCC 649, 994

Mk 9:49

CCC 1030-32

Mk 10:38

CCC 536, 1225

Is 66:26

CCC 1038-41

Mk 10:39

CCC 618

Mk 10:8

CCC 1627

Mk 10:43-45

CCC 1551

Mk 10:9

CCC 1639, 2364, 2382

Mk 10:45

CCC 608, 1570

Mk 10:11-12

CCC 1650

Mk 10:46-52

CCC 2667

Mk 10:1

CCC 2380

Mk 10:48

CCC 2616

Mk 10:14

CCC 1244, 1261

Mk 10:52

CCC 548