Today we will complete the Gospel according to Mark. We begin with the Olivet Discourse, which Mark says was delivered to only Peter, James, John, and Andrew (13:3 – compare Matt 24:3). They ask Him to explain when the city would be thrown down (see v. 2) and what the sign will be when “all these things” are about to be accomplished (v. 4). We know from Matthew that included in this is a question about His “coming” and the end of the age (again, Matt 24:3). See what we discussed about Matthew 24 for a full explanation. Suffice it to say, they are loading a lot in this question, and they don’t even understand the question. They are thinking of the destruction of Jerusalem and His coming as events that are about to take place when He takes His throne as the Messiah, which they believed He would do at His First Coming. It may have been years before they understood all Jesus said to them here.
While the discourse is substantially the same as what we find in Matthew 24, there are a few things Mark includes that Matthew doesn’t. Mark speaks about relying on the Holy Spirit to speak when being tried for their faith (v. 11). He also includes Jesus’s exhortation to endurance (v. 13). The parenthetical of verses 14 are not the words of Christ, but of Mark (and/or Peter). Christ had no readers. But this brings up an interesting exegetical question. What did Mark expect his reader to understand? The same thing as Matthew (see Matt 24:15)?
Well, it is widely accepted that Peter helped Mark with his Gospel. Peter was martyred in the mid 60s A.D., before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Matthew, however, wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem, and keeps the parenthetical. Not only that, but they speak of the yet-to-come Abomination of Desolation (see Dan 9:27, 11:31, 12:11) which the Jews believed had already been fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanies in 167 B.C. What is being referred to here? The destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 A.D.? The end-times anti-Christ and Christ’s return? Given the timeline of when these were all written, I think the answer is yes. The destruction of Israel at the hands of Rome in 70 A.D. is a picture of the final judgment, both of which are in view here.
Mark shares less of the discourse, and leaves out the accompanying parables entirely. However, once again, Mark’s ending makes a theological point. He stops with the command to stay awake (v. 37). This parallels the teaching Jesus ended with in the previous chapter. Mark is explaining what is yet to come and what Jesus is about to do, and he is placing our focus on how we – the church – are to live in between the two comings of Christ. Stay awake (v. 37) by giving Him all (12:44)!
In Jesus’s explanation to His disciples about where to prepare the Passover, Mark offers more detail. Jesus tells them very specifically what would happen (14:13-15 – compare Matt 26:18). He also provides the detail that the rooster would crow twice after Peter’s betrayal (v. 30). This is more than (though not less than) Mark setting up the dramatic scene of the betrayal by Peter (who is helping him write this!). Mark is again showing the prophetic power of Christ. Every detail He provides proves true.
In the account of the Gethsemane events, Mark has Jesus singling out Simon Peter as the object of His rebuke (v. 37). Then in verses 51-52, we have the mention of a young man that followed Jesus who ends up running away naked. This small addition is unique to Mark. This has led many to speculate that this young man is none other than Mark himself, which would make him a disciple of Christ, though not an Apostle.
Mark records the trial of Jesus as happening before the denials of Peter (so too Matthew – see Matt 26). Luke, however, records the denials of Peter, and then places the trial the following morning (see Luke 22). Luke is believed by many (including me) to be the most chronologically accurate in his account. So why switch the order around here? I believe that Peter (directing Mark) wanted to highlight his denial of Christ. That the trial of the innocent Jesus was happening at the very moment Peter was outside denying Him highlights the complete abandonment of Jesus by His disciples. However, since Mark chose this order for theological reasons (Matthew may have just followed Mark’s order on this), many get the idea that the trial of Jesus was done under the cover of darkness. But if Luke’s Gospel is to be believed, the trial was held in the day (see Luke 22:66).
In chapter 15, Mark abridges the account of Pilate’s exchange with the crowd about Jesus. In the account of the crucifixion, Mark records the time Jesus was placed on the cross – the third hour (9:00 AM). He also adds the chronological marker of the day of Preparation (v. 42), which would make it Friday. Mark also adds the detail of Pilate’s surprise that Jesus was already dead (v. 44) and his confirmation that it was so (v. 45). Mark leaves no room for error; Jesus really died.
Mark 16 is a point of contention for many. All manuscripts agree on the contents of verses 1-8. Most of the oldest manuscripts end with verse 8. Some younger manuscripts add verses 9-20, some others have added material between verses 8 and 9, and some between verses 14 and 15. We will not get into the details of the argument, but I do not believe verses 9-20 (or any of the additional material) are original to the Gospel account. I do, however, believe that there was more to the ending that has been lost (or yet to be discovered). I would think it would contain that private appearance of Christ to Peter that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 15:5 (see also Luke 24:34).
Note in 16:5 Mark’s description of the young man in white (compare Matthew’s angel who looked like lightning – Matt 28:8). Note that this man/angel names Peter in particular (v. 7). The Gospel account (as we have it) ends with the women fleeing and afraid (v. 8). This is a very unsatisfactory ending to me. There must have been more. Regardless, the theme of fear and astonishment fits with the rest of the Gospel account. God entered into history, and man was never the same.