Lectionary Year B
February 20, 2000
Mark 2:1-12

Step III: Immediate Context


Pre: Our passage is proceed by the cleansing of a leper (Mark 1:40-45). It is an enigmatic story because the leper does not keep it a secret as asked. The reader is told that because of this Jesus could not enter the city; the reason is not clearly told but it seems to be due to the number of people seeking him out. Our passage is the tale of the healing of the paralytic carried by four (Mark 2:1-12). Here we encounter the scribes who may be the reason he could not enter the town openly.

Post: The passage is followed by the calling of Matthew (Mark 2:13-17 ) where, again, the scribes enter the story seemingly as adversaries of Jesus.

These passages connect in setting the tone for the rest of the Gospel. The reader has been introduced to who Jesus is (Mk 1:8) and his ordination (Mk 1:9-11). He has been confirmed through temptation (Mk1:14-20), calling disciples, and casting out demons. Present in this pericope and the one proceeding it the reader is being introduced to the inauguration of Jesus' healing ministry and perhaps the introduction of his full mission (Son of Man statement). Also the opposition has been established by the tension with the scribes.


I. Ordination (1:1-11)
II. Confirmation (1:12-2:17)
III. Mission statement (2:18-27)
IV. Enacting mission Facing opposition (2:18-27)
V. Turning point (9:1-10:52)
VI. Saying goodbye(11-)

      I decided to use very broad strokes in my outline. Other outlines are much more detailed. In the MacArthur Study Bible the outline is extremely detailed. For its major themes it does parallel the outline found in Donald Guthrie's New Testament Introduction. In it the major outlines are based upon location. They both follow the movements of Jesus from the Wilderness, to Galilee, the Gentile areas, the road to Jerusalem and "In" Jerusalem. MacArthur proceeds to place every pericope as a subheading.

      The themes of opposition of the scribes and authority of Jesus are repeated in each of the regions Jesus visits. I have chosen to locate it as the confirmation stage of Jesus' ministry because it lays out the protagonist and the hero of the story and begins the process that will carry the reader throughout the text. Jesus confronts the scribes, heals the sick and announces himself the Son of Man all in one pericope. The Gospel of Mark operates as gospel and is not concerned with every fact but in relaying a story of how this life is important. It is for this reason that I chose an outline that represents the life journey in ministry.


      The style of Mark is simple. To English ears the parataxis is reminiscent of the speaking of a child. My wife works as a teacher and relates the stories of children in her class to me. They might sound something like this. "And one time we went to the park. And we played frisbee. And my brother pushed me. And it was raining. And lightning hit the tree. And it just missed me. And then I thanked my brother for making me fall away from the tree...." Often the story conveys better the emotions and energy of the event better than it captures the exact sequence of action and the location of characters. The book as a whole contains a power in its simplicity. It refuses to forget the rejections of Christ or the triumphal entry and finishes with an enigmatic ending. In fact the reader is left wondering if it was such a simple story after all (often children are more complex than we consider). Like the story of a small child the reader must listen till the end to catch the whole meaning. This writer is an action person. In a comparison with Matthew the difference is clear. Matthew pauses for dialogue and explanations and refers to the Old Testament but Mark wants to get the information on the table and what matters to the author is what happened not geneologies, birth narratives, etc.

      In the MacArthur Study Bible I came across the following quote from Papias, the bishop of Hieropolis, written around A.D. 140, "And the presbyter [the apostle John] said this: Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ." According to Lane authorship is attributed to Mark by the Anti-Marcion prologue attached to the Gospels ca. 160 (pg 9). Kummel wholly denounces Papias' claim of Mark being related to Peter in any way and disputes that any of the traditions can be ascertained (95-96). Kummel uses very little information to contradict 1,500 years of church tradition. Short of the words of others, we cannot ascertain the proof of Mark's authorship or identity but such argument can be used with many historical figures. I am not sure that it matters.

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