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Gospel According to Mark Commentary (Mark chapter 14 and 15)
Powerlessness in Mark’s Passion Narrative
Mark’s account of the passion and the events leading up to it are chronicled in Mark 14-15. The gospels’ accounts all chronicle Jesus’s death on the cross and these accounts are quite similar, especially those of Matthew and Mark. There are, however differences ranging from small things such as the different wording to larger things such as the inclusion or omission of entire passages and events. These differences though seemingly minor work to give each gospel slightly different themes and messages. The structure and wording of Mark, for example, presents Jesus in the passion events as relatively powerless compared to earlier in his gospel; in addition Mark portrays a pattern of failure by his disciples and success for seemingly unimportant individuals. These themes work together to give Mark 14-15 a message of spiritual empowerment for the seemingly unempowered, hope for those who feel powerless.
Mark’s gospel portrays a pattern of failure and weakness by those men would say are powerful. The Sanhedrin, supposedly one of the most powerful groups in Israel must delay their arrest of Jesus for fear of the people’s reaction (Mark 14, 1-2). Then once they finally have Jesus they still lack the power to kill him on their own they have to run to the Romans and ask them to put him to death. Thus Jesus’ fate is placed in the hands of Pontius Pilate the Roman governor, supposedly the absolute power and authority in the land. Even a powerful man such as Pilate bends however when, even though he sees no reason to kill Jesus, orders his death for fear of rioting.
Even more prominent is a pattern of failure, the lack of importance, of the disciples, the closest and supposedly most loyal followers of Jesus. Mark begins this theme by omitting the story of Jesus cleansing the feat of the apostles. Instead the beginning of the Passover begins with Jesus rebuking the disciples for their anger with the woman who anoints him. Much of the disciples problems are due to their pride. When Jesus tells them they will have their faith shaken (Mark 14, 27-31) Peter insists that unlike the others his faith will never be shaken. This shows Peter placing himself on a pedestal above the other disciples and after Jesus’ arrest Peter denies him not once but three times. Finally the most blatant failure by the disciples comes in the garden of Gethsemane when they fall asleep after having been told to stand watch and again even after Jesus wakes them up. These are all clear examples of men who make much of their greatness being proven to be otherwise, power in the world of men counts for nothing next to strength of spirit.
Just as distinguished powerful men are shown to be lacking in strength of spirit Mark shows greatness in those who seem to be nothing. In Mark 14, 3-9 a woman given no name or past by Mark anoints Jesus with expensive perfume. The disciples were infuriated with her saying that money could have been better spent, behavior continuing their habit of trying to push others away from Jesus illustrated earlier in the gospel. Jesus however knows that she has just shown her devotion to him and praises her as knowing more than the disciples. In Israel at the time of Jesus roman soldiers were seen as the enemy, the wretched unbelievers who had come and oppressed them however upon Jesus’ death the first person to believe and declare him The Son of God was a roman centurion clearly showing that anyone can and is saved.
The most prominent example of a seemingly powerless individual actually possessing great power and supreme goodness despite his worldly appearance is Jesus himself. This theme is focused on more in Mark than in other gospels for example in other gospels Jesus was said to have healed the ear of the man injured during his arrest Mark does not. Though in the Beginning of Mark’s gospel Jesus displays a great many miraculous powers from the last supper onwards he is portrayed as nearly powerless, foresight being all that remains of his unnatural powers.
Knowing what was coming Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane to plead with his father saying, “Abba, father all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” This statement first shows that Jesus is clearly scared and does not want to go through with his death. It then shows that if God still wants him to go through with it he will do it even though he does not want to. Jesus goes from being a well respected teacher to a naked, beaten, tortured, mocked, and publicly reviled criminal the lowest place one can be in human society, men would not even respect his right to live. Yet despite his powerlessness to save himself and lack of respect from his fellow man Jesus had the power, and in spite of everything the will to grant man eternal salvation the greatest task ever preformed.