Summary: Mark presents the only act of devotion to Jesus we will see until his death.
The Passion begins. Beginning now through the end of chapter 15, we may as well title the section, “The Death of Jesus,” for every scene is about his inevitable death.
From early on Mark had intimated Jesus’ death, building the tension as his story progressed. The first indication of trouble was recorded in 2:7 where the teachers of the law accuse him of blasphemy. From then on all encounters with the religious leaders were antagonistic – the Pharisees’ annoyance that he would dine with people of low reputation (2:13-17); what seemed to them his flaunting of Sabbath rules (2:23-3:6); and their initial plotting to kill him (3:6). The teachers of the law accused him of being possessed by the prince of demons and he warns them of blaspheming the Holy Spirit (3:22-30). They criticized his negligence of ritual washing practices, and he retorted that they set aside the commandment to honor one’s father and mother (7:1-13). They demanded signs, and he warned his disciples to beware the yeast of the Pharisees (8:11-15). His clearing out the moneychangers in the temple area especially galled all the leaders – the priests, teachers of the law, Pharisees and Sadducees. For the second time, Mark reported plotting to kill Jesus (11:18). Then the questions designed to shame and discredit him – by what authority did he clear the temple (11:27-33)? should taxes be paid to Caesar (12:13-17)? what about marriage after the resurrection (12:18-27)? And they only grew more angry as each time he turned the tables on them and publicly shamed them.
No one had more bitter enemies than Jesus. Even though they were antagonistic towards one another, they hated no one like him. Enemies can get along by recognizing the role each other plays in balancing the status quo. The chief priests, teachers of the law and Pharisees, and Sadducees may not have liked one another, but they acknowledged each other’s role in protecting their own interests and the welfare of the Jewish people under Roman rule. Don’t forget – Israel was an occupied country. And the Jewish leaders must keep peace to avoid destruction, which was especially hard in a country filled with religious zeal. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees hated Jesus because he had made them appear foolish and harsh with their traditions; the Sadducees hated him because he embarrassed them; and the chief priests hated him for his presumed authority to run amuck in the temple grounds. They all feared him because of his popularity with the people, and they regarded him as dangerous for his potential to incite rebellion and bring the wrath of the Roman military on their nation.
As the tension builds it becomes inevitable that something must happen. But Mark makes clear that the inevitability of Jesus’ death lay not in the rising anger of his enemies, but in the sovereign plan of God. Beginning in chapter 8, he records a number of Jesus’ statements about his suffering and dying. After Peter makes his famous confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus begins to teach more clearly what he has come to do.