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Mark 12

Jesus on land rent
You own what you create

(12:1) And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.

'Began': Jesus used parables before, but this is the start of his final teaching, his teaching in Jerusalem that led to him being killed. This is where he speaks plainly, and he talks economics.

'Planted... set an hedge... digged... built': he added value.

'Let it out': people agreed to pay him rent.

'Went into a far country': The person who created the wealth is not on the land right now.

(12:2) And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.

Rent is owed to the person who created the wealth.

(12:3) And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.

The misappropriated rent. In effect they stole from him. If the man had not put in work then the land would not have grown so any vines. So a proportion of the vines belong to the man.

(12:4) And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. (12:5) And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.

They refuse to pay the one who created the wealth.

(12:6) Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.

'His wellbeloved': Jesus. Indicating that the man who planted the vineyard is God, and the vineyard is Israel or the world.

(12:7) But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be our's. (12:8) And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

'They took him and killed him': like all parables this teaches universal principles. Itis not just about these particular land owners, and it is not just about Jesus, it is a prophecy, a pattern that is followed time and time again.

Land occupiers often try to misappropriate rents, and will defend what they see as their right to the land, escalating higher and higher until they effectively claim sovereignty over the land, and the right to kill anybody who says otherwise. All nations are built on this principle: they al claim the right to kill those who try to use their land.

Jesus' own life followed this pattern. He was killed because he demanded that the people who occupied Israel stop ignoring God. The final sticking point, the reason for crucifixion, was his known opposition to tax (see notes by Mark 15:2). This parable encapsulated Jesus' central teaching (see the parable of the pounds, etc. ), that the person who creates the wealth owns it. So render to the owner what is the owners, and to God what is God's.

(12:9) What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

'What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do': Jesus approves of this behavior. This is how any vineyard should run:

  1. Whoever makes the land valuable deserves rent.
  2. If the vineyard is a nation, the rent (logical behavior) is owed to God (logic).
  3. If the vineyard is a regular vineyard, the rent is owed to whoever made the land valuable. This is party whoever worked on the land, and partly society for providing security, roads, etc.

'He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others': If we do not pay the rent, the one who create the value should take the land away and give it to others. This is Jesus' principle for vineyards, and he applies it to the nation as a whole.

Why Jesus came: the key teaching

Mark chapter 12 builds on the Old Testament and Jesus' earlier teachings: it is the key to understanding and applying the teachings of Jesus to a real world economy. Jesus says why he came: the people misappropriate rents.

This teaching leads to the famous question about paying tax to Caesar. When he avoids the trap they look for another way to defeat him. Until then Jesus was ignored by the state.

Note that this parable is not technically about rent, rent is merely a result. The parable is about the wealth creator taking the wealth they create. This is a universal principle: Jesus applies iot both to land owners and to God.

Jesus seems to be merely condemning unearned wealth. The owner caused fruit to grow, and then claims the fruit.

Critics might object, and argue that the parable of the laborers in Matthew 20 supports unearned wealth:

"For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. " (Matthew 20:1-15)

'Why stand ye here all the day idle?': this is the key phrase. The last workers had been there all day, just like the first people. It was pure luck that the first had got work. They all did exactly the same thing, and any difference in outcome would be pure luck. Jesus condemns inequality due to luck.

(12:10) And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: (12:11) This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

This is a reference to Psalm 118:

"The LORD hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: this gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter. I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. " [etc. ] (Psalm 118:18-23)

The context is somebody rejoicing that God has blessed them. Traditionally this is David, rejoicing at the success of his new kingdom.

Israel is the stone the builders rejected

'The stone': This could apply to David, because Saul, the first king, builder of Israel, rejected him. It could also apply to Israel: modern Tanakh commentaries suggest the stone is the nation itself, a weak nation mocked by the empires around it, made strong by God. Since God has blessed it then it could be the righteous.

(12:12) And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.

'They': The chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders (see Mark 11:27) after they asked Jesus about John the Baptist. Those leaders of the Jews had lost any right to rule, and had killed and driven out the prophets (such as John the Baptist) who tried to warn them. The son was presumably Jesus himself.

In the parable the vineyard owner will give the vineyard unto others. "Others" is Greek "allos", the word used for the previous servants:

"And again he sent unto them another ('allos') servant [...] And again he sent another ('allos'); and him they killed , and many others ('allos') [and eventually he ] will give the vineyard unto others. ('allos')"

In the parable the son is not the others, he is the son. Besides, in the parable he is killed and does not come back. So the vineyard goes to the ordinary servants: the only one it cannot go to is the son. This agrees with the traditional Jewish interpretation of Psalm 118, that the stone is righteous Israel, not David or any other ruler.

(12:13) And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.

Herodians: see commentary to 3:6

The book of Revelation

(12:14) And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?

Mark 12:14-17 is the key to the Christians avoiding the persecution of Rome.

Jesus taught to be friends with Rome, to "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness (Luke 16:9)". E. g. if a Roman soldier forces you to walk a mile with him, walk two. That way he will listen to you.

Jesus found that some the Romans understood his message better than his followers (see Matthew 8:5-10 and the commentary to Mark 11:23). When Jesus died he already had followers among the Roman centurions, and Pilate was impressed. His friendship with Rome would have changed the world: for details see part eight of this book, "what might have been".

But Jesus' followers taught the opposite. Whereas Jesus taught to pay coins to Caesar because they have his image, his followers taught the reverse. Take for example this famous passage in Revelation, talking about the Beast:

"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. " (Revelation 13:16-18)

What this means:

"In 66, when Nero was emperor, about the time some scholars say Revelation was written, the Jews revolted against Rome and coined their own money. The Greek word translated as mark (of the beast) also means stamped money, coin or the impress on the coin hence, 'no one buys or sells without the money of the beast. ' New Testament scholar Craig C. Hill suggests that the mark symbolized the all-embracing economic power of Rome, whose very coinage bore the emperor's image and conveyed his claims to divinity (e.g. , by including the sun's rays in the ruler's portrait). Zealot Christians from the 1st century refused to carry, look at, or manufacture coins bearing any sort of idolatrous image. Thus it had become increasingly difficult for Christians to function in a world in which public life, including the economic life of the trade guilds, required participation in idolatry. Adela Yarbro Collins further denotes that the refusal to use Roman coins resulted in the condition where 'no man might buy or sell' (Rev. 13:17). A similar view is offered by Craig R. Koester, 'As sales were made, people used coins that bore the images of Rome's gods and emperors. Thus each transaction that used such coins was a reminder that people were advancing themselves economically by relying on political powers that did not recognize the true God. '" (The summary from Wikipedia)

Note the irony: in the name of avoiding idolatry the Christians made a new idol: the book of Revelation. They treated its words as more important than what Jesus said. As a result they lost their chance to influence Rome and instead got themselves persecuted. See also Mark 13:9 and commentary.

(Dating Revelation:
The details about the beast all fit the time of Nero. So do secondary details, such as referring to Jerusalem as if it still exists - it was destroyed in AD 70. This would make John around 60 years old. Life expectancy in classical Rome, if you survived childhood, was around 47, but plenty of people lived to 60. However, Irenaeus, writing circa AD 180, wants us to believe that John lived to twice the usual lifespan, and wrote Revelation around AD 95 or 96. Irenaeus needs such a late date for his own credibility. Irenaeus saw his job as attacking anybody who disagreed with him - see the end of part nine of this book for details. He depended on his links with Polycarp who allegedly knew John. Irenaeus also depended on Paul's claim that apostles had a special link to God. If Irenaeus accepted that Revelation was written at the time of Nero that weakened his claim to know somebody who knew John. Worse, if Paul was writing at the same time that Revelation was written, so why didn't Paul write it? This makes Paul a junior leader. But Paul says apostolic authority matters, so if Paul is just a junior apostle, why should we listen to him instead of his critics? For more about Paul'c critics see part nine of this book, the commentary to Acts 11:26. )

(12:15) Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.

'Hypocrisy': The Pharisees and Herodians hated Rome, yet worked with it because they had to. In contrast Jesus did not hate Rome. He had enough confidence in his message that it would persuade the Romans on its own merits. Jesus did not need conflict to win: he offered a better product and could win through agreement.

(12:16) And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.

'Whose is this image and superscription': Caesar caused the money to be made, so it is his property. We own what we create.

(12:17) And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.

For the tax implications see commentary to Mark 2:15

Jesus and Rome

Jesus was not like the other first century messiahs, he was smarter. He did not resist Rome, nor did he accept it: he used it to serve his goals, to mutual benefit. Jesus taught his followers to support Rome in a number of ways:

  1. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's
  2. Love enemies. Did the early church really love Rome?
  3. Go the extra mile. This refers to the law that a Roman soldier could force a local person to carry hbis goods for one mile. It's about Roman oppression.
  4. At the trial, Pilate could see no fault in Jesus. Everything about his life indicates that he worked with Rome, not against it. He knew full well that Rome could be unjust: Rome killed him! But Jesus could see a longer term view.

This policy worked. Jesus only had three years to teach, and already in that time his followers included at least one centurion, and Jesus said the centurion had more faith (belief based on evidence) than anyone in Israel. At his crucifixion he had the sympathy of the governor (Pilate) and the soldiers. If the church had carried on his policy Rome would have become friendlier and friendlier to the Christians instead of persecuting them.

Would Rome have finally come over to Jesus' way of thinking? Rome adopted a later version of Christianity in AD 325, so yes, some emperors were open to persuasion if they saw some benefit to it.

(12:18) Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,

'Resurrection': see part two of this book.

(12:19) Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

It's really about economics again: this "hinted at their real agenda: the protection of property rights through patriarchal marriage that perpetuated the male lineage. " (Commentary, New Oxford Annotated Bible)

(12:20) Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. (12:21) And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. (12:22) And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. (12:23) In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. (12:24) And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?

'The scriptures': as noted above, the scriptures teach that spirit is a person's ideas and personality, and spirit lives on through other people.

'The power of God': God is logic. Logic controls everything, and it controls the real world. Rising again does not wait for some distant future or a supernatural spirit world, it happens here and now.

(12:25) For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

'When they shall rise from the dead': see commentary to verse 18.

'As the angels which are in heaven': angels are messengers. Note that the people have risen from the dead, but are as if they are still in heaven: that is, they are still in the real of the abstract possibilities; they are identities, ideas, rather than physical bodies. They are messengers because we remember (receive) their teaching.

(12:26) And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? (12:27) He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

'He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living': this sentence deserves to be repeated: He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.

Resurrection refers to living through other people in this life. This is the only life. There is no twilight world of supernatural spirits out there, just as there is no sudden ending of ideas when a body ends. So the Sadducees and Pharisees were both wrong.

(12:28) And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? (12:29) And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: (12:30) And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

God is logic (see commentary to Mark 1:1)

The first commandment of all is to love logic.

(12:31) And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Jesus works through cooperation, not conflict. This creates a more efficient outcome.


The above verses in Mark 12 are the only time when the word love (Greek "agapao") appears in Mark, the earliest gospel. Later gospels have more to say on the topic. For example:

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. " (Matthew 5:44-48)

How do we love enemies? With empty words or do we actually give them things of value - our time and resources? How could that work in a modern economy (or any economy for that matter)? Mark focuses not on the outcome (love) but on the method: a fair economic system. Trade changes enemies into partners, and eventually friends.

The early church focused more on the word love, and less on trade as a concept. Whereas Jesus only used the word love twice in Mark, Paul uses the word 75 times. But is Paul more loving? By the time we get to the book of Revelation the word love is only used twice, but this time in very unloving ways:

"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. " (Revelation 2:4) "As many as I love , I rebuke and chasten : be zealous therefore, and repent. " (Revelation 3:19)

Much of the book of Revelation is devoted to conflict with Rome (in particular the Beast, emperor Nero). Jesus said to love enemies but the church did not see how to, except in empty words.

Jesus taught compassion more than love

Rather than love, Jesus more often uses the word compassion:

"And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. " (Mark 1:41); "Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. " (Mark 5:19); "And Jesus, when he came out , saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. " (Mark 6:34); "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat" (Mark 8:2); "And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. " (Mark 9:22)

Compassion is the Greek word "Splagchnizomai", from the word "Splagchnon" meaning internal organs: compassion is when your body, inside, moves in empathy with someone else's pain. He saw things from their point of view. He then helped them, and they helped him in return.

Healing as a form of trade

Jesus did not heal everybody. He came mainly to teach. But healing a few people gave him an audience. The audience was what he wanted: it was his payment. Sometimes the healed person the followed Jesus, and occasionally Jesus told them not to tell anybody. But in every case the disciples knew about it, and they were the ones Jesus most needed to be converted.

So every healed person gave something in return. If they did not, Jesus was not pleased.

"And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?" (Luke 17:14-17)

It could be argued that perhaps Jesus healed some people in secret, and therefore did not benefit. However, Jesus often commented that he had no time to himself. Even when tried to get away from the crowds his disciples were always nearby, even when he slept. So there were no truly secret healings. We can speculate about what might have happened in an alternate reality, but the fact is that every healing provided Jesus with what he most needed: devoted followers, and usually a mass audience as well.

Love and business

Readers may be shocked and disgusted at the suggestion that Jesus acted through trade. To most people trade is only for short term financial reward. But this just shows how broken our societies are. Our idea of business is broken. Itis not fit for purpose. Jesus has a different view of business: his father's business (and Luke 2:49, King James Version puts it) is to learn and teach truth. Dickens put it well, when he has Ebenezer Scrooge complain that doing good is bad for business. The response from his former partner:

"Business! cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!" (A Christmas Carol, stave 1).

Business means any business, If we need to do something efficiently, to get the best possible result, we need to go about it in a business-like way. If we want to feed the hungry we need a way that the hungry can have good jobs. If we want to spread a message the we need to get an audience and a means of communication. if you want to show someone you love them then you need to prioritize our resources accordingly. To run the kingdom of God on earth requires need answers to all economic problems, and do far more than just say love each other. That is what Jesus did in the earliest gospel, the gospel of Mark.

(12:32) And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: (12:33) And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

'Is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices': God is not interested in the supernatural, and any offerings are just a way to remember him.

(12:34) And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

The kingdom is a kingdom. Concern for a neighbor's need is the basis for cooperation, the foundation of any economy. E. g. trade is a form of cooperation.

(12:35) And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David?

Being the son of somebody is irrelevant. Value does not come from your ancestry. Jesus will now show that David's lord was Abraham, a man who earned any respect he is due.

(12:36) For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.

This quotes Psalm 110. The following translation and commentary is from the Jewish scripture site, Chabad (chabad.org/ library/bible_cdo/aid/ 16331/jewish/Chapter-110.htm)

Psalm 110:1 "The staff of your might the Lord will send from Zion: When you return from the war and your men are weary and in pursuit, the Lord will send you Melchizedek, king of Salem, to bring out bread and wine (Gen. 14: 14).

Psalm 110:2 is also about Abraham. Verse 3 continues:

"Your people will volunteer on the day of your host: When you gather an army to pursue them, your people and your friends will volunteer to go out with you, as we find (Gen. 14:14): 'and he armed his trained men, those born in his house, ' and no more; and Aner, Eshkol, and Mamre volunteered by themselves to go out to his aid.

Psalm 110:4 is about Abraham: the priest after the order of Melchizedek, and verse 5 is about Abraham's battle against the kings. Verse 6 says he:

"will execute justice upon the nations [into] a heap of corpses: This is the tidings of the 'covenant between the segments, ' [in] which was stated to him concerning Egypt (Gen. 15:14): 'But also that nation whom they will serve do I judge. '

So "my Lord" in Psalm 110 is about Abraham.

(12:37) David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.

David spoke by the Holy Ghost. That is, he spoke by logic (see part two of this book for ghosts):

'The word of the Lord to my master':

"Our Rabbis interpreted it as referring to Abraham our father, and I shall explain it according to their words (Midrash Psalm 110:1): The word of the Lord to Abraham, whom the world called 'my master, ' as it is written (Gen. 23:6): 'Hearken to us, my master. '"

'Wait for My right hand': Wait for My salvation and hope for the Lord. Compare the last verse of the start of Deuteronomy, the book that summarizes the law: "And you stayed in Kadesh for many days. " (Deuteronomy 1:46). I. e. Abraham had to wait rather than fight, just as the children of Israel later had to wait rather than fight. Just as David waited then triumphed.

Once again, Jesus is using logic to disprove those who rely on scripture and tradition. Scripture and tradition say that "my Lord" in Psalm 110 is a future supernatural messiah. Jesus shows that this is nonsense: Psalm 110 looks backward to mortal rulers. Jesus is showing that text based religion (as opposed to logic based religion) routinely ties itself in knots.

(12:38) And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, (12:39) And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: (12:40) Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.

'Devour widow's houses': economics again. The law of Moses is based on equal land. It defined a household in terms of a single gender, because if it was split between genders then land could be split and then recombined through marriage, resulting in land monopoly. However, this created the problem of widows (or, if land has been defined by female heads of household the problem would be with widowers). So the law of Moses had special provisions to ensure that widows were not left landless.

Bad religious leaders find a way around this in order to give women fewer rights. For example, in Mark 7 we saw how some Pharisees would spend money for "religious reasons" when that money should have gone to their elderly parents. The bottom line is that this teaching. like all of life, is based in economics.

(12:41) And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. (12:42) And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. (12:43) And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: (12:44) For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

The labour theory of value

This event illustrates several popular ways to measure value:

Cash value:
According to the coins, the widow's life and work is valued at only two farthings, vastly less than a rich man's life and work. Jesus indicates that this way of valuing property is wrong: the widow's farthing is actually worth more.

Marginal theory of value:
The woman's last two farthings are worth more than her earlier money because they are all she has. The problem with this approach is that values are different for different people, and constantly change, making it hard for a business to plan ahead. Many people would agree that the widow's work is more valuable, but find it hard to create a new economy based on that.

Labour theory of value:
All value is eventually traced to work. Clearly the widow invests more hours of work per farthing than the rich man does per farthing. However, if we value all the work the same then anybody who spends extra (in training or investment) loses money.

Central control:
The authorities had created a system that valued the rich man far more than the poor woman. But they do not see the whole story, so cannot make good decisions on such things.

The law of Moses:
Under the law of Moses (which forbids land monopoly and tax, and requires rent from land), and under the more sophisticated version Jesus preached (which allowed land to be transferred as long as rent is paid), the rich man would only be rich if he created that wealth, and there would be no poor. By pointing out the woman's sacrifice, Jesus is pointing out that the law of Moses was not being followed by the elites.

Mark 13
Tax destroys the nation again

We saw in part 5 of this book that tax destroyed the nation of Israel, weakening its economy so that others could invade. This time tax will lead to even greater evil.

(13:1) And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!

They were built by taxation, by Herod the Great. Herod was from Idumaea, installed as king by the hated Romans. Herod considered himself a Jewish convert, but most Jews considered him not a real Jew. He rebuilt the temple hoping it would make him more popular with the stricter Jews.

In this chapter Jesus predicts that the temple will be destroyed by the rebellion of the Jews. Why did the Jews rebel? Because they resented outsiders controlling them by force. What was the trigger? Jesus did not have to say, there was only one possible cause: tax.

"The Great Revolt began in the year 66 CE, originated in the Greek and Jewish religious tensions, later escalated due to anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens. " (Wikipedia)

So we see that forced tax created it, and forced tax would destroy it. Something built by force will be destroyed by force. He that lives by the sword will die by the sword .

(13:2) And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

Does this imply that the prophecy was written after AD70? No, because the most specific part, the abomination of desolation, did not happen (see commentary to 13:14). However, in the AD 30s a sack of Judea seemed to be on the cards: it didn't happen because of events elsewhere (see thehistoryofrome. typepad.com for the context), but it was only a matter of time. Any observer could have seen that the Zealots had a history of annoying the Romans and when the Romans are sufficiently annoyed they flatten your city.

(13:3) And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, (13:4) Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? (13:5) And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: (13:6) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

'In my name': Jesus did not believe in authority handed down: he only believed in the authority of logic (see commentary to Mark 1:22, Mark 10:42-44, etc. ). So claiming authority in my name was wrong. But the disciples wanted that kind of authority. Instead of focusing on Jesus' message they focused on Jesus as a supernatural leader, and created a hierarchy with the apostles at the top. They called this new hierarchy Christ-ianity. For how it grew and evolved, see the early church.

'Saying I am Christ': The Greek does not use the word "Christ" but says "saying that I am" (Greek "lego hoti ego eimi" - see commentary by Mark 8:30. ) Jesus is speaking, so he is saying "many Christians shall come, saying I (Jesus) am. "

'Deceive': Greek "planao" - to wander. While the result is to lead people astray the word does not mean deliberately. The people are simply wandering, as sheep that have no shepherd.

So a more literal translation of Mark 13:6 is:

"many shall come in my (Jesus) name, saying that I am (i.e. that Jesus is Christ), and shall cause many to wander off. " (13:7) And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.

'Wars': Border skirmishes were routine in the Roman empire.

'Rumours of wars': The rumors are just as big a problem as the wars: people think the world is getting worse even if it isn't. Today, when the number of deaths in war is in long term decline but electronic media mean we hear more about them.

'Be ye not troubled ' the end shall not be yet. 'Jesus is specifically saying these are not signs of the end. He is rational and knows these thins are always common.

(13:8) For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

'Nation shall rise against nation': This is routine throughout history.

'Earthquakes': There was a major earthquake in Judea within recent memory, in 27 BC. People would see this as a sign, so it was on Jesus' mind.

'Famines and troubles': common in the ancient world.

'The beginning of sorrows': Worry about things you cannot control is the beginnings of sorrows.

(13:9) But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.

This is the far greater danger: this is the one that caused his follows to suffer, because they ignored his teachings. Jesus told them to pay taxes to Caesar because his head is on the coin, and to go the extra mile when a soldier forced them to go one mile. In other words, cooperate with Rome But the Christians did the opposite, and resisted Rome and were persecuted as a result. See 12:14 and commentary.

(13:10) And the gospel must first be published among all nations.

'The gospel': the gospel tells the people to Render to Caesar, go the extra mile, etc: i.e. cooperate with Rome: they can thus avoid these problems.

'All nations': the version in Matthew goes even further and says 'all the world. ' Much as when Caesar said 'all the world should be taxed:' it therefore refers to the Roman world. Paul said, before AD 70, that their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world (Romans 10:18).

However, if by 'nations' we mean the people of those nations, most Roman nations were represented in Jerusalem at Pentecost, a few weeks after the crucifixion, and they heard the gospel then.

(13:11) But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

Do not prepare your message, like a politician who does not listen but says his prepared message, but instead react to the circumstances of the time. Like a scientist who adapts to the evidence at hand. It is not you who speaks, but the logic of the situation.

(13:12) Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.

This kind of thing happens when the Romans threaten you: people start to panic.

(13:13) And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

'Endure to the end': keep cooperating with Rome as instructed; be sensitive to your listeners as instructed, and you will survive.

(13:14) But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:

'The abomination of desolation': this refers to the erecting of a pagan idol in the temple, an event that happened twice before (by Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33:7 and by Antiochus in 1 Maccabees). So it was reasonable to assume that it would happen again given the similar circumstances. It turns out that it did not happen in AD 70 (though it almost did in the 130s). Jesus did not have supernatural knowledge, he just made very good predictions based on the evidence available.

'Let him that readeth': Jesus usually said "let him that hath ears to hear"; so this is a parenthesis written by Mark. By the time the book of Mark was finished the danger from Rome was clearer than ever.

(13:15) And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: (13:16) And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. (13:17) But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! "Josephus (7:8) mentions that some mothers, constrained by hunger during the siege, devoured their own infants!" (Pulpit Commentary) (13:18) And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.

When it is clear that the Romans are invading, run!

(13:19) For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. "All this is confirmed by Josephus, who says, speaking of this overthrow, I do not think that any state ever suffered such things, or any nation within the memory of man. " (Pulpit Commentary)

'Not from the beginning of the creation': the people can escape it by fleeing to the mountains (verse 14) so this must be local to Jerusalem and the cities. Note that worse things have happened to other cities: Noah's entire people were wiped out in a flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone.

Jerusalem was never destroyed before: when Nebuchadnezzar invaded he simply removed the people and valuables. But Rome wants to teach Judea a lesson, so Jesus expected worse.

(13:20) And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.

'Except that the Lord had shortened those days':

"If the time of the siege of Jerusalem had lasted much longer, not one of the nation could have survived; all would have perished by war, or famine, or pestilence. The Romans raged against the Jews as an obstinate and rebellious nation, and would have exterminated them. " (Pulpit Commentary)

Although this appears a remarkable prediction, it is just an observation of how Rome works: they hit hard and fast. There is no reason at this time for them to attack more than some limited areas.

As it happened (and this is further evidence that this was not written after the event) the siege of Jerusalem lasted several months. However, it appears to have been focused only on Jerusalem: the Romans let people in to celebrate Passover as usual, indicating that life went on as normal outside. The Romans then did not let the people out, so the food and water would run out more quickly. So Jesus was correct: once you see plain evidence of Rome attacking the holy places, expect the worst.

'The elect': Greek "eklektos" or chosen, hence "whom he hath chosen" (Eklektomai). Jesus chose twelve disciples and later chose seventy others. The idea that Jesus supernaturally chose every single follower was invented later, and is not taught by Jesus.

(13:21) And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:

'Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there': After Jesus left, Paul claimed that Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Later someone claiming to be John claimed that Jesus appeared in a remote island. Jesus states plainly that if someone says this, believe him not.

'Believe him not': It is ironic that this chapter is widely interpreted as signs of the end of the world, when Jesus specifically said these are not signs. The only 'sign' is of enemies attacking the holy places: when you see that, flee to the hills!

(13:22) For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

'False Christs':

"Persons who claim to be the deliverers of Israel divinely appointed to bring about the establishment of the promised Messianic kingdom. [...] All of them had as their goal the restoration of Israel to its native land. Some sought to accomplish this through penitence, fasting, and prayer, and looked forward to miracles to assist them; others appealed to arms. " (Jewish Encyclopedia)

Josephus writes about these messiahs in the period before the destruction of Jerusalem. They:

"prevailed on the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them in the wilderness, pretending that God would there show them signs of liberty" (Antiquities of the Jews 8:6).

'If it were': it were is not in the Greek. the Greek word is just "ei" meaning "if". When Mark uses the word he usually means things that do sometimes happen. If so then we can expect that some of the apostles and seventy were led astray, believing those who said Jesus appeared to me.

'Possible': Greek dunatos - able, powerful, mighty, strong, mighty in wealth and influence

strong in soul etc.

'Even': Kreek kai - also. The false might also deceive the apostles.

'Elect': The twelve and the seventy disciples. See verse 20.

So false teachers will claim to have seen and represent Jesus, and may even deceive the apostles

The author of the book of Revelation may be an example of this. He claimed to be John, in the wilderness (exiled on Patmos). He claimed that Jesus appeared to him in a vision, and told him to oppose Rome, e.g. by not using Nero's coins. Note that Jesus had specifically said the exact opposite (see commentary by Mark 12:14). He promised great signs and wonders. This led many of the elect (the most committed followers of Jesus) to refuse to follow Caesar, with disastrous results: they were fed to the lions, burnt at the stake, and ultimately (because of other false prophets as well) Jerusalem was destroyed.

Note that whereas Jesus came to build the kingdom, the effect of the Book of Revelation (and teachers like it) was to destroy the kingdom. This is not to say that Revelation is wrong in everything: for example, the eventual new heaven and new earth is an inevitable result of the progress of science, but that is another topic.

False prophets was a rational prediction. Jesus had seen how his followers are concerned with authority. When Rome threatens the state it is natural for people to offer miraculous solutions.

(13:23) But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. (13:24) But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,

'Sun darkened, moon not give her light': The smoke from burning a major city would cover the sky.

This whole passage sounds a little like a Marxist preacher saying the overthrow of the elite is inevitable: the common man will rise and there will be fire and smoke! Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" has several examples where the text of Mark indicates that Jesus got angry at times. I can just imagine Jesus speaking with passion about the coming fire and destruction.

(13:25) And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

'Stars of heaven shall fall': burning a major city causes huge embers to fall from the black smoke filled sky. In prophecy falling stars generally refer to falling people (e.g. Nebuchadnezzar in Isaiah 14: 12 and the star that falls then is given a key to open the bottomless pit in Revelation 9:1). So this could refer to the corrupt leaders of Jerusalem.

'Powers of heaven shall be shaken': the destruction of the temple is the greatest ever blow to the Jewish Faith.

Josephus (the best source for first century Jewish history) records actual signs in the heavens at the destruction of Jerusalem:

"Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. " (Wars, Book 6, Chapter 5, Section 3).

Eusebius, the great church historian, goes further:

"Before the setting of the sun chariots and armed troops were seen throughout the whole region in mid-air, wheeling through the clouds and encircling the cities. " (Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, Chapter 8, Section 5) (13:26) And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

'The son of man': the common man. See commentary to Mark 2:10. The Jewish zealots represented religious extremism. But Rome was only interested in good order and taxes. When Rome destroyed Jerusalem it would new local leaders. This was an opportunity for the common man to regain control. The kingdom of God is based on economic justice, with no elites (see part five of this book).

Jesus could see that cooperating with Rome was the way to rebuild the kingdom. Rome did not care how its client states were run as long as they were stable and produced taxes. Jesus had no reason to oppose Rome: For all its faults, Rome offered a better life for the common man. That's why barbarian tribes wanted to be part of the empire. As for the non-issue of worshiping Caesar, see part eight of this book (under "what might have been").

'Clouds': the clouds of smoke from the destruction of Jerusalem. The Greek word "Nephele" is the same word used for the cloud of smoke in Moses' day:

"And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. [...] And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount [...] And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. " (Exodus 19:9, 16-19, just before the Ten Commandments are given in Exodus 20)

How did God speak to Moses out of clouds? Presumably these fires were lit by the priests. The voice of God could belong to Aaron, because Aaron was the high priest and so represented God. Aaron was chosen because he had a stronger voice than Moses, see Exodus 4:10-16. Note also that:

"the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light" (Exodus 13:21-22)

So the priests probably had a fire on a cart at the head of the group, so the stragglers would not get lost. The fire would be obvious at night, but not in daylight, in the bright desert sun. So in the day it would be a pillar of smoke and at night it would be seen as a pillar of fire.) For more about cloud, smoke, fire, and how air and spirit are the same word, see the "face of God" in part one of this book.

So we see that God appears as the smoke of fire. The spirit of God, of inevitable logic, could be seen in the destruction of Jerusalem as a result of the Jews constantly irritating Rome. God (inevitable logic) was in the smoke of the burning temple in AD 70.

'With great power': AD 70 was a powerful reminder that Rome was more powerful than zealots.

'And glory': Greek "doxa": opinion. The realization that Jesus was right.

(13:27) And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

'Angels': literally "messengers." I.e. Christians saying the danger has passed, Jesus was right, and it is safe to return.

'The four winds': North, south, east and west. Where the Christians were hiding while Jerusalem was destroyed: hiding in the mountains, deserts, other countries, etc.

(13:28) Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: (13:29) So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.

'These things': false Christs, persecution and approaching armies

(13:30) Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

It happened in AD 70, though it could have happened much sooner if the Roman emperor had not been distracted by other concerns. There was always simmering resentment of Rome, but the actions of the mad emperor Caligula almost led to a revolt in AD 40, when Caligula tried to have a statue of himself placed in the Jerusalem temple.

(13:31) Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

Logic is eternal. Jesus was speaking eternal principles: e.g. annoy a big power and he will hurt you. That is always true.

(13:32) But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

This is proof that Jesus did not now everything, he was simply applying logic, making safe predictions: given the underlying rebellion, sooner or later Rome would invade. The invasion might have happened sooner, but as it happened the events did not reach climax for another 37 years.

(13:33) Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

'Pray': carefully consider the evidence (see commentary to Mark 14:36)

(13:34) For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.

'The Son of man': Jesus identifies himself as the common man. See commentary to Mark 2:10. He leaves but his spirit remains and will come back.

'Servants' and 'porter': this does not break the no ruling by appeal to authority rule - servants are paid. In a fair society a servant (such as a shopkeeper or visiting doctor) may have a better life than the person they serve.

(13:35) Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:

'The master of the house': God:' 'logic and reason are the ultimate master of all events. the son of man is logical so represents logic. The real Jesus is that spirit, not the body that happened to wear sandals and a beard.

'Ye know not': While you can reliably predict the future in general terms (e.g. the powerful will beat the weak on average, and technology will improve on average) it is impossible to say exactly how or when it will happen. There will also be unforeseen setbacks along the way. But hold your nerve. Logic is logic.

(13:36) Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. (13:37) And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

'Watch': observe the evidence around you. That is the basis of science.

Mark 14
The ideal ruler and the new contract
(rule by mutual benefit, not force)

(14:1) After two days was the feast of the Passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. (14:2) But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.

This is a cost-benefit analysis: an economic calculation. Presumably Jesus did the same calculation, and decided that provoking the authorities on a feast would give him the maximum publicity, and also let him say far more before being silenced. But Judas changed all that.

Jesus does not oppose riches, only unearned riches

(14:3) And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.

'Bethany': This appears to be the base of operations when at Jerusalem. Simon, Mary, Martha and Lazarus all live here. His followers gathered here for his final public appearance (the ascension: see after the crucifixion ).

'Spikenard': a plant from the Himalayas. After the ascension Jesus probably traveled there (see after the crucifixion ).

'Poured it on his head': Christ means the anointed one. He was anointed with water (i.e. washes clean) and with the spirit (i.e. given the voice of god) at his baptism, and is now anointed with oil.

(14:4) And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? (14:5) For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

'More than three hundred pence': pence = Roman Denarii. 1 denarus = 1 day's wages for a skilled laborer. This indicates that Jesus has rich friends.

(14:6) And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.

So Jesus' goal was not to redistribute wealth: that was merely a common side effect of justice. Yet he promised riches (Mark 10:29-30). We must conclude that his method was to institute good rules and let poverty end that way. The rich young man is an example of this: he needed to give his money to the poor, not out of any charity, but because his money belonged to them (see commentary to Mark 10:21).

(14:7) For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.

'Ye have the poor with you always': yet you can stop them being poor any time you want:

'Whensoever ye will ye can do them good': you can solve that problem any time you want, by choosing a fair society (one where government does not steal from workers, and where landowners do not steal land value from society). We should choose to solve poverty but do not do so, so we must help the poor is hypocritical. 'Whensoever ye will ye can do them good 'is not in the Matthew and Luke version: later gospel writers did not want to be reminded of that. By the second half of the first century the Christian church had rejected Jesus' economic message in favor of the supernatural.

Was Jesus married?

(14:8) She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.

There may be more to it than that: Lightfoot's commentary speaks of the custom for a bridegroom to give his bride a box of costly ointment, and for the Babylonian custom of the bride anointing her bridegroom's head with costly oil. Luke 10 says she sat at Jesus' feet, a very intimate thing for a woman of the time, and John 12:3 says she put the perfume on his feet and wiped them with her hair. This has led to speculation that they were married.

Jesus was a rabbi and it was normal for a rabbi to be married, but Paul saw marriage as a necessary evil so the early Christian church liked to imagine Jesus as celibate. see part seven of this book for how Jesus may have assumed a new identity, lived a long life and traveled in the east with his wife and another friend.

(14:9) Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

This is evidence that the Pharisees' idea of physical resurrection is false. If the woman lived on, why would it matter if she was remembered? But it does matter. We live on through what we leave behind, just as Jesus lives on through his followers.

(14:10) And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.

According to John , it was Judas who complained about the money. Like many Christians, he seemed to believe that Jesus was here to redistribute wealth. So accepting the ointment would be a sign of power corrupting him. However, Jesus was never interested in redistribution, only in economic justice, the permanent solution to poverty.

Was Judas evil? John says Jesus called him a devil. But Jesus also called Peter Satan (Mark 8:33) when Peter said he would protect Jesus from dying. Jesus knew he had to die (or seem to die), and Peter did not understand the big picture. Perhaps Judas is the same: he knows that Jesus is provoking the authorities, so Judas wants to get it over with, so that Jesus can beat them as he always does. But as with the early church, peter and Judas did not follow what Jesus was saying (see The Early Church).

(14:11) And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.

Matthew said he was offered 30 pieces of silver. this is less than half the value of the ointment. Judas perhaps figured that if Jesus was greedy for such a large amount he would be less greedy and just profit by half of it.

Why is this wrong? Because Judas did not own Jesus: Jesus was not his property, so Judas should not profit from him. Most people agree with this principle. If we take this to its logical conclusion (only profiting from out own work) then we have the kingdom of God on Earth.

Note that receiving a gift *such as the ointment) does not break the rule: if a gift is freely given then the other person must think it is worth it: that is, they get benefits of some kind in return (e.g. Jesus provides what the woman wanted in terms of a better world: this is worth investing in).

(14:12) And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the Passover?

This was the evening of the Thursday (the 14th day of the month Nisan), preparing for the next day's food. In Matthew Jesus is recorded as saying take no thought for the morrow, what you shall eat. But clearly that refers to special circumstances, or is talking about priorities and not a general principle, or was not remembered accurately in the later gospels. As here Jesus does just that: he takes thought for the morrow, what they shall eat. That is just good economics.

(14:13) And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.

Jesus has made plans without the disciples' knowledge. Just as he did with the men on the hill (Mark 9:2-4 and commentary).

(14:14) And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples?

Tradition says that this house owner was Mark himself. he must have had a reasonable income to afford a man to carry his water, despite spending time as one of the seventy that Jesus sent out (so he had little time to earn a living)

(14:15) And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.

More evidence that Jesus had wealthy friends. See 14:5. if this is Mark it indicates both that Mark understood the need for economic prudence, and that his home was the center of the church: so he understood what was going on better than almost anybody:

"Tradition says that this was the house of John whose surname was Mark; and that it was in this house that the disciples were assembled on the evening of our Lord's resurrection, and where, also, they received the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost. It was to this house that Peter betook himself when he was delivered by the angel out of prison. Hence it was known, as one of the earliest places of Christian worship, by the name of Coenaculum Sion; and here was built a church, called the Church of Sion. It was the oldest church in Jerusalem, and was called by St. Cyril, 'the upper church of the apostles. '" (Pulpit Commentary) (14:16) And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover. (14:17) And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. (14:18) And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.

Judas had told the chief priests where to find Jesus. Jesus must have had an informer among them priests or among their servants: more evidence that he had friends on the inside, as he would need for cheating death. Perhaps Jesus has a slightly different plan for his death and Judas had upset it. But by this time Jesus had time to revise his plans.

(14:19) And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I? (14:20) And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish. (14:21) The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.

'The Son of man': See commentary to Mark 2:10.

'As it is written of him':

"Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. " (Psalm 41:9)

David is probably talking about his counselor Ahitophel. He was renowned for his wisdom, and tried to get David's son Absalom to rebel. The plan failed (because Ahitophel's advice was not followed). David felt betrayed, and Ahitophel hanged himself. Judas may have recognized the reference, as when his plan failed, he also hanged himself.

This is another example of life after death: Judas had the spirit of Ahitophel: Ahitophel was living again though Judas.

'Good were it for that man if he had never been born': How can it be good for somebody to not be born? Because life is the spirit, and that is largely shared with family. Sometimes self sacrifice is a way to strengthen the family and thus strengthen that spirit. In the same way a person's genes may sacrifice themselves so that more copies survive in other family members. In this case Judas hurt his family: for centuries afterward the Jews were persecuted, in part because a Jew called Judas (the name means Jew) did something bad. It was no excuse, and some of the people who persecuted the Jews did far worse than Judas ever did, but that's what happened.

(14:22) And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. (14:23) And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

Jesus us acting as Melchizedek in Genesis 14:

"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

Abraham was weary from battle, in the midst of a war. The king of the city of Salem (Melchizedek) gave him the supplies he needed. In return Abraham paid a tenth of all he had to Melchizedek. It was a good trade. Jesus previously compared himself to Melchizedek in Mark 12:36-37: the lord said to my lord refers to Melchizedek. David and Jesus both have the spirit of Melchizedek. The parallel between Jesus and Melchizedek is expanded by Paul in Hebrews 7. Jesus' disciples were like Abraham: at that time they were weak and facing a difficult future. Abraham was of course the father of many nations, the grandfather of Israel, and the twelve disciples were like the twelve tribes of Israel.

Melchizedek was an enlightened economist. He could have taken advantage of Abraham for short term gain. But instead he cooperated and they both benefited in the long run. In the same way, Jesus could have taken advantage of his followers: Jesus was smarter then them, and could have lived a comfortable life ordering them around. But instead he showed that he acted like Melchizedek: he game them what they wanted (teaching) and in return they paid a physical price (being a Christian was not easy). But both benefited in the long term. they would do anything he said, he could have exploited them.

The bread and wine were symbols of a good trade: the strong (Jesus, Melchizedek) gives his resources to the weak (Abraham, the disciples) and all benefit. Note that Salem means peace. This city was supposed to be ruled through enlightened cooperation, not force.

The New Testament

(14:24) And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

'Testament': Greek "Diatheke", usually translated as covenant. A covenant is a contract. This is a new contract between God (logic) and man (or those who claim to follow logic).

Sealing it with bread and wine is a reminder of Melchizedek (see previous verse): when Melchizedek was in a position to win by force, he chose to make friends with his enemy instead and win that way. The original text may not have had the word new (according to the Pulpit Commentary). This is simply Jesus' contract, the same kind of contract that Melchizedek used: an agreement of mutual benefit, not a master commanding a servant.

'Blood': Jesus seals the contract in the most dramatic way possible: he gives his own blood. Instead of using his followers as zealots, to mount an insurrection against Rome, he defeats the entire world in the most dramatic way possible, creating the most successful movement in the history of the world. (Even though the organization arguably ignored nine tenths of what Jesus said. )

The new contract works from the inside. It gets inside the blood of the enemy, by becoming their friend and trading partner, by getting inside their household (just as Jesus was getting secret friends inside the ruling class) and inside their head. The price of friendship is you are willing to take a hit, sometimes even give your life, but by that sacrifice you become stronger.

'Testament, which is shed': This is why Jesus' views on spirit are essential to his economic views. Any system based on sacrifice means the individual might die. So the individual needs to know there is a life to come, a reward even after death. To understand Jesus views, how they are economic and not supernatural, we need to know that the reward after death is in the real world. This is because consciousness equals ideas, and ideas can live on. The bread and wine is an example of that: Jesus becomes Melchizedek. Melchizedek is no longer dead.

'Shed for many': the old contract was a for a specific time and place, the new contract is for everyone (starting with Israel). Moses' laws were designed for a particular time and place (a bronze age tribe of homeless desert dwellers). Moses had to use violence, and that set a dangerous precedent. After 400 years the people chose a king and that weakened the state, leading to it being conquered by stronger enemies (see part 5 of this book). The new contract is more general: no written rules (Jesus never wrote it down), hopefully the people will understand the reasons (hence al the parables about commerce), and it applies to everyone.

(14:25) Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

Jesus allowed his disciples to think he was going to die. But this could also mean he was taking a vow not to drink wine. The ambiguity is useful, as Jesus did not know if his plan would work, especially as Judas may have upset the details.

It may be coincidence, but some have suggested that after the crucifixion Jesus adopted the identity of Apollonius of Tyana (that had similar teachings, similar miracles and the dates match up: see 'after the crucifixion' in this book). Apollonius, as a Pythagorean, did not drink wine.

(14:26) And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

'An hymn': probably the Hallel, consisting of Psalms 108 to 118. Note that Jesus already referred to Psalm 110 (the lord said to my lord... ) and Psalm 118 (the stone that the builders rejected ) and others. Tis gives an insight into the religious ideas that were often on his mind.

(14:27) And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.

'Because of me this night': this phrase is not in the earliest texts (according to the Pulpit Commentary). People may be offended by various things, while believing they are loyal to Jesus.

'Be offended': literally be caused to stumble. People will stumble, despite not feeling offended and believing they are loyal to Jesus.

'As it is written':

"Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd. " (Zechariah 13:7)

This comes straight after the famous verse sometimes used to prove that Zechariah foretold Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection:

"And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. "

However, the previous verses show that Zechariah refers to false prophets and false shepherds who were driven out by the sword because they were promoting idolatry. In this case the disciples are the shepherds. Their false ideas and the scattering of sheep continues in the early church (see the early church ). But Zechariah continues:

"And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined , and will try them as gold is tried : they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say , It is my people: and they shall say , The LORD is my God. " (Zechariah 13:9)

Logic is logic It is always available, . Even when the majority of the church, and the majority of all people, act irrationally and cause evil, a proportion will always care about truth wherever it leads them. Even if the nation is full of false prophets, logic is always available and the people who love logic will make a better world.

(14:28) But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

The other gospels say Jesus appeared in Galilee (the great commission and finding that Peter had gone back to fishing) then a final appearance (the ascension) on the mount of Olives near Jerusalem. Traditions then suggest that Jesus traveled north to Damascus and beyond (see after the crucifixion ). The other gospels were written years later, so possibly the Galilee appearances were actually the last ones, but the ascension made a better ending. Or possibly Jesus made sure his final appearance was in Jerusalem in front of a lot of people just to throw them off the scent: it was time for him to move on.

(14:29) But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. (14:30) And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

This is not a supernatural prediction: Jesus knew Peter well, and he knew what was likely to happen that night. Deny me thrice could mean a single denial where the other person said are you sure? twice.

'The cock crow': this is just a reference to the time.

"The 'cockcrowing was a term used for one of the divisions of the night (see Mark 13:35). But it appears that there were three times at which the cock-crowing might be expected - namely, (1) early in the night, between eleven and twelve; (2) between one and two; and (3) between five and six. The two cock crowings here referred to would be the two last of the three here mentioned. It would probably be about 2 a. m. , when the first trial of our Lord took place in the house of Caiaphas. " (Pulpit Commentary) (14:31) But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all. (14:32) And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. (14:33) And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

'Very heavy': literally not at home - reflecting detachment of the mind. The purpose of prayer, and of logic (god) is to see things objectively, from an outside perspective. See prayer, in the commentary to verse 36.

(14:34) And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. (14:35) And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

'Went forward a little': isolated from his surroundings so he can think.

'Fell on the ground': complete concentration. This is night time, so is effectively sensory deprivation, allowing complete mental focus.

'prayed': spoke to the universe (i.e. to God)

'If it be possible': Jesus debates his options.

(14:36) And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

'Abba': in modern Hebrew this means daddy but in Aramaic (the language Jesus used here) it meant the father. The idea that it might also mean daddy in Aramaic was suggested by Joachim Jeremias (1900-1979) but most scholars disagree.

'The father': The universe or logic is the father, the ultimate parent of everything.

'Take away this cup from me': Jesus considers a possible future. He is thinking through his options.

'Not what I will, but what thou wilt': Our desires cannot override logic. Note that there is begging, and of course no record of any voice or answer. There is no concept here of pleading with God and then receiving a miracle: prayer is a method of thought.


Prayer, as practiced by Jesus, is an aid to logical thought. He first removes all distractions, e.g. by finding a wilderness or dark quiet place, and relaxes completely, probably with closed eyes. He then talks through his problems. He addresses God, logic: there is no audible response of course, but he imagines the likely response. Itis therefore a dialog based on logic, such as Aristotle or Plato might use to work through a difficult idea. This is not a conversation with a supernatural being, this is a conversation with the universe, with logic itself.

The most famous prayer, the Lord's Prayer, is in Matthew 6:9-13, not in Mark, but illustrates how prayer is a way of thinking through our needs:

"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name"

God is the logos: we worship logic in the distant abstract, not just what serves our immediate desires.

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. "

Our first thought must be to create a rational kingdom, an economy based on long term abstract principles, not short term narrow interests.

"Give us this day our daily bread. "

Such an economy will provide our economic needs. Obviously this is just a generic template for prayer: if there was any problem with obtaining bread then at this point the praying person would think it through, using the principle just outlined.

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. "

This is a social contract: if we forgive a debt we can reasonably ask others to forgive ours. Obviously we would need to negotiate terms: this is an outline, not a consideration of particular specific debts.

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"

Avoid situations where this kind of reasonable thoughtful life is hard.

"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. "

Everything depends on the logos, or logic.

(14:37) And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?

'Unto Peter': he was the one who just promised he would always be faithful, even to death.

(14:38) Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. (14:39) And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.

Repeating the same reasoning to mentally check if he missed anything.

(14:40) And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy, ) neither wist they what to answer him. (14:41) And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

'The Son of man': See commentary to Mark 2:10.

(14:42) Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand. (14:43) And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. (14:44) And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. (14:45) And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.

'Master': Jesus is indeed Judas' master here. This could not happen unless Jesus wanted it. He had plenty of opportunity to get away.

(14:46) And they laid their hands on him, and took him. (14:47) And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

'And cut off his ear': John says this was Peter. Mark gets his information from Peter so often hesitates to name and embarrass him. For more on Peter's violence see the commentary to Acts 5 in the early church . There is no hint here that Jesus healed the man: that detail may have been added later. For more about cutting off the ear, see commentary to Mark 6:8.

(14:48) And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? (14:49) I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.

'The scripture': Jesus saw his life as mirroring the scriptures. But it is not clear what scripture is referred to. Some say Psalm 41:9, but that was already referenced in verse 21 (see commentary). Others say it was Zechariah 13:7, but in that case the shepherd is opposed because he is evil (see commentary to 14:27).

The verse is about how the authorities would not openly challenge Jesus. So the scripture may refer to Jesus' teaching against force. Jesus opposed conflict: an intelligent person would have recognized that Jesus was popular, and found a solution that the masses can accept. But using force and secrecy is economically inefficient, wasting effort and reducing trust. See commentary to verse 60.

(14:50) And they all forsook him, and fled. (14:51) And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:

'Young man': 'neaniskos' - a word used for the young men (the messenger, or in other words the angel) who was sitting in the tomb when Jesus was no longer there (Mark 16:5). Note the shining garments of the men in Mark 9, when Jesus may have been planning how to survive the resurrection. Others have suggested that it was Mark modesty referring to himself: that the garden was by Mark's house, and Mark was asleep with a bed sheet, and got up when he heard Jesus.

This passage is expanded in a document known as 'Secret Mark': a reference to an alleged longer version of Mark that is now lost. It suggests that the young man was taught privately by Jesus at night. Modern readers see homo-eroticism in this, but it could simply mean what it says: that Jesus had to teach his more advanced teaching at night because during the day he was too busy being mobbed by crowds who only wanted to see miracles. Some scholars think that Secret Mark was a forgery by its modern finder, Morton Smith. Others say it would have been a second century speculative work.

(14:52) And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked. (14:53) And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. (14:54) And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire. (14:55) And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. (14:56) For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. (14:57) And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, (14:58) We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.

Confusing Jesus' teaching on the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13) with his teaching that he would, like Jonah, survive and recover from apparent death.

(14:59) But neither so did their witness agree together.

Even at this early date there was disagreement over what Jesus meant. see part nine of this book for how the disciples also misunderstood.

(14:60) And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?

'Answerest thou nothing': Jesus worked by consensus; love your enemy, go the extra mile, etc. There was no value in conflict. the most valuable thing he could do was let himself be crucified, showing that his ideas (his consciousness) will spread and survive. Jesus had no place for conflict in secret: far more can be achieved by arguing in public as he did in the temple every day.

Jesus did not oppose secrecy in principle (the transfiguration for example was in secret) but he opposed conflict (see the discussion of violence by Mark 11:17). A secret trial is a form of conflict: one side focing its will on another. It even hurts the winner: yes, the authorities got what they wanted (they crucified Jesus) but by becoming known as the bad guys they created more enemies and soon lost. Secret plotting (by the zealot assassins in particular) is what eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jesus opposed this so strongly that he simply would not get involved: to even be in that situation shows that both sides have lost. It is probably safe to say that Jesus would oppose all forms of government secret police and spying for the same reason: whatever is gained in secret is more than lost by the resulting loss of trust in public.

A trial at night was technically illegal, but no doubt the authorities could find some loophole. This is the archetype of very government that has bent the rules in secret to get its way, and merely created a generation of cynical citizens who bend the rules themselves. No good can come of this secret justice and Jesus would have no part in it. He only responds when they start discussing scripture, an area that has nothing to do with the law, but gives Jesus an opportunity to point out that the common man (the son of man) will one day rise up against grubby, squalid, corrupt secret government activity like this.

(14:61) But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

'Art thou the Christ': This is dangerous to the state because, according to a popular interpretation of Daniel, Daniel prophesied that the Christ would come to overthrow the existing kingdom.

'Blessed': the Greek "Eulogetos", a word that appears 8 times in the Bible, usually in the phrase blessed be God e.g.

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68).

This title of God comes from Daniel 2:20, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever. "The holy one, blessed is he" is a very common Jewish name for God, using the term holy one that also comes primarily from Daniel (see Daniel 4:8, 4:9, 4:18, 5:11). So we see that the crime of being the Christ, and using the word blessed instead of God indicates a reference to the book of Daniel.

(14:62) And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

'I am': "I am that I am" is the name of God. In other words, God is self existent logic.

'Ye shall see the son of man sitting [etc. ]': The question was about the book of Daniel (see commentary to the previous verse), so Jesus refers directly to those prophecies:

"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. " (Daniel 7:13-14).

See the commentary to Mark 2:10 (the son of man) and 13:26 (coming in clouds).

'Ye shall see': this was to happen in their lifetime, so we are talking again about the destruction of the temple in AD 70. For how this is fulfilled, see the previous chapter, and the commentary to Mark 13.

Note that Jesus was accused of saying he would destroy the temple. This is yet more evidence that the context is the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

(14:63) Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? (14:64) Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. (14:65) And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands. (14:66) And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:

'One of the maids': a teenage servant girl. Peter sees himself as a big man, an important man, the chief apostle, second only to Jesus. Peter is also a strong believer in the Pharisees' interpretation of the law of Moses (see the book of Acts) so would be very sexist. He would not let this servant girl interfere with his important task.

(14:67) And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. (14:68) But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

'He denied': this cannot be due to cowardice. Nobody is braver than Peter. In the garden he just attacked an armed guard and cut off his ear: Peter would hardly be afraid of a serving maid. If there was any fear at all then Peter would not be standing in the courtyard of the high priest, the most dangerous spot in Jerusalem. He would be with the other disciples, in hiding, perhaps watching from a safe distance. So the denial is because what this girl thinks does not matter. Peter is on a life or death mission and will not let a mere servant girl upset it.

(14:69) And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. (14:70) And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

'They that stood by': Peter was in the porch of the High Priest's house in the middle of the night. The people were almost certainly servants of the High Priest. Once again Peter could not let the enemy derail his important plans. This has nothing to do with cowardice: Peter was a soldier in enemy territory waiting for his commander.

(14:71) But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

'This man of whom ye speak': these are servants of the palace: their masters considered Jesus a fraud and a trouble maker. Peter did not accept this description. This was not a lie but the truth: yes, he knew it would mislead them, but their opinions did not count.

(14:72) And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.

'When he thought thereon': he had to think about it. He had not been a coward, but he had encouraged these three nobodies to think he was somebody else, and after thinking about it this seemed like cowardice. This was devastating to Peter's pride. Jesus treated the poor and weak like they mattered. So to Jesus, Peter brushing them off made him a coward. That hurt!

This section does not reflect well on Peter. Mark got is information largely from Peter (as well as his own direct experience - see the start of this commentary), so had to be careful what he wrote. The final he wept makes the reader sympathetic to Peter, but Peter could tell that the gospel was not flattering - see his neutral reaction to Mark's gospel, mentioned in the start of this commentary.

Peter's pride is his greatest strength, and why Jesus chose him. In the start of the book of Acts Peter will be utterly fearless when any lesser man would crumble: he will stand in the middle of the temple preaching loudly, day after day, surrounded by people who wanted to kill him. He will inspire others to do the same, and the life and teachings of Jesus will become known throughout the land and beyond, thanks to Peter. but that same need to be top dog will be Peter's downfall. See the early church for details, especially the commentary to Acts chapter 5.

Mark 15
Crucified because of his views on tax.

(15:1) And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.

The legal case against Jesus, the one the Roman authorities might care about, is summed up by the Pulpit Commentary:

  1. He perverted the nation by his teachings. Rome would not care about religious claims, but Rome would care about the next two "perversions":
  2. He forbade to give tribute to Caesar (Luke 23:2). While this was false on the narrow technicality (see Mark 12, "render unto Caesar") it was apparently well known that Jesus generally opposed tax.
  3. He was accused of saying he was Christ (i.e. messiah, annointed one), a King.

This last crime, of wantiong to be a king, seems absurd at first. Jesus never claimed to be a king: he opposed the idea of hierarchies of power (Mark 10:42-44). He called himself "son of man" - meaning "the common man." He opposed kingship in every way, except for the kingship of logic ("God"). Jesus did not even see himself as good: he asked, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God" (Mark 10:18). However, critics would naturally infer kingship from the previous two claims:

  1. A large following makes somebody look like a king.
  2. If he opposed tax then that puts him above the law, like a king. In our current economy the only person who does not pay tax is the king, because he receives the tax. The idea of a world without any tax was too much for his critics to comprehend.

So all three crimes come down to just one: opposing tax. This is the only case that could possibly be brought against him. Only Rome had the power to execute, and Rome did not care much about religious beliefs. Nobody could accuse Jesus of inciting violence or theft: all his teachings were the opposite, about non violence and being kind to others. The only possible attack is the second one, that he opposes taxation. This is the only way that he could be an enemy to Rome.

(15:2) And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto them, Thou sayest it.

Why enemies called Jesus "King of the Jews"

'Thou sayest it': this is a conclusion that others draw, it is not something Jesus ever claimed. (See below for alleged exceptions in later gospels, Matthew and Luke. ) As noted above, Jesus never claimed to be king. he opposed kingship. But he could not say so directly as that would be seen as sedition against Rome.

Jesus was mockingly called "king of the Jews" immediately before the crowd demanded his death, and "king of the Jews" was written on a sign nailed to the cross. It was an insult by his enemies.

And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.

This is the whole multitude, what everybody thinks.

And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.

In other words he does not pay tax to Caesar, which implies that he is a king.

Forbidding to give tribute to Caesar is technically false, but the multitude who heard Jesus day after day got the definite impression that he opposed tax. This led the multitude to the second conclusion, that he wanted an alternate kingdom with himself at the head.

Jesus came to preach the kingdom of God on earth: a literal kingdom with trade and laws. The basis of every gentile kingdom is tax. Without tax the king is just another person. Of course, that is precisely how Jesus wanted it: a kingdom where nobody can steal money from anybody else. this was radical! This was dangerous! This was a new kingdom, and it follows (to all except those who had ears to hear ) that surely Jesus must be setting himself up as king!

What about the wise men?

There is one time when king of the Jews was not an insult from enemies. According to Matthew, wise men from the east sought the king of the Jews. But this claim was not in Mark, and again it was not a claim Jesus made about himself. Many scholars believe the nativity stories were added later, to counteract claims that Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier called Panthera who either raped Mary or had an affair. This was a time when the church had adopted the critics' claim that Jesus was a king, and had adopted astrology, and was writing numerous infancy gospels about a magical Jesus performing ticks.

Even if the wise men story is true, they were astrologers from another religion, so their conclusion about the nature of Christ was based on astrology and false religion. The Bethlehem prophecy is from Micah 5:2, hoping for another king like David (who was from Bethlehem) to oppose Assyria in the eight century BC.

What about Luke 22?

Luke says:

"I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. " (Luke 22:29-30)

This may sound like Jesus is a king and he gives positions in a hierarchy. Yet immediately before, Jesus said the opposite:

"And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief , as he that doth serve . For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat , or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. " (Luke 22:25-27)

Then how do we explain verses 29-30? By looking at the Greek: a kingdom is just kingdom and the word throne can mean just a judge's seat. That is all that Luke means here: they sit on judges' seats as judges, So the verses simply say that the disciples will enter the kingdom (of God) and be given the task of judging the twelve tribes.

'What about John 18:36?'

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

'My kingdom' can mean either I am king or I belong to it. God is the king, so it must mean I belong to it.

'Not of this world': Yet Jesus' kingdom is intended to be on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus immediately explains what not of this world means: it means he does not have servants who fight. He does not use the methods currently used in the world. John continues:

"Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. "

In other words You say I am a king, but I say that I was born to simply teach. Jesus was not a king. He was a teacher, a rabbi. He taught how to run a nation with no king but God.

(15:3) And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.

He decides what to say and what not to say: he has shown before that he can out-think his critics. He knows what he's doing.

(15:4) And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. (15:5) But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.

'Pilate marvelled': he is allowing the chief priests to make him a martyr, while getting the attention of the real power, Rome. He is having the desired effect.

(15:6) Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

This shows why Rome was a more successful ruler than other nations: it was slightly closer to the model that Jesus proposed. Although Rome could be brutal, so could all nations. the difference was that Rome was slightly better for the common man. Rome made deals. As long as you did what Rome wanted, Rome would cooperate. Here, Rome gives a good will gesture to the Jewish religion. Passover celebrates when the Jews were released from captivity, to Rome lets them choose a prisoner to release on that day.

(15:7) And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.

'Barabbas': Aramaic for bar - abbas or son of the father. The early Christian writer Origen said the man's full name was Jesus Barabbas or Jesus son of the father. In Gethsemane Jesus was heard calling on abba to save him from the cross. This has led some to suspect that Barabbas was part of the plan for Jesus to secretly switch and thus survive the cross. However, while possible there are a number of arguments against it: Jesus' face was too well known, he could have avoided the cross by simply leaving Jerusalem, dying was essential to his message of self sacrifice, he later had wounds, and the details of getting Barabbas in the right place at the right time make it unlikely to work. Most likely the Barabbas theory is just coincidence.

(15:8) And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. (15:9) But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? (15:10) For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.

'For envy': Jesus had a system that worked with both the pooor and the Roman masters. He could have changed Israel

(15:11) But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.

'The chief priests moved the people': the leaders have failed the common man. As a result bad religion will continue to push the nation toward conflict with Rome. This fulfills the old story, that the common man is delivered to the chief priests who deliver them to the Gentiles and to death. Jesus' life reflects the bigger pattern. See commentary by Mark 2:10.

'Rather release Barabbas': they preferred his plans for violent revolution to Jesus' non-violent revolution. People have always found violence (Barabbas' teaching) to be easier to follow than economics (Jesus' teaching).

(15:12) And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?

'Ye call': only Jesus' critics call him that. Itis not a flattering term: they follow up with crucify him.

(15:13) And they cried out again, Crucify him. (15:14) Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.

'What evil hath he done': Jesus gained the sympathy of Rome. If Israel had followed his methods then Rome would have listened to his economic principles. These principles benefit both sides so would have been adopted. It could have worked.

(15:15) And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

'When he had scourged him': this is just the briefest mention. Luke does not mention it at all, and Matthew and John also just mention it very briefly. They all spend more time discussing the robe and crown of thorns. Pilate had some sympathy for Jesus so probably the scourging was the minimum necessary required by law. This is part of a pattern (along with being helped to carry the cross, a relatively short time on the cross, etc. ) that indicates that, while incredibly painful and wounding, the ordeal should not have killed him. See after the crucifixion for details.

'Willing to content the people': Pilate makes a calculation. Pilate is acting predictably and rationally, so a wise client state could do business with him.

(15:16) And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.

'Praetorium': the Roman headquarters, in this case Herod's palace

(15:17) And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,

'Purple': a sign of political, not religious power. Jesus' teachings concern politics and the real economy.

(15:18) And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!

'King of the Jews': is a term of mockery, the opposite of what Jesus stood for (see commentary to verse 2).

(15:19) And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. (15:20) And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him. (15:21) And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.

'Coming out of the country': the law, as interpreted by the Pharisees, allowed somebody to walk no more than two thousand cubits on a Sabbath. According to Lightfoot's commentary, this rule was adapted to feats days, allowing people to walk that far in order to gather wood. If Simon was carrying wood the Roman guards would have noticed and got the idea that he was strong and could carry the cross.

'Bear his cross': Pilate had some sympathy for Jesus so the soldiers help him. This is all evidence that, while the crucifixion was designed to be painful, Jesus could have survived it if rescued within a few hours (victims often lasted for days).

The gnostic book Second Treatise of the Great Seth (dated to the third century, but may be older) says that Jesus switched with Simon, and Simon died for him. But Mark 15:34 says no, it was Jesus on the cross.

(15:22) And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. (15:23) And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.

This would deaden the pain. But it would also deaden Jesus' ability to feel his body. If he intended to survive the crucifixion he would need to be aware of every injury, and rely on a clear mind.

(15:24) And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. (15:25) And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

'The third hour': the third daylight hour, 9 o'clock.

(15:26) And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

'King:': see commentary to verse 2.

(15:27) And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. (15:28) And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors. "This verse is omitted in the oldest manuscripts. It is supposed to have been taken from St. Luke (Luke 22:37). " (Pulpit Commentary)

'The scripture was fulfilled':

"Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. " (Isaiah 53:12)

Isaiah 53 is the famous suffering servant chapter. It follows a familiar theme (see son of man in the commentary to Mark 2:10): Israel suffers but eventually all will be well. The phrase bare the sins means he was blamed for things he did not do.

Who is this servant? Isaiah usually talks about Israel as a whole. Sure enough, my servant is Isaiah's name for Israel:

"But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. " (Isaiah 41:8-9)

Israel was numbered with the transgressors because the people sinned and the nation and all its goods were divided and taken into captivity. Israel made intercession for the transgressors because they had been transgressors but repented then pleaded for better treatment. E. g. the captives' good behavior and requests to return home made Cyrus let them go.

Just as with the son of man prophecies, Jesus' life follows the same patterns as the nation's life.

(15:29) And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, (15:30) Save thyself, and come down from the cross. (15:31) Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.

Jesus saved himself in the long term, more dramatically than he could have done by simply avoiding the cross.

(15:32) Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him. (15:33) And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

Some have suggested an eclipse, but complete darkness only lasts a few seconds. The length indicates dark clouds. Stormy weather is common, nor remarkable, but it fit with the gloomy mood so Mark mentioned it.

(15:34) And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

'Ninth hour': Jesus was on the cross since the third hour: i.e. six hours. an extremely painful experience, but not enough to kill him, hence Pilate's surprise in verse 44.

John 19:4 says Jesus was not crucified until the sixth hour. Mark is the much earlier text, and less interested in the supernatural or symbolism, so probably John was either wrong or measured time in a different way: the Roman, Greek and Jewish ways were not the same. But it is possible that the Jews only paid attention to the rough time, as nobody used clocks. We only see references to the third, sixth and ninth hour, so they may have rounded hours to the nearest three, just as we might round off minutes to the nearest five or fifteen. If so then the third hour could just mean not yet the sixth hour by my guess. John may have thought it was closer to the sixth hour when Jesus was finally settled on the cross. If so then he may have only endured the cross for three hours.

'Eloi, Eloi':

"In Matthew it is Eli, Eli [...] Mark, according to the present dialect (namely, the Chaldee), useth at least according to the pronunciation of the word Eloi, Judges 5:5 in the LXX" (Lightfoot commentary).

Judges 5 refers to God's triumph because the people were willing to fight:

"Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. [...] Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the Lord, even that Sinai from before the Lord God [Eloi] of Israel. " (Judges 5:2, 4, 5)

These references to triumph are similar to the end of the Hallel, the hymn sung at the last supper. This is another clue to the ideas that were going through Jesus' mind at the time.

Eloi was also the name given to the fictional race of future humans in H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. They looked a beautiful as gods, yet allowed themselves to be sacrificed. One was rescued by the hero.

(15:35) And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias. (15:36) And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down.

'A sponge full of 'vinegar'': At various times earlier we saw that Jesus had undercover friends among the Jewish leaders and the Romans. Whatever was in the vinegar , Jesus then fell unconscious, and his followers immediately asked for the body to be removed.

(15:37) And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

'A loud voice': this does not suggest weakness. Dying people do not have the strength. See the case for surviving the crucifixion, after the commentary to chapter 16.

'Gave up the ghost': To Jesus, human identity is the spirit: the ideas and purpose that define a person. Here Jesus gives up his energy, and appears dead. It does not mean he is dead in the modern medical sense.

(15:38) And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

The temple veil was inside the temple walls: it is unlikely that anybody saw it at the time. This comment could have been added years later, when somebody noticed that the veil tore at around the same time. Here is what we know about the veil:

the thickness of the veil was a handbreadth. It was woven of seventy-two cords, and each cord consisted of twenty-four strands. It was forty cubits long and twenty wide. Eighty-two myriads of damsels worked at it, and two such veils were made every year. When it became soiled, it took three hundred priests to immerse and cleanse it. (see Harris, Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala: M. Walter Dunne, 1901, pp. 195-96)

So the veil was very thick and heavy, but made in sections: it could be washed, yet It had to be replaced twice a year. Why replace it? Because it was dirty? No, it could be washed. But consider the huge weight and how it was assembled, from large heavy sections stitched together. The stitching probably tore from time to time. One such time could have been around when Jesus died, and Mark thought the coincidence was worth noting.

(15:39) And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

Did Jesus' words from the cross convert anyone? Jesus did nothing on the cross that would turn an enemy into a friend, but he may have influenced Romans who were already sympathetic. Jesus had supporters among the Romans: more evidence that he could plan to survive the crucifixion.

(15:40) There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;

'Women': whereas the culture was highly sexist, Jesus acted logically. So we often read of how women admired him and followed him, the one man who treated them as equals.

(15:41) (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.

'When he was in Galilee': this could mean before this time, but Mark was written after the event, so may refer to after the crucifixion. She may have traveled with him even further: The legends of Jesus in India say he was accompanied by someone called Mary. See after the crucifixion.

(15:42) And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, (15:43) Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

'An honourable counsellor': Lightfoot's commentary considers a great deal of evidence and concludes that this means Joseph was a priest who sat in the chamber of counselors to judge matters. So Joseph was one of the insiders, with influence in the Jewish hierarchy, who could have been involved in the plan for Jesus to survive the crucifixion. Matthew calls him a rich man.

(15:44) And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.

Pilate was amazed that Jesus died so quickly. He checked with a soldier, but we know that at least one soldier there was a believer, and another centurion was a believer. This looks like an inside job. For the evidence that Jesus did not die, see part seven of this book.

(15:45) And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. (15:46) And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.

A private tomb in a public place could easily have had a back door, hidden from the public.

(15:47) And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.

Mark 16
You can't keep the common man down.

(16:1) And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

'Sabbath': this was the great symbol of Jesus egalitarian views: the Sabbath was made for man, therefore the ordinary man is lord of the Sabbath. The story of the fish coughing up money, the story that Jesus mocked, was all about the belief that the Sabbath was supernatural (see commentary on tax by Mark 2:15).

His enemies used the Sabbath as an excuse to rush his trial, but he used that same rushing to ensure a short crucifixion that he could survive. Now after the Sabbath he rises again showing that the common man (son of man) cannot be stopped.

(16:2) And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. (16:3) And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? (16:4) And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. (16:5) And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

Possibly the same young man in white who was in the garden of Gethsemane and did not want to be caught by the soldiers (14:52) or some other supporter of Jesus. This earliest count does not say his clothes were shining.

(16:6) And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

Two different kinds of resurrection: his own survival of crucifixion, and his being with his disciples forever. These fit his great message of a kingdom that grows. If he could be killed then his kingdom would be frustrated.

(16:7) But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. (16:8) And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

The end.

The earliest copies of the Bible (the Codex Sinaiticus, the Codex Vaticanus, the Syrian Sinaiticus, etc. ) end here. Later copies of the Bible add extra verses. For what they added and why, see part seven of this book: what Jesus did next. For why the church added some extra verses, see part nine: the early church.


Part seven: what Jesus did next