Study Guide

Gospel of Mark Foolishness and Folly

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Foolishness and Folly

And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? (NRSV 4:13)

And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? (KJV 4:13)

Jesus is kind of flabbergasted at the disciples' inability to comprehend the Parable of the Sower. After all, he just finished telling them about their privileged access to the secrets of the kingdom of God (4:10-12). So are they VIPs or not?

[…] for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. (NRSV 6:52)

For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened. (KJV 6:52)

What exactly didn't the disciples understand about the feeding of the 5,000 in 6:35-52? Are we readers in on the secret or not?

He said to them, "Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile […]. (NRSV 7:18)

And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him […]. (KJV 7:18)

The disciples definitely don't learn from their mistakes. They stupidly fail to understand the parable that Jesus tells in 7:15 just like they failed to understand the Parable of the Sower in 4:13. What is going on with these guys? What does this imply about their supposed status as insiders (4:10-12)?

Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out-- beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod." They said to one another, "It is because we have no bread." (NRSV 8:14-16)

Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread. (KJV 8:14-16)

Not only do the disciples forget to pack lunch for everyone, but they prove their duncehood yet again when it comes to understanding Jesus's figurative way of speaking. Go and take Freshman English, won't you?

And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" They said to him, "Twelve." And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" And they said to him, "Seven." Then he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?" (NRSV 8:17-20)

And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand? (KJV 8:17-20)

Jesus here is using the exact language he used to describe outsiders (4:12) to describe the disciples who are supposed to be insiders (4:10-11). So which are they? Who are the real insiders?

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." (NRSV 8:32-33)

And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. (KJV 8:32-33)

Peter doesn't like all of Jesus's talk about his suffering and death (8:31). But Jesus show's him who's boss. This sets an important pattern because as we'll see, the disciples respond foolishly to each of Jesus's three passion predictions (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). They just can't get with the program.

Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. (NRSV 9:5-6)

And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. (KJV 9:5-6)

Can we give Peter points for trying here? Do you find yourself sympathizing with the disciples or just getting really annoyed at them?

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. (NRSV 9:9-10)

And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean. (KJV 9:9-10)

The resurrection is an important part of Jesus's prophecies (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). Still, the disciples aren't picking up what Jesus is putting down. They really have no idea what their leader means.

But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. (NRSV 9:32-33)

But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him. And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? (KJV 9:33-34)

The "saying" in question is Jesus's second prediction of his passion and resurrection (9:32). Not only are the disciples short on comprehension, but their actions directly contradict Jesus. Here they are, arguing about who's greatest, while Jesus is talking about his upcoming suffering and death. They are way out of touch with reality.

And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." (NRSV 10:37)

They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. (KJV 10:37)

James and John's request for positions of honor is majorly foolish in light of the fact that Jesus just finished telling them of his upcoming death (10:33-34). Notice a pattern here? In case there were any doubts, Jesus goes on reprimand them…again (10:41-45).

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