Marcan Framework Commentary
James M. Leonard, PhD
First, open the link Marcan Framework which puts the framework in a stair-stepped diagram (not yet available).
- Mark’s narrative sequence is followed for the most part by Matthew and Luke.
- John’s sequence of events is significantly different, excepting of course, the final week of Jesus’ life, leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection. In particular, John depicts Jesus as making several visits to Jerusalem and its larger region of Judea, while the Synoptic Gospels depict a ministry centered in the region of Galilee (to the north of Judea), and but one visit to Jerusalem. The action in the Temple (Temple Cleansing/Temple Demonstration, etc.) is placed near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in John, rather than in his final week as the Synoptic Gospels indicate.
Gospel lacks a birth narrative. Matthew and Luke have their own
distinctive birth narratives. John opens with the grand depiction of
Jesus’ origins going back to the eternal past.
Rembrandt's Adoration of the Shepherds (Luke)
- Mark depicts events seemingly compressed into a single year, while John indicates that Jesus’ ministry took place over a period of three or so years.
- The Marcan Framework works toward a climax (at the top of the stairs), where Jesus’ disciples explicitly declare Jesus to be the Messiah. From there, the stairs work downward at a fast pace, with the last five steps (events) happening in Passion Week (i.e., the final week of Jesus’ life).
Marcan Framework Commentary (each point corresponds to each step in the framework indicated in the large diagram in the pdf article “Marcan Framework of Historical Narrative)
- Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. In the Marcan Framework, this is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. It seems that prior to this, Jesus may have been a disciple of John the Baptist. The Marcan Framework indicates that the baptism was a major moment of revelation for Jesus. It is as this point that Jesus perceives that he is uniquely the Son of God, and specially commissioned to be a suffering Messiah, as indicated in the scriptural allusions as they are spoken by the voice in heaven.
- The Temptation. The Temptation centers on Jesus’ newfound self-understanding and commission as the Son of God. Thus, in Matthew’s and Luke’s account, the Tempter repeatedly begins each temptation sequence with “If you are the Son of God....”
- Proclamation of the Kingdom of God. The message of Jesus is summed up (repeatedly) as, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repeat and believe the good news.” Thus, Jesus announces the presence of God’s eschatological kingdom in his ministry, and invites people to repent and believe the good news. This profoundly complex message assumes the Old Testament expectation that God would dramatically intervene in human history at the end of the age. Accordingly, Jesus heals people and drives out demons in support of his claim that the eschatological kingdom was present in his ministry, and performs nature miracles to reveal his identity as the divine (messianic) agent with authority to bring about the kingdom. (Note that, contrary to popular narrative, Jesus is not to be reduced to some nice guy going around teaching forgiveness and love and peace—you don’t get crucified for that sort of message.)
- Calling of the Twelve Disciples. The list of disciples varies from one gospel to another. But whether the differences in names reflect different people or merely different personal identifiers, the point is that Jesus picked twelve, and exactly twelve. Indeed, even after the traitor Judas’ death and prior to his replacement, the group was still known as The Twelve, as if a technical term. The action of choosing twelve disciples seems to indicate that Jesus was intentionally reconstituting the People of God, making his disciples the theological equivalent to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. This too was a part of his eschatological program, for Jesus tells his disciples that on the last day, they would sit on twelve thrones and judge the nations of the earth.
- Healing and exorcisms. These are indicators of the presence of God’s kingdom in Jesus’ life and ministry.
- Controversy with Jewish Leaders. Jesus ran into serious troubles with Jewish leaders over issues such as purity laws—questions about what one could eat, or with whom someone might fellowship, and such as Sabbath regulations. The holiness of Jesus was so great that instead of unclean things defiling him, he made defiled things holy. Likewise, in Jesus own person was something greater than Temple or Israelite King, for Jesus is lord of the Sabbath. The controversies arise early on and anticipate a bad ending.
of John the Baptist.
Bring to me on a platter the head of John the Baptist
of Jesus as Messiah. This is climactic in the narrative. When Jesus
asked his disciples about their perception of his identity, they professed
that he was the Messiah, for which Jesus commended them. From then on,
Jesus began to teach explicitly on his forthcoming death, forging the
paradox of a crucified Messiah.
Mt. Hermon, possible location of Transfiguration
- The Transfiguration. Jesus took his three closest disciples up a mountain where he was physically transformed so as to reveal his divine glory, with the divine voice thundering out Jesus’ identity as God’s Son. This marks the beginning of Jesus’ road to Jerusalem to face a certain death.
- Jesus Ministry on His Way to Jerusalem. Jesus continued to teach, heal, exorcise demons, and work his way to Jerusalem.
- Triumphal Entry and Action in the Temple. As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he is received with great fanfare, as if a great king. He enters, however, on a donkey, not a war horse, to symbolize the coming of a humble king, in keeping with his paradox of a suffering Messiah. He then proceeds to the Temple and attacks the institution by overturning tables and preventing regular worship. This was a monumental moment in Jesus’ life, but its interpretation varies significantly.
- Controversy in Temple with Jewish Leaders. Jesus overcomes his detractors and poses questions which they cannot answer, and embarrasses them accordingly.
- The Last Supper. Jesus partakes in the ceremonial Passover meal with his disciples, and appropriates the meal for his Suffering Messiah program, making his own body and blood to serve as the sacrificial Passover lamb and wine.
- Agony in the Garden. Jesus and his disciples go from the Passover meal to the Mount of Olives where Jesus prays intently about his Father’s will and his impending death.
and Crucifixion. Jesus appears before a Jewish assembly that
determines his guilt, precipitating his appearance before Pilate and the
Roman court. Pilate is depicted as reluctant to sentence Jesus to death,
but is pressured to do so. Jesus is crucified as a pretender to the Jewish
throne, between two robbers.
- Resurrection. Jesus resurrects from the dead.