Rising Tension: Studying Mark 3

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash


My life, the movie, is filled with rising tension. How is it going to end?

The cast is limited and the jokes sometimes fall flat, but there’s plenty of drama. In other words, enough to jerk my emotions around and preoccupy my thoughts. My private drama makes me hungry, too, hungry to find some answers. Who am I? What am I doing here? How am I going to manage it all? Before long, I’m so immersed in my little world, it can be hard to see anything else.

Hence, I’m glad we’re studying the Gospel of Mark together. It pulls me out of my story and plunges me into the life of Jesus with these questions:

Who is he? What is he doing here? How is he going to manage it all?

Seeing his life won’t just give me a break from my own melodrama, his story will change my story.

Jesus, the Movie

Mark’s gospel moves fast, like an independent film that vibrates with life as the camera man runs to keep up. It’s definitely not like some movies we’re sorry we paid to see.

Hey, how was the movie you saw last night?

I didn’t like it. Overall, it was kinda lame.

Really? What do you mean?

For starters, there was only one plot line. That made it way too obvious. In the first five minutes I knew exactly how it would turn out–I only stayed for the popcorn.

Not so the Gospel of Mark. Take chapter 3 for instance…

Rising Tension, More Drama

It’s tense. And there’s more tension before I first realized.

Here’s some background. If you’re like me, you slide over terms like “Pharisees” and “Herodians” with a vague idea that they are all bad guys, so it makes sense that they should all be on the same team, opposing Jesus. On the contrary, the fact that they are teaming up is extraordinary and throws fuel on the fire of this chapter.

Tim Keller, in King’s Cross explains it this way:

The Herodians were the supporters of Herod, the nastiest of the corrupt kings who ruled Israel, representing the Roman occupying power and its political system…wherever the Romans went they brought along the culture of Greece…Conquered societies like Israel felt assaulted by these immoral, cosmopolitan, pagan values. In these countries there were cultural resistance movements; and in Israel that was the Pharisees.

You can see that the Herodians and Pharisees were as different as the secular left and the religious right are today. The current stalemate in Congress shows that differences of this magnitude tend to stall agendas, not advance them. It’s true now, and it was true in first century Palestine. Now you can see reason for this high drama:

Opposing Jesus Unites Enemies.

Even though we know the end of the story…

It’s hard to watch a movie twice, unless it’s really good. Then we watch the second time not to find out how it ends, but to see exactly how the director gets to the end. Similarly, we already know what’s going to happen in the Gospel of Mark. So let’s not get ahead of the story. Allow the tension build here. What is Mark saying in this chapter? Why did he pick these five incidents to record back to back? What do you see in this rising tension before it resolves?

Day 1: Context–Compare Mark 3 with Mark 2.

1. The first word of Mark 3 is “again.” What exactly is happening again?

2. Compare the opposition to Jesus in Mark 2 and 3. How would you say it has stayed the same? Conversely, how has it changed?

3. In addition, how is Jesus’ response to the opposition changing?

4. Remember what Jesus’ purpose is in coming (see Mark 1:14-15, 38). In particular, how is he sticking to his purpose in this chapter?

Day 2: Observation–Read Mark 3 as five distinct scenes.

1. Where does each scene take place?

2. Who are the main players in each scene?

3. What is producing the rising tension? Specifically, what is the conflict or problem in each scene?

4, What is Jesus’ response in each scene?

5. If you could draw a graph of the tension in Mark 3, what would be the high point? low point? Does it end higher than it began?

Day 3: Meaning–Read Mark 3 as one story.

1. What is revealed about Jesus through his actions?

2. What is revealed about Jesus through his words?

3. What is revealed about Jesus through the words of others?

4. What words in this chapter point to Jesus as king?

Day 4: Application–Read Mark 3 as the announcement of good news.

1. The True King has come. How is that good news to you today?

2. The True King has included you in his family. How does that change your attitude/perspective today?

3. The True King is the Strong Man who has conquered the enemy. How does that strengthen you today?


I hope these questions help you get more out of the chapter, but if you’re having a hard week or even if you just can’t figure out how to answer all the questions, the Word of God can still be food for your soul. Reading the chapter each day may be all you need to “live by every word from the mouth of God.”

Have a great week!

Find more posts on the Gospel of Mark here.