April 12: Mark 10:32-34 (concluded)

Mark 10:32-34, concluded

Component 4—the mistreatment of Jesus

“…and they will play with him, and will spit on him, and will whip him, and (then) they will kill him off”

The third Passion-prediction (Mk 10:34) here specifies more of the “many things” the the Son of Man (Jesus) will suffer (cf. 8:31 par). In particular, it is declared that there are three things that will occur once Jesus is “given over” to the nations (i.e., the Gentile Roman authorities). This is expressed by a sequence of three verbs:

    • e)mpai/zw—the base verb pai/zw essentially means “act like a child,” in the sense of making sport, playing. The compound with the prepositional prefix e)n can be understood either in a locative sense (i.e., acting like a child in/on a particular location) or in a relational sense (i.e., acting like a child with regard to someone or something). The latter is more properly in view here, and a reasonably accurate translation in English idiom would be “play with” or “toy with”. Clearly, it is meant in a negative sense—that is, “playing with” someone in a derisive or insulting (or even abusive) manner.
    • e)mptu/w, “spit on,” the meaning of which is straightforward, and can be translated quite literally in English.
    • mastigo/w—like the related masti/zw, has the fundamental meaning of “beating against” something, with a repeated movement. The action envisioned often involved repeatedly striking an animal (or human), with a whip or lash, etc. The related noun ma/stic specifically refers to a “whip”, with the verb indicating the action taken with a whip. While these terms can be used in a figurative sense, here the meaning is concrete: Jesus will be whipped by the Romans.

The first two actions are described in the Passion narrative at Mk 14:16-20. Curiously, in Luke’s version, this takes place while Jesus is in the custody of the Jewish king Herod, not the Roman Pilate (Lk 23:11). However, the Lukan ordering means that the mocking/mistreatment of Jesus occurs before he is whipped (v. 16), in accordance with order of the verbs here in the Passion-prediction; in Mark-Matthew, it occurs after the whipping (Mk 15:15; Matt 27:16).

In the Passion narrative, Mark and Matthew each use the verb fragello/w (derived from the Latin flagellum) to describe the whipping of Jesus, rather than the more general mastigo/w (as here in the prediction, cf. above). This makes clear that it is a reference to the verberatio (scourging) that accompanied a capital sentence—a cruel and horrific punishment that was often fatal in itself. Interestingly, the Gospel writers treat this with considerable reserve, stating the fact of the whipping in the briefest terms possible (without the slightest graphic detail), and making no mention at all of its effect on Jesus or what resulted from it. By contrast, later Christians, especially in the medieval period, but also in modern times, have emphasized Jesus’ suffering from the whipping, depicting it at times in gruesome and morbid detail.

This mistreatment of Jesus by the Romans ultimate leads to the sentence of death being carried out. Again the intensive verb a)poktei/nw (lit. “kill off”) is used, as in the other Passion-predictions. Matthew’s version (20:18) specifies the manner of death; he also has a shorter phrase than Mark (with 2 verbs of mistreatment instead of 3) and uses different syntax:

“…they will give him along to the nations, (for them) to spit on (him) and whip (him) and put (him) to the stake [staurw=sai]”

The verb stauro/w literally means “put to the stake” or “put on a stake”, a reference to crucifixion. Luke’s version (18:32-33) follows Mark more closely, but includes a fourth verb of mistreatment, the first three being grouped together, and in passive forms; the result is to separate the mocking abuse (done in Luke’s version by Herod’s soldiers) from the whipping (done under Pilate):

“…and he will be played with and will be insulted and will be spat on, and (then), whipping (him), they will kill him off”

The verb Luke adds (in italics above) is u(bri/zw, which basically means to insult someone, but may also connote a more severe or violent action that leads to harm or injury.

Component 5—the death and resurrection

“…and they will kill him off, and, after three days, he wil stand up (again).”

The concluding statement of Jesus’ death and resurrection follows the pattern of the prior Passion-predictions. Again, Mark uses the expression “after three days” (meta\ trei=$ h(me/ra$), while Matthew and Luke each have “on the third day” (th=| tri/th| h(me/ra|), which is technically more accurate to the historical circumstances, and is also in keeping with the customary early Christian usage. Matthew again uses the verb e)gei/rw (“rise [up]”), while Luke here follows Mark with a)ni/sthmi (“stand up”).

Luke is also unique in his inclusion, following the third prediction, of another reference to the disciples’ failure to understand (cf. on the second prediction, 9:45):

“But they could put together none of these (thing)s, and this utterance (also) was hidden from them, and they did not know [i.e. understand] the (thing)s being said.” (18:34)

The verb suni/hmi literally means “put together”, here in the conceptual sense of putting things together in the mind, making and understanding the connections between them. The passive perfect participle kekrumme/non (“having been hidden”), like that used in 9:45, is an example of the divine passive, and indicates that it was God Himself who hid from the disciples the meaning and significance of what Jesus said to them. This may come across like an early Christian apologetic for the apostles, but it is important to realize that, from the standpoint of the Gospel narrative—and the Lukan narrative, in particular—the true meaning of Jesus’ death is rooted in the post-resurrection proclamation. Only after the resurrection, with the enlightenment that the experience of the resurrection brings, can Jesus’ disciples understand the reasons for his death, and how it relates to his Messianic identity.

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