When Jesus didn’t get it right on the first try

01.27.2019 | The Maxwell Institute

As Latter-day Saints focus this year on the New Testament we’ll bring you insights to ponder from past episodes of the Maxwell Institute Podcast. This MIPodcast Moment is from Julie Smith, from her interview about the New Testament gospels. Listen or read the transcript here
BLAIR HODGES: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John offer related but distinctive pictures of Jesus. Sometimes we tend to lump them all together, overlooking their unique approaches. In your academic and devotional studies of the New Testament have you ever noticed something new that seemed to contradict something you thought you had to believe as a Latter-day Saint?

Julie M. Smith

JULIE M. SMITH: I’ll give you an example that’s fairly recent. I’ve been thinking about the nature of Jesus, particularly how he is portrayed in the Gospel of Mark. In Mark he is really mortal. He’s really, really mortal. Not an omnipotent and omniscient God yet, but a mortal. It’s in some ways a marvelous thing to realize that he is still our Savior despite the fact that, for example, it takes him two tries to heal a blind man (Mark 8:22-26), or that in Mark 5—and this is the story where Jesus casts out the demons and they go in the swine and the swine are drowned—the way Mark writes it—he does it really subtly—but Jesus says, “Come out of him,” and they don’t right away. It looks like the assumption there is Jesus thought there was one demon, and it’s not until he realizes that there’s more than one that they come out.

Julie M. Smith spoke about her book “Search, Ponder, and Pray” on the Maxwell Institute Podcast. More recently she published a book on the gospel of Mark in the BYU New Testament Commentary.

These things are maybe a little different than a traditional Latter-day Saint reading where we assume Jesus knows absolutely everything, does everything right the first time, he’s omniscient, omnipotent. I don’t know that that’s Mark portrayal of him. I think in some ways, though, this is a marvelous way to portray the Savior. I’m really glad it’s one of our four portraits, our four gospels, because I think it provides us—as very limited and very fallen mortals—maybe a better guide, a better example of how to deal with those imperfect bits of our mortal nature than if Jesus had been presented as getting everything right on the first try, always knowing exactly what to do perfectly. So this is something I’m still working through, but I find Mark’s portrait very, very compelling. It’s something to think about. It’s maybe a little different than how we normally talk about it. HODGES: It’s also interesting to take those types of observations and compare them to restoration scripture. What came to mind is section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants where Christ is said to advance “from grace to grace”— SMITH: Yeah, this is an interesting thought, grace to grace, portrayal of him as growing, and the example it provides to us. And we’re very comfortable with the idea that Jesus didn’t need baptism, but did that as an example to us. I don’t know that we’ve often applied that same thought to other stories, and thought “here is a mortal Savior providing us with an example of what happens if you don’t get it right on the first try,” and showing us how to negotiate those sorts of situations from his own life. I think there may be a similarity there that’s worth thinking about.  
“MIPodcast Moments” are interesting extracts from the Maxwell Institute Podcast. See our growing list of transcripts here.