“D. McKenna refers to the “darkest days of American Christianity” when “liberals” and “conservatives” divided up and prioritized “social” and “spiritual” ministries. Mark is surely calling his readers to see the need for faithful ministry in word and in deed, whether that be teaching or admonishing, feeding or healing. When the tasks seem to great, then we are called to remember the miracles.”1
- The Corban Oath, found in Mark 7:9-13 is referring to dedicating a property gift to God or the temple. This makes it unavailable for use by anyone but the donor. This oath was often abused as a reason to not help others with the land.
- The Syrophoenician woman changes Jesus’ mind (7:28-30).
- The methods that Jesus uses to heal the deaf man are odd for Jesus (7:33-34). However, they were common among magicians in the first century.
- Mark 8:32 is the only time in Mark that Jesus is said to have spoken plainly.
Two Sides to Discipleship
The Christian church has often focussed on the cost of discipleship. You must lose your life, you must take up your cross (8:34-36). But it is important to remember that there are two sides to discipleship: the cost and the reward. The cost of discipleship is not just reaping the benefits of abundance grace. Jesus calls us to respond to the responsibility (and challenges) of being a disciple of Jesus. However, if we think of discipleship as only cost, it drives a wedge between the cost and benefit of following Jesus.
Jesus’ life does not end in crucifixion. It ends in resurrection. When we follow Jesus, we don’t just lose our life and pick up our heavy crosses. We gain life through Jesus and experience the joy of seeing the Kingdom of God at work in our lives, in our churches and in our neighbourhoods.
Two Stage Method of Healing
Throughout the text, the author of Mark focusses on the theme of “seeing eyes and hearing ears.” The healing of the blind man (7:31-37) is a great reflection of the disciples’ constant struggle with having “seeing eyes and hearing ears.” After the first touch from Jesus, the man sees everything clearly. He understands everything he is seeing. In the next, Jesus blesses the man with a full healing. At this point in the Gospel, the disciples are in between the two stages of healing. They have seen Jesus’ miracles of feeding but they still do not see clearly what the purpose of Jesus’ ministry is. As we read on, the disciples will continue on their journey of understanding and come to realize that Jesus is the Christ.
Questions for Reflection
- When you read through the gospel, look for rewards of following Jesus. Then read through again and look for the cost. How does this emphasis change your reading?
- When in your life, have you had a moment of healing? When has God revealed something to you and you were able to have “seeing eyes and hearing ears”?
- Where in Mark do you see Jesus’ ministry in both word and deed? How do we balance these ministries in our own lives and in the church?
1Geddert, Mark, 194.
“Jesus’ commitment to the ministry is on the run, as he meets pressing needs without losing sight of the larger picture.”1
The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of a power
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ words and deeds are always connected to reveal the authority and identity of Jesus. Last week, Danielle preached about God’s kingdom using three parables (lamp, growing seed, and mustard seed). Jesus uses many similar parables as much as his disciples can understand. Everything comes in parables (4:10-12). However, the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of a power (1 Cor. 4:20). And the sources of power are Jesus himself and Mark is telling that such power is available for us as we take the risk of faith in Jesus.
The purpose of the miracles
In Mark’s gospel, miracles are not designed to convince people to believe. Jesus does not do great works of power to produce fear or amazement. Instead, Jesus performs the miracles to meet people’s needs completely. The purpose of the miracles point to his identity and the nature of God’s reign for everyone who can listen and see. They provoke reflection, insight, and convictions about the arrival of God’s Kingdom. But most importantly, miracles reveal the true nature of Jesus.
Having recorded the victories over the storm (4:35-41) and Satan (5:1:20), Mark weaved together these two stories of the healed woman and Jairus’ daughter. He might have done it simply because that was how it happened, or the way tradition was preserved. But it shows that “Jesus’ commitment to the ministry is on the run, as he meets pressing needs without losing sight of the larger picture.” In other words, Jesus is always available for us, willing to meet our needs.
Why are these stories remembered and retold in the early church?
Geddert helps us understand the reasons as follows:
- It offers a model of faith and courage. The woman takes significant risks; she puts her whole destiny on Jesus. “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better, but she grew worse” (5:26). Hearing about Jesus, she comes to Jesus and trusts that he is the only one who can rescue her from her past and renew her future.
- It illustrates the meaning of the salvation and wholeness Jesus delivers. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be free from your sufferings” (5:34b). The language of healing, saving, acceptance, and peace is rich enough to deal with the wide range of problems she has brought along with her into Jesus’ presence.
- It upholds a picture of a woman who, like Jesus, has not let ceremonial restrictions prevent her from breaking through boundaries. In this text, the Markan community found encouragement for the gender equality they were (or should have been) practicing.
- It also reinforces faith in Jesus’ restorative power, something rather crucial for Jairus within the story.
Questions for discussion
- What needs do these miracles meet?
- How do these events serve as signs of the reign of God?
- What do these events say about Jesus?
- Regardingthe question of Jesus’ identity, what are the perspective differences between the biblical figures of the text in the 1st century and us today?
These additional notes on the Gospel of Mark are taken from the Believers Church Bible Commentary written by Timothy J. Geddert.
1Geddert, Believers Church Bible Commentary, 124.
Geddert, Timothy J. Believers Church Bible Commentary: Mark. Herald Press: Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 2001.
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