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Revisiting Mark: the pattern

Here’s the deal with Mark’s miracle stories: While he has some summary statements, his narrations are always about one and only one person being healed. No story of ten lepers. No stories of two blind men (in fact, he drops them out of Matthew’s account).

So consider Mark’s last five healing miracles. Exorcism (7.24-30), Cure (7.31-37), Cure (8.22-26), Exorcism (ch 9.14-28), Cure (10.46-52).

But if we look at these details a bit closer something seems less than random: Exorcism of an unclean spirit (7.24-30), Cure of a deaf mute (7.31-37), Cure of a blind man (8.22-26), Exorcism of an unclean spirit that causes deafness and muteness (ch 9.14-28), Cure of a blind man (10.46-52).

So:

  • Exorcism, Deaf Mute –> Blind
  • Exorcism of Deaf Mute –> Blind

So is this a coincidence. Did Mark just happen to write in a way where the elements repeated and consolidated?

Now lets look at this with the rest of the miracles, starting in Mark chapter 1:

  • Exorcism, Cure, Cleansing, Cure-Feet –> Cure-Hand
  • Exorcism, Cure-Cleansing –> ???
  • Exorcism, Deaf Mute –> Blind
  • Exorcism of Deaf Mute –> Blind

Let me explain a bit. Take the first line:

Exorcism, Cure, Cleansing, Cure-Feet –> Cure-Hand

The first cure is the raising of Simon’s mother-in-law. The next is the healing of the paralytic so he can walk. Then we have the restoration of the withered hand.

Feet then hands. This matches the end of the last two lines, the last five healings: ears and mouth, then eyes.

Jesus is restoring a complete person:

Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.
(Psalm 115:4-8 ESV)

So why the move from body to head?

That brings us to the two healings, the cure-cleansing, in the second line:

Exorcism, Cure-Cleansing –> ???

Mark seems to have an aversion to any odd number beside 1. He gives us the story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter and puts, in the middle of it, the story of the cleansing of the woman with the issue of blood. These two women are quite obviously correlated. Both are called “daughter.” One is twelve years old and one has been unclean for twelve years. They would be an obvious match even if we didn’t know from Leviticus that the spreading dominion of death is the story behind the problem of uncleanness in Israel.

(A further comment. The stories follow each in cut time, 1-2-1-2… The exorcisms are always of “unclean spirits” thus making them the counter parts to the cleansings of the “leper” (a skin affliction that was not the modern disease of that name and probably wasn’t even contagious). and the cleansing of the woman with the the issue of blood.)

But the bottom line is: once you tell about a resurrection, what possible story can serve to “complete” the picture? Mark can tell us about a restored hand after a man is made to walk, or restored eyes after a man is made to hear and speak. But resurrection is an act that can’t be followed.

Thus, the move from body to head. This allows him to keep building to the final exorcism/cleansing/curing–the resurrection of Jesus.

For Further Reading

2 thoughts on “Revisiting Mark: the pattern

  1. John

    Seems to me that the move from body to head corresponds with an increased focus on enlightening the disciples, too.

    So, for instance, the two-stage healing of the blind man corresponds to Jesus’ two-stage enlightenment of the disciples. Jesus casts out the demon that made the boy deaf and mute only to find that the disciples, who have been told “Hear him,” aren’t listening to him — and when he asks about their dispute, they stay silent: deaf and mute.

    Is Israel as a whole “body”? Are the disciples, because they’re going to represent Jesus, “head”? Thoughts?

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Revisiting Mark 2: the pattern and the callings

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