May 30, 2012

Deaf, Dumb, and Demon-Possessed (Mark 9)

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

In his wonderful A Study in Saint Mark, Austin Farrer notes some of the patterns that converge in Mark 9:14-29.  Here’s one:

Exorcism of child at parent’s request (Mark 7:24-30); Healing of a deaf-mute (Mark 7:31-37)
   Healing of a blind man (Mark 8:22-26)

Exorcism of deaf-mute child at parent’s request (Mark 9:14-29)
   Healing of a blind man (Mark 10:46-52) (Farrer, 41).

Later, Farrer points out that Mark has four healings in connection with family relations:

(1) A mother(-in-law) is healed at the request of a son(-in-law) (Mark 1:29-31)

(2) A daughter is healed at the request of her father (Mark 5:21-43)

(3) A daughter is healed at the request of her mother (Mark 7:24-30)

(4) A son is healed at the request of his father (Mark 9:14-29)

Interestingly, the first two involve opposite sexes (son and mother, father and daughter) while the last two involve relatives of the same sex (mother-daughter, father-son). I’m not sure what the significance of all of this might be, but Farrer points out that the sequence culminates in the healing of a father’s son, a son moreover who first falls down “as if dead” and then is raised up and arises — using two words associated with resurrection in the rest of Mark’s Gospel:

The healing of the “son of the father” prepares our minds most directly for what the climax of the Gospel is to reveal, the resurrection of the Father’s only Son. It is directly after being proclaimed Only Son by the Father’s voice that Jesus descends the mountain to heal the son of the father (Farrer, 51).

In fact, Farrer goes further:

It is indeed the function of the healing at the mountain’s foot to draw together all the themes of healing in the previous signs. To begin with, it fuses exorcism with restoration of sensitive powers [i.e., hearing, seeing, speaking], for the demon exorcised is a spirit of deafness and dumbness. It completes the theme of parental intercession, and revives the theme of resurrection. For the boy being exorcised falls as dead, and must be raised by the hand like Jairus’s child before he can enjoy his new and purified life (Farrer, 51-52).

Later in the book, Farrer returns to this story:

The exorcism beneath the mountain which Christ comes down from glory to perform is an enacted parable of his coming passion. In face of scribal hostility and unbelief, and of weakness in disciples who cannot pray, Christ masters the devil, but only through a falling dead and rising up again (Farrar, 152).

Then, toward the end of the book, Farrar draws together several patterns, showing how Mark’s Gospel starts with distinct exorcisms, healings, and cleansings and then begins to combine things so that the same event is both a healing and a cleansing (e.g., the woman with the flow of blood) or, as in Mark 9, an exorcism which is also a healing. About this story in Mark 9, Farrer says:

The last healing in the series … seems perfectly expressive, it seems to have everything. It is the expulsion of Satan, it is the quickening of the spiritual powers, it is health through falling dead and rising again, it is the salvation of the son of the father. But still it is a mere symbol, a mere foreshewing; we must go forward into the passion and resurrection of Christ to find the substance of salvation (Farrer, 315).

Posted by John Barach @ 2:45 pm | Discuss (0)

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