Category Archive: Bible – NT – Mark

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September 14, 2011

Sons of Thunder

Category: Bible - NT,Bible - NT - Luke,Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

Everything I wrote about the characterization of Peter goes double for the characterization of James and John, who seem to be taken as a couple of hotheads on the basis of one — count it: one — incident in which they asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire on an inhospitable Samaritan village (Luke 9:54).

Oh, yes.  There’s also the name Jesus gives them: “Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17).  Some people immediately link that name up with the later event in Luke 9:54 and say, “See?  That’s why Jesus gave them that name.  They were rash and impetuous and hotheaded.”  And since Luke 9 happened after Mark 3, they have to add either the claim that Jesus foresaw that they would say what they did in Luke 9 and named them on the basis of that foresight or the claim that the behavior exhibited in Luke 9 was characteristic so that they were already displaying that sort of hotheadedness at the time Jesus named them.

But there’s no reason at all to see Luke 9 as the basis of the name “Sons of Thunder.”  In fact, there is no reason to take “Sons of Thunder” negatively at all, let alone to understand it as a reference to rashness or hotheadedness.  Going further, there is no reason to take that name as referring to anything in James and John’s character at the time that Jesus named them.

Jesus gives new names to only three of his disciples and he does so at the same time.  Simon he names Peter, not because Simon was already such a solid rock but because Jesus intended to make him into a rock who would be a foundation stone for the church.  Just as by changing Abram’s name to Abraham and changing Sarai’s name to Sarah, Yahweh was making them into new people, the parents of the child of the promise, so by naming Simon “Rock” Jesus was making him into a rock, revealing in the name the plan he had for Simon.

But if that’s true of Simon’s new name, then the parallel suggests that it’s also true with James and John’s new name.  “Sons of Thunder” is not a description of who they already were, nor is it a description of some foolishness or wickedness in their character that Jesus would have to change.  Rather, it’s a description of who Jesus was going to make them to be.

What the name exactly means is disputed by commentators, but many associate it with God’s thunderous voice and with his judgment (Ex 9:23, 28, 29, 33, 34; 19:16; 20:18; 1 Sam 2:10; 7:10; 12:17, 18; 22:14; Job 26:14; 36:29, 33; 37:2, 4, 5; 40:9; Ps 18:13; 29:3; 77:18; 81:7; 104:7; Isa 29:6; Ezek 3:12, 13; John 12:29; Rev 4:5; 10: 3, 4 [this Angel is Jesus]; 11:19; 14:2).  So it seems possible that Jesus is identifying James and John as two witnesses whose speech will be thunderous like God’s speech and will administer God’s judgment, for salvation for his people but destruction for his enemies.

That said, what James and John suggest in Luke 9 — fire from heaven, like lightning associated with thunder — could be seen as a perversion of their name.  Just as Simon is supposed to be a rock, but is anything but when he rebukes Jesus, so James and John are supposed to be sons of thunder but are in danger of abusing their calling.  Luke 9 is not the time and place for that sort of judgment to come from the sons of thunder, and James and John need to learn from Jesus the right way of responding — and the right time and to call down God’s fire from heaven.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:57 pm | Discuss (1)
March 3, 2011

Jesus in the Wilderness (Mk 1:12-13)

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

The Son of Man must suffer, for is he not the Son of Man?  Christ takes Man upon him where he finds him, not in immortality, but in corruption, not in paradise, but expelled and in the wilderness.  Adam is tempted in paradise, and then driven forth; Christ is first driven forth, then tempted, for he begins where Adam is, not where Adam was….  It is not enough that Christ should suffer Adam’s temptation and vanquish it; he must suffer Adam’s death besides, and vanquish that. — Austin Farrer, A Study in Saint Mark, 280.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:28 pm | Discuss (0)
December 8, 2009

Who’s Standing Outside?

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

Mark 3:20-35 is one of Mark’s typical sandwiches, in which a story starts, gets interrupted by a second story which relates to it in some way, and then finally comes to its conclusion. Here, we are told that, having heard about Jesus’ behavior, some of “His own people” come to seize him, saying, “He is out of his mind” (3:20-21). Then we have the second story, Jesus’ confrontation with the scribes from Jerusalem who claim that he casts out demons by the ruler of the demons (3:22-30). Finally, we return to the first story, when Jesus’ brothers and mother come and send for Jesus and when Jesus identifies those who are doing God’s will by sitting around him as his brother and sister and mother (3:31-35).

That structure is obvious even in an English translation. But a look at the Greek reveals an interesting play on words. At the beginning, when Jesus’ “own people” say that he is “out of his mind” (3:21), the word used literally (or, rather, etymologically) means “standing outside.” (Perhaps that’s roughly equivalent to our English expression “beside himself.”) But at the end of the story, Jesus’ “own people” turn out to be his brothers and mother, who come and, “standing outside,” call him (3:31; cf. 3:32, which stresses again that they are “outside”).

So Jesus’ “own people” think Jesus is the one “standing outside” (in the sense of “crazy”). But Jesus’ family members turn out to be the ones literally “standing outside,” while Jesus identifies those who are sitting inside as his true family, those who, in obedience to God’s will, are “sitting around him” (3:32, 34). To be his true family — his true mother and brothers — his natural mother and brothers must come inside instead of calling him out.

Jesus does indeed belong with his family. But at this point, in spite of their natural relationship with Jesus, Mary and his brothers are not that family. They are seeking to take him away from the ones who sit around him in obedience to God, away from the ones he identifies as his mother and brothers and sisters, in order to take him into their protective custody, as if Jesus would be safe with them instead of they themselves being safe with him. And therefore, though they did later trust in Jesus, they are acting at this moment in unbelief. For Mary to become Jesus’ “mother and brother and sister” now, she must join those who are with Jesus; she must come inside. Otherwise, she will be left outside his family.

Furthermore, in a sandwich story, the middle story also relates to the story that frames it. And so here it is not just the frame story that involves standing (and sitting). In 3:24-25, Jesus says that a divided kingdom or a divided household cannot “stand.” And in 3:26, he speaks of “the satan” as “standing up” against himself.

The reference to the divided household that doesn’t “stand” might resonate with the frame story: Jesus’ natural household won’t stand if his mother and brothers are divided against Jesus. While Mary and Jesus’ brothers are not saying, with the scribes from Jerusalem, that Jesus is in league with the ruler of the demons, they are still opposed to him, still acting in unbelief, and therefore still in danger. Their natural family relationship to Jesus will not keep them safe. Mary is not saved through giving birth to Jesus, and she is not blessed apart from her faith. If Mary and Jesus’ brothers continue to “stand outside” instead of “sitting around him,” then their household won’t stay standing.

What about the reference to Satan’s “standing up” (a term for both resurrection and insurrection) against himself (3:26)? I’m not sure how — or if — it relates to the frame story, though it does provide one more verbal echo in this passage. For that matter, Mark’s Gospel is full of references to “standing”: in every healing, people “stand up,” until at the end the same terms are used for Jesus’ resurrection.

But the repetition of the word “stand” and especially of words having to do with “standing outside” sets up this question: Who is really “standing outside”? If Jesus’ family thinks Jesus is “standing outside” in the sense of being insane, then their household won’t “stand.” And if you think Jesus is “standing outside” in that sense, then you end up “standing outside” yourself, here literally but, as Jesus’ words make clear, also in a deeper sense.

The family is sitting inside, sitting around Jesus and with Jesus. While not everyone has to be crowded into the room where Jesus is sitting, everyone must be with him and not against him. That’s God’s will. Only Jesus’ family is safe, only the mother and brothers and sisters who stick with him. You’d have to be insane to be “standing outside.”

Posted by John Barach @ 4:44 pm | Discuss (2)
July 16, 2009

What the Son Doesn’t Know

Category: Bible - NT - Mark,Bible - NT - Matthew,Theology - Christology :: Link :: Print

In Mark 13:32, Jesus says, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (cf. Matt. 24:36).  That’s somewhat puzzling.  Is it a limitation on Jesus’ omniscience, as if God the Father knows things that God the Son doesn’t?  That can’t be.  So is it saying that Jesus as a man doesn’t know things that God the Son knows?  Even so, that’s still puzzling.

A friend of mine argued once for a different approach:  When Jesus says that even the Son does not know the day and hour, he said, he is speaking of knowing something in order to pass it on to others.  Neither the angels nor the Son has been given the knowledge of the day and hour in the sense that neither is commissioned to reveal it and make it known to us.

I haven’t studied this passage and so I won’t claim that this is the right interpretation.  But the other day, I was reading Augustine’s exposition of Psalm 10 (Psalm 9, part 2, for Augustine).  In that exposition, he mentions those passages in Mark 13 and Matthew 24.  Lo and behold, he says exactly what my friend said:

What, then, is so hidden as that which is said to be hidden even from the judge himself, not as far as his knowing it is concerned, but as regards his revealing it?   (Expositions of the Psalms, 1:158, emphasis mine).

Posted by John Barach @ 5:39 pm | Discuss (0)
February 4, 2009

The Bride and the Satan

Category: Bible - NT - Mark,Bible - NT - Matthew :: Link :: Print

Klaas Schilder on Jesus’ suffering when Peter rebuked him when he was preaching about his upcoming suffering, rejection, and death:

And for the Saviour, fully aflame as He is with love for mankind, it is far worse suffering to meet a satan of flesh and blood than to confront that one great Devil who is sheer spirit.  Jesus Himself is human.  He called Simon Barjona a friend.  And a friend’s opposition to the task which God placed upon the Son of man is a burden outweighing a thousand times the enmity to Him and the Father breathed out by the Demon of the pit.

Hearing His bride speak and act satanically, seeing a human being, one of those for whom He is giving His life, become an instrument of Satan, observing the flesh in Simon Peter assert itself to take exception to heaven’s law of atonement through fulfillment, and all that, mark well, at the moment of Christ’s prophesying — that must have been Jesus’ severest suffering up to this time.  For He knows all the while that this same rebellion of flesh against spirit will presently nail Him to the cross. — Klaas Schilder, Christ in His Suffering, p. 20.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:41 pm | Discuss (0)
January 30, 2009

Return to Your Rank! (Mark 8:33)

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

I have been preaching through the book of Mark and recently preached on Mark 8, where Jesus begins to teach his disciples that he must suffer many things, be rejected, die, and rise again.  Peter scolds Jesus and Jesus, in turn, scolds Peter: “Get behind me, Satan.”

A study of the way “behind me” is used in Mark’s Gospel suggests that it is the language of discipleship.  When Jesus called Peter, the same words are used: “Come behind me” (1:17).  And in the very next verse, after Jesus rebukes Peter, he uses the same words again: “If anyone wants to come behind me” (8:34).

In that light, it appears that what Jesus is saying to Peter is not “Go away and don’t come back.”  Rather, it is “Get back behind me.  Return to your proper place as a disciple, not confronting me satanically to tempt me to step off the way, but following behind me on the way.”

Posted by John Barach @ 3:56 pm | Discuss (3)
February 26, 2008

Arising Early (Mark 1:35-39)

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

Mark likes to play with the words for resurrection. Again and again in his Gospel, Mark tells us how Jesus raised up the people He healed or how they arose. He does not need to mention their posture, but he chooses to do so, emphasizing their rising. And the terms he uses are the terms associated in this Gospel with Jesus’ own resurrection.

On a first reading, these words may not jump out at us. But by the time we come to the raising of Jairus’s daughter and certainly by the time Jesus rises at the end of the Gospel, we should be able to see what Mark has been doing all along.

His Gospel is like a mystery novel. When you come to the end and you see what all the clues were leading up to, you can go back and read the book again and recognize the clues for what they are. And so, after finishing Mark’s Gospel, we can go back and read it again with the final scene in mind and see all the ways in which Jesus’ healings and the ways in which people rise or are raised foreshadow what will happen to Jesus and what will happen to those who belong to Him.

That much I learned from Mark Horne’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark, and possibly also from Austin Farrer’s A Study in St. Mark.  But today, as I worked on Mark 1:35-39, something else jumped out at me.

All the events in the preceding verses (Mark 1:21ff.) took place on the Sabbath. Now, Mark tells us, “early in the morning,” which would be on the first day of the week, Jesus arose and went out to the wilderness, where Simon and “those with him” (presumably Andrew, James, and John) hunted him down. From there, they did not return to Capernaum. Instead, they kept going to the other towns and cities in Galilee so that Jesus could preach there also. That, Jesus says, was the purpose for which he came forth.

Just as the rising of the people Jesus heals foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection and our resurrection, so too this is a foreshadowing of the resurrection. Mark even uses the same words at the end of his Gospel when he tells us that “early in the morning” the women came to Jesus’ tomb (Mark 16:2; cf. Mark 1:35) only to discover that he had already risen. Mark adds that this was “on the first day of the week,” as was Jesus’ rising in Mark 1.

While the word for “He has risen” in Mark 16:6 is a different word, in verse 9 Mark uses the same word that appears in Mark 1, adding the word “early” again and saying once more that this was “on the first day of the week.”

When the angel appears to the women, what he says also reminds us of Mark 1. In Mark 1, we’re told that “Simon and those with him” found Jesus. Now, the angel tells the women to give a message to Jesus’ disciples “and Peter” (16:7).  And just as Jesus told the disciples that he had come forth in order to go to the other towns in Galilee, now the angel wants the women to tell the disciples that Jesus is going before them to Galilee (16:7).

In Mark 1, Jesus is training the disciples for their future mission.  Jesus’ mission is not just to Capernaum, their home town, nor is it the kind of mission the people in Capernaum might want, a mission limited to healing and exorcism. Jesus came to preach, to announce the fulfilment of the time that the prophets had foretold, the time when God’s kingdom was coming. And that message had to go to all Israel throughout Galilee.

When Jesus rises from the dead, his mission starts with him leading the disciples to Galilee again. From the other Gospels, we know that they returned to Jerusalem later. But first Jesus led them to Galilee, where he sent them out to the world: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (16:15; cf. Matt. 28:16-20).

Their mission will start in Jerusalem, but just as Jesus didn’t allow Capernaum to be his center of operations to which everyone had to come for healing or to hear him, so Jesus doesn’t allow Jerusalem to be the disciples’ home base. Now people don’t flow to Jerusalem; now the disciples go out, following Jesus, to Galilee and then to the world.

Posted by John Barach @ 6:08 pm | Discuss (6)
November 1, 2005

Mark 6:1-6 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

Mark 6:1-6
(July 31, 2005, Sermon Notes)

When a new king arrives, everyone reacts. Some welcome him; others oppose him. That opposition may take many forms. You can attack openly, work against him secretly, or just brush him off and try to ignore him.

That’s what happens when we proclaim Jesus as Lord. Nobody stays neutral. Everyone responds, some in faith and some in unbelief. In Mark 6, Jesus comes to His hometown and His presence and His message provoke a response, but it is a respond of amazing unbelief.


Mark’s Gospel reaches its first climax with the raising of Jairus’s daughter. But then Jesus goes “from there” — from Jairus’s house — to “His hometown” (literally: “His father-town”). It’s Nazareth, but Mark doesn’t call it by name here; instead he describes it as the place where Jesus grew up, the place where Jesus’ father had lived, the place where His mother and brothers and sisters live.

Jesus’ disciples are with Him on this trip, which indicates that this is part of their training (Mark 3:14). In fact, given that Nazareth wasn’t near Capernaum, it appears that this was a special trip to teach His disciples something important.

What happens looks like what happened in Capernaum at first. Jesus teaches on the Sabbath in the synagogue, preaching the same message He always preached. But He didn’t get to finish His sermon. Mark tells us that Jesus began to teach but then questions arose.

People weren’t asking Jesus questions; they asked each other. They recognize that Jesus is like David and Solomon: He teaches with wisdom. They recognize that Jesus has great authority and performs mighty works. But they don’t respond in faith. They don’t let Jesus teach. They don’t listen to Him when He calls them to repent. They don’t rejoice in the good news. They aren’t persuaded by His miracles: miracles in themselves don’t create faith.

In their questions they distance themselves from Jesus: “Where did this man get these things?” They don’t ask Jesus for an explanation. They simply ask each other in amazement because what they see and hear from Jesus doesn’t fit with what they think they already know about Him: Jesus is nothing more than the carpenter, Mary’s son, the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon.

This is the lesson that the disciples need to learn for their own mission: Resurrection is followed by rejection. Some people will not believe even if a person rises from the dead. To some people, Jesus would only be “Jesus of Nazareth” and all the wonders He did — even His resurrection itself — wouldn’t persuade them that He was Lord and Messiah. And still today, people stumble over Jesus because the gospel looks foolish, because they don’t want to submit, because they think they understand Him well enough already — and because they aren’t impressed by His ministers either.

In Nazareth, the people reject Jesus because He’s “the carpenter,” the builder. But the irony is that Jesus really is the builder, the one constructing a new house of Israel. And that is precisely why they need Him.


In their amazement, Nazareth rejects Jesus. And now Jesus is amazed and in His amazement, He rejects them. But first He puts their rejection of Him into its proper context: “A prophet is not without honour except in His own country, among His own relatives, and in His own house.”

What’s happening to Jesus isn’t unheard of. Rather, it fits the pattern we know from Scripture, and it’s the pattern that the disciples will also experience, the pattern we experience today. Often in the Old Covenant the Gentiles listened to the prophets when Israel wouldn’t. Elijah had to flee. David, too, had to flee from Saul but found refuge with the Philistines.

The people of Nazareth think their rejection of Jesus is wisdom, the result of insight that the rest of Israel doesn’t have. They know Jesus! But Jesus sets their response to Him in the light of Scripture as just one more instance of Israel’s rebellion against Yahweh and His prophets. Jesus is despised, and His own people did not esteem Him (Isa. 53).

Their dishonour has consequences: Jesus “could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them” (6:5). It isn’t that their unbelief drained away His power. He still had the power to heal. But He couldn’t heal those who didn’t come.

Unbelief keeps you from Jesus and prevents you from enjoying His healing power. In the context of faith, Jesus conquers death and raises people to life (Mark 5:21-43) because death itself is only sleep for those who believe. But now we see that unbelief is more deadly than death.

In spite of the widespread unbelief, though Jesus does find some who are sick who respond in faith and He lays His hands on them as He did on Jairus’s daughter — the posture of blessing — and heals them. Even widespread unbelief can’t stop Jesus from establishing God’s kingdom, and that’s comfort for the disciples who will face rejection after Jesus’ resurrection. It’s comfort for us.

More than that, Jesus’ brothers are named in this passage, as is His mother, and it appears that all of them later came to trust Him. He appeared to James, His brother, after His resurrection and James became one of the great leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Though it may seem as if the gospel isn’t doing much when we preach it, in the end it may break through the unbelief of those who reject it now.

Still, the dominant note here is not comfort or joy but sorrow and astonishment at Nazareth’s unbelief. Jesus marvels at this unbelief, not because He didn’t understand it but because unbelief itself is so astounding. In the light of all that Jesus has said and done, unbelief is unbelievable!

And so Jesus rejects Nazareth. This isn’t a final rejection: He doesn’t destroy Nazareth; He still leaves time for the people there to change their minds. But He withdraws in judgment, not bothering to try to answer Nazareth’s questions, and He goes to other towns instead. In fact He never enters another synagogue in Mark’s Gospel.

The king’s arrival demands a choice and everyone responds. Some people won’t believe, no matter what wonders Jesus does, and that unbelief is deadly. If you stumble over Jesus, you end up outside God’s kingdom. But all who trust Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus “the carpenter,” foolish as His gospel may sound, insignificant as He may seem, experience His power, the power to restore them to wholeness, the power to build them up into God’s house.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:40 am | Discuss (0)
August 2, 2005

Mark 5:21-43 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

Mark 5:21-43
(July 17, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Throughout Mark, Jesus has been calling people. But now we learn that, in order for anyone to respond, Jesus must raise him from the dead Jesus must cleanse people from death for them to draw near to God. This passage is the climax to the first section of Mark’s Gospel, the climax to a long series of cleansings and healings.

Mark sandwiches these stories together so that the flavour of the one permeates the other. Both women are “daughters,” both are associated with the number twelve, both represent Israel, and both are in some sense dead when they meet Jesus. In this story, then, Jesus raises two dead daughters to new life.


Jesus has returned to Galilee again. Once more He is teaching by the seashore and while He is doing that, a man named Jairus approaches. But the most important thing about this man is that he is one of “the rulers of the synagogue,” as Mark tells us repeatedly.

The synagogues have been attacking Jesus, but now this ruler of the synagogue comes to Jesus in faith because his daughter is dying. There is rich symbolism here. The ruler of the synagogue represents the synagogue as a whole, while the little girl represents “Daughter Israel.” The synagogue cannot save Israel but must turn to Jesus for help.

Jairus begs Jesus to lay hands on his daughter (the posture of blessing) so that she may be “saved,” that is, rescued from death. After all, Jesus’ name means “Yahweh saves.” And Jesus grants his request.


On the way to Jairus’s house, however, there is an interruption. Jesus has already dealt with a leper (Mark 1:40-45; cf. Lev. 13-14); now He encounters a woman with a flow of blood (cf. Lev. 15). This wasn’t simply a medical problem; it was a form of symbolical death. The Torah barred her from drawing near to God and taking part in the Old Covenant sacramental meals.

She had been that way for twelve years. That number is significant. As we’ve already seen, when Jesus chose twelve disciples, He was drawing on that number symbolism. The twelve disciples are the foundation for a new Israel. And this woman’s twelve years of suffering and alienation from God make her a symbol of the old Israel, who is unclean and whose righteousness is like “a garment of menstruation” (Isa. 64:6). Israel is unclean and needs to be cleansed — resurrected — if she’s going to inherit God’s kingdom and take part in God’s feasts.

This woman has no right to be in the crowd, touching people, but in faith she draws near to touch Jesus’ garment. In the Torah, uncleanness spreads even when it touches holy things (Hag. 2). In Haggai’s terms, Jesus is the holy meat inside a garment. But when Jesus touches unclean things, He doesn’t become unclean; they become clean. He is greater than the Old Covenant and He does what it couldn’t do.

The woman touches Jesus and is immediately cleansed. Her action doesn’t interrupt Jesus’ journey. But Jesus Himself does. He wants people to know what has happened. He finds the woman, in spite of His disciples’ mockery, calls her “daughter” (significantly!), and tells her that her faith has “saved” her. Faith saves, the Bible tells us, because faith, though powerless in itself, is the channel through which you experience Jesus’ saving power.


The cleansing of this woman is good news for the crowd, but it’s especially good news for Jairus. While Jesus is cleansing this woman, Jairus receives news that his daughter is dead. But Jesus calls him to a new level of faith in light, not only of that news, but also of the cleansing (i.e., the symbolic raising) of this unclean (i.e., symbolically dead) woman.

Jesus takes the three key disciples, Peter, James, and John, but He leaves the crowd behind. More than that, the crowd inside the house also end up outside. Jesus confronts them about their grieving: it is inappropriate (cf. 1 Thess 4:13), given that (as they know) Jairus has called upon Jesus to save his daughter. Because of Jesus, death is not ultimate. It is only sleep, from which you can again be awakened. (Interestingly, Jairus’s name means “Yahweh awakens.”)

First, Jesus “casts out” the mockers in the synagogue ruler’s house, just as he “cast out” the demon in Capernaum’s synagogue earlier. Then He takes the girl’s parents and His three witnesses and enters the room where the girl is lying. He takes her by the hand and says, “Talitha, cumi!” which Mark renders “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (the Aramaic is literally “Little lamb, arise!”: Jesus is the shepherd-king who leads this girl through the valley of the shadow of death to new life).

As Mark tells the story, he includes elements from all the previous exorcisms, cleansings, and healings: amazement (the exorcism in Capernaum’s synagogue: 1:22), taking by the hand (Simon’s mother-in-law: 1:31), touching someone unclean (the leper: 1:41), rising and walking in response to Jesus’ command (the paralysed man: 2:9-12), arising in respond to Jesus’ command (the man with the withered hand: 3:3), rescue from death and burial (the man with a Legion living in the tombs: 5:1-20), a daughter associated with twelve years (the woman with the flow of blood: 5:25-34).

All those other cleansings and healings are pointers to resurrection. There were seven leading up to this story, and the raising of this girl is the eighth. The eighth is the beginning of a new creation. It’s the day of circumcision, the day also when a person who has been unclean and outside the camp for a week may be washed and restored. Jesus brings about a new creation, a new beginning, life beyond death. And the raising of this little girl (even though she later died again) points forward to Jesus’ own eighth day resurrection.

The little girl rises and walks around. But Jesus tells the people present not to let anyone know. They will know the girl was dead until Jesus arrived, but they won’t know exactly what happened. To them, all things happen in parables. But in the end, when Jesus rises, there will be no command to keep silent.

Finally, Jesus tells them to give the girl something to eat. Already in Mark’s Gospel, we’ve seen meals (Simon’s mother-in-law served Jesus: 1:31; Jesus feasted with Levi when He “raised” and “healed” him: 2:13-17). Jesus is restoring people to table fellowship. The woman with the twelve-year flow of blood was excluded from the feasts until Jesus cleansed her. Now she can eat and drink in God’s presence again. This little girl was dead, but now she’s alive and Jesus makes sure she has something to eat.

Resurrection is followed by feasting, as it will be when Jesus rises and as it is for us in Him. Leprosy and a flow of blood are cleansed with water (Lev 13-15): those who are symbolically dead and cut off from the feasts are “raised” again to new life through a “baptism” (Heb. 9:10) and so are restored to the feasts. We have been baptized into Christ’s death so that we might now walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), and that involves feasting with Christ. Your new life began with Christ; it continues because Jesus commands that all who have been baptized into His death and resurrection be given something to eat.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:52 pm | Discuss (0)

Manasseh & Ephraim in Mark 5?

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

Austin Farrer, noting that the name “Jairus” is a version of the name “Jair” and that Jair, in the Old Testament, was from the half-tribe of Manasseh, suggests that the woman with the flow of blood should be seen as an Ephraimite.

If that’s the case, then what happens in Mark 5:21-43 parallels what happens in Genesis 48. In that passage, Joseph presents his sons to Israel so that he can lay his hands on them and bless them. He presents them in their birth order, Ephraim on the left and Manasseh on the right, but Israel crosses his hands so that Ephraim receives the primary blessing as if he were firstborn.

Here, in Mark 5, we have daughters, not sons, but the pattern is similar. Jair(us: Manasseh) comes first, asking Jesus to “lay his hands” on his daughter, the same posture of blessing we read about in Genesis 48. It appears that Jesus is going to do so, but on the way He stops to cleanse and save the woman with the flow of blood (Ephraim, Farrer suggests), so that Ephraim gets the blessing before Manasseh.

Well, that seems like a huge stretch to me. But even if you don’t find that finally persuasive, and I don’t, it’s good to have the mind stretched in that way from time to time. That’s what makes Farrer such interesting reading.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:44 am | Discuss (0)
August 1, 2005


Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

“Talitha, cumi!” is not the only bit of Mark 5:21-43 that invites further translation. The name of the synagogue ruler is, too. Normally, Mark calls this man “the ruler of the synagogue” because he wants to draw attention to that role. The rulers of the synagogue have been hostile toward Jesus, but this man is a surprising exception (especially surprising if this event took place in Capernaum, where 3:1-6 took place!).

The ruler of the synagogue is named Jairus, a version of the name Jair with which we are familiar from the Old Testament (e.g., Judges 10:3). His name appears to be significant. He comes to Jesus (“Yahweh saves”) asking Jesus to “save” his daughter. But his own name, Jairus, means “Yahweh awakens,” which is what Jesus will do, awakening his daughter from the sleep of death.

Coincidence? If it is, it’s a huge one. But I don’t think it is. And if Mark wants us to see the significance of this name in connection with this narrative, then it seems that he expects us also to think about the significance of the other names and the other non-Greek statements in his Gospel. They aren’t just accidental; they appear to be significant for the stories in which they appear.

Posted by John Barach @ 7:25 pm | Discuss (0)

“Talitha, cumi!” (Mark 5:41)

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Link :: Print

In Mark 5:41, Jesus says to Jairus’s dead daughter, “Talitha, cumi!” for which Mark provides the translation “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” Interestingly, as Donahue and Harrington point out, while that is indeed the gist of what Jesus is saying, the Aramaic could more literally be translated “Little lamb, arise!” And that is particularly interesting given that this section of Mark reveals Jesus as a shepherd, who, for instance, causes the sheep to sit down in green pastures (Mark 6:39).

But it’s also interesting that here Mark quotes Jesus in Aramaic, given that almost everywhere else in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ words are recorded in Greek. Either Jesus normally spoke Greek but here chose to speak Aramaic or Jesus normally spoke Aramaic and Mark normally translates it into Greek with a couple of exceptions, of which this is one. Either way, we ought to ask why this statement is in Aramaic, not Greek.

One answer is that Mark is simply recording what Jesus said on this occasion, but that isn’t a satisfactory answer. Another answer is that by recording Jesus’ words in Aramaic Mark’s narrative has the character of an eyewitness account (i.e, the account of Peter who was there), but again that answer isn’t satisfactory. Why not record other statements in Aramaic, then?

Perhaps Mark records the Aramaic because he wants his readers to think about the significance of the Aramaic words themselves. Mark could have translated “Talitha, cumi” as “Little lamb, arise!” but he chooses to give the gist of them instead. But readers who know Aramaic can dig more deeply and figure out more of the puzzle of who Jesus is. He’s the shepherd who brings this little lamb through the valley of the shadow of death.

Any other suggestions?

Posted by John Barach @ 7:20 pm | Discuss (0)

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