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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Mark 5:21-43

The pericope of Mark 5:21-43 is a typical “Markan sandwich” in which Mark places one narrative inside another, leading the reader to interpret them together (Myers 57). In it, Mark contrasts two individuals coming to Jesus: Jairus who comes boldly to request a favor and an unnamed woman who covertly touches Jesus’ robe. As Ched Myers makes clear, these two come from “opposite ends of the social spectrum” (58). Jesus’ response reveals his reversal in attitudes between the two ends of the spectrum. He seeks to interact with the nameless poor, a theme found throughout the life of Jesus’, but made most profound by Luke (58). An item not mentioned in Myers’ article is the example of the disciples’ misunderstanding of Jesus, a common theme in Mark. In v. 31, the disciples question Jesus. When he asked who had touched him, they respond in seeming exasperation, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” They had no idea why Jesus asked the question because they did not know what Jesus knew about what had occurred. Later, in v. 40, after Jesus told the people the dead girl was merely sleeping, they crowd laughed at him, again unaware of what Jesus was capable of. It contains striking allusions to the Old Testament, particularly the story of Elisha raising a young girl from the dead and the common refrain of the number 12 for the tribes of Israel. I agree with Myers’ final assessment: “This story of ‘good news to the poor’ embodies, in a nutshell, Mark’s manifesto of radical discipleship” (60). However, Myers does not draw out the central theme of Mark: the rag-drag race to the cross. The pericope he chose as the encapsulation of Mark’s Gospel is a difficult one for this theme. While it is a classic example of the Markan style, I am unconvinced it is a complete summary of Mark’s themes.

Ched Myers, "Mark's Gospel: Invitation to Discipleship," The New Testament-Introducing the Way of Discipleship, ed. Wes Howard-Brook and Sharon H. Ringe

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