Midreach part 2

Rick Mattson Uncategorized 2 Comments

Here is an example of what I call “midreach” (see last week’s post for more context):

The gospel writer Mark presents Jesus to his audience in a way that hardly distinguishes between believers and non-believers.

Believers can find comfort in a series of healings and exorcisms in the first few chapters:

Ch 1: Simon’s mother-in-law and a leper are healed.

Ch 2:  A paralytic is forgiven and healed.

Ch 3: A man with a shriveled hand is healed on the Sabbath.

Ch 5: The Gerasene demoniac is cleansed of his demons.

Ch 5: A bleeding woman is healed and Jairus’s daughter is raised from the dead.

Non-believers learn about Jesus’ power, authority and compassion in these same stories.

So Mark is building up the faith of those who already possess it, and making his case for Jesus to those who don’t.

All at the same time.

In my view, Mark is a master at midreach. What can we learn from his example?

Comments 2

  1. I would disagree with the idea that Mark is written for non-believers. Of course, it's not illegitimate to use it with non-believers, but that's not its focus. Rather, it seems intended to bolster the possibly faltering faith of believers, convincing them that they have backed the right horse, that Jesus really is the Messiah, even though killed by the Romans as a criminal. Everything Jesus engages in (including healing, teaching, compassionate outreach, etc.) is by way of validation of his status as Messiah to his immediate audience. Mark presents that validation ex post facto to a later generation. The idea of using this sort of text with unbelievers who don't have any clue either that there was to be such a thing as a Messiah, nor that they have any part of that even, is unfounded. Nor is the text a disassociated list of pericopae compiled with a variety of audiences in mind or with an ahistorical application. It's not evangelistic even if it can be used thus (with a lot of tweaking and contextualizing).

    My two cents and perspective.

  2. Hey Paul, thanks for your thoughtful comments (as always). You have translated Mark into other languages and have thus worked on it extensively. Yet my own decades of experience digging around in Mark’s gospel (it’s a favorite book in InterVarsity circles) and its attending scholarship make me uneasy with what you say.

    Let me make three brief points in response:

    1. I would agree with you that the gospel is written as an affirmation and encouragement for believers, some of whom may be faltering in their faith. They need to know, as you say, that they have “backed the right horse” in the face of Jesus’ crucifixion.

    2. It is difficult for me to imagine, however, that Mark was intentionally excluding nonChristians when he wrote, or that he’d have written any differently with them in mind. To my thinking he is clearly an evangelist who is presenting the “gospel” of Jesus Christ to any who would listen, whether to strengthen and build up, or to call to repentance and faith (v1:15).

    3. Unbelief is frequently chided in the text: the teachers at the healing of the paralytic, the disciples at the calming of the storm, the mourners around Jairus’s daughter, the townspeople of Nazareth at Jesus’ homecoming (6:6: “He was amazed at their lack of faith”), etc. Mark is careful to record these instances of unbelief as a call and warning, I believe, to his own [unbelieving] hearers.

    MUCH more could be said by both of us, I’m sure, to make our points. I am always up for a good challenge and will listen to what you say. For the moment, however, I maintain my thought that Mark is a “midreach” master worthy of our emulation.

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