Mark’s Sub Sandwich

Torrey has taught me to read the Bible better and better. One of my Torrey professors, Dr. Henderson, taught us that Mark is full of sandwiches. Sandwiches occur when a story is split in half by a story in between. One example is in Mark 11:12-20. Jesus curse a fig tree, Jesus flips the money changers’ table in the temple, then they pass the tree again to see it withered. These stories are purposely placed to show a special connection (Israel and the tree didn’t bear fruit, for example). These sandwiches can be hard to spot, but you can find them if you’re looking.

This morning I was reading and found something interesting.

Mark 7:31-8:34

31 And again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 And they brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they entreated Him to lay His hand upon him. 33 And He took him aside from the multitude by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 And they were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.”

8: 1 In those days again, when there was a great multitude and they had nothing to eat, He called His disciples and said to them, 2 “I feel compassion for the multitude because they have remained with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat; 3 and if I send them away hungry to their home, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a distance. ” 4 And His disciples answered Him, “Where will anyone be able to find enough to satisfy these men with bread here in a desolate place?” 5 And He was asking them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.” 6 And He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the multitude. 7 They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well. 8 And they ate and were satisfied; and they picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces. 9 And about four thousand were there; and He sent them away. 10 And immediately He entered the boat with His disciples, and came to the district of Dalmanutha.

11 And the Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. 12 And sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” 13 And leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side.

14 And they had forgotten to take bread; and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They said to Him,” Twelve.” 20 “And when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they said to Him, “Seven.” 21 And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Him, and entreated Him to touch him. 23 And taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes, and laying His hands upon him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I am seeing them like trees, walking about.” 25 Then again He laid His hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. 26 And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

27 And Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told Him, saying, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.” 29 And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “Thou art the Christ.” 30 And He warned them to tell no one about Him.

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

I was reading a book by RA Torrey called Studies in the Life and Teachings of Our Lord. In it he asks various questions that may be simple and seem obvious, but provoke you to think.

In the beginning of this passage Jesus heals a deaf man. Notice that Jesus takes him away from the crowd to heal him (Torrey asks ‘what do modern day healers do?’) To heal him, Jesus touches his ears, spits, puts saliva on his tongue, looks up to heaven, sighs, and calls for them to be opened. This miracle is strange because it seems to take so much effort. Once Jesus heals the man of his deafness, he orders him to not tell people about this miracle, but he does anyways. Similar passages in other gospels have Jesus healing multitudes. Mark has a specific purpose for highlighting this unusual miracle.

The middle of the passage shows Jesus feeding the four thousand. Jesus has compassion on them because they have been with him for three days and he does not want them to leave and faint on the way (possible reference to resurrection?). Jesus feeds the multitude with seven loaves and a few small fish. All of the people were satisfied and they picked up seven large baskets of broken pieces (notice that multiplication comes from brokenness, as I learned from Southlands a few weeks ago). Immediately afterwards the pharisees demand a sign, as if they hadn’t seen the one just performed (Jesus fed the people in a desolate place with bread/ God fed Israel in the desert with manna). Jesus sighs, again.

The disciples follow Jesus onto the boat, but forget to bring bread (where did those baskets go?). Jesus tells them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod and they think he is rebuking them. Jesus says “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?” (8:18). Jesus had just healed a deaf man before feeding the four thousand, but the disciples were still spiritually deaf. Jesus next miracle comes full circle with his rebuke.

As soon as they land a blind man is brought to them. Jesus again brings the man away from people (the village in this case). He spits again and lays hands on the man. The man does not fully receive his sight back, so Jesus has to repeat the process. Again, this miracle seems to pose a sort of difficulty. Jesus had to do more than simply lay his hands on the man for him to be healed. Once the man is healed, he is told to not go back to the village (like the deaf man who was told not to tell others). Jesus gave this man sight, something the disciples had missed just a few verses earlier.

Finally, Jesus addresses spiritual sight and hearing. He asks them who he is. Peter says Jesus is the Christ (he is able to hear and see the truth) and Jesus tells them to tell no one (as the ones he healed were to tell no one). Jesus physically healed two men of blindness and deafness then heals the disciples of the spiritual disease. However, this is short lived as Jesus immediately has to rebuke Peter for not wanting Christ to die.

Yeah, so there’s some thoughts to think about. The next passage talks about the transfiguration, which is in the middle of Mark (who was writing to a Greek audience, and Greeks have the climax of their storied in the middle, such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, etc). Thanks to Dr. Reynolds for pointing that out.

The purpose of this post is to point out the deep significance of things in the Bible. Words are strategically placed in each Gospel. There’s a reason things are mentioned while others aren’t. Sometimes the meaning is hidden from us, but that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in, teaching us spiritual disciplines like studying God’s Word and bringing out the meaning. This is the Bible we read and He is the God we serve.


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