SANDWICHES - Enhance Your Reading of Mark's Gospel

Man reading the Bible

As followers of Christ, we look to the Bible as one of our main sources of inspiration and guides in our lives. So it follows that we all want our times reading the Bible to be as rich as possible.

Learning more about the Bible is one way to help with this. It is particularly helpful when we know the types of things that the authors of the books used to aid us in this task.

To this end I wanted to talk about something that has enriched my reading of the gospel of Mark: Markan Sandwiches (also called interpolations).

Essentially, what Mark does is get one story within his gospel, and inserts it inside another story; this serves the purpose of giving both stories a greater sense of meaning. It’s purpose is to make the reader stop and think “Mark is trying to tell us something important here”. In practice it looks like this:
Story 1 – Introduction
Story 2 – Introduction & Conclusion
Story 1 – Conclusion

We can see where the idea of the sandwich comes from: Story 2 is sandwiched in between story 1.

Let’s look at an example: Jairus’ daughter & the women with the perpetual bleed (Mark 5:21-43).

Story 1Introduction: Jairus comes to Jesus, informs Him of his daughter’s illness then asks Jesus to go with him. Jesus and Jairus begin walking to Jairus’ house.

Story 2Introduction & Conclusion: A women in the crowd comes and touches Jesus, she is instantly healed. Jesus asks who touched Him and she comes forward. Jesus tells her to go in peace.

Story 1 Conclusion: On the way, Jesus is informed that Jairus’ daughter has passed away, Jesus ignores them and goes to Jairus’ house. Upon arriving he tells the daughter to wake up; she does.

As well as Mark using this interpolation he also does other things to bind these two stories together:

The woman had been bleeding for 12 years. Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old.

Jesus calls the woman “daughter”. Jairus’ daughter is also referred to as “daughter”.

Both were considered unclean. According to Levitical law a woman during her menstrual cycle (Leviticus 15:19-23) and a corpse (Numbers 19:11-15) were both considered unclean.

Both had physical contact with Jesus – again, according to Levitical law, the other person involved in physical contact would now have been considered unclean as well.

What are the connections that Mark is trying to make?

When physical contact was established between Jesus and the woman with the bleed / Jairus’ daughter, it should have made Jesus unclean. However instead, as well as healing them, Jesus made them clean.

Mark’s takeaway message: In Christ, the things that were once considered unclean, are now clean. Jesus was remaking and restoring the world – including the defeating of death.

Here is a list of the primary Markan Sandwiches for your reference:

Whenever you are reading through Marks’ gospel, refer to the list and look for what Mark is trying to say through them.

I would love to hear about your experience with any of the verses listed or thoughts you had from this blog. Please leave your comments below.

Image Credit
Ben White


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