I love my English translation of the Bible. Reading scripture in my native tongue helps me see, hear and understand in ways I never could if I was reading in a different language. At the same time, reading it in English means someone else has done the translation for me, and so, the paragraphs and subject titles will reflect the translator’s understanding and may unintentionally mask the original author’s intent. We saw this in something we read on the 16th.
The third chapter of Mark has a number of stories in it and if you rely on the translator’s headings, it is easy to conclude that each little section stands alone. But if we erase those section headings and begin to look at connections we can better discern the author’s intent and better “hear” what he is trying to convey. Let me share one obvious example with you.
The NIV and NLT translators both separate Mark 3:20-35 into two stories—one about Jesus being accused of being in league with Satan and one about Jesus’ true mother, brothers and sisters. But Mark provides a clue in verse 21 to tell his readers that these two stories should be read as one.
In 3:20-21, we read of how Jesus’ family thought Jesus had lost His mind and so they “went to take charge of Him.” Mark then abruptly interrupts himself to share the story of what the teachers of the law thought about Jesus (3:22-30). It is not until 3:31 that we pick up the family intervention theme again. This same story-inserted-in-a-story will happen again in Mark 6:7-31 and 11:12-21. What is going on here?
These stories within a story are examples of a literary device which combines two stories by splitting one apart and inserting the second one into the middle of the first. Whenever you find this you can be sure that the author wants to make a specific point and that point is found by letting one story shed light on the other.
In our current example, we see two different opinions of Jesus. One focuses on His crazy schedule and concludes He is out of His mind. The other focuses on His miracles and concludes He is possessed by the Prince of Demons. Neither group contested the presence of massive crowds or stunning miracles. What they questioned was the meaning behind these things. “He has lost His mind.” “He is empowered by Satan.”
If you had no knowledge of Jesus and were reading this for the first time, it is reasonable to assume that you could also be searching for a reason or a meaning behind what you see. Some today might say: it can’t be true; science does not support miracles; the crowds weren’t that big; or these details are exaggerated and were added to the story by a person who wanted to increase his control over others by making Jesus bigger than He was. You get the idea. While all this is interesting speculation, the real question is: what point was the author trying to make?
Jesus easily debunks the 'possessed by Satan' theory by referencing Abraham Lincoln’s famous “House Divided” speech (or maybe it was the other way around). He then shocks the listeners by claiming that allegiance to God and His kingdom creates familial bonds that are stronger than blood. Think of that for a moment. Those who enter the Kingdom of God through faith in Christ have a relationship with Jesus that transcends earthly ties! That is stunning news which changes the way we think about our identity, our calling and our future.