Significance Before Application (Mark 3:14–15): The Mark 3 Commission and Its Implications for Social Action, Part 5b
Miracles as parables: evidential language of the in-breaking of God’s reign
Miracles are obviously important to Mark, for they occupy a significant amount of space throughout his narrative. Twenty-seven percent of his Gospel is associated with miracles. If the passion segment is not included, forty percent of the verses reference miracles. The emphasis on miracles in Mark’s summaries also indicates their central role in his plot development (1:32–34, 39; 3:10–12; 6:5, 53–56). The inclusion of multiple miracle stories in this Gospel means more than simply an apologetic for Jesus’ deity. Instead, Mark leverages Jesus’ miracles as an integral part of his Gospel narrative as he develops the plot and the story unfolds, particularly within the Galilean ministry that focuses on “casting” as a central miracle (1:23–27, 32–34, 39; 3:11, 22–27).
While most critics of the Gospels recognize that the parables and much of the teachings of Jesus were original, what is overlooked, however, is that the parables and the miracles attributed to Jesus are strikingly parallel in function. Many recognize that miracles in the Gospel are deed-parables, which not only have implications for the authenticity of Gospel miracle stories, but are also important for determining the significance of miracles for developing authoritative, analogous application. For Mark, miracles function as “another mode of language” to communicate the nature of the gospel of God (1:14). They, like the parables, are emplotted in the narrative as a means of teaching about “the mystery of God’s action in the world.” As with Jesus’ teaching and parables, the crowds reacted with awed at his miracles (1:22, 27; 2:12; 5:20, 42; 6:2, 51; 7:37; 9:15; 10:24, 26, 32; 11:18; 12:17).
This programmatic similarity between teaching/parable and miracle is made clear at Jesus’ inaugural ministry-event in which the gathered crowd was “amazed” at Jesus’ authority over an unclean spirit that is referred to as a “new teaching” (2:27). Also, miracles reveal and conceal the mysterious nature of Jesus and his ministry. The kingdom is veiled and disclosed through miracles, making them similar to the function of parables in revealing the nature and inaugural presence of God’s kingdom. Miracles in Mark’s Gospel provide a “parabolic” key to his ministry and reveal “the in-breaking of the power of God’s reign.” This is particularly noticeable with regards to casting episodes, for they indicate his authority to destroy Satan-the strongman’s house and to plunder his dominion—a visible and demonstrable action (with outcomes) indicating the presence of God’s kingdom.
Additionally, the “transactions of the characters” in the plot underscore the significance of the miracle-parables to the reader/listener on this side of the text. After Jesus presented the parable of the Sower who sowed (4:1–8), his followers began asking him about the parables (v. 10). Jesus replied, To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables (4:11b). He then asks his followers, Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables [v. 13]? Later, the disciples dangerously showed lack of insight into Jesus miracles (Mark 6:52; 7:18; 8:14–21). Interestingly, the words that Jesus said to the disciples after the feeding miracle (Mark 8:18) were similar to those he used to explain the parables (4:12); both draw from the Isaiah 6 idolatry-taunt―seeing but not perceiving . . . hearing but not understanding. The miracles have the same outsider-insider effect as do parables, implying that they, too, reveal (i.e., proclaim) the mystery of the kingdom. As the parables reveal the presence of the kingdom, the miracles function in a similar manner. This challenges even fisher-followers to recognize that such deed-parables proclaim and demonstrate the arrival of God’s dominion.
Finally, the Mark 3 sandwich and Beelzebul episode (3:20–35) also suggests the importance of recognizing the role of “casting” miracles in the narrative plot. When the Jerusalem leadership accused Jesus of being demon possessed and in league with Satan (3:22), Jesus defended his mission through parables that indicated the presence of the Stronger Man confirms the destruction of Satan-the strongman’s reign over the affairs of humankind (vv. 23–27). The Mark 3 Beelzebul episode directs the attention of the reader/listener to the attributes of outsiders and insiders (as do the parables and other miracles). The activity of “casting” as a deed-parable gives evidence of the arrival of the kingdom of God, the purpose and meaning of the Mark 3 commission: fisher-followers are insiders who are true family and do the will of God (3:35) by revealing the inaugural presence of God’s kingdom through the language of action/deed (3:15).
 Note Mark 1:23–27, 32–34, 39; 3:11; 5:2–8, 13; 6:13; 7:26–30; 9:14–29, 38–41; cf. 3:22–27; 6:7, 13; 8:33.
 Watts, Isaiah’s New Exodus, 139.
 Blomberg, “Miracles as Parables,” 327.
 Blomberg, “The Miracles as Parables,” 327; also note Achtemeier, “Origin and Function,” 198–221; Achtemeier, “Toward the Isolation,” 265–91; Beavis, Mark’s Audience, 157ff.; Boucher, Mysterious Parables, 79–83; Donahue, “Jesus as the Parable of God,” 369–86; Hawkin, “Symbolism and Structure,” 98–110; Marshall, Faith as a Theme, 60ff.; Fuller, Mission and Achievement of Jesus, 73; Richardson, Miracle Stories of the Gospels, 48–49.
 Blomberg, “The Miracles as Parables,” 342.
 Ibid., 341–42.
 Ibid., 329.
 See Kuruvilla, Text to Praxis, 72–75.
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Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.