The 13 Suppliants in the Book of Mark

October 7, 2011 — Leave a comment

This group of thirteen suppliants shows us a slice of life in the first-century world:

  • A man with an unclean spirit (1:21-28)
  • A woman with a fever (1:29-31)
  • A leper in his uncleanness (1:40-45)
  • A paralytic (2:1-10)
  • A man with a withered hand (3:1-6)
  • A man with a legion of demons who lives among the tombs (5:1-20)
  • A synagogue offical, Jairus, whose twelve-year-old daughter is dying (5:21-23) and then dead (5:35-43)
  • A woman who has been bleeding for as long as the girl had been alive (5:24-34)
  • A Greek woman whose daughter was troubled with a demon (7:24-30)
  • A deaf man with stumbling speech (7:31-37)
  • A blind man who lived in Bethsaide (8:22-26)
  • A father and son, severely afflicted by a spirit that had troubled the boy since childhood and had often tried to kill him (9:14-29)
  • Another blind man, by the name of Bartimaeus (10:46-52)

Despite their variety, together they illustrate a world in great need, a world under the shadow of death. They also show that the Jewish religion was completely unable to help them in their need. In fact, it probably even made their situation worse by excluding them as unclean and so making God seem even further away. By coming to Jesus, this group shows the reader that faith means turning to Jesus Christ in the midst of real physical needs in this world under the shadow of death, and being prepared to follow him into the kingdom.

The suppliants – those thirteen characters who come to Jesus for healing or exorcism – have a particularly important role in connecting the story with the readers. They are the readers’ entry point into the narrative. They are portrayed sympathetically, as real human beings in need. As such, they are a slice of life in the real world. First century readers would know of such people; they knew this kind of world. The readers are drawn into the story by being aligned with these characters, see Jesus act on their behalf, and recognize that the proper attitude towards Jesus is faith. Thus, through the dynamics of the narrative, the readers are moved to put their faith in Jesus as well.

-Peter Bolt, The Cross From a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel (p. 38, 40, bold mine)


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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