Much of what is written in the Gospel of Mark is similar to what was written in the Gospel of Matthew. There are certain nuances that differ, making this second, similar account interesting and helpful as we put together a fuller picture of the life of Christ.
One of my favorite differences from the Gospel of Mark (as compared to the Gospel of Matthew) is in Mark 5. It is not a big difference, but Mark and Matthew captured the words of Jesus to the woman who was bleeding differently.
Jesus was on His way to Jairus’s house to heal his daughter. On the way, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years reached out and touched Jesus’ garment, and she was made well. We don’t hear much about her from Matthew. Here is his account:
… a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” (Matthew 9:20–21, ESV)
We know all that we need to know from Matthew’s account, but Mark helps to fill in some of the gaps:
… there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. (Mark 5:25–29, ESV)
What a terrible circumstance she found herself in! But in faith, she pursued Jesus and wouldn’t stop until she had reached out and touched Him. His response as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew is interesting:
Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. (Matthew 9:22, ESV)
And now from the Gospel of Mark:
And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:30–34, ESV)
From the Gospel of Matthew, it seemed that the woman was healed after Jesus spoke to her. In the Gospel of Mark it seemed that she was healed before… and after.
Which is true? I think both.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus first says, “Take heart; daughter; your faith has made you well.” which shows that she was healed by touching him, but then it says, “and instantly the woman was made well.”
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus first says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
At first glance, it seems as though there is a discrepancy, but there is not. Matthew remembered some of the words from before, and Mark remembered some of the words from after the consistent message from both accounts: “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”
In Mark 6 Jesus feeds the five thousand. In Mark 8 Jesus feeds the four thousand. These two stories often get confused with one another. Are they the same story? Are they different?
Clearly, since they both show up in Mark’s Gospel, with only a chapter separating them, they are different accounts. There is no chance that Mark told the story, and then forgot that he told the story, so he ended up telling it again with a different number attached. No chance.
Not only is the number different, but the circumstances, the geographical location, and the recipients of the very similar miracles are also different.
In Mark 6, Jesus feeds five thousand Israelites. It is a miracle feeding, and afterwards the disciples pick up 12 baskets full of food. The number 12 is significant because of the 12 tribes of Israel. With this miracle, Jesus is showing that He is more than enough for Israel. He is the Great Redeemer. He is the Glorious Savior. He is the King Forever. As God provided for the 12 tribes of Israel while they wandered through the wilderness, He is providing for His people still.
In Mark 8, Jesus feeds four thousand Gentiles. It is another miracle feeding, and afterwards the disciples pick up 7 baskets full of food. What is up with the number 7? Are we to understand that God doesn’t love the Gentiles as much as the Israelites, since there were more baskets of leftovers from the earlier miracle? No. The number 7 is far more fascinating than that. To discover it’s significance, we will have to go all the way back to Deuteronomy 7, when the Israelites first entered the promised land:
When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. (Deuteronomy 7:1–2, ESV)
In this miracle to the Gentiles, and with the 7 baskets left over, we see God’s heart to redeem the Gentiles. The 7 baskets represent the 7 nations that were utterly destroyed when Israel first entered the land. At one time, they needed to be destroyed. Now, with the coming of the Great Redeemer, the Glorious Savior, the King Forever, Jesus, God was showing His heart to provide for the Gentiles as well as the Israelites.