The Other Side

BindingWe continue our celebration of the 30th anniversary of Binding The Strong Man, Ched Myers’ political reading of Mark’s Gospel. Mark, according to Myers, represents a dissenting socio-political movement.  As the narrative continues, Jesus breaks through the social and economic barriers to the realization of human solidarity.  Today’s passage is Mark 4:35-41.

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat…”–Mark 4:35-36

…the two sides of the Sea of Galilee symbolize Jewish and gentile territory, and the two major boat journeys represent the crossing from one side to the other.

…Throughout the Gospel, Mark is far more interested in articulating geo-social “space” in terms of narrative symbolics than actual place-names.  Indeed, it is not impossible that Mark may have intentionally dissociated the coordinate “other side” from a literal correspondence with eastern and western shores of the sea;  straining the geographical credulity of the sea narrative would have forced his first readers to focus upon the journeys as symbolic action (which is their purpose) rather than upon details of marine transit around the Sea of Galilee (which is not). 

…for however they are “mapped,” the sea crossings function as a fiction dramatizing the struggle to “bridge” the deeply alienated worlds of Jew and gentile.

…These harrowing sea stories intend to dramatize the difficulties facing the kingdom community as it tries to overcome the institutionalized social divisions between Jew and gentile.  Through this metaphorical action the community struggles to make the “passage” to integration (hence the difficulty is always en route to the gentile shore).  The wind and sea as obstacles derive from the ancient Semitic mythic personification of cosmic forces of chaos and destruction (as in 5:13; 9:42; 11:23).  It is no wonder the disciples demonstrate reluctance: all the power of the established “symbolic universe” of segregation oppose this journey.  And no doubt the real-life social hostility to such a project of integration threatened to “drown” the community.  But Mark insists that Jesus will rescue this project and silence the winds of opposition.

This is the meaning that the reader, unlike the disciples, must not miss.

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