The Book of Mark - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 3 Lesson 05 - Miracles Around the Lake

Teachers Comments
Jul 27 - Aug 02

Key Texts: Mark 5:6–9, 22–34

Study Focus: Mark 5

Introduction: Mark 5 and 6 cover similar topics to those of Mark 1. In chapters 5 and 6, we note Jesus performing miracles, such as casting out demons, healing people, and preaching the gospel. Thus, our study will review selected events from both chapters that cover this range of topics.

Lesson Themes: This week’s study considers two miracles of Jesus. The first account is the story of a man, a member of a Gentile community, who was possessed by an unclean spirit. The other narrative is the story of an “unclean” woman who is a member of the Jewish community.

1. Jesus and “the Legion.” Mark reports that Jesus travels to Gadarenes, a Gentile community, and “immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him” (Mark 5:2, NASB). As a result of this encounter, Jesus heals the man.

2. Jesus and the Healing of Two Daughters. When Jesus returned to His own community, an official of the synagogue, Jairus, came to meet Him and “pleaded with Him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death’ ” (Mark 5:23, NASB). Jesus heals Jairus’s daughter, in addition to healing a woman with an issue of blood.

Part II: Commentary

Jesus and “The Legion”

Mark often provides geographical detail to highlight the ministry of Jesus in places far from His hometown. Such narrative elements imply a clear intention, on the part of Jesus, to reach the Gentiles on their own turf. For instance, in Mark 4:35, Jesus tells His disciples, “ ‘Let’s go over to the other side’ ” (NASB). And again, in Mark 5:1, another geopolitical reference is provided: “They came to the other side of the sea, into the region of the Gerasenes” (NASB).

The city of the Gerasenes (Gerasa) was a district in Decapolis (Mark 5:20). The fact that close to the city “there was a large herd of pigs feeding nearby” (Mark 5:11, NASB), helps us to infer that it was a Gentile city. Kelly R. Iverson offers an accurate introduction to Jesus’ ministry in the Gentile territory. He states, “The episode signals the beginning of a series of deliberate journeys into Gentile territory made by Jesus. The first encounter with Gentiles outside the Jewish homeland occurs east of the Sea of Galilee in the region of Gerasa. . . . The story of the Gerasene demoniac emphasizes Jesus’ power, inaugurates a mission among the Gentiles, and foreshadows a future ministry in Gentile territory. It is a preparatory mission that paves the way for his return to the region later in the narrative (7.31–37).”—Kelly R. Iverson, Gentiles in the Gospel of Mark, “Even the Dogs Under the Table Eat the Children’s Crumbs” (London: T&T Clark, 2007), p. 20.

Thus, the last part of Mark 4, and the beginning of Mark 5, reveals a transition in Jesus’ ministry from a Jewish setting to a Gentile location. However, there is a common element that Jesus encountered in each of these two locations: demonic forces. According to Mark, Jesus starts His ministry among the Jews. The first miracle of Jesus takes place in a synagogue (a Jewish setting) in which a man with an unclean spirit cries out, “ ‘What business do you have with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are: the Holy One of God!’ ” (Mark 1:24, NASB).

Now, as Jesus starts His ministry among the Gentile territories, we see a similar scenario. Mark 5:2 tells us, “When He got out of the boat, im­mediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him” (NASB). Both in the synagogue of the scribes and among the Gentiles, there were men with unclean spirits that needed to be healed. In both situations, there were men held captive by demons. Jesus came to restore these men to the kingdom.

Mark 5:7–9 describes a dialogue between Jesus and the demon(s). The interaction follows a similar pattern, as seen in Mark 1:23–25. “Shouting with a loud voice, he said, “ ‘What business do You have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!’ ” (Mark 5:7, NASB). Interestingly, the demons recognize who Jesus is. They say to Him, “ ‘You are: the Holy One of God!’ ” (Mark 1:24, NASB); “ ‘You are the Son of God!’ ” (Mark 3:11, NASB); and “ ‘Son of the Most High God’ ” (Mark 5:7, NASB). Notably, some Christological statements in the gospel come from the mouth of the demons. From the teachers of Israel, God’s own people, there is no such confession of equal force and significance.

Let us consider the information that Mark gives us about the man possessed by many demons. The man claims his name is “Legion.” A legion was a Roman military unit about the size of five to six thousand foot soldiers. (See Robert H. Stein, Mark [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008], p. 255.) No matter how overwhelmed a human could have been by such an evil force, there is no demonic entity that can resist, or overcome, the power of the Most High God.

The fate of this demon-possessed man was cruel and bloody. Mark 5:5 describes his misery and suffering. “Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and cutting himself with stones” (NASB).

Regarding the demoniac, Larry Hurtado writes: “The man is described as both fully captive to the powers of evil and beyond any human help (5:2–4). Further, his dwelling among the tombs, the ‘dwelling’ of the dead, almost makes him like a zombie, a living dead-man. Finally, he is self-destructive (5:5) and obviously in torment. All of this is a powerful picture of how the NT [New Testament] describes the condition of humans apart from Christ: Spiritually dead and in bondage to evil.”— Hurtado, Mark (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989), p. 83.

Mark 5:4 also tells us that “no one was strong enough to subdue him” (NASB). “No one,” Mark says, until Jesus comes to him. After his encounter with Jesus, “the very man who had previously had the ‘legion’ ” (Mark 5:15, NASB), and who had been demon-possessed, now is calmly sitting down, clothed and in his right mind. Such power of deliverance is found only in Jesus Christ. The One who had rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “ ‘Hush, be still’ ” (Mark 4:39, NASB), can also command the evil spirits, with the words “ ‘Come out of the man’ ” (Mark 5:8, NASB). All powers of darkness are subdued by Jesus’ authority.

Jesus and the Healing of Two Daughters

In Mark 5:21, Mark introduces a new narrative section: the incident in which Jesus intervenes in favor of two daughters of God: “a woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years” (Mark 5:25, NASB) and Jairus’s daughter.

This section contains yet another geopolitical marker in Jesus’ journey. He “had crossed over again in the boat to the other side” (Mark 5:21, NASB). He has returned from ministering in a Gentile region; now the scene shifts to a Jewish backdrop again. Mark confirms this shift in Jesus’ intervention on behalf of the synagogue official, Jairus. This important man enters the scene with the same attitude as the demon-possessed man in Mark 5:6: he falls at Jesus’ feet (Mark 5:22). Jairus’s request on behalf of his daughter was for Jesus to “ ‘lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live’ ” (Mark 5:23, NASB; emphasis added).

In that moment, a hopeless woman interrupts the narrative. Keep in mind that Jesus has just come from restoring a man who had been possessed with a legion of unclean spirits. And now He turns His compassionate attention to an unclean woman. Because of her illness, she was ritually unclean and separated from Israel’s religious life. “Now if a woman has a discharge of her blood for many days, not at the period of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond that period, for all the days of her impure discharge she shall continue as though in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean” (Lev. 15:25, NASB).

Commentator M. Eugene Boring adds another dimension to the misery concerning her malady: “Since vaginal bleeding prohibited marriage and was grounds for divorce, in the understanding of her culture which she shared, the woman cannot fulfill her function as a woman, to bring new life into being as a mother.” In addition, she has been impoverished because she had spent all her money on physicians to no avail. The commentator adds, “Like the leper of 1:40, her life is actually a living death, and her healing would be a restoration to life. Like the child who waits in Jairus’s house, she is beyond all human hope.”—Boring, Mark: A Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), p. 160. In the end, Jesus restores two persons to life: a woman, almost dead both physically and socially (living in isolation because of her condition); and Jairus’s daughter, a 12-year-old girl who was dead.

In both cases, a healing touch figures into the narrative. The woman touches Jesus’ garment, and Jesus touches the girl’s hand. However, the author tries to explain to the readers that it was not the touch itself of the woman that brought her healing. Rather, it was the faith of both the bleeding woman and Jairus that brought the desired result. In the first case, Jesus comforts the woman, saying, “ ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well’ ” (Mark 5:34, NASB). In the second case, Jesus encourages the girl’s father, Jairus, to persist in believing that his daughter would be resurrected to life again (Mark 5:36).

Part III: Life Application

Mark, as well as the other three Gospel writers, depicts the antagonism of some of the Jewish teachers and leaders of the synagogue toward Jesus. However, this antagonism does not curtail Jesus’ religious involvement in the synagogue, nor His work in behalf of the people of His community. For instance, Mark 1:21 narrates that Jesus and His disciples “went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and began to teach” (NASB). The first miracle of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Mark takes place in the synagogue: “Just then there was a man [with an unclean spirit] in their synagogue” (Mark 1:23, NASB). Then, in Mark 5:22, Jesus ministers to “one of the synagogue officials” (NASB).

Sometimes we face disagreements with certain leaders or other members of our church community. To what extent do we permit these disagreements to affect our convictions or our relationships with our community? How does Jesus’ example give us insight about how to proceed in such situations?

Jesus went outside of His own community of faith to reach people from Gentile communities. What are we doing to reach people beyond our walls for God’s kingdom? Consider, in your answer, Mark 6:34: “[Jesus] saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (NASB).