Studying the Gospels Together: Mark Five

As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.

Introductory Comments

The fifth chapter in Mark's gospel is comprised of three different miracle stories. The first is the healing of the Garasene demoniac (Mk 5:1-20), the third is actually sandwiches within the second. The women with a discharge of blood is healed (Mk 5:25-34) in the middle of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter from the dead (Mk 5:21-24, 35-43). Mark includes a cluster of seven miracle stories in chapters 4-6, and here in chapter five we see a large portion of them.

In chapter two, there was a cluster of pronouncement stories that each told us something about Jesus and what it means to follow Him. In chapter four, there was a cluster of parables, that were also informative about following Jesus and the coming of God's Kingdom. As we look at these miracle stories, the primary message is to communicate something about Jesus. In these stories, we see further evidence of Jesus' divine nature and authority over demons, disease and death.

The seven miracle stories in Mark 4-6 are the largest collection of miracle stories in Mark's Gospel. This is significant because after Mark 8, we see a shift in the gospel material. Mark begins to present Jesus as the suffering messiah who came to die on the cross to save the world. In the first eight chapters, Mark is establishing the miracle-working, authority-owning, God-man known as Jesus. The fifth chapter provides an important contribution to establishing Jesus' clear divinity before he heads toward Jerusalem where he would eventually suffer, die and eventually rise again.

As we study this chapter with our Studying the Gospels Together method, like the previous chapter, we will once again see limited variety in the "things to note." Jesus isn't directly interacting with the Father or the Holy Spirit for example, but each of these three stories are primarily representative of his divinity overflowing into loving relationships with others. Even though the variety of "things to note" is small, there is a lot we can learn about Jesus and how he went about ministry. Further, even though the miracle stories primarily communicate about who Jesus is, we can also learn things about what it means to follow Jesus.

Things to Note

In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.

(P) Prayer

There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.

(W) Reads or references God’s Word

There is no specific reference to Jesus reading or referencing God’s word in this chapter.

(F) Relates to God the Father

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to God the Father in this chapter.

(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit

There is no specific reference to Jesus relating to The Holy Spirit in this chapter.

(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people

This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.

(5:1-20) Jesus heals the Garasene demoniac. In this passage, the man is described as someone who lived alone and who had "often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces (5:4 ESV)." The man lived alone among the tombs, could not be chained and was often hurting himself. When Jesus arrives on the scene, the man ran from afar and fell at Jesus' feet. He adjures Jesus, using his name "Son of the Most High God." The use of someone else's name was a common tactic of spiritual warfare, and the demons within the man may have been attempting to gain some measure of power over Jesus, of course to no avail. Jesus responds with far more authority, asking to know the demon's name. Jesus allows the demons to enter the pigs, instead of being cast out entirely. Jesus allowing the demons to take life, although in the more limited form of swine rather than human, is a reflection of Jesus' coming Kingdom that has not yet fully and completely removed all demonic influences from this earth. In the face of such a great miracle, the locals actually begged Jesus to leave their presence. Seeing the miraculous is not enough for someone to trust in Christ, we must have a changed heart, understand his message and truly follow him. Miracles can be affirming of Jesus' divine nature, but the experience of a miracle alone will not save someone and necessarily lead them to trust in Christ. The healed man does trust Jesus, and wants to go with him when he leaves. Jesus doesn't allow it, but tells him to "go home and tell your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you (5:19)

(5:21-24, 35-43): Jesus heals Jairus' daughter. This is a two part story, because right in the middle of the story we see the woman with discharge get healed. A synagogue ruler named Jairus has a daughter who is sick. He was a desperate father, and he new who to find. In the middle of the crowd, Jairus implored Jesus to come and heal his daughter. Jesus agrees, and goes with him. But along the way, they are interrupted by the healing of the woman. While Jesus is stopped and talking with this woman, someone from Jairus' household comes to tell them to leave Jesus alone, because his daughter had already died. Jesus responds, "Do no fear, only believe." They press forward and when they arrive at the house, Jesus takes a small group of people into the girl's room and kicks everyone else out. And here, we have what is likely the most significant of Jesus' miracles up to this point in Mark's gospel. Jesus brings back to life that which was dead. The question is not stated in the story, but like the disciples asked after the calming of the sea, this miracle ought to cause us to say, "Who then is this? That even the dead come back to life at his command?" Who can bring back the dead to life? Only God. Jesus is God.

(5:25-35): Jesus heals the woman with discharge. In contrast to Jairus' daughter, this woman would not have had much privilege in her life. She was not a synagogue ruler's daughter (at least that we know of), and she has had a bloody discharge that would make her unclean. She would have been ostracized by others, for fear that she would defile them. Given the fact that she had lived with this disease for 12 years and was still alive, it would not appear to be life threatening. The impact of her relationships and the feelings of constant exclusion would have probably been more damaging to her than even the disease itself. Praise God that Jesus is not defiled by people, but in Jesus we find someone who makes others clean. The woman approaches Jesus, touches his garment, and is made clean. I can not imagine what the experience would have been like for that woman to have this physical malady removed. Jesus, having felt some power go out from him, asks who it was that touched him. She is afraid to tell him, but falls at his feet in fear and trembling, explaining what had happened. Jesus says, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." What a savior we have! Jesus cleans even the people that seem to have no hope. No doctor could heal her. She had spent much time, money and pain trying to be treated by many physicians. Jesus, the great physician, has the authority and ability to make her well.

Questions for Reflection

What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?

I have already explored many of the implications to this question as I reflected on each of the stories above. Although, we can draw out a few particulars.

Jesus has authority over demons, disease and death. The man with the demon named Legion was clearly in a very rough state when Jesus met him. The demons recognized Jesus immediately, and were very quick to beg for mercy. Jesus had clear authority over them. The woman with the discharge was healed by simply touching Jesus' garment. Jesus has authority over disease. Finally, the young girl was brought back to life. Jesus says, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." In response, she immediately got up and began walking. Jesus has authority over death. When we think about these miracles, coupled with other miracles in chapters 4-6, it is clear that Jesus has authority over all aspects of creation.

Jesus makes people clean. When I think about what this communicates about who Jesus is, it reminds me that Jesus cannot be defiled by others. No matter who a person is, no matter their past, no matter their family of origin, no matter the decisions they have made and no matter the things that have been done to them. None of this matters. Jesus can make us clean. The woman with discharge would have been one of the least regarded people in her community. First, she was a woman. Second, she had a discharge of blood that would have made her unclean. Third, she was poor. Whatever amount of money she did have, it had all gone toward trying to heal her ailment. Fourth, she likely didn't have a large network of friends, if any at all. The text does not say this, but it is also very possible that she was thought to be a sinful person, or from a family of sin. Illness like her discharge was often thought to be the result of her sin, or the sin of her family. Based on what we know of her from the text and what we know of her societal context, we can assume that she had a very lowly state of affairs. Jesus changes all of that. Jesus is not daunted by the unclean, the outcasts or the lowly. Jesus loves to save people who are ready to admit their need for him.

What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?

This passage doesn't directly address why Jesus came. In context of the entire book of Mark, this chapter is important in establishing Jesus' divinity. Jesus' identity as the miracle-working messiah is being established. It is seen in his authority over demons, disease and death in this chapter. It is also seen in his authority over creation in the previous chapter as he calms the seas and will also be seen in the next chapter as he feeds the five thousand and performs more miracles.

One other element that is seen clearly in this chapter is that Jesus' life on earth is ushering in God's Kingdom. Jesus has already begun to loose the chains that have held God's creation captive. Jesus frees the Gerasene from demons, although he doesn't fully destroy the demons at that time. God's Kingdom is most fully seen in the miracle of Jesus bringing the girl back to life. Even death will be conquered through Jesus. The eventual fulfillment of God's coming Kingdom will mean the removal of everything that keeps us from fully enjoying our fellowship with God. Jesus came to bring this creation-altering Kingdom.

What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?

As I mentioned earlier, it is important to recognize that this passage, Mark's Gospel and ultimately all of the Bible is really about God and His story, not about us and our story. This passage says more about Jesus than it does about us. Although, this does not mean that we should not consider what it says about what it means for us to follow Jesus. You may have additional insights, but here are two that I have made about what it means to follow Jesus.

First, we must trust in Jesus' timing, even when we don't understand. We see this in Jairus' experience with Jesus. They were on their way to heal his daughter, and Jesus gets stopped along the way by the woman with discharge. How many times have you been going in the direction you believe Jesus has called you, only to find there is a delay or change of plans? We must always be ready and willing to follow Jesus where he leads. Even when it isn't in our timing or in our way. Even when the results are not always what we have expected or anticipated. We follow Jesus, and this means trusting his leading. No matter where it takes us.

Second, the question regarding the relationship between faith and miracles might arise from this chapter. In the story of the woman, Jesus says "your faith has made you well." In the story of Jairus, Jesus tells him "do not fear, only believe." In these two stories, it would seem that there is a causal relationship between faith and the eventual miracle. On the other hand, in the story of the Garasene demoniac, the miracle is not the result of faith, but actually works to bring about faith in the man. If we go back to Mark 4, and look at the story of Jesus calming the storm, it once again serves as a miracle which increases the faith of the disciples. In all these miracles, we see that faith can sometimes bring about a miracle, and also that miracles can act to bring about faith. We would be in error to assume that there is a prescribed method to see miracles happen, or that the absence of a miracle necessarily means an absence of faith. It is to simplistic to suggest that we don't see miracles happen because we just don't have enough faith. Yet, there does seem to be a positive relationship between the two. In the end, this passage should remind us that following Jesus requires faith. We must not fear, but trust Jesus as he leads, having faith that he can work miracles in our lives and in the lives of others. All the while, recognizing that the absence of a miracle does not necessarily mean the absence of faith.

Questions for Application

In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?

Like every chapter, there are a variety of applications that could be made. I would love to invite you to make comments regarding applications that you see for your own life. Please share with one another in the comments section below, and encourage one another as we seek to apply God's Word to our lives.

What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?

This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We see in this chapter that Jesus wants his message to spread. When we follow him, we become conduit of that message. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.