What’s the most impressive thing you have ever seen?
Read Mark 4:35-5:20
Jesus began his ministry by preaching the gospel (Mk 1:14-15) and after a growing popularity through healing he determined that he would preach the word (Mk 1:38). He taught in parables and when confronted with a paralysed man to be healed he even turned that into a sermon more than a healing moment. His teaching and his healing were amazing. From Mark 4:1 he had been teaching a crowd in parables (later explaining the meaning to the disciples).
- 35-41 Jesus calms the storm
- 35-38 Don’t you care?
- 39-41 Why are you so afraid?
- 5:1-20 Jesus restores a demon-possessed man
- 1-5 No one was strong enough
- 6-13 In God’s name don’t torture me!
- 14-17 They were afraid
- 18-20 Go tell everyone what the Lord has done for you
35-41 Jesus calms the storm
35-38 Don’t you care?
“Let us go over to the other side.” Incidentally, there are a couple of times in Mark’s gospel where Jesus crosses over a lake and some have noted these to be major change moments in the gospel. Another observation here is that Jesus initiates the move. This may be important when it comes to applying this passage.
“…they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.” Jesus stops preaching and is suddenly treated as baggage on the journey which he initiated. ‘They took him, just as he was.” At first reading this can just seem like incidental detail. That it was a spontaneous journey. He said, let’s go, and they went. Sounds all good and fine. But you might notice that in just one page later we’ll see an account of Jesus walking on water. He will show himself to be more masterful over the lake than any of these fishermen. They’ve only been sailing most of their lives – which is just a drop in eternity!
“There were also other boats with him.” Nobody seemed to be worried about a storm brewing – there were no warnings of disaster.
“A furious squall came up…” A sudden violent localised storm. The crew were unprepared for this life threatening moment.
“Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.” How marvelous is this picture of our lives? Masters of our own cruise ships with Jesus in the stern doing nothing until disaster strikes and then we go running to him!
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” This is the question that we all need to seriously ask of God. Does he care? How can we know that he cares? When everything is falling in around us, what good is knowing God if he’s just going to be asleep at the back of the boat (I know where the stern is). Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” and Mark 10:45 reports Jesus’ words, “I did not come to be served but to serve and to lay down my life as a ransom for many.” The disciples will yet learn how deeply Jesus cares about their lives. God cares, and what is equally cool is that he is powerful to help.
39-40 Why are you so afraid?
“He got up, rebuked…” Before Jesus says a word to the disciples in reply, he turns to the very thing that they are most afraid of right now and deals with it.
“…it was completely calm.” Jesus can tell a storm to be quiet. Mic drop.
“Do you still have no faith?” This is a curious question. But plainly he means, why don’t you trust me? What is the link between this episode and the measure of their faith? What else were they supposed to do? Join him at the back for a nap?! Well, the words in Verse 36 are curious to me. Rather than receiving the command from Jesus to go and then ask, how shall we get there? Or what shall we need? Or some sort of collaboration with Jesus – ‘they took him along’ as if he is merely a traveler – a burden – good for teaching and healing but not for sailing. Our walk with God is for all of life. When we wake and while we sleep. The disciples were still figuring Jesus out and had not computed yet that he is the Messiah, the Son of God most high. Verse 41 makes this clear.
5:1-20 Jesus restores a demon-possessed man
1-5 No one was strong enough
“…a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him.” We first met someone in this condition in Mark 1:23. In that episode, they needed no introduction to Jesus either. It is clear from the gospels that people were disturbed and affected by impure spirits – not to be confused with mental health issues. This episode will illustrate this clearly by a) talking to Jesus as though they already know him and b) being cast out of the man and into a herd of pigs – that is not a mental health issue.
“This man lived in the tombs…” The description in Verses 3 to 5 of the man is extremely sad. His disturbance was known by all in the town and they had tried to contain him. He was a burden to the town as no doubt they journeyed from caring for him to trying to restrain him. Nothing on earth was helping. His anguish and hurt was real.
6-13 In God’s name don’t torture me!
“What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” The voice from the man was obviously distressed at the sight of Jesus. Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out (Verse 8) and the reply was to ask what does Jesus want? What is his intention? Legion knew Jesus and his power since he pleads not to be tortured! How ironic to plead not to be tortured when Legion was torturing this man. How interesting that there is self-awareness of being on the wrong side of the Almighty God and yet no intention to repent. The supernatural world is clear on who Jesus is. We are living in a kind of parable, where the kingdom of God is described but not seen, but one day everything will be revealed and every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10-11).
“…he begged Jesus…not to send them out of the area.” There may be a good correlation between the presence of these impure spirits named Legion and the region that they inhabited being a place that farmed pigs – thousands of them! Since pigs are unclean, it is not a god-fearing region. There is something to be said here about community belief. While remnants of believers may be found everywhere, we can find places that are characteristically for or against the gospel. This man may not just be an anomaly but a benefactor of the rebellion in the area. But God is able to impart grace in any location!
14-17 They were afraid
“…dressed and in his right mind…” Can you imagine the sight for those who knew him to be overcome by an impure spirit – day and night crying out and cutting himself. Now, he may as well be sitting on a chair drinking a cup of tea from a china cup!
“…and they were afraid…the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” An extraordinary response. A further indictment against the people of that region. They were not eager to know God. They were not seeking eternal life. Their heart was in fixing things with chains and making money from pig farming. This reaction to the sight of a calm man in his right mind is incredibly damning on them. They did not want or like Jesus and what he could do! This event produced fear not faith.
18-20 Go tell everyone what the Lord has done for you
“Jesus did not let him [go with him]…” Jesus healed the man – set him free – but had different plans for him than to join him.
“Go home to your own people and tell them.” While the people asked Jesus to leave, Jesus was not willing to allow the good news to leave them. “Home” for this man was obviously not among the tombs and we don’t know exactly where his home was but Mark tells us that he began sharing his testimony in the Decapolis which means ten cities. A map can be seen at this link…
…it shows Jesus’ possible boat landing at the place marked Gergesa. From there the man headed south to the region of the Decapolis. The people responded to his testimony in amazement (Mark 5:20)
Suggested questions for running this study.
Q1. Compare Mark 4:37-38 and Mark 5:3-5. What do these events have in common?
Q2. In these two stories, who had a vivid awareness of the identity and capability of Jesus? What does this reveal to us?
Q3. How did the disciples treat Jesus at the beginning of the account? How does Jesus want them to change?
Q4. Two responses recorded in these stores are fear and faith. What drives both of these reactions? Ie, when fear is described, what is the basis of it?
Q5. What do these accounts teach us about Jesus?
Q6. How can we answer the disciples’ question in Verse 38? (ie, don’t you care?)
Jesus is stronger than the weather and impure spirits. He is Lord of creation and Son of the Most High God. This is the revelation of these stories. Things that are just way out of our control and bring us fear are completely in submission to Jesus. He revealed his ability to overcome our greatest fears and yet he asks us, “where is your faith?” The things that we think we have put under our control (conquering the sea and suppressing evil) are nothing compared to Jesus’ tender care and total control over every situation. He can bring a tortured man to peace. He will bring all evil into torture one day. And he has come to demonstrate his love and care for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Challenge#1 – Working hard to be in control or to hand control to Jesus.
In the storm story, the disciples assumed responsibility in getting Jesus to the other side of the lake. That seems reasonable but when you have someone as unique as Jesus in your boat, you should treat him as something more than just cargo. After all, he will demonstrate in Chapter 6 that he can walk on water! Perhaps we could treat God as God and bring our fears to him knowing that he cares.
Challenge#2 – Does God care?
In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, “I did not come to be served but to serve and to lay down my life to ransom many.” When the disciples ask, “Don’t you care?” – this is their answer. Far greater than any storm or horror movie is the problem of sin and death in this world. Jesus has not come to simply speak in riddles (parables) but to do something about our biggest problem.
Challenge#3 – From fear to faith.
It took a storm to wake the disciples up and ask, ‘who is this man?’ It took years of torture before Jesus came to the man in the tombs and transformed his life. It would be years before the good news of Christ would finally be spread across the Decapolis to share, not only that he made this tortured man well, but that Jesus is risen from the dead and he is Lord. This world contains suffering and testing in order that God may transform our fear into faith. Many will respond to suffering by turning Jesus away – rejecting the Son of the Most High. But we pray that we will respond in faith and reply, “Jesus, I am afraid, and yet I trust in you.”