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Chapter by Chapter - Mark 5

Updated: Nov 3, 2018

Deliverance from Fear

We find that the very same day in which Jesus has just told and explained last chapter’s parables to his disciples, they get in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee and a great storm comes upon them. During this storm, Jesus questions the very faith of His disciples and the disciples in turn admit that they don’t actually understand who Jesus is, as they ask, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Here we have revealed for us the fact that it’s not just the crowds and the Pharisees who “see but don’t perceive” but the disciples are the same. The difference between the insiders and the outsiders is not based on some inherent ability within them but it comes from Jesus’ own desire to share the mysteries of the Kingdom with whom he pleases.

The first and most obvious thing that we encounter when reading this story is that even for those closest to Christ, for those most dedicated to his service, they are not exempt from storms. God does not provide them with a life devoid of trials and difficulties and things that would cause them to fear. And in this particular case the storm is especially worrisome.

Now we have to remember that a number of Jesus’ disciples were professional fishermen and would have been familiar and accustomed to the weather out on the Sea of Galilee. But there was something about this storm, something so severe that even they feared for their lives. We see this in the Disciple’s question, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”

In Jesus’ response to this question he shows that he is able to deliver us from anything that would cause us to fear because he is God.

We should be convinced, in this instance, that Jesus is God, because he displays power that only God could have. Jesus first responds to their accusations of caring not whether they lived or died not by speaking to them, but rather by speaking to the storm. He stands up and commands the storm, “Peace! Be still.” He rebukes the wind and the waves as if they were a disobedient child and remarkably, they obey him.

By doing what he did, Jesus is claiming to have the infinite power that only the Almighty God could have. The God who was before the storm. The God who created the storm, and therefore, the God who can control the storm.

During the storm the disciples are afraid. But notice that after Jesus conquers the unconquerable storm, rather than having a calming affect on them, they become terrified. Jesus goes from conquering fear, to causing it.

Storms are scary because their uncontrollable. If there’s one thing that makes us afraid it’s when we’re in a situation we can’t control. Therefore the disciples are scared during the storm. But during the calm, their terrified. The fact that Jesus can control the storm so easily means that he’s infinitely more uncontrollable and therefore infinitely more terrifying. And so, when Jesus calms the storm and asks them why they’re afraid the text tells us that they were “filled with great fear”.

Every time I hear the story of Jesus calming the storm and the disciple’s response, I can’t help recalling the passage from C.S. Lewis’, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Susan asks Mr. Beaver who Aslan is. He responds,

"Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver... "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.[1]

This is exactly the picture of Jesus we get in this story from Mark. Jesus has shown himself to be powerful and uncontrollable like a storm, like a lion. And like King Aslan, King Jesus sure isn’t safe, but He is good. This is what the disciples had forgotten. Yes, He’s powerful and uncontrollable like the storm, and therefore should be feared, but the difference is, the storm is neither loving nor wise.

And it is because of God’s infinite wisdom and love that we notice the second essential thing about Jesus that allows him to conquer the things which cause us to fear. The first essential thing about Jesus we saw was that He is God. The second, is that He is a man. And because He is a man, He came and experienced the very things we experience so that he could eradicate them forever.

As the true Jonah Jesus was going to calm not just this storm, but all storms. All brokenness, all death, all sin. And the only way He was going to do that was by being willingly, like Jonah, tossed into the waves of the ultimate storm. The only storm that can really kill us, which is the storm of God’s wrath and justice for all our wrong doings.[2]

He dove in and faced that storm, so we wouldn’t have to. And if Jesus didn’t abandon us there in the ultimate storm, do you really think he’ll abandon you in the relatively small storms that you are facing right now?

Deliverance from Slavery

Once they get to the other side of the river they come upon a man who is a slave. By this I mean that he was dominated by an unclean spirit. He was a pawn of evil powers and was not in control of himself, nor could he be controlled by others.

It’s at this point in the story where we are in serious danger of tuning out, at least in terms of practical application for our life now. Can we in any way relate to his plight? If so how much? In what ways? Well the first thing we should mention, and it is fairly obvious, is that not all people are demon possessed. In this specific way, we cannot relate. However, scripture is clear that by nature, all men are ruled by dark and sinister forces. Let me read for you Paul’s words at the beginning of Ephesians chapter 2,

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

So, while it’s true that not all men are demon possessed, Paul says all men are, or at least were, at one time influenced and ruled over by dark and demonic forces. In this sense then, Legion does vividly illustrate the terrible plight of the human condition.[3]

One thing scripture makes clear for us time and again, is that there is no neutral ground in terms of Lordship. Either Christ is Lord and as Lord you are in His service (his slave) or else you are in service to (enslaved by) the kingdom of darkness. No matter what that other thing is, yourself, your family, your career, your looks, your leisure, whatever it is, good or bad, if these things take Christ’s place of ultimate importance in your life then they have enslaved you.

As soon as Jesus comes onto the scene, two seemingly contradictory things take place. On the one hand, the man runs towards Jesus and falls down at his feet. On the other hand, as soon as Jesus speaks, the man shrieks at the top of his lungs, “What have you to do with me Jesus? Stop tormenting me!” Hopefully you can see the irony in this request. The man was in complete and utter bondage, being tormented day and night, and when Jesus, the only one who can actually deliver him from his slavery shows up he complains that it’s Jesus who is tormenting him.

He seemed to know that Christ could deliver him, and yet when he actually stood there face-to-face, he was terrified at the possible consequences. I think perhaps the man is facing a similar situation to that of the disciples in the boat. The storm was scary because it was powerful and uncontrollable and if Jesus can control that then he must be even more powerful and even more uncontrollable and therefore in a sense, even scarier.

This man knew the power of the demons which were tormenting him. Now he faces Jesus, a man who we’ve already seen in the gospel of Mark cast out demons from people with a simple command, just like he did with the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Now he faces not just a demon, but Legion. So, what will Jesus do this time? What kind of trick does he have up his sleeve for dealing with this?

Well, as we see, his strategy does not change. Remarkably, it takes Jesus the same amount of power, effort, and exertion to cast out thousands as it did for just one. As it did to calm the storm. A simple command. “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Basically, “Demon(s), go away!” And just like the storm, they obey.

The military language of “Legion” suggests that this man was being used as an outpost of demonic activity. This should remind us that the opposition from the kingdom of darkness against the Kingdom of Light is not haphazard but is ruthless and organized.[4] However, God’s plan is not haphazard either. It itself is ruthless and organized and has been from before the very foundations of the world and the very gates of hell will not prevail against its onslaught.

Jesus is giving us a vivid, real-life example of what he was teaching about in chapter three concerning the binding and plundering of the strong man. A man controlled by a whole army of demons, which are cast out with a few words, who is then brought into Jesus’ service. He was letting his disciples and Satan know that this mighty outpost for the kingdom of darkness was now his.

And remember where we are. After having crossed the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples are now in the region of the Decapolis; Gentile land. Jesus was beginning and foreshadowing the great work of bringing in all peoples, tribes and nations, not just Israel, out of the Kingdom of Darkness and into the Kingdom of Light. And it is this same kingly authority, the authority of the true strong man, that Jesus has by which He gives us, the church, our greatest command; the Great Commission. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, go finish what I have started. Bring in the nations for my inheritance. They’re the Devil’s no more.

The demonized man knew better than most, having been tormented by a legion of demons, that he was in a war. His desire to be in Jesus’ inner circle, to be a five-star general in the army, was natural. But Jesus’ decision to make him a foot soldier, to go and fight in the trenches of his everyday life, in the places where he lived and worked, is the experience of the vast majority of those who follow Jesus.

So, don’t be disappointed with where God has you. Know that it’s Jesus who is ultimately the one who delivers people from their slavery to sin and we just need to live by faith in Him and participate with him, even in the small, so-called, mundane things of life in that work. One individual at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time, as we disciple the nations for Christ.

Deliverance from Death

We mentioned, way back in chapter one, when Peter’s Mother-in-law was being healed, that the language Mark used of Jesus, “raising her up” was normally used when describing a resurrection, not simply a healing. And Mark uses this same language of “raising up” in almost all of his accounts of Jesus’ healings and restorations.

Jesus, as the very source of life, was ultimately out to accomplish not merely healing and restoring, but full resurrection. All the other problems: the sickness, the leprosy, the disease, the withered hands the lame legs, all of them were precursors. Setting us up and pointing us to the ultimate promise of resurrection.

Mark has been building up this whole time, from the very beginning of the book until now, lesser miracles and healings on top of one another, getting gradually more impressive, climaxing in the literal rescue from death of Jairus’ daughter. Mark is showing that Jesus is the resurrection and the life!

This is the first of two resurrections in the gospel of Mark. The second being that of Jesus Himself. But we’re only in chapter five. We’ve got nine to go! How is Mark going to continue heightening his record of Jesus’ victories? Well once Jairus’ daughter is raised, the types of miracles Mark records completely change. Those recorded before the resurrection foreshadowed its coming by showing Jesus healing damaged and diseased limbs and bodies. After the resurrection, Jesus’ focus shifts from body to head. Both literally as he restores deaf-mutes and blind men and figuratively as he continues teaching and preaching. [5]

Jesus actually performs two miracles for two very different people in this story. First, we have Jairus (and his daughter). Jairus is a wealthy, socially connected man who boldly comes to Jesus with an acute need: His daughter is dying.

Secondly, we have the bleeding woman. She is broke and on the outskirts of society because of her uncleanness. She approaches Jesus in secret for healing for her chronic issue: Bleeding that has not stopped for twelve years.

Taking all these details into account, it appears the two situations could not be more different. However, if we look again, we notice that both are in a position where they have nowhere else to turn other than to Jesus. They both fall at Jesus’ feet. They both receive the help they need from Jesus. And lastly, they both involved “dead daughters”.

It’s easy and obvious to see that Jairus’ daughter was on the brink of death and would eventually, in fact, die. But notice also that Jesus specifically calls the bleeding woman “daughter”. And not only does Jesus call her daughter, but like Jairus’ daughter, she is dead. It is a different kind of dead, but she is no less dead. Let me explain.

We don’t have enough time to do a legitimate study on the ins and outs of Old Testament cleanliness laws, I encourage you to go ahead and read some of the pertinent passages, but the important thing for you to note this morning is simply that the cleanliness laws were a visual, practical way for God to teach his people the vast span that exists between His holiness and our sinfulness. So, there were any number of things that could make one ritually unclean and one of them happened to be, for a woman, her menstruation.[6] And the reason it was such a burden to be ritually unclean was that during that time you were barred from the annual sacramental meals of the Old Covenant: Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Booths. She wouldn’t have even been allowed to approach the city of Jerusalem in her condition. Unable to make sacrifice at the temple. An unclean state meant alienation from God; symbolizing vividly again, the alienation from God we experience due to our sin. And alienation from God means death.[7]

And not only is the woman dead, but Mark specifically tells us that the woman has been in this state of ritual “death” for twelve years. The same amount of time that Jairus’ daughter has been growing and healthy.[8] By stopping to heal the woman Jesus is giving Jairus a lesson on compassion and not only that, showing him and everyone else that while the crises of life do not know any ethnic, social, or gender boundaries, neither does Jesus’ help and restorative power.

It is obvious then, that even though there is stark contrast there is also overarching similarity between Jairus and the woman; that Jesus stopping to heal the woman in the middle of dealing with Jairus is not just happenstance. The stories are connected and Jesus is using his dealings with the woman to teach the crowds, the woman and especially Jairus some lessons on true faith in Jesus.

Remember how we said that Jesus promises that it is to those who exercise their faith that He will give more to them. How is it that God often teaches us about faith? By causing us to go through storms. Remember, when we saw Jesus calming the storm a couple weeks back, we mentioned that, God allows the people He loves to go through storms because He’s infinitely wise and knows what storms we need and He’s infinitely loving and wants to shape us into the people He desires us to be.

So here Jesus is using this tragic circumstance to strengthen Jairus’ faith. Jairus has shown enough faith to come to Jesus when all else has failed and he has nothing to lose. But Jesus wants him to believe in him even when it doesn’t make sense. He’s urging him to follow the example of Abraham who was an old man past the years of fatherhood, he had a wife who has just as old and with a barren womb and yet God promised him a son! In Romans Paul tells us that Abraham did not allow his faith to be determined by his circumstances, rather he kept his eyes fixed on the promise God had given him.[9] And grew strong in his faith as a result.

So once Jesus has dealt with the woman and has heard that the girl has died he and Jairus and just a select few disciples head on to Jairus’ house. When they arrive, there are mourners there who are “weeping and making a commotion” and Jesus tells them that they don’t need to do that because the girl is not dead, she’s only sleeping. This is really a mini-parable that Jesus is telling and these “mourners” by mocking Jesus for his words prove to be those who don’t have eyes to see and ears to hear when it comes to Jesus.

Jesus wasn’t saying literally that the girl was not dead just sleeping. He was saying that for me, even the greatest enemy of man, death itself, is no different than a good night’s sleep. And so, Jesus continues with his secrecy, because the secrets of the Kingdom are not for those who mock it. Even if Jesus had let them all witness the resurrection it would not have changed their minds about Jesus. Just like it is said to the Rich man in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Even if I sent someone back from the grave they would not believe. People’s unbelief and false presuppositions are that strong.

So, no doubt the talk of the town that night was “how could we all have been so foolish to think that she was actually dead and not just sleeping. That Jesus fellow really did know what He was talking about.” They did not have eyes to see what had really happened that night.

But for those who did have eyes to see, because of their faith they were blessed with this miracle and the invitation to witness it. Just as he had done with the woman who was ritually unclean and metaphorically dead he now does with the little girl who is really dead. He touches her dead body (making himself unclean), and in doing so shares in her death, becoming ritually dead himself in order to deliver her from it.

If you’re at all familiar with the story of scripture than you should be able to see very clearly that this is pointing us in a straight line right to Calvary. This time it was our death and uncleanness that he took upon himself. God’s judgement for our sin he bore in our place. Touching the little girl was a preview of what he would do for us later. Raising her up was a preview of what he will do at the end of time, when he will take all of his sleeping children by the hand and say “arise!”[10]


For an audio version of Chapter by Chapter click here


[1] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Harper Collins Trophy Edition), 80

[2] Tim Keller, King’s Cross, 57

[3] Sinclair B Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark, 64

[4] Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark, 65

[5] Mark Horne, The Victory According to Mark, 98-99

[6] Most bodily fluids were a means of ritual uncleanness (See Horne p.121-122)

[7] Mark Horne, The Victory According to Mark, 96-97

[8] Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark, 76

[9] Romans 4:18-21

[10] Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark, 78

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