Series Theme: Short meditations through Marks Gospel
This Page: CHAPTER 5
Overview of all
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Notes: These meditations are particularly short for easy digestion. To go to a chapter use the table above. To go to a verse use the contents on the left of each page which has been simplified by showing only every third meditation. Please go to nearest number and scroll up or down.
82. Lifestyle Teaching
Mk 5:1,2 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.
Jesus' way of teaching and ours so often seem radically different from one another. One thing that the New Testament seems to indicate is that Jesus so often had the knowledge given to him by his Father of what people thought and what was about to happen. The Son only did what he saw his Father doing (Jn 5:17-19) and so we must assume that it is the Father who has prompted him to cross the Lake and also what is about to happen will be no surprise to him.
So here we have a mini evangelistic mission which will also double as a teaching time for the disciples. Now we emphasise this matter of teaching the disciples because Jesus didn't just come to do good, he also came to train his disciples to carry on doing what he had been doing after he left them. That must always have been in the back of his mind for it is clear that Jesus clearly understood the path he had to walk and that would eventually mean him leaving the disciples to carry on as he had been doing.
So here we have Jesus about the take the disciples into a situation that is almost certainly going the scare the living daylights out of them! But they are also going to see that however great the opposition seems and however great the enemy's apparent hold on people, it will never be sufficient to withstand the Son of God!
At first sight the disciples are going to find what appears an absolutely impossible situation. No one can do anything for this man. As we move on we are going to see what a terrible state he is in but as we've just said, the disciples (and us?) have got to learn that however bad this man's state and however great the hold that Satan appears to have on him, it is not beyond Jesus!
The teaching that Jesus is about to impart is no mere intellectual knowledge. He isn't going to just say, “It's all right chaps, this is not beyond my Father's power” and then leave it at that. He is going to show that power in action and deliver this man. We tend to live in a day of passive Christianity where we turn up on Sunday mornings, sing songs, pray nice prayers, hear eloquent ‘teaching' and go away largely unchanged. Jesus' teaching equips his followers to go and do the same as he does. Do you?
83. Demonic Power
Mk 5:3-5 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
For a moment we need to look away from Jesus and the disciples and focus on the man they encounter when they arrive on the other side of the lake. First of all let's just note the descriptions of him. First we note he “lived in the tombs”. He was living in isolation in a place of death. This was his choice – but was he free?
Second, he had immense if not supernatural strength. Note that he had “often” been chained. He was clearly such a problem to the district, no doubt creating fear in people who he presumably threatened, that the authorities had often come to take charge of him and chain him up, but whenever they did that he simply broke the chains and escaped. He was, in fact, an ongoing problem to the area. No one could subdue him.
The third thing to note was that he was utterly demented. Wherever he was – either in his ‘home' of the tombs or when he wandered in the hills, he would cry out in anguish. He was very unhappy! The fourth thing is that this unhappiness was of such a depth that it induced self-destructive tendencies in him so that he cut himself.
Now of course what these verses don't say but the prior ones did, is the cause of this behaviour: it is that he is demon possessed. Somehow in this man's life he has given access to a demonic presence which now a) gives him immense strength, b) terrorises the district, c) torments him and d) seeks his destruction. Let's ask some basic questions of demon possession.
Can a demon or evil spirit come into anyone? No, that person has to have either directly or indirectly given them permission. It tends more often to more likely have been indirectly. When someone gives themselves to occult activity and purposefully rejects God, they open themselves to become vulnerable to demonic activity. First there may be oppression when the demon impresses themselves on the person so they feel under pressure. A continuation of occult activity and refusal to repent simply opens them up more and moiré until this malevolent presence actually becomes one with the individual. Beware the occult.
84. Divine Recognition
Mk 5:6-8 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"
The responses that we now find in this man fly completely contrary to everything we have considered of him so far. This is a man who lives among the tombs in complete isolation and yet when he sees Jesus in the distance, he runs up to him. Is it that there is a conflict within this man – the sane side of him realises his state and wants to be set free, while the demonic is still utterly hostile?
This is a man who has been scaring the neighbourhood with his demented crying out and his violence yet when he comes to Jesus he falls on his knees. This is a sign of submission. Is this the sane side of the man? But he's clearly not in full control of himself and that is how it tends to be with a demon possessed person – there is partial self-control and yet clear domination by the demonic presence. Is it now the demonic presence to shout at the top of his voice. Surely the demon does this to advertise what he is saying to all and sundry or even possibly in an attempt to intimidate.
But now it gets even stranger for he acknowledges exactly who Jesus is for, indeed, he IS the Son of the Most High God. Doesn't that sound good news? Well it depends on how you view what follows. He demands of Jesus that Jesus will not torture him. Now that could be seen in either of two ways. First of all this could be demonic deception that is portraying Jesus and God as horrible and harsh. This is exactly the ploy of the enemy through the crusading atheists of today, to portray God as harsh and unloving. That is certainly one possibility.
But there is another way to read this. It is that the man inside this distraught mind, picks up the fear of the demon and realises just who Jesus is and also realises that Jesus has the power – if he wants to use it – of delivering him from this dark prison. To pass him by like a ship passing a life raft adrift at sea would seem absolute torture. Don't torture me and pass me by, is what the man seems to be saying, set me free from this slavery to this demonic creature. But there's something even more mysterious that throws doubt on this – “For Jesus had said to him”. Jesus had already called for freedom for this man. More in the next meditation!
85. Multiple Disorder
Mk 5:8-10 For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
We've considered one possibility of what is happening in this man but in the light of what follows we must temper that. Jesus had told the evil spirit to leave the man and the man had replied about not being tortured. This would thus suggest that our former suggestion may be nearer the truth – that the evil spirit was speaking lies about Jesus, inferring that he was a harsh God who would torture them.
Now the fact that Jesus has told it to leave and it hasn't suggests there is more here than meets the eye. Thus Jesus asks him to reveal his name and the demon indicates that there are more than one of them in residence in this man. Note that the demon has to obey Jesus in imparting this information. Note also that he clearly understands Jesus' authority and knows his (their) time is up in this man.
There is something further that is strange. He begs Jesus not to send them out of this area. For some reason this particular area holds a particular fascination for this demon. Why? We might suggest that it is an area that is given over to the works of Satan, a place of unbelief, a place of hardness of hear against Jesus – as we will see by the responses of the people to Jesus after this. This is a place where the demon feels at home and doesn't want to leave.
Now there is question that arises over this whole incident. Jesus shows in the Gospels that he knows what people are thinking and he knows what is coming and he understands the spiritual dynamics of any situation. Is it conceivable therefore that Jesus doesn't know the state of this man and the multiple occupation before him? There may be two answers. First is may be that Jesus only ‘knew' things at the moment, as if the human side of him only drew on the divine knowledge at the moment it was needed. Second, it may be that even though he knew the state of the man before him, he was following a particular course of investigation as a means of showing his disciples what sometimes needs to be done.
The lesson is that sometimes everything is not as it seems at first sight and we need to enquire further to obtain the truth of a situation in order to deal with it properly.
86. Human v Animal
Mk 5:10-13 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Now I just want to make a simple observation here. There are people (not usually Christians) who maintain that human beings are just another form of animal and so animals should have the same ‘rights' as human beings. Well these verses suggest something else!
First of all remember that these demons have been living in this man for some time and the worst they have achieved in him is that he used to cut himself a lot. Beyond that they had not been able to go. But now look what happens: as soon as they enter the pigs the pigs immediately rush down a steep bank to the lake and are drowned in the lake. The pigs do not have what it takes to resist the demons.
Second, Jesus presumably knew what would be the outcome but he has no qualms in sending the demons into the pigs and the demons causing a self-destructive stampede in the pigs. Animals clearly are not in the same category as human beings as far as the Son of God is concerned. Of course we know that from the Creation story because human beings were made separately from animals and they are described as being made in the image of God. We are clearly distinct from all other living creatures according to the word of God.
Now there is just one other point that may be worth nothing here. This is still part of the country where there would be a Jewish population, but pigs we considered “unclean” and were not a meat to be eaten by the people of God then, according to the Law. So what are two thousand pigs doing in this part of the country? They are obviously being farmed for food. One might suggest that it was for export, but that was somewhat unlikely as this was nowhere near a main trade route.
No, this seems another indicator that this is a particularly godless area of the country, an area where people had little respect for the Law and therefore just did their own thing. We'll see other signs of this as we proceed. An ungodly society, as most Western nations are, ignores God's design and simply do what is right in their own eyes, even if it has self-destructive outcomes.
87. Unrighteous Fear?
Mk 5:14,15 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.
Reactions are all-important. It's not so much what people say to us but how we react to what they say that is important. Reactions reveal the sort of people we are. A compassionate response to a person in need reveals the heart we have. The restrained tongue when we re insulted indicates a spirit of self-control. Old-time commentary writer William Barclay used the illustration of how a person responds coldly to a wonderful piece of music, indicating they have no music in their soul, as a parallel to the way people responded to Jesus.
Here was the most wonderful man who had ever walked the earth. He is the very physical expression of “God is love”. Wherever he goes he brings goodness with him. Every person who came to him to be touched by him was healed and made whole. He was, very simply, a bringer of good. Yet as you read the Gospels, note the different ways people responded to Jesus. Their responses weren't revealing Jesus; they were revealing themselves.
And so now here we have this situation where Jesus has set this demonic man free, this man who was known all round the area for his terrifying strength and an anguish that caused his screams to be echoed around the hills. Now, here he is sitting quietly in his right mind next to Jesus, properly dressed and looking completely normal. And what is the response of the people who come to Jesus? Fear!
So why should these people who have simply witnessed a glorious transformation feel fear. Jesus is a bringer of goodness isn't he? Why should that create fear? The only answer can be that they realise that here is a man who comes with the power of God, a representative of God at the very least – and they are very ungodly!
I have commented previously on the fact of their keeping and breeding animals that were forbidden food for the people of Israel , yet this land is still a part of the land occupied by the people of Israel . These people are like guilty children, caught with their hands in the sweet jar, and they fear what God might do to them in their ungodliness and in their unrighteousness. Such people will feel guilty in the presence of God.
88. Unrighteous Fear (2)
Mk 5:16,17 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man--and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
In the previous meditation we said that reactions are important. Now let's add something else: reactions are sometimes bizarre. I marvel, for instance, at the blindness of the crusading atheists of this twenty-first century who are so antagonistic against the church (and yes, there ARE many things to criticise about the Church in history for it is a tale of redeemed sinners who still often get it wrong) that this antagonism means they write off the Bible and, even more importantly write off Jesus. They decry the Gospel writers and they decry the apostle Paul and his writings.
Now supposing that half of the Gospel writings and all of Paul's writings were wrong (I don't believe that for a minute). Even if you took half away (and which half would you take) you are still left with accounts of this incredible man who went about doing good. Listen to Jesus own summary of what he was doing: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Mt 11:5) On the day of Pentecost Peter summarized Jesus' activity as follows: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22) Jesus' description focused on the goodness of what was happening, Peter focused on the wonder of what had happened.
And now we have just witnessed a demonstration of the goodness coming in the transformation of this demon possessed man and now the local people “began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” Possibly this is THE classic example in all of history of misjudged actions. When Peter had asked Jesus to depart from him (Lk 5) it was because of his sense of unworthiness and sinfulness in Jesus' presence but there is no sense of that in these local people.
It would seem that their desire for Jesus to leave is motivated purely on financial grounds. They have seen the loss of all those pigs and now they wonder what other havoc he might bring. There is no doubt about it that Jesus does challenge unrighteous lifestyles and unrighteous lifestyles often do profit by wrong means. A refusal to face that is a refusal to realise the wonder of the Son of God and is a sign of the blindness that accompanies sin.
89. Tell your story
Mk 5:18,19 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you..
This story seems to swing backwards and forwards between the man delivered and the people of the neighbourhood. The closing parts of it now focus on the man. Jesus, having completed what he had obviously come to do over this side of the lake, now prepares to get into the boat to leave. As he does the man begged him to be allowed to go with them. The contract between him and the people of the area is clear. They had begged Jesus to leave; the man now begs to go with him, to remain with him.
It is a very understandable response. Having been so blessed and so loved by Jesus, the man doesn't want this experience to stop. If you've ever been on a retreat or a Bible Week or conference where the Lord has made His presence very felt, you just don't want it to come to an end and it is with sadness and regret that you return home. You would much rather carry on in the Lord's presence. But the truth is that there is a work back at home that needs to hear about the Lord. Yes, there would be many who would deride the experience we have had, but there will surely be others who are hungry for a real experience of the Lord.
There is another contrast in this story; it is of the disciples with Jesus and the man. They have been called to follow Jesus and to actually travel with him. they have been called to learn from him and get ready to become the future light bearers, they have been called to prepare them to go out, to be apostles, sent ones. But this man is denied that possibility but that doesn't make him any the less of a believer. In fact his privilege and his responsibility is almost greater than theirs. His calling that he now receives from Jesus is to be the sole light in this district. It seems an ungodly area – but now he is there – the bearer of an incredible testimony and Jesus sends him to tell his story.
This, very simply, is all that a witness is, someone who has a story to tell. As I can never stop saying, the blind man of John 9 has the most simple and powerful testimony: All I know is that I was blind but now I can see. That is all you need, the basics of what has happened to you. perhaps some of us need to think back to what has happened to us, but that is our calling, to go and tell our story. May it be so.
90. Leave Outcomes to God
Mk 5:20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
I have a feeling that Christians don't share about Jesus and of God's love because of the ‘suppose' mentality. Suppose they reject me, or suppose I won't know what to say, and suppose they just laugh at me. All of these things may happen but perhaps they won't! When we relapse into this way of thinking we tend to forget the very basics about being a witness – for that is all the Lord calls us to be (unless He anoints us to be an evangelist). A witness, when they stand in court, simply tells what they know about the case – and they leave the outcome to the judge or jury to decide. It is not the responsibility of the witness to determine the outcome; they only tell what they know.
But when it comes to sharing the Gospel there is something else to be remembered. We anticipate that the person we are speaking to has been prepared by the Lord and if they are to turn to Him and be saved, it is purely a work of the Holy Spirit. We speak words and He convicts and redeems. We cannot do that; only He can.
So when we come to the end of this incident with the demon possessed man who has now been set free, it almost seems an anticlimax. Jesus has refused to let him return with them and has instructed him to go and tell his family and friends how good God has been to him, and this is what he now does – and they are amazed.
They are amazed? Is that all? They don't believe? Perhaps in days to come they will but for the moment this is all we are told. You would think that confronted by this incredible transformation they would immediately believe and turn to God, but for that to happen you are forgetting their previous responses of wanting Jesus to leave. We have maintained again and again as we've looked at this story, that this is a hard area spiritually. For them to be amazed is a good result. It's not what we would hope to be the final outcome, but we just have to leave them with this, for this is as much as we are told.
This is how it may be with many people we share with. They may be amazed but they don't ask to be saved. It's all right, you have been a witness and played your part. Maybe there are others yet to play their part to bring this person through. Even if they never turn to God you have played your part and now when they face God in eternity, they can never say they didn't know. They do!
91. So it continues
Mk 5:21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.
It is difficult to know sometimes whether the Gospel writers were putting incidents in historical order or grouping them together but this verse appears a direct chronological follow on from the previous ones. To catch the sense I have here we need to recap a little. Remember what has been going on. He had been with the crowd teaching them (Mk 4) and had then taken them across the lake where he had revealed himself to them by stilling the storm (Mk 4:39 ). Then they had encountered this incredibly powerful and wild demoniac (Mk 5) who Jesus had released, then they had crossed the lake again and are back with the crowds once more.
If we've been reading these Gospels for many years we perhaps take all these things for granted but what we have just recounted is a very mixed or varied bunch of incidents and here is the crucial bit: Jesus did not tell the disciples what was coming next. Every day was a surprise. Now there are many of us who like an ordered life and, even more, like to be in control of it. We don't like surprises and if that is so, we're really in the wrong kingdom!
There are two common ingredients to the things we've considered above: Jesus and people. The people were first a crowd, then the disciples in unfavourable circumstances, then the demoniac and then the crowd again. Jesus is here for people. There are some things that he does that are with his disciples but the larger number of things, in the Gospels at least, are with people who come to him who are not yet followers as such, but merely people with needs.
For those of us who don't like people, we're in trouble, because Jesus does and he wants us to be there for people, his body today that is able to reach out, speak to and touch people. The nature of the western world today is that it is isolationist; people like being in little groups, away from other groups and religious people are often seen as isolated strange people which only goes to make our isolation worse. How do we overcome that so that we are with people and winning people today? Paul once said, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” (Gal 6:10) Look to bless every person you encounter in some way and you will melt and open their hearts to you so some times you will be given opportunities to share the Gospel with them.
92. Desperation (1)
Mk 5:22,23 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him
So there is Jesus with his disciples and a massive crowd. What is going to happen next? Life for the disciples is one long adventure of things happening. Sometimes it was Jesus initiating what took place and other times it was a case of simply responding to people who came. What takes place now is one of the latter sort of things.
A man arrives. He is a Jew and he is man of high standing in the community, one of the ruling committee of the local synagogue. His name is Jairus but beyond that we know nothing about him. The account says, “Seeing Jesus.” Now whether he had been out looking for him when Jesus landed with the disciples we don't know. But he spots Jesus coming ashore and breathes a sign of relief and dashes towards him. he has clearly heard all about Jesus miraculous healing powers and he has a crisis back at home, that we'll look at in the next meditation, and clearly no one else is able to help.
His attitude and his anguish are clearly revealed by his behaviour. He dashes up to Jesus and falls on his knees before him and begs him to come to his home. Remember this a man of some high standing in the community. It's like the local banker or mayor turns up and falls on his knees before Jesus. Such people don't do this sort of thing. This is a humbling of an extreme degree. This says that this man is desperate.
Now take note of this. He is a powerful and influential man in the community, probably quite well off. He could probably call in favours when he wanted. He could possibly buy what he wanted. He can probably dictate what happens in his life, but now we find him on his knees in the dirt before this itinerant preacher before the full public gaze. This indicates the depth of this man's desperation.
Very often we come across big and influential people, people with lots of money and lots of power and they look invincible – but none of us is! While everything is going well, we feel secure and cannot imagine feeling any different and then suddenly something happens and suddenly we are the same as the lowest of the low – vulnerable and weak and maybe fearful. It maybe something that happens to us or it may be something that happens to a loved one and it will be something beyond our control, perhaps a cancer shadow or some other thing and suddenly we are very vulnerable – and desperate!
93. Desperation (2)
Mk 5:23,24 My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." So Jesus went with him.
We have just been considering the desperate state of this local religious leader as revealed by his behaviour. Now he tells Jesus the cause of his desperation – his young daughter is dying. His ‘little' daughter suggests she is still quite young – and he's her father. Father's have special feelings for daughters in the same way that mothers do for sons. No wonder he is distraught. Perhaps this is one of those situations where you cannot understand this unless you are a father and you have a young daughter. I have one daughter and five grand-daughters. My daughter is obviously grown up now so I don't have the same protective and gentle feelings for her as I used to – her husband now has those and that's how it's supposed to be.
Our human bodies are our greatest point of vulnerability and when there is something seriously wrong with them, our whole existence is threatened and that challenges the most basic instinct (survival) in us – but we are powerless. Some things we can do things about – lose weight, take more exercise etc., but other things we know we are powerless to deal with and so today we put ourselves in the hands of doctors. Yet sometimes they too are powerless and death looms on the horizon. At that point we start calling on God.
The fact that this man knew his daughter was dying suggests that he had had the local physicians in and they had diagnosed a hopeless case. The bottom of his world is falling out – and there is nothing he can do.
And then Jesus arrives back from a trip across the lake. Jairus's understanding of who Jesus is and what he can do is strictly limited. He's heard he is a preacher and he knows the crowds have been flocking to him and he's heard of his reputation for being a healer and maybe he'd even witnessed some of the things that had happened. Somehow Jesus had a power that he was able to convey by laying his hands on people.
When you put it like that, it almost becomes an impersonal power that just flows through Jesus. Jesus is merely the channel through whom it flows. There's nothing great about Jesus, it's all about the power. Jairus is about to learn that the greatness IS Jesus. Watch and learn!
94. Desperation (3)
Mk 5:24-26 A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
Now comes a story within a story. it is the only one like it in the Gospels. The main focus, we thought, was upon Jairus and the crisis involving his little daughter. He has asked Jesus to come and heal her and they are on the way for that to happen.
But a crowd is a large number of people and in any large group of people there will be lots of needs. Most of those needy people will be content to just go along with Jesus and wait their turn, but that simply indicates that most of the needy people are not desperate people. Mark has just shown us one desperate person – Jairus – and now he shows us another one, one who is not content to just go with the crowd.
The desperation of this woman is very different to that of Jairus. His desperation came from the imminent threat of his little daughter being taken from him. The desperation of this woman comes from an enduring situation that has gone on and on and on and now seems to be getting worse. This women didn't just bleed during her menstrual period, she bled constantly. Eventually she had gone to a doctor but he had not been able to help, so then she went to another and another and another and none of them had been able to help her – and this had dragged on interminably for twelve long years. Even more it seemed to be getting worse. It is an embarrassing condition and it is a debilitating condition. There is no let up to it and it would leave her feeling constantly run down.
There are numbers of us who have similar conditions to this woman – not the same as she suffered, but conditions that have dragged on and on and on for years and we've almost grown used to it now. In fact for some of us people of faith, we did pray faithfully for healing in the sure believe that Jesus heals, but as the months and the years passed by, we wavered and gradually our asking became more sporadic until eventually it completely died away. The truth is that we've given up on any hope of being healed. We just live with it.
Bit then Jesus came to town and she found herself near him. The old desperation rose up afresh in her that says, “Now, surely, here is hope!” Watch for when God next seems to move; it is Jesus coming.
95. Desperation (4)
Mk 5:27,28 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed."
We have focused previously on the woman's desperation. She has gone through years of this embarrassing and debilitating condition with doctor after doctor failing her and then, “she heard about Jesus.” We aren't told what she was told but it is fairly obvious she had been told about his healing abilities. Now perhaps she had heard about him previously but now she hears he has just landed and so she joins the crowd down by the lake – the crowd that is now making its way to Jairus's house.
So let's move on from her desperation to her faith. This faith is at a different level of Jairus's. He is a desperate believer and is sure that if Jesus just comes and lays a hand on his daughter and speaks words of healing, the power within him will indeed heal the little girl. For this lady her faith says she's only got to touch the edge of his clothes and the power will heal her. She doesn't need any personal contact and she doesn't need Jesus to speak words over her – in fact she would much rather he didn't for this is an embarrassing thing and she doesn't want to have to stand before Jesus and be asked what is wrong with her.
Now as I have watched life in the church over the years, both in this country and in many places abroad, I can sympathise with this lady. Sometimes we are not very clever when it comes to looking after people and some of the healing and deliverance practices I have seen or heard of suggest that whoever the minister is, isn't always careful in looking after the person who has come for healing or deliverance. None of us likes being made an exhibition. It's all very well for preachers who tend to be showmen anyway, but I suspect that if they were feeling weak and vulnerable they would prefer to be dealt with gently and with care – so why do we sometimes act as if church is a circus and make fools of people?
I hear rumblings in the background about pride needing to be put to death. This woman hasn't got any pride left! She's at her wits end, she's embarrassed and she doesn't want to be made an exhibition and there's nothing wrong with that – but Jesus is yet going to get her to testify to her healing, but he will do it in a gentle way. If only we could deal with one another gently and with understanding the church would be a much more secure place.
Mk 5:29,30 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"
These are unusual verses. By what happens there is an implication and that implication is then verified by Jesus – and it is strange! This woman, in the midst of the crowd following Jesus, had reached out and touched his clothes. That's all, she believed, she needed to do. Jesus obviously had power within him to heal and if she only touched him that power would flow to her. And that's what happened! Now this is slightly disturbing because normally we speak about Jesus speaking with authority and when he speaks that releases power to bring change, but here now it is nothing to do with his authority, it is solely to do with the power that resides in his body!
Now the Gospel writers clearly affirm this because Mark states, “Jesus realised that power had gone out of him” and Luke records, “Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” (Lk 8:46) Now this throws a very different light on the person of Jesus.
Of the Gospel writers, it takes the apostle John with all his years of pondering the realities of the Christian life and what had happened all those years earlier, to address this. At the beginning of his Gospel we read in his description of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men,” (Jn 1:4) and later on “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” (Jn 5:26) This wasn't just about bringing eternal life to those who would follow him
No, the truth is that God IS life and from Him everything else exists. What is life? It is energy at work and all energy in all of Creation comes from God, and Jesus is God's Son and the same power, the same life, the same energy flows in him. So yes, he has God's authority and can speak words that are backed up by his power, his life, his energy because he IS life.
Does the woman understand anything of this? Probably not. All she is aware of is her own distress and the sense within her that if only she can touch Jesus she will be healed – and she is – and Jesus knows it, so there is more to come.
97. Own up
Mk 5:31,32 "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, `Who touched me?' "But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.
Scripture never contradicts itself but it does certainly raise questions. What is more it often raises questions but doesn't give us answers. Things happen and we are not given explanations for them. For instance, in the middle of this crowd following Jesus, this woman has managed to get close behind him and has, as an act of faith, touched his garment – and been healed. We previously considered the matter of power in Jesus flowing out to her. But now something strange happens.
The first strange thing, recapping a little, is that Jesus is aware that power has gone out from him. It is as if power has been stolen from him without his prior knowledge or agreement. Is this power just there for other people to plunder? Surely not. Would anyone who touched him receive such power for healing? I suspect that depends on their faith. She had it and was thus able to receive the power to be healed.
But the second strange thing is that Jesus knows power has left him but appears not to know who took it. We are really only left with two options here. Either he genuinely didn't know who had taken that power to themselves or he did know but was pretending not to know for some ulterior motive.
If it was the former case it would suggest that the human element of Jesus only received knowledge and revelation as His Father showed it to him for specific occasions. That doesn't in any way take anything away from the fact that he is the Son of God, simply that as that he limited himself in human form. A mystery.
Now if it was the latter case, that he was pretending not to know for some other reason, we have to ask what such a reason might be? Well, from what follows, Jesus obviously wants this woman to come out into the open and acknowledge what has happened. Why might he want that? Because he is concerned always with the truth. She will be stronger for having spoken out what has happened. Scripture indicates it and experience confirms it, that speaking out testimony does strengthen us. Moreover it aids the faith of others. Our testimonies are very important and may be used by God to convict others. For whatever good reason, Jesus deems it of sufficient value to outweigh considerations of her possible embarrassment.
98. It's OK.
Mk 5:33,34 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
When we steal anything, whether it be goods from a shop, possessions from the home of another – or power – our conscience is troubled. This woman has done something deceitfully – yes she has; she's crept up behind Jesus and taken some of his power. If she creeps away without any word to Jesus, there will be something in her that doesn't feel quite right. She surely feels thankful and grateful that she has been healed and the thing about being thankful is that you want to thank someone! She can say thank-you to God but some how that will not be adequate because it has been Jesus that she's taken the power from. Jesus will know all this and he will want her to leave with everything properly resolved and sneaking away won't do that.
But there is something even bigger here. So often when we suffer some illness or disability, the enemy sows seeds of guilt in us: “This is happening to you because you are a bad person.” The fact that she has been healed doesn't mean that those feelings of guilt that might have accumulated over the past twelve years have been resolved. No, she needs reassuring.
Now God's desire is to have a relationship with people. That relationship may be brief but it can be real. Jesus knows someone (and he may even know who that someone is) has taken power from him. That someone may have been embarrassed by their condition or they may have been fearful of Jesus – and of God – they may have felt guilty, as we've just considered, and all those sort of things keep us at arm's length from God. Jesus wants to bring her into the open to reassure her and to make loving contact with her. He wants to be able to look her in the eye and reassure that she can leave in complete peace. Her faith is the motivation that has brought her to Jesus and what has happened is all right. Jesus is not angry with her for taking his power without speaking to him.
Very often, as well as dealing with the physical infirmity, our need is reassurance from God, of being put on a firm footing with Him, knowing we are loved and He's not angry with us. This, I am sure, is why Jesus brings her out into the open and speaks these words to her. She needs reassuring as well as physical healing.
99. Don't believe it!
Mk 5:35,36 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?" Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe."
There is about to be a simple but profound lesson in what is coming: where God is involved, take nothing for granted! Indeed on the basis of the verses above, don't go on outward appearances. There is some human logic involved here, but as we just said, where God or Jesus is involved human logic goes out the window.
For example, there was that famous case where Jesus was at a wedding and the wine ran out. Human logic says disaster! But the fact was the Jesus was there! Then we've had the incident of the disciples and Jesus in the boat on the middle of the lake and logic screamed, “We're going to drown!” The truth is that in the Bible there are a whole load of these times where human logic says, we're in trouble!
Human logic in the present situation says, this little girl had stopped breathing and we can feel no heartbeat and so she is dead. The next bit of logic says that if she is dead then it's a waste of time Jesus trekking across town to get here because it's too late and he can do nothing.
Now there is something important to note here: in the face of human crisis it is very easy for faith to go out the door. In such circumstances we almost have to take a hold of ourselves to believe contrary to the outward appearances. Jesus confirms this by saying to Jairus, don't be afraid, just believe. i.e. ignore the circumstances and believe in me.
Now this would not be a case of blind faith because Jesus has been ministering and healing people by the hundred for some time. Indeed it is because of what Jairus has heard of him that caused him to send for Jesus. He believed that Jesus was a healer but until that point his belief had certain limitations to it. As we suggested in an earlier meditation, Jairus had no problem with believing that Jesus could come and place a hand on his daughter and speak a word and she would be healed. His servants and friends might have gone along with that, but once the girl is dead she is a stage beyond Jesus' abilities to restore her. Well no, actually she's not, because this is the Son of God and there are no limitations to his powers – except that beyond his Father's will. So, here's the question: how big is your Jesus?
100. Unbelief (1)
Mk 5:37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James.
Faith is catching – and so is unbelief! Those with open hearts hear the word of truth being spoken in faith and it stirs faith within them and it rises up and action follows. On the other hand there are those whose hearts are more disposed towards unbelief and they only need to see some bad circumstances for their spirit to be deflated and they come to a halt. There are people around us who are people of faith and there are people around us who are not! If we are a leader in God's Church, then we do well to learn these things and learn to discern who is who.
You said faith – or its absence – is a cause for God to move - or be hindered. Do you remember, of Jesus home town it was written, “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Mt 13:58 ) Mark recorded the same thing: “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mk 6:5,6) Lack of faith, or unbelief, was a clear hindrance to Jesus' working.
Now Jesus has just been confronted with a statement of belief from the world – the little girl is dead; it's a waste of time you coming. These servants are locked into the outward appearances and Jesus doesn't want people of unbelief around him when he has come to heal. So he stops the crowd then and there. The crowd will have heard what these bringers of bad news have said. The crowd will come and go with their beliefs; most of them are not Jesus' followers, just those who are there to see what will happen, and so they are prone to unbelief. Jesus doesn't want them around cluttering up his mind and his spirit with their unbelief, so he stops them.
Apart from Jairus (presumably) Jesus only allows the inner circle of the disciples to come with him. It's interesting to note that he doesn't even take the whole twelve, but only those closest to him. Even within the band there are varying levels of faith and Jesus only wants those who are closest to him to come along. Maybe it is because it is from them that leaders of the church are going to come and so it will be good for them to learn something here. Peter was to remember this years later when he was confronted with he dead body of Dorcas and we read, “All the widows stood around him, crying and …Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. (Acts 9:39 ,40). He had learned it – get rid of unbelievers in such a situation.
101. Unbelief (2)
Mk 5:38-40 When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him.
There are times with Scripture when things happen but because we are so familiar with the passage we fail to ask questions that are fairly obvious. For instance, in the present story, Jesus has already been met by servants who are certain in their minds that the child is dead. Now a little later when they arrive at the home, it is fairly obvious that they are going to find even more people who are absolutely certain about the present state of play: the girl is dead.
So here is my question, knowing that this is bound to be the situation, why does Jesus bother to ask the question and make the comment. Surely he must know that they are convinced she is dead, so why stir them up?
Of course we aren't told and so we are left to merely speculate. It strikes me that there is something in Scripture that indicates that speaking out the truth has an impact in the spiritual world. For instance there is that famous statement of the apostle Paul: “if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9) Salvation comes not by an inward believing but when there is that plus an outward speaking it out. There other instances you might like to watch out for that suggest there comes power with the speaking out of the truth.
But perhaps there is another reason for Jesus speaking as he did. Perhaps he wanted to give the people there the opportunity to rise in faith in their response to him. When Jesus says something, we reveal so much of ourselves in the way we respond to him. So here for instance, he says the child is not dead. Now he is the Son of God and he always knows the truth of any situation – but do they know that. I am certain that when Jesus spoke, he spoke with authority (fro we've seen that in the way he taught) and so when he spoke, for those who had ears to hear and hearts open to him, they would have caught something of the reality of what he said. If they had responded, “Well, Lord she shows no signs of life, but do you know something we don't?” that might have been a reasonable response, but they didn't; they just laughed at him! That demeans him, that says you don't know what you're talking about – and that says you are blind to the Son of God.
102. Care & Concern
Mk 5:40 After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.
There are temptations when meditating on the word of God to rush by, but we must resist that temptation lest we miss something the Lord wants to say to us. There have been several stages to this story: first came the servants convinced of the girl's death. So Jesus leaves them behind with the rest of the unbelieving crowd and takes only Jairus and his closest disciples. Then they came to the house and encountered friends and family in unbelief mode and so now he puts them out. Now he adds the mother so it is Jairus and his wife, Jesus and his closest disciples only who go in to the girl's room.
We have commented before on Jesus inability to heal when there was unbelief present and so now he has removed all the sources of unbelief. He now has with him only his disciples, who believe in him, and Jairus and his wife who have every cause to want success. This is a faith party that is taking place and they are all, consciously or sub-consciously, listening for a sense of God's will that He will raise her up through His Son. That's what's going on now.
But there is also a dimension of care and consideration in Jesus taking the mother and father into the room. They may not be full of faith, but they will be full of desire for a good outcome here, and it would be unkind to leave them out of the room, wondering what was going on. No, just from the point of view of gentle, loving care for them, they need to be included in this little party.
But there is yet a further consideration. When this little girl comes to she will want to see people who are familiar and if her parents were not in the room she would probably be scared at the sight of four strange men in her bedroom. As far as she is going to be concerned she has just fallen asleep and so she will be oblivious to all of the anxiety that has been there over her state.
Here is my question that flows out of these verses: how caring and considerate do you think we are when it comes to the people who are around us at home or in church? When people are suffering, how much dowe think of what they are going through, and how much do we consider how we may care for them as we seek to minister to them. Ministry and caring, I have noticed, don't always go together.
Mk 5:41,42 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.
Viewing what goes on around the world, I have noticed that sometimes God's servants become God's showmen, except I'm not sure if the showman side is God's. It happens mainly in deliverance ministry, but also in healing ministry, and I conclude that the screaming and shouting that sometimes goes on is simply to boost the flagging faith of the minister and of the watchers.
Now I say this (not only because it is true) because that seems to be in stark contrast to the ministry of Jesus which at times appears so gentle and so quiet. Now remember that three of the central core of disciples are here to witness this and so if it had happened differently we would have heard about it. I'm sure they retold the story of what happened again and again among themselves and especially after he had ascended. But they do NOT say, “Jesus raised his voice and shouted at the dead body”.
No, what we have is quite different. Note first of all he takes her by the hand. This is a sign of gentle intimacy. It is what a parent might do sitting at the bedside of a sick child. And then he speaks to her. Note the faith language of the writer. He doesn't say “He took the dead body by the hand and spoke to the dead body.” No, she is still a little girl and she still has a place here on earth. He simply tells her to get up. With the words comes the power and she is raised to life. One minute no life, the next moment, life!
Then we have one of Mark's ‘immediately' words that are so common in his Gospel. There is no delay; it happens straight away. Indeed to prove it, she sits up and then gets up and, I suspect, runs to her parents. There is no recovering convalescent period, this is a girl full of life and energy. Her parents are astonished. Pardon? Astonished? Don't you mean overjoyed?
Well yes, that is probably true but everything about these verses speaks of ordinariness and understatement. There is no great drama about what happens here. It is simply the Son of God using the authority and power of God to restore a young girl. He speaks and it happens. THAT is authority. May we have that in the Church.
Mk 5:43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat
There are times when Jesus said or did something but gave no explanation. There are at least six times in Mark's Gospel where Jesus told people not to talk about what they knew or had seen: “Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: "See that you don't tell this to anyone.” (Mk 1:42-44) Then, “Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God." But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.” (Mk 3:11,12). Then, “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement.” (Mk 7:36,37). Then, “Peter answered, "You are the Christ." Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.” (Mk 8:29,30) And finally, “As they were coming down the mountain , Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” (Mk 9:9)
In none of these instances does Jesus add a word of explanation as to why he didn't want them to tell. We can, therefore, only speculate as to why it was. First, we might suggest that already Jesus was being overwhelmed by the crowds and further tales of miracles would only fuel the talk even more and bring such numbers that they would not be able to deal with them.
A second possibility, similar to the first one, is that Jesus did not want the word about who he was to spread too fast because he clearly had a timetable from heaven whereby he would minister and teach for three years. If the word got out too fast, then the authorities might have moved against him much earlier and cut short the time he had to preach and teach and prepare his disciples to be ready to take over his ministry.
In this instance of Jairus's daughter – and we don't know how many similar instances occurred – it may simply be as a means of protecting the little girl. If the story was leaked it is possible she would become a local ‘freak', the girl who came back from the dead, and that might no her any good. In other words, this final suggestion has the welfare of the people involved at its heart. I have noted over the years, that when Jesus does something great for us, we have a tendency to broadcast it in a way that makes us special and even superior. Not good!