One of Mark’s literary devices — what makes this such an interesting book to read — is what is sometimes called the “Messianic secret,” or this penchant Jesus had early in his ministry to suppress the publicizing of his divine identity. Part of this would be practical: any revolutionary figure like Jesus who threatens both Jewish religious power and Roman civil power is going to get himself killed; better not peak too soon if you have certain things you want to accomplish. Part of this is literary: it allows the reader to experience the mystery and complexity the disciples would have felt as they grappled with the question they exclaimed in the boat on the Sea of Galilee that night they almost died in a storm: “Who is this?” (4:41). We are walking with the disciples as they come to grips with a kind of Messiah they were not expecting.
Mark continues to answer this question of Jesus’ identity with a set of four back-to-back stories all of which highlight the power this Jesus possesses:
- He calms a storm and shows he has power over nature (4:35-41)
- He exorcises a “legion” of evil/unclean spirits from a mad-man displaying his power over spiritual powers (5:1-20). This is where my verses for today came because they punctuate how “off the chain” (!) the Gerasene demoniac was, yet he could be turned “stone-cold sober” (5:15) by Jesus: Nobody had been able to tie him up, not even with a chain. . . . No one had the strength to tame him. (5:3-4)
- He heals a woman who had been bleeding internally for 12 years, and we see his power over disease (5:24-34)
- Last, he raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead, showing his power even over death (5:21-23; 35-43)