Mark 5: “Who Is This?”

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.

"Jesus and the Demoniac," woodcut

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)

Do we really believe Jesus has that kind of power still today?

Categories: Mark | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Mark 5: “Who Is This?”

  1. Shawn

    The verse that caught me the most in this chapter was v36 when Jesus said “don’t be afraid. Just believe.” Its so quick and so simple a statement that its easy to overlook the power and truth that exists in this short phrase.

  2. Charisma of Jesus have make evil fell on his knee. What do you want with me, Jesus, Son
    of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!

    Evil spirit ask to Jesus to swear to “God”. I think Evil acknowledge Jesus as Son of High God in glance. I remember how Solomon can command evil and all creature to obey him.
    I forget which 2 verse in Bible, -“even Demon fear God” and “Fear God lead wisdom”.

    It quite odd, in Jews village, there have a large herd of pigs, while we all know Jews don’t eat pigs. Jesus give a permission for Demon to enter pigs, what is the relation of pigs and demon? The only relation that I can think is both unclean. What the moral of Jesus make pigs suicide. Is it Jesus want to teach the village something? Or it not Jews village, but Jesus only preach to Jews. Or it just a one of the story to be listen.

    Jesus heal a woman, without his consent, Jesus is have miracles power but his power uncontrolled? He knew someone have touch him, but he need to find who is looking for him. In verse 28; because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Why author want to emphasize the verse. And in verse 33, what have she told about the truth?

    Later, Jesus have revive the corpse, but why Jesus said “The child is not dead but asleep”. He cant be lie. A truthful person can lie. Even Muslim believe Jesus revive corpse, but I don’t think it relate to this verse.

    I think I can believe all the miracles, but what is the moral of the stories that we can applied in this modern world. If in my own view, God can do anything what ever God want it to be, If He want it to be. But what actually He want us to do.

    • I really like what I think you are saying in the last paragraph. Does God possess this kind of power? Mark leaves us with no other view. But does God always use it in the ways we ask him too? No. There were people in those crowds we are reading about who went home unhealed. I have found that much of theology (and life) is about holding tensions together. God has the power, even if he does not always use it. That is often very hard to deal with, when it is a loved one or friend who we want helped. I am trying to learn to accept “God’s will be done.”

    • The region of the Gerasenes on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee is typically thought to be a non-Jewish area, hence the presence of pigs. I think you are right to associate the presence of pigs with uncleanliness and the evil spirit as well.

      This story is one of a few in the Gospels where Jesus shows he is open to blessing the Gentiles. We will see another one in Mark 7. Back to the main message of this post: Jesus even has power that is not limited by ethnicity or region. He is a universal King.

      I kind of think the reason for the “who touched me” part with the woman who had bled for 12 years is a literary device intending to show how powerful Jesus was: power just flowed right out of him.

      It is probably better to think of the “not dead but asleep” phrase as metaphorical. Yes, she was literally dead, but because she will be raised to life again it is as if she had only been sleeping.

      Hifzan, you are asking great questions! Your desire to understand is admirable.

  3. Brian Hoover

    I’m blown away and humbled by the constant infatuation with Jesus. These people couldn’t get enough of Him and passionately desired His involvement in their lives. What if I desired Him that much every day?

  4. Melanie Semore

    “Do not fear, only believe.” Such a seemingly simple charge, yet one that presents a struggle for many of us. Don’t fear. Just believe. I’d love to. How do I do that?

    I’m reminded of a verse that comes later: I believe; help my unbelief. Maybe, like this verse, the other represents an ideal, a goal.

  5. Eddy Efaw

    Reading these three comments above in succession made me think . . .

    I see Brian and Melanie’s comments above connecting with Jason’s comment: “I have found that much of theology (and life) is about holding tensions together.” We don’t desire Jesus all of the time. We desire him most when we need him most or when it’s convenient. The tension is to bring him into every day, every conversation, every decision, every compartment of our lives. I fear things: having enough money to pay the bills, not being a good enough father?, etc. I want to live with in the knowledge God has the power to carry me over all of those stormy seas but I don’t all the time. In my fallen state I guess I will always be in that tension while I’m on this earth. God never leaves me or forsakes me, but he leaves me in the tension (for now). Maybe there’s a reason. In Acts it says,”You must face many hardships to enter the kingdom of heaven.” For me the “tension” is one of hardships. As a friend of mine, George Welty, says . . . it’s our sufferings that cause us to be able to be “a living presentation of the gospel.” Without tension, without suffering, without a cross, we have nothing to die on as we present that gospel. So I count it all joy when I suffer (even as I suffer in the tension of my own apathy and unbelief). And we suffer in community! Speaking of which, I see deep desire of God in you Brian. I also see amazing levels of belief in you Melanie. Thank you for presenting the gospel to me and so many others via your lives!

  6. Melanie & Brian: My sentiments exactly. So very hard to always long for and trust in Jesus and not to fear. I like the way Melanie describes it: an ideal, a goal.

    Eddy: Wonderful thoughts! Thanks for sharing those. I really like George’s idea of the “living presentation of the gospel.” I am struck that for there to be suffering, there must be a desire and struggle within ourselves to try to grow past unbelief and apathy. But for there to be grace (as much a part of gospel as is suffering) there must be failure on our part.

  7. Eddy Efaw

    LOVE your last line above Jason. It reminds me of this lyric:

    “I realize that fallin’ down ain’t graceful, but I thank the Lord that fallin’s full of grace” – Andrew Peterson (The Chasing Song)

  8. Eddy

    “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you.” This makes me want to explore more deeply just who are “my people” and how that changes throughout my life to some extent and it some ways it never changes.

  9. “No one was strong enough to tame him.” I’ve met a few people like that. And that is usually what I come away believing. But Jesus was strong enough. I tend to write people like this off too easily. I guess Jesus’ words to me are those he gave to the synagogue ruler later in the chapter: “Trust me.”

  10. Eddy

    Amen Jason!

  11. “He [Legion/Mob] begged Jesus repeatedly not to expel them out of the region.” (5:10)

    I am struck by how Jesus sends away uncleanness from a “region,” not just a man. This Gentile region is no longer unclean. Nice!

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