STUDY EIGHT: Mark 4:35-5:43

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013

Having reported the mixed responses to Jesus, and Jesus’ teaching about the critical necessity of rightly hearing the message of the Kingdom, Mark now returns to reporting the evidence of deity obvious in the actions of Jesus.


A. JESUS’ DIVINE AUTHORITY OVER NATURE – Mark 4:35-41

When we read the accounts of Jesus' authority over nature we are confronted by some of the most powerful proofs of his deity. Both Mark and Jesus are amazed at the failure of the disciples to perceive the truth about him.

The first occasion on which Jesus controls nature is recorded in Mark 4:35-41. A violent storm hits the Sea of Galilee, so violent and threatening that even the seasoned fishermen are terrified and believe they're about to drown.

But Jesus is sleeping. Unconcerned by the situation. And, as far as the disciples know, unaware. They shake him awake, saying ‘Teacher, doesn’t it matter to you that we are perishing?’

Why did they ask this rather harsh question?

Was it that they simply wanted an extra pair of hands to bail out the water?

Or, did they have faith enough in Jesus to hope that he might do something, as Matthew’s report of this incident seems to indicate [Matthew 8:25]?

Just how they expected him to help is not clear. They certainly did not expect him to do what he did. And they were so obviously still controlled by their fear that Jesus rebukes them for lack of faith.

Their fear and lack of faith surprise him: ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ Do you still not realise who I am? Do you still not believe that I am the Son of God? Don’t you yet realize that I am the Lord of all the earth – that the wind and the waves are in my hands? After all you have seen - demons cast out, sickness and disability removed, sins forgiven, my knowledge of the truth, my authority over the law - after all this do you still not believe?

No. They didn't. It hadn't yet got through to them just who Jesus really is. They know he is someone special, but just how special is still beyond them.

He speaks. He commands. And the storm stops. To him he was simply doing his normal work as God.

But to them, because they hadn't yet realised who Jesus really is his authority over the power of the storm terrifies them. They are now even more afraid of him than they were of the storm. They ask the right question: ‘Who is this man?’ The massive implications of what he has just done begin to dawn on them. ‘Even the wind and the waves obey him!’ They have seen it with their own eyes. They have felt it with their own senses.

The word of Jesus stopped the storm.

But the Old Testament has taught them that it is God who controls nature. Faced with the thought that Jesus might actually be God they are overcome with terror. It is something they don't want to think about. It is a thought from which they shrink with fear.


Task #1: Read Psalm 104 and Job 38.

How is the power of God over nature described in these chapters?

 

In what way does the authority of Jesus over the wind and the waves affirm that he is God?

 

 

B. JESUS’ DIVINE AUTHORITY OVER EVIL SPIRITS – Mark 5:1-20

In Mark 5:1-20 we read a spectacular demonstration of this authority of Jesus over evil spirits.

Task #2: Questions.

[1] Describe the complete bondage in which the evil spirits held this man.


[2] What did the man call Jesus?


[3] Suggest why the man addressed Jesus in this way.


[4] Suggest why the demons were afraid Jesus would torture them?

 


As in Chapter 1, the spirits recognise the true identity of Jesus, this time being even more precise: ‘Jesus, Son of the Most High God’. They recognize him as the eternal Son of God, whom they have known, and rebelled against, for millennia. They know that he is the one to whom all judgement has been entrusted by the Father, and that their final punishment is in his hands.

When Jesus asks ‘What is your name?’ we learn that Jesus is here confronted by not just one, but by a ‘legion’ of spirits. A legion numbers anything from three thousand to six thousand. Imagine this contest: on the one side Jesus, the Son of God, on the other side as many as six thousand evil spirits. Our minds cannot really grasp hold of that, and this very impossibility is evidence of the greatness of Jesus' power and authority. Alone he stands against this legion.

So aware are these spirits of the authority of Jesus Christ that they cringe before him begging his permission to go into the herd of pigs when they come out of the man. They know that they have to leave the man, because Jesus has ordered it.  They know they cannot enter the pigs without Jesus' permission. We can almost see them cowering with fear in his presence.

The power of this incident is not lost on the people. They hear the report of what has happened. They come to see if it is true. They see the man totally changed. They see, perhaps, the bodies of the pigs floating in the lake. They hear the story again from those who saw it happen.

And they cannot handle it.

They cannot bear to have this powerful person in their town. In their fear they keep on begging him to go away. Afraid of his power. Afraid of his authority. He is too big for them - one man against six thousand demons! They would rather have had the mad man. They would rather have had their herd of pigs. They would rather have had the demons. Any of these, but not the Son of God!

The pathos of their choice is over-whelming.

 


C. JESUS’ DIVINE AUTHORITY OVER SICKNESS AND DEATH – Mark 5:21-43

Task #3: Read Mark 5:21-43 and answer these questions:

[1] Comment on the role of faith in these two incidents. [Who had faith? How was faith expressed? Who did not express faith?]

 

[2] How did the death of the girl affect her father’s confidence?

 

[3] Comment on the role of Jesus in these two incidents.

 

[4] What reasons, if any, were given for these two illnesses? Is there any suggestion that personal sin brought on either illness?

 

[5] Suggest why Jesus commanded strict silence about Jairus’ daughter.

 

 

In these two incidents we see two completely different healings:

The woman: the woman, outcast and ritually unclean because of her constant bleeding, comes in silent faith, touches Jesus’ clothes, and is immediately healed. Nothing was said or done by Jesus to heal.

Jairus’ daughter, dying then dead, expresses no faith. Jairus had the faith to come and ask Jesus to touch and heal her, but after she died Jesus had to encourage him ‘Do not be afraid; just believe.’ Jesus both touched and spoke to the child, and she was restored.

Both of these are amazing evidence of the divine power and authority of Jesus:

In the case of the woman: she did not verbally ask for healing. Nor did Jesus actively, visibly heal. But she did ask, by her coming, by her touching his clothes, she asked. And he knew it. Such was his divine power that he healed, without a touch, without a word.

In the case of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus took her hand and commanded her to get up. Such was his divine power that his word broke through the barrier of physical death, and replaced death with life.

As we saw in the study on Mark 1:21-45 when Jesus healed the sick he was reversing the curse of Genesis 3, he was undoing, in individual lives, both the consequence and the judgement that came upon all human beings because Adam and Eve disconnected from God, disobeying his word, rejecting his divine sovereignty over them.

 

Task #4: Biblical research

What do these scriptures teach about the pervasive and continuing presence of suffering and death that resulted from Adam’s sin?

Romans 5:12-21

 


Romans 8:18-25  

 

 

1Corinthians 15:20-26, 50-57

 


Revelation 21:4

 

 


Sicknesses, including chronic illness like the woman’s condition, and sickness that leads to death like Jairus’ daughter, are a part of our fallen world. But they were not part of the perfect world of Genesis 1 and 2, nor will they be part of the perfect world that is ushered in in Revelation 21. Although they are ‘normal’, as we experience life, they are not what God created us for. They are actually ‘abnormal’.  We, along with the whole of creation are waiting for our total release from suffering at the end of the age.

This does not mean that  we should relate to suffering with a fatalistic or deterministic mindset, nor with a legalistic mindset that sees sickness as a just punishment for some sin. Jesus was never inhibited by such concepts. While he never planned anything like contemporary ‘healing meetings’ he did heal when he was asked to, and he did heal out of pure compassion. Jesus demonstrated very clearly that it is okay to interfere with this physical impact of our fallenness and God’s judgement: that it is okay to heal sickness, that it is okay to act with compassion towards the suffering, that it is okay to reverse death.

Jesus did not react with a hard ‘It’s their karma’ and leave them to work out their suffering in full.

Jesus did not react with a harsh ‘It’s God’s judgement’ and refuse to heal them until they confessed and repented of their sin.

And here we are confronted with a critical question: who but God himself has the authority to revoke God’s judgement? Who but God himself has the right to reverse that decree put in place in Genesis 2:17 in anticipation of our rebellion?

And we are confronted with another question: why did Jesus not heal everyone? Even everyone in Judea or Galilee? And why did he not restore more dead people to life?

And we might answer:

[1] That was not his purpose. He came (1) to make the Father known, and (2) to die as our substitute to procure our spiritual salvation.

[2] In healing the sick and raising the dead he gives us a picture of what it will be like in the new heaven and the new earth, in his eternal kingdom – no more pain, no more suffering, no more death. He gives us a solid, observable basis for confident hope. While he was with us in his first coming he gave us an accurate, but limited and temporary, glimpse of what it will be like after he has come as the Judge.

[3] In healing the sick and raising the dead he also demonstrated in real life symbolism, that greater reality of spiritual healing and spiritual regeneration that comes to those who believe in him on the basis of his sin-bearing death and by the life-giving, regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

 


D. FOR DEEPER THOUGHT:

[1] Some contemporary Christians believe that if we had the same faith as Jesus Christ we would do the same miraculous things that Jesus did, by the power and authority of our faith. This understanding is based on either of two misinformed perceptions:

(1)    They believe that Jesus’ power to perform miracles was the power of a perfect human with perfect faith.
(2)    They believe that every Christian is as much an incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was an incarnation of God.

Both of these perceptions interfere with both the true deity and the true humanity of Jesus Christ, and with the uniqueness of his incarnation. They also misrepresent true humanity.


Task #5: Read these verses.

What do they teach that contradicts this contemporary perception, and affirms that Jesus’ miracles pointed not to his perfect humanity, but to the fact that he is God?

John 5:19-27,30,36

 

John 10:37-38


John 20:30-31

 


The miracles of Jesus were pointers to his deity, not to his perfect humanity. By them he announced to the world: I am your God.


[2] Some contemporary Christians believe in ‘healing in the atonement’ – that when Jesus was dying on the cross he bore in his body not only our sins but also every illness experienced by human beings. On the basis of this concept of physical ‘healing in the atonement’ it is taught that no Christian should ever be sick, and every Christian should and can claim or demand or declare healing. These perceptions are based on a physical interpretation of a small number of verses, including Isaiah 53:5 ‘by his wounds we are healed’. Understood in context these verses are about spiritual healing [our spiritual salvation], not physical healing.

Those who are taught that physical healing is already their’s because of the cross of Christ are confronted by some particularly devastating questions when they are sick:

[1] Have I done something wrong that is blocking the healing? [Is there some hidden sin in my life that I have to confess?]

[2] Do I not have enough faith? Have I not been positive enough?

[Both of these questions have the potential to add a burden of guilt to the already existing physical suffering.]

[3] Am I perhaps not a Christian after all?

[4] Are the promises of the Bible untrustworthy?

Each of these questions, and the unbiblical understanding of the cross that evokes these questions, has the potential to undermine confidence in the real spiritual work that was fully accomplished by Jesus Christ in his death.

If my sin has the power to block my healing then my sin has not been forgiven. But the Bible tells me that all my sins have been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ [Colossians 2:13-14] and are no longer held against me [2Corinthians 5:19]. And I am denying that grace, not spiritual death, now reigns for those who are in Christ [Romans 5:12-21].

If I believe that my weak faith has the power to block the supposedly already completed healing work of Christ being effective for me, then I am trusting not in Christ but in the power of my faith or the power of my ‘positive confession’. And I am making the weakness of my faith, or my ‘negative confession’ stronger than the power, the grace and the compassion of Christ.

In all of this I am overlooking the clear biblical facts (1) that suffering is part and parcel of the human lot from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, and (2) that the New Testament contains no expectation and no report of physical health being the common lot of believers. Indeed, we find the opposite.

False and cruel expectations are placed on believers by these unbiblical perceptions. And a heavy, cruel and false expectation is placed on, or assumed by, those who would be ‘healers’.  The burdens resulting from these unbiblical expectations can create either despair or deception. Let us flee from them to the One who in his human life experienced the full range of human suffering, sinless though he was, filled with the perfection of faith though he was [Hebrews 2:9-18; 4:15].