Mark 4 shows us a Jesus who speaks in parables. He reveals the Kingdom of God through veiled references that only insiders will understand. Not everyone who hears the word will take heed and produce fruit, but to those who do hear a response will be required of them. The arrival of Jesus has changed history. The kingdom has arrived, and it is coming. Having taught on the Kingdom of God, Mark will show Jesus performing His Kingdom authority over the created realm: nature, demons, sickness, and death.
Fear and Faith
One major theme in Mark is the distinction between Fear and Faith.
Passages on Fear: 4.16-17; 6.26, 50; 7.28; 9.32; 10.32; 11.32; 14.51-52, 66-72; 16.8
Passages on Faith: 4.20; 16.54-55; 14.3, 8, 62; 15.43
Mark 4.35-5.43 is one section where this theme holds an emphasis in each pericope.
4.35-41; Jesus Calms a Storm
Jesus tells the disciples they will cross ‘over‘ (not under) to the other side. Yet even after His kingdom parables and in seeing His miracles, a great windstorm arises and the disciples grow afraid. Verse 37 tells us of the power of this storm! The waves were breaking and the boat was filling. This storm was too big for even these experienced fishermen. Under the pressure of this tribulation, they grow afraid, similar to the persecuted soil of Mark 4.16-17?
There may be some allusions to Jonah here (Similar: Mk. 4.37, Jonah 1.4; M 4.38, J 1.5; M 4.38, J 1.6, 4, 3.9; Contrast: M 4.39 J 1.16, 10, 15), but we see Jesus as a greater Jonah, one who has faith while those on the ship throw out their faith.
In the OT the sea often symbolized the continued threat from the forces of nature against God. The sea pushes against the boundaries God has set for it [Jb. 38.8-11; Jer. 5.22 (Jesus will reference Jer. 5.21 in Mark 8.17-18)]. Here, Jesus does what only God in the OT did: command authority over the water, over nature itself!
Jesus asks them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” They “were filled with great fear” and asked each other, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” In the immediate context, Jesus is the one who has power over nature. But we will see Mark go on to answer this question throughout the rest of His gospel.
“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
5.1-20; Jesus Heals a Man with a Demon
Traveling to the country of the Gerasenes, we meet a man with unmatched power. Verses 2-5 tell us about the hopelessness of this situation: he had an unclean spirit, no one could bind him (not even with chains) for he could break them, no one could subdue him, and he cut himself with stones.
Yet the moment he sees Jesus, he runs to Him and begs Him not to torment him. But verse 9 is the clincher: this man has such great power because he is filled with a “legion” of demons. A Roman legion could measure in size up to 6,000 men. Whether this man had 6,000 demons in him, we’ll never know, but the point is that no one could help this man. The man begs that the spirits won’t be sent way, and the spirits beg to be sent to pigs. Yet Jesus sends (even gives permission) to the demons to go into pigs which run off a cliff and die.
Here fear and faith meet: the people of the town see what the King has done for this man, how He has healed him, and they are afraid. They beg Him to depart while the new man begs Jesus to allow him to follow Him. Jesus actually refuses! But for the purpose that this man can proclaim (not hide) what the King had done for this man (4.20). The King’s kingdom will grow like a mustard seed, sprouting and spreading wherever it goes only to one day reach to the ends of the earth (4.31-32).
“…and everyone marveled.”
A 21-24; Jesus Meets Jairus
Jesus meets a synagogue ruler who shows faith by bowing and implored Jesus to heal his daughter.
B 25-34; Jesus Heals a Woman
On the way Jesus is surrounded by rush hour traffic. There was one woman in a hopeless situation. Verses 25-26 tell us she had a discharge (probably menstrual, leaving her ritually unclean [Lev. 15.19-30] for 12 years) which was so bad that not only did she spend all of the money she had, she not only grew no better, but she became worse. Not to mention the emotional and mental damage of not having contact with people for 12 years (though this would be conjecture, Mark doesn’t explicitly tell us this).
The crowds are packed around Jesus, yet He asks, “Who touched My garments?” And the disciples are so dense that they don’t see the significance of that question. they ask, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” as if Jesus is out of His mind.
Looking around, the woman falls before Jesus in fear and trembling. She tells Him the whole truth, and so does He.
++· He calls her “Daughter.’” Because of her faith, this woman who was unclean for 12 years is now in the family of God. She is a sister to Jesus [3.34-35].
++· He commends her faith, “Your faith has made you well”
++· He tells her to “go in peace”; a peace that is divine, she is a daughter of God
++· “Be healed of your disease”; he gives both her and the crowd the assurance that her healing has taken place, and it is permanent.
Jesus shows his authority over the illness that has come from Adam’s sin.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
A’ 35-43; Jesus Heals a Daughter
While Jesus was still speaking to the woman, a man from Jairus’ house runs up to the synagogue leader and tells him now to trouble the Teacher any further for his daughter is dead. Jesus overheard and ignored what the man said, but tells Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe [have faith].”
The mourners in the house mock Jesus [15.29-32], but He puts them out of the house. He speaks to the little girl in her language, and she wakes up. Though she was actually dead, Jesus speaks as if she is only napping (‘sleep’ as a euphemism for death; 1 Cor. 15.6, 18, 51; 1 Thess. 4.13-15). Soon enough Jesus will be vindicated when the mockers see the girl has woken up, just as He will be vindicated before the mockers when God’s approval of Jesus is shown at His resurrection [16.6]. He charges them not to tell anyone about this, but this lamp cannot be hidden under a basket for much longer (4.21-22).
“Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
Jesus has shown His authority over the elements of creation: nature, demons, illness, and death. Even in the most impossible of situations, whether it be a flooded boat, a strong man who can’t be bound [3.27], an illness that can’t be healed, or death itself, the King has all authority and all must obey. And those who have the choice to follow or fall away, He encourages them to have faith. In the most difficult of trials, have faith because Jesus is the King of kings.