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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
Mark 5

 

 

Verse 3

Mark 5:3.And no man could bind him, not even with chains Naturally, he was not able to break the chains; and hence we infer that Satan is sometimes permitted to make extraordinary movements, the effect of which goes beyond our comprehension and beyond ordinary means. We often perceive in madmen much greater strength than belongs to their natural capacity; and we are not at liberty to deny that, in such cases, the devil does his part when God permits him: but the force, which is described by the Evangelists, was far greater. (548) It was indeed a sad and shocking exhibition, but may serve to remind us how wretched and alarming it is to be placed under the tyranny of Satan, and also that bodily agony, however violent or cruel, is not more to be dreaded than distress of mind.


Verse 6

Mark 5:6Worshipped him (549) The arrangement of the narrative may be thus stated. When the demoniacs came to meet him, Christ ordered the unclean spirits to go out of them, and then they prayed and entreated that he would not torment them before the time The worship, therefore, did not precede Christ’s words: nor did they complain that Christ gave them uneasiness, (550) till he urged them to go out. We ought to be aware that they did not come of their own accord into the presence of Christ, but were drawn by a secret exercise of his authority. As they had formerly been accustomed to carry men off, in furious violence, to the tombs, so now a superior power compels them to appear reluctantly at the tribunal of their judge.

Hence we infer, that the whole of Satan’s kingdom is subject to the authority of Christ. (551) For the devils, when Christ summons them to appear before him, are not more at their own disposal than were the wretched men whom their tyranny was wont to drive about in every direction. At length, by the secret power of Christ, they are dragged before him, that, by casting them out, he may prove himself to be the deliverer of men. Reluctantly too they worship him, and their rebellious complaints testify that their confession was not made from choice, but was drawn from them by force.


Verse 9

Mark 5:9My name is Legion. The devil was compelled by Christ to pronounce this word, that he might more fully display the greatness and excellence of his grace. There must have been good reasons why this man should have endured so severe a punishment as to have an army of devils, so to speak, dwelling within him. What compassion then was it, to rescue from so many deaths a man who was more than a thousand times ruined! It was a magnificent display of the power of Christ., that by his voice not one devil, but a great multitude of devils, were suddenly driven out. Legion denotes here not a definite number of men, but merely a great multitude.

Hence it is evident what a wretched creature man is, when he is deprived of the divine protection. Every man is not only exposed to a single devil, but becomes the retreat of vast numbers. This passage refutes also the common error, which has been borrowed by Jews and Christians from the heathens, that every man is attacked by his own particular devil? On the contrary, Scripture plainly declares, that, just as it pleases God, one devil (554) is sometimes sent to punish a whole nation, and at other times many devils are permitted to punish one man: as, on the other hand, one angel sometimes protects a whole nation, and every man has many angels to act as his guardians. There is the greater necessity for keeping diligent watch, lest so great a multitude of enemies should take us by surprise.


Verse 10

Mark 5:10.And entreated him earnestly Luke says, they requested that they might not be sent into the deep Some explain these words to mean that they wished to avoid uninhabited places. (555) I rather view it as referring to their rage for doing mischief. As the devils have no other object than to prowl among men, like lions in search of prey, they are grieved at being plunged into the deep, where they will have no opportunity of injuring and ruining men. That this is the true meaning may be inferred from the words of Mark, who says that they requested that they might not be compelled to go out of the country In a word, they manifest their disposition to be such, that there is nothing which they more eagerly desire than the destruction of mankind.


Verse 15

Mark 5:15.And they come to Jesus We have here a striking proof that not all who perceive the hand of God profit as they ought to do by yielding themselves to him in sincere godliness. Having seen the miracle, the Gadarenes were afraid, because the majesty of God shone brightly in Christ. So far they did right but now that they send him out of their territories, what could have been done worse than this? They too were scattered, and here is a shepherd to collect them or rather, it is God who stretches out his arms, through his Son, to embrace and carry to heaven those who were overwhelmed by the darkness of death. They choose rather to be deprived of the salvation which is offered to them, than to endure any longer the presence of Christ.

The apparent ground of their offense is the loss of the swine, but Luke assigns a loftier cause, that they were seized with a great fear; (556) and certainly, if they had been exasperated by the loss which they sustained, they would not have requested him, but would rudely have driven him out. They honor him as God’s minister, and yet are so struck with dread as to desire that he will go to a distance from them. Thus we see that they were not at all moved by a sense of the divine grace. And indeed, though all wicked men adore God, and bestow great pains on appeasing him, yet if they had their choice, they would withdraw to the greatest possible distance from him: for his face is terrible, so long as they contemplate him as a Judge, and not as a Father. The consequence is, that the gospel, which is more delightful than any thing that can be conceived, is everywhere considered to be so dismal and severe, that a good part of the world would wish that it were buried.

And yet it is true that their fear was partly occasioned by their loss. Thus at the present day, so long as men believe that the kingdom of God is opposed to their interest, either of a public or private nature, they are prepossessed by a depraved and carnal fear, and have no relish for his grace. Accordingly, when he comes, they think that God does not regard them with favor, but rather with anger, and, so far as lies in their power, they send him to another place. It is a mark of shameful insensibility in those men, that the loss of their swine gives them more alarm than the salvation of their soul would give them joy.


Verse 34

Mark 5:34.Go in peace, and be delivered from thy scourge. From this exhortation we infer that the benefit which she had obtained was fully ratified, when she heard from the lips of Christ what she had already learned from experience: for we do not truly, or with a safe conscience, enjoy God’s benefits in any other way than by possessing them as contained in the treasury of his promises.


Verse 36

Mark 5:36.Fear not, only believe. The message about her death had induced despair: for he had asked nothing from Christ but relief to the diseased young woman. Christ therefore bids him take care lest, by fear or distrust, he shut out that grace, to which death will be no hindrance. By this expression, only believe, he means that he will not want power, provided Jairus will allow him; and, at the same time, exhorts him to enlarge his heart with confidence, because there is no room to fear that his faith will be more extensive than the boundless power of God. And truly this is the case with us all: for God would be much more liberal in his communications to us, if we were not so close; but our own scanty desires hinder him from pouring out his gifts upon us in greater abundance. (528) In general, we are taught by this passage, that we cannot go beyond bounds in believing: because our faith, however large, will never embrace the hundredth part of the divine goodness.


Verse 37

37.And did not permit any one to follow him. He forbade that they should be allowed to enter, either because they were unworthy to be his witnesses of the miracle, or because he did not choose that the miracle should be overpowered by a noisy crowd around him. It was better that the young woman, whose dead body they had beheld, should suddenly go out before the eyes of men, alive and full of rigor. Mark and Luke tell us that not more than three of the disciples were admitted, and both mention also the parents. Mark alone states that those who had accompanied Jairus when he came to supplicate Christ were admitted. Matthew, who is more concise, takes no notice of this circumstance.


Verse 39

Mark 5:39The girl sleepeth. Sleep is everywhere in Scripture employed to denote death; and there is no doubt but this comparison, taken from temporal rest, points out a future resurrection. But here Christ expressly makes a distinction between sleep and death, so as to excite an expectation of life. His meaning is, “You will presently see her raised up whom you suppose to be dead.” That he was ridiculed by thoughtless and ignorant people, who were wholly engrossed with profane lamentation, and who did not comprehend his design, ought not to awaken surprise. And yet this very circumstance was an additional confirmation of the miracle, that those persons entertained no doubt whatever as to her death.


Verse 41

41.And he took hold of her hand, and said to her Luke 8:54.And he took hold of her hand, and cried Though naturally this cry was of no avail for recalling the senses of the deceased young woman, yet Christ intended to give a magnificent display of the power of his voice, that he might more fully accustom men to listen to his doctrine. It is easy to learn from this the great efficacy of the voice of Christ, which reaches even to the dead, and exerts a quickening influence on death itself. Accordingly, Luke says that her spirit returned, or, in other words, that immediately on being called, it obeyed the command of Christ.


Verse 43

43.And he charged them Though Christ did not admit all indiscriminately to behold this resurrection, yet the miracle might not have remained long concealed. And it would indeed have been improper to suppress that power of God, by which the whole world ought to be prepared for life. Why then does he enjoin silence on the young woman’s parents? Perhaps it was not so much about the fact itself, as about the manner of it, that he wished them to be silent, and that only for a time; for we see that there were other instances in which he sought out a proper occasion. Those who think that they were forbidden to speak for the purpose of whetting their desire, resort to a solution which is unnatural. I do acknowledge that Christ did not perform this miracle without the intention of making it known, but perhaps at a more fitting time, or after the dismission of a crowd among whom there was no prudence or moderation. He therefore intended to allow some delay, that they might in quietness and composure revolve the work of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Mark 5:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/mark-5.html. 1840-57.

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