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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Mark 5

 

 

Verse 1

Mark and Luke called this area the country of the Gerasenes, but Matthew called it the country of the Gadarenes. Gergesa (also referred to as Gersa and Kersa) was a small village about midway on the eastern shore of the lake. Gadara was a larger town six miles southeast of the lake"s southern end. This incident apparently happened somewhere near both towns on the southeast coast of the lake. Another town with a similar name, Gerasa (Jarash), stood37 miles southeast of the lake, too far southeast to qualify as the site of this miracle.

"At the site of Kersa the shore is level, and there are no tombs. But about a mile further south there is a fairly steep slope within forty yards from the shore, and about two miles from there cavern tombs are found which appear to have been used for dwellings." [Note: Ibid, p181.]


Verses 1-20

The deliverance of a demoniac in Gadara5:1-20 (cf. Matthew 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-39)

Even though Mark had already reported that Jesus had exorcized many demons, this case was extraordinary.

"Christ, Who had been charged by the Pharisees with being the embodiment and messenger of Satan [ Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15], is here face to face with the extreme manifestation of demoniac power and influence. It is once more, then, a Miracle in Parable which is about to take place. The question, which had been raised by the enemies, is about to be brought to the issue of a practical demonstration." [Note: Ibid, 1:609.]

"This account, more graphically than any other in the Gospels, indicates that the function of demonic possession is to distort and destroy the image of God in man." [Note: Lane, p180.]


Verses 2-5

Mark gave many more details describing this man than either Matthew or Luke did. This reflects an eyewitness account and Mark"s special interest in demonic activity. Matthew wrote that there were two men, but Mark and Luke mentioned only the more outstanding of the two. Mark stressed this man"s great physical strength that had progressively increased, evidently due to the demons" increasing hold on him. Now nothing could restrain him. The poor man was miserable in his condition.


Verse 6-7

The way the man related to Jesus shows that the demons within him recognized Jesus as someone superior to them. The demons controlled the man"s physical movements and his words. They addressed Jesus as "Son of the Most High God" recognizing His deity ( Genesis 14:18-24; Numbers 24:16; Isaiah 14:14; Daniel 3:26; Daniel 4:2; cf. Mark 1:23-24). The fact that the man knelt before Jesus likewise shows that the demons regarded Jesus as their superior. The demons feared that Jesus would send them to their eternal judgment then, something only God could do ( Revelation 20:1-3; cf. Matthew 8:29; Luke 8:31). The tormentor appealed for deliverance from torment. [Note: R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and D. Brown, A Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments, 2:70.] Ironically he appealed to Jesus for mercy in God"s name. He probably did this because he knew that Jesus was subject to His Father.


Verse 8

Jesus evidently addressed the leading demon. The Greek imperfect tense can mean that Jesus had been repeatedly commanding the demons to depart, as the NASB and NIV translations imply. However, it can also mean that something was about to follow. In this case a translation such as the AV, "For He said unto him," is better. Apparently in Mark 5:8 Mark gave us the reason for the demons" request in Mark 5:7 even though Jesus did not command the demons to depart until Mark 5:13.


Verse 9

These verses resume the conversation from Mark 5:7. A legion was six thousand Roman soldiers. Probably the leading demon used this as a round number to represent thousands of demons (cf. Mark 5:13). The word "legion" also suggests their organization, strength, oppression, and authority over the man they influenced. [Note: Hiebert, p120.] Probably Jesus asked this question for the disciples" benefit.


Verse 10

This verse also shows the superiority of Jesus" power that the demons recognized. It is unclear why the demons wanted to remain in that area of the country.


Verses 11-13

Evidently the demons requested permission to enter the swine so they could destroy them. Jesus" permission resulted in everyone seeing the great destructive power and number of the demons, and that the man had experienced an amazing deliverance. Only Mark recorded the number of swine.

"Few animals are so individually stubborn as swine, yet the rush was simultaneous." [Note: Matthew B. Riddle, "The Gospel According to Mark ," in International Revision Commentary on the New Testament, p60.]

"The story of the deliverance of a man becomes the story of the deliverance of a land." [Note: Guelich, p283.]

Some interpreters believe the owners of the swine were Jews who disregarded the Mosaic prohibition against eating pork ( Leviticus 11:7). Jesus would then have been punishing them by allowing their pigs to perish. However this explanation is unlikely because of the population composition of the Decapolis region of which this area was a part (cf. Matthew 8:31).


Verse 14-15

The town in view was probably Gergesa. The demonic had formerly been a restless raving maniac, but now he was sitting peacefully. He had been shamelessly naked ( Luke 8:27), but now he clothed himself. He had been out of control, but now he controlled his senses and himself. The people"s fear arose partially from anticipating what Jesus might do with the great power that He obviously possessed.


Verse 16-17

Perhaps the people asked Jesus to leave their area because they reasoned that if He dealt so severely with evil He would eventually destroy them too. Rather than turning to Him in worship they turned from Him to the darkness they preferred (cf. John 1:11; John 3:19). Mark recorded that what happened to the pigs disturbed them, suggesting that economic loss played a part in their request.


Verse 18-19

Why did Jesus instruct the man to tell others about what the Lord had done for him when He had told the cleansed leper not to tell anyone ( Mark 1:44; cf. Mark 5:43; Mark 7:36)? Apparently there was little danger in this Gentile region that the people would create problems for Jesus" mission as they did in Jewish territory. We need not understand Jesus" command as a permanent prohibition against following Him. Perhaps this man did return and become a disciple after he bore witness locally. The synonymous use of the names "Lord" and "Jesus" shows that the man regarded Jesus as God (cf. Mark 5:7; Luke 8:39).

Jesus" instructions to this man in a Gentile region would have helped Mark"s original Gentile readers know what an appropriate response to His deliverance of them was.

"Though we are not tortured by the devil, yet he holds us as his slaves, till the Son of God delivers us from his tyranny. Naked, torn, and disfigured, we wander about, till he restores us to soundness of mind." [Note: John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, 2:436.]


Verse 20

The Decapolis was a league of10 Greek cities all but one of which stood on the east side of the lake. One of these towns was Gergesa. The others were Damascus, Kanatha, Scythopolis, Hippos, Raphana, Pella, Dion, Philadelphia, and Gadara. [Note: J. McKee Adams, Biblical Backgrounds, pp150-160.]

People marveled at the man"s testimony. That was good as far as it went, but it should have led them to seek Jesus out. Perhaps some of them did.

Mark"s account of this miracle stressed Jesus" divine power and authority that was a greater revelation of His person to the disciples than they had previously witnessed. It also provides a model of how disciples can express their gratitude to God for His saving work in their lives.

"Furthermore, in the flow of Mark"s narrative, this story must be read against the backdrop of the dispute between Jesus and the scribes over his exorcisms in Mark 3:22-27. It vividly describes Jesus as the one in whom "the Most High God"s" sovereign rule was being established through the binding of the "strong man" ( Mark 3:27) who through Legion had so powerfully controlled a man that no one else could successfully bind with human fetters ( Mark 5:3-5)." [Note: Guelich, p289.]

The raising of Jairus" daughter and the healing of a woman with a hemorrhage5:21-43 (cf. Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56)

This is one of the sections of Mark"s Gospel that has a chiastic structure (cf. Mark 3:22-30; Mark 6:14-29; Mark 11:15-19).

A The appeal of Jairus for his daughter Mark 5:21-24

B The healing of the woman with the hemorrhage Mark 5:25-34

A" The raising of Jairus" daughter to life Mark 5:35-43

In this case the delay caused by the healing of the woman created a greater problem that Jesus overcame easily. This account of a double miracle further revealed Jesus" identity to His disciples.

"The healing of Jairus"s daughter shows that Jesus is the Lord of life, and the healing of the woman with the problem of persistent bleeding shows that He is the Lord of health." [Note: Bailey, p76.]

Some commentators believed that Mark did not follow a chronological order of events but rearranged them to make his theological points. [Note: E.g, Hugh Anderson, The Gospel of Mark , p151; Lane, p189; and Wessel, p660.] However all three synoptic evangelists recorded the events in the same order, so perhaps they occurred in this sequence. [Note: Cf. Cranfield, p182; Taylor, p289; and Hiebert, p125.] Mark"s account is the fullest of the three.

"The stilling of the storm and the healing of the demonized were manifestations of the absolute power inherent in Christ; the recovery of the woman and the raising of Jairus" daughter, evidence of the absolute efficacy of faith." [Note: Edersheim, 1:616.]


Verse 21

Having withdrawn from Galilee to the southeastern Decapolis region ( Mark 4:35 to Mark 5:20), Jesus and His disciples now returned to the northwestern side of the lake and to Galilee. Immediately a multitude of Jews gathered around Him again.


Verses 22-24

Synagogue rulers were not priests but lay leaders who were responsible for the worship services and the synagogue"s physical facilities. As such, Jairus (the Greek form of the Hebrew Jair, "he will give light or awaken;" cf. Numbers 32:41; Judges 10:3) undoubtedly enjoyed much respect in his community. Most healing stories are anonymous, so perhaps Mark included Jairus" name because of its connection with Jesus" miracle of awakening the girl to life (cf. Mark 5:39). Laying hands on a sick person for healing associated the power of the healer with the person needing deliverance (cf. Mark 6:5; Mark 7:32; Mark 8:23; Mark 8:25).

Upon returning to Galilee, Jesus immediately began to serve in response to this urgent emotional plea, but the thronging crowd slowed His progress.


Verses 25-28

Mark stressed the desperate condition of the woman by recording details of her history that the other evangelists passed over. Uncharacteristically, Mark described the woman"s plight with a series of seven participles. She was, before she met Jesus, incurable. She had faith in Jesus" ability to heal her and a belief that she could obtain healing by touching His clothing (cf. Mark 3:10; Mark 6:56). She tried to remain unobtrusive since her condition rendered her and all who contacted her ritually unclean ( Leviticus 15:25-27). Perhaps she had come from some distance since no one in the crowd apparently recognized her or objected to her being there.


Verse 29

As soon as (Gr. euthys, "immediately") she touched Jesus" garment she knew that she was whole. The healing was instantaneous, but it happened without Jesus" conscious participation. Such was the power He had.


Verses 30-32

Just as quickly (Gr. euthys) Jesus perceived that power had gone from Him. The harshness of the disciples" reply is unique to Mark. Luke wrote that Peter voiced it ( Luke 8:45). Probably the disciples were eager to get Jesus to Jairus" house before it was too late. Yet Jesus wanted to speak to the woman and to assure her that it was her faith in Him that had resulted in her healing, not merely her touch. He "looked around" searching the faces in the crowd to discover the person of faith.

"His healing power did not work automatically, like a battery discharging its power when accidentally short-circuited. Jesus perceived in Himself, without any external suggestion, the significance of the woman"s touch, and, actively willing to honor her faith, He was immediately conscious of His healing power going toward her. His power, the inherent ability to perform, was always under the control of His conscious volition. His consciousness of that power going forth from Him suggests that His healing ministries cost Jesus much spiritual energy. It would explain why He found it necessary at times to escape the crowds to find time for refreshing through fellowship with the Father." [Note: Hiebert, pp129-30.]


Verse 33-34

Jesus did not rebuke her, even though her faith in Him seems to have been mixed with superstition. Yet He wanted to speak to her lest she conclude that touching Him was what cured her. His words were full of spiritual sensitivity and compassion. She had nothing to fear from Him. Perhaps the woman was afraid because she had obtained Jesus" power surreptitiously. Still, we have seen that a typical response to the revelation of Jesus" power was fear (cf. Mark 4:41; Mark 5:15).

This is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus called someone "daughter." The woman"s faith in Jesus had brought her into His spiritual family (cf. Isaiah 53:10; Mark 3:35; Mark 7:26; Mark 10:52). Her faith was the means whereby she obtained Jesus" help. It expressed belief that Jesus could heal her and hope that He would.

The phrase "Go in peace" (Heb. shalom) was a common way of saying "good-bye" among the Jews (cf. Judges 18:6; 1 Samuel 1:17).

Shalom ". . . means not just freedom from inward anxiety, but that wholeness or completeness of life that comes from being brought into a right relationship with God." [Note: Anderson, p154.]

It was God"s will for this woman to experience healing. Jesus assured her that her healing was complete and permanent with these words. She could now enjoy social interaction and participation in public worship, as well as physical health, since she was clean.

"From Mark"s perspective, the entire incident is a call for radical faith." [Note: Lane, p194.]


Verse 35

If the disciples had been impatient ( Mark 5:31), how much more so must Jairus have been. How his heart must have broken when word reached him that his daughter had died. The people who reported the death of Jairus" daughter regarded Jesus as simply a teacher or rabbi. They believed He could only help the living.

"There is no hint of anyone taking it amiss that Jesus did not proceed as fast as He could to Jairus" house; or that He could have dealt with the haemorrhage [sic] after the more serious case of the child at death"s door.... It is quite Palestinian still to do the things that need doing at the psychological juncture." [Note: Eric F. F. Bishop, Jesus of Palestine, p137.]


Verse 36

Jairus had believed that Jesus could heal his daughter, and He had just observed the result of believing in Jesus ( Mark 5:25-34). His faith, with Jesus" encouragement, enabled him to believe that Jesus could still help his daughter. Literally Jesus said, "Stop fearing; continue believing."


Verse 37

Jesus allowed only His inner circle of disciples to accompany Him to witness this miracle (cf. Deuteronomy 17:6; Mark 9:2; Mark 14:33). He probably did so to limit popular reaction to it. If the multitudes thronged to Jesus because He healed them, how much more would they seek His physical help if they knew He could raise the dead.

"While raising the dead may be the greatest miracle from our perspective, this miracle comes in a series of miracles involving absolutely hopeless situations." [Note: Guelich, p301.]


Verse 38

Jesus dismissed one crowd but found another one waiting for Him at Jairus" house. [Note: Swete, p107.] As was customary, paid mourners were already at work weeping, wailing, singing, playing flutes, and clapping their hands (cf. Jeremiah 9:17; Amos 5:16). [Note: Cf. H. Van der Loos, The Miracles of Jesus, p568.] The Mishnah specified that even the poorest husband had to hire at least two flute players and one female to wail when his wife died. [Note: Mishnah Ketuboth4:4.] Evidently the little girl"s death was so expected that mourners were ready the moment she died.


Verse 39-40

Jesus meant that she was asleep in death. He used the word "sleep" figuratively (cf. Matthew 9:24; John 11:11-14). He meant that though she was dead, her death would be no more permanent than sleep. [Note: Cranfield, p189.] The observers present, however, took Jesus" words literally and mocked the Great Physician for His superficial diagnosis. Their reaction proves that she was dead. Jesus excluded them and allowed only those whom He wanted to witness the miracle to stay.


Verse 41

Apparently Jesus took the hand of the dead girl to associate His power with her healing in the witnesses" minds. He did not need to touch her to raise her. Elijah ( 1 Kings 17:17-23) and Elisha ( 2 Kings 4:18-37) had both raised children to life, but they had to exert considerably more effort and spend more time doing so than Jesus did. It was probably this healing that led many of the people to identify Jesus with Elijah ( Mark 6:15). Touching a dead person resulted in ceremonial defilement, but Jesus overcame this with His power.

Mark alone recorded Jesus" command in Aramaic and translated it for his Roman readers.

"Mark gives the translation as a contrast with magical formulas so esoteric and nonsensical that they mock would-be translators ..." [Note: Robert H. Gundry, Mark , p274.]

In every instance of Jesus raising the dead in the Gospels, He addressed the dead person directly (cf. Luke 7:14; John 11:43).

"It has been suggested that His very words were those used by the mother each morning to arouse her daughter from sleep." [Note: Hiebert, p136.]

There is only one letter difference between Jesus" command here and the one Peter uttered when he restored Dorcas to life ( Acts 9:40). Peter said, "Tabitha kum!" This shows that Jesus continued to exercise His power through Peter after His ascension (cf. Acts 1:1-2).


Verse 42

When Jesus restored life, recovery was instantaneous (Gr. euthys, twice in this verse), not gradual, as was also true with former prophets (cf. 1 Kings 17:19-20; 2 Kings 4:33). Perhaps Mark mentioned the girl"s age because she was12and the woman whom Jesus had just healed had suffered with her affliction for12years ( Mark 5:25). The woman had begun living when she should have died from her incurable condition. The girl had died just when she should have begun living as a young woman. Jesus could and did deliver from both deaths. Everyone present expressed extreme amazement at Jesus" power. The Greek word, from existemi, literally means they were "out of their minds with great amazement." [Note: Grassmick, p126.]


Verse 43

Jesus gave the observers two commands. First, He told them not to tell anyone about the miracle who did not need to know about it. [Note: Cranfield, p191.] Obviously many people outside the house would have discovered what had happened, but Jesus wanted to avoid all unnecessary publicity, at least immediately, so He could continue His ministry with maximum freedom of movement (cf. Mark 1:43-45).

His second command revealed His continuing compassion for the girl in her need. It also clarified that He had restored her to physical life that needed sustaining. He had not resurrected her to a new form of life with an immortal body (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35-57).

This double miracle taught the disciples that Jesus not only had the power to control nature ( Mark 4:35-41) and demonic spirits ( Mark 5:1-20) but also death. These were important revelations to those who had exercised some faith in Him. They learned that Jesus was more than a man and even more than the greatest of the prophets. Undoubtedly God used these revelations to enable the disciples to see that Jesus was the divine Messiah ( Mark 8:29).

"Faith involved more than simply believing Jesus could perform miracles. No one questioned that in Nazareth. They questioned how he could do what he was doing because of who they "know" him to be. By implication, therefore, healing faith for Mark in these two stories means more than faith in a miracle worker. Both Jairus and the woman displayed faith that God was somehow at work in Jesus. Therefore, the evangelist uses these stories to underscore the role of faith and its corollary, the person of Jesus as seen in his ministry that highlights the role of faith in these stories." [Note: Guelich, p305.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 5:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/mark-5.html. 2012.

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