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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Mark 5

 

 

Verses 1-43

The Human and the Divine

[An Analysis]

Mark 5

This story may be viewed in four aspects:—I. The human; II. The Divine; III. The Diabolic; IV. The Social.

I. The Human. The human aspect is seen both in shadow and in light:—(1) As seen in shadow: (a) man impure,—unclean spirit; (b) man dissocialised,—his dwelling was among the tombs; (c) man unrestrained,—no man could tame him, no, not with chains; (d) man self-tormented,—crying and cutting himself with stones. (2) As seen in light: (a) man tranquillised,—sitting; (b) man civilised,—clothed; (c) man intellectualised,—in his right mind.

II. The Divine. (1) Christ identified by his holiness; (2) Christ feared for his power; (3) Christ recognised in the realm of spirits.

III. The Diabolic. (1) As showing great resources,—"we are many"; (2) as displaying subordination,—they besought Christ, etc.; (3) as revealing destructiveness,—whatever they touch, man or beast, they destroy.

IV. The Social. (1) Society trembling under manifestations of spiritual power; spiritual power is always more or less mysterious,—"they were afraid." (2) Society caring more for beasts than for men,—they prayed him to depart out of their coasts.

The prayer of the unclean spirits may be regarded as showing the intolerableness of life in hell. They wished to be sent anywhere but to the pit.

Or thus:—The story may be used as showing at once the greatness and the weakness of man. (1) His greatness,—seen in the fact that many devils can enter into him. Show how men may be great in evil as well as in good,—tyrants, warriors, conspirators, hypocrites, etc. (2) His weakness,—seen in his yielding where he ought to have resisted; in his helplessness when he had once admitted the power of evil into his heart,—seen also in his fear of the only power that could redeem him from its bondage. The last point should be urged as one of great importance,—showing how the tendency of sin is actually to destroy confidence, not only in God as Creator and Preserver, but actually as Redeemer. (a) It raises sceptical questions; (b) it urges the doctrine of self-elevation.

Or thus:—The story may be treated as showing some phases of Christ"s ministry. (1) Christ caring for one man; (2) Christ"s rule over evil spirits; (3) Christ reconstructing manhood; (4) Christ showing himself the source of all blessings: (a) self-control,—"sitting"; (b) civilisation,—"clothed"; (c) mental restoration,—"in his right mind."

Christ"s conduct in this case reveals the fearlessness of his spirit. (1) Holiness is fearless; (2) Philanthropy is fearless; (3) Trust in God is fearless. Show how fearlessness is required of all who follow Christ,—how it is necessary to beneficent activity,—and how it can only be sustained by ever-deepening communion with God. The whole subject may be treated as showing—(1) The Fearlessness; (2) the Aggressiveness; (3) the Beneficence of Christianity.

18. And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.

19. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

20. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

21. And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea.

(1) The recollection of our Christless state should beget a spirit of distrust in ourselves. The healed man was naturally anxious to remain at the side of his healer. (2) Show the possibility of being under the protection of Christ even though far from his physical presence. The healed man was as surely under the care of Christ when miles away as when within reach of his hand. Christ always pointed towards a spiritual reign, and both incidentally and directly discouraged trust in merely fleshly presence and power.

Christ"s answer may be taken as showing how the gospel is to be propagated: (1) It is to be declared at home; (2) it is to be founded on personal experience; (3) it is to acknowledge the power and goodness of God alone.

Every Christian should himself be the chief argument in favour of Christianity. The Christian is not only to have an argument—he is himself to be an argument. The man whose sight was restored said to those who inquired concerning the process of restoration—"One thing I know, that whereas I was blind now I see." Had he allowed himself to be lured into a discussion about Moses or the supposed character of Christ, he might have been overcome by superiority of address on the part of his critics; but so long as he confined himself to his own case his position was invincible. The recovered man whose case is given in this chapter could always answer the quibbles of inquirers by a reference to his own experience. What has Christ done for us? What is our present state as compared with our former condition? What is our moral tone? What is our attitude in relation to the future? If we can answer these questions satisfactorily, we have a sufficient reply to all controversial difficulties and to all speculative scepticism.

22. And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,

23. And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.

24. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.

The case of the ruler may be treated as showing the instructiveness of domestic affliction. (1) It shows the helplessness even of the greatest men,—the applicant was a ruler, yet his rulership was of no avail in this case. All human influence is limited. (2) It shows the helplessness even of the kindest men,—the applicant was a father, yet all his yearning affection was unable to suggest a remedy for his afflicted child. (3) It shows the need of Christ in every life: looking over the whole chapter, we find a demoniac, a ruler, a child, and a woman who required the services of Jesus Christ.

25. And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,

26. And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing better, but rather grew worse,

27. When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.

28. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.

29. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

30. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

31. And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?

32. And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.

33. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.

34. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace and be whole of thy plague.

(1) Human extremity,—the woman had suffered many years, and had spent all, and had become worse rather than better: she may be taken, therefore, as a picture of human extremity. (2) Human earnestness,—though much people thronged the Saviour, and she was weak, yet she found her way to the Healer. This may be taken as illustrative of the power of earnestness in seeking Christ. All of us have to go to Christ through a crowd,—a crowd of objectors, of indifferent persons, of apathetic professors, of quibbling critics, etc.: if we be in earnest, we shall find our way to Christ. (3) Divine sensitiveness. Jesus Christ knew the difference between mere pressure and the touch of loving faith. This shows that mere nearness to Christ is not enough. A man may be in the church, and yet far from the Saviour; a man may be looking at the Cross without seeing the Sacrifice. Expose all the pretences which are founded upon ancestry, nationality, the observance of religious rites, etc. (4) Public Confession. The poor woman drew near, and told him all the truth, and she told it in the hearing of the crowd. Thankfulness should always be courageous and explicit. Where there is a keen appreciation of the work of Christ in the soul, all timidity and hesitation will be overborne by the intensity of thankfulness and joy. This is the true explanation of Christian profession and testimony.

35. While yet he spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue"s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?

36. As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.

37. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James , and John the brother of James.

38. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.

39. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

40. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.

41. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi: which Isaiah , being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, Arise.

42. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.

43. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

This part of the incident shows how two views may be taken of the same case. (1) There is the human view,—the child is dead, trouble not the Master. Men see the outside; they deal with facts rather than with principles; they see the circumference, not the centre. (2) There is Christ"s view,—only believe; man is called beyond facts, he is called into the sanctuary of God"s secret. We often put the period where God himself puts only a comma: we say "dead" when God himself says "sleepeth." Jesus Christ was laughed to scorn when he put a new interpretation upon old facts. All who follow him must expect to hear Christian sentiments and predictions misunderstood and perhaps contemned.

The incident may be treated as showing three things:—(1) Christ not sent for until the last moment; (2) Christ misunderstood when sent for; (3) Christ never sent for in vain.

General Note on the Whole Chapter

Look at the various instances of healing in this chapter:—Demoniac; woman; child; ruler. We train men to attempt the cure of special diseases, but Jesus Christ treated all afflictions alike of the mind and body, and never did his energy prove insufficient for the demands which were made upon it What was the secret of the universality of his healing? It was that he infused life into all who came to him in their necessity. All other healing is but local and temporary. The gift of life alone can throw off all diseases, and recover the failing tone of the mind. Jesus Christ never displays surprise, or betrays hesitation, when the most extraordinary cases are brought under his attention. The calmness of his spirit and the perfect mastery of his working incidentally show the fulness of his Godhead. The cure of the demoniac alone would have made the reputation of any other man. In Christ"s case it is written down as an ordinary event, so far as the exercise of his own power is concerned. The speciality is on the side of the sufferer, not on the side of the healer. Christ"s interruption on his way to the ruler"s house, and his cure of the poor woman, should show that his life is an unceasing ministration of good. He was going towards the house of suffering, yet on his way he healed a woman who had been given up by many physicians! The beneficent act was a kind of parenthesis. There is more history condensed into the very parentheses of Christ"s life than can be found in all the volumes of other lives. The parenthetic characteristic of this cure may be dwelt on as showing that even in his movement towards a given point God may be interrupted by the appeal of human necessity.


Verse 28

The Spiritual Value of the Near and Visible

[An Outline]

Mark 5:28

Apart from the general treatment which the incident invites, a practical turn may be given to the thought involved in this particular way of stating the case. The afflicted woman did not invoke the whole power of the Godhead; she said that a mere touch was enough. To her simple trust, God was close at hand. She believed that the divine element penetrated and vitalised the outward and visible covering, so much so that to touch the clothes was to touch God himself. The idea is that we need far less proof of God"s existence and beneficence than we often demand. We may go too far. We may attempt too much. We seek to convince or silence the gainsayer by elaborate arguments respecting infinitude, immateriality, almightiness, and the like. Thus theology becomes a great intellectual effort. It strains men"s thinking; it transcends and overwhelms all that is ordinary; it establishes itself in the secrecy of the clouds. There is something better than all this. God is accessible from a much lower point. He is nigh thee, O man; the shadow of his presence lies around thy whole life! Think not to lay a line upon the courses of his infinitude, or to gather into one thunderous note all the voices of his eternity. Do not strain thy poor strength or endanger thy feeble brain by long-continued and ambitious effort to find out God. Be simple in thy methods, be trustful in thy spirit. Pluck a spike of grass, a wild flower, a tender leaf of the spring—touch the hem of his garment, and thou shalt find health. There are great globes of fire; there are also little globes of water: begin with the latter,—thou wilt find God even in these frail crystal habitations.

Apply this thought (1) to spiritual existences. If I touch but a grain of sand, I find the Mighty One. Who made it? Who can destroy it? Who can send it away to some other world? If I touch only a bud, I touch the King"s garment. Who can make one like it? Who can improve its beauty? Whose hand is cunning enough to add one charm to its shape or one tint to its colour? We need not dazzle the atheist"s eyes with the light of other worlds; we can show him God"s signature in every limb of his own body: in every hair of his own head. Apply this thought (2) to the scheme of spiritual providence. Limit the view to one life,—touch but the hem of the garment. Review your own life from infancy, through youth, along the tortuous paths of manifold experience, up to the vigour of full manhood. What of extrication from difficulties? What of unexpected turns and hair-breadth escapes? What of concessions yielded without argument, of helps rendered by unlikely hands? The theory of chance is a theory of difficulty, not to say a theory of absurdity. Apply this thought (3) to the processes of spiritual education. Some of us can never get beyond the hem of the garment. Meanwhile, it is enough. Others are admitted to high intercourse: they know the secret of the Lord: finding their way far beyond the limitation of the mere letter, they see the spiritual purpose of divine government, and enjoy the inexpressible communion of the Holy Ghost. It is possible that the former may have as true and as efficient a faith as the latter. May they not have even a stronger faith? Is it a great thing to see God in heavens rich with systems of suns? Shall they be praised for their faith who hear God in the thunder, or who say of the lightning, Lo! this is the eye of the Lord? It is a grander faith, surely, which can see God in a speck of dust, and touch him in the hem of a garment. This was Christ"s measurement of faith. It was ever the simplicity rather than the Song of Solomon -called sublimity of faith which Christ praised. He ever sought to train man"s faith downwards as well as upwards. "Ye believe in God; believe also in me,"—in me, the human, visible, rejected Christ,—believe in the lower as well as the higher manifestations of God. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Apply this thought (4) to the uses of spiritual ordinances. The hymn, the prayer, the lesson, the mere form itself, may do men good. The commonest hearer who touches but the hem of the garment may be heated and comforted, as well as the student who can read deep things, and understand high counsels and purposes.

Application: The hand must touch Christ,—not an apostle, or minister, or an angel,—but God the Song of Solomon , in whom alone there is redeeming life. He "only hath immortality." You may have "touched" many without benefit; touch him, and you will live!

Notes

(From the "Speaker"s Commentary.")

"I shall be whole" ( Mark 5:28). "Literally, I shall be saved, i.e, made whole." It was natural that expositors of Holy Scripture should see in this woman a type of the Jewish Church, bleeding to death, and tortured by superstitious, inefficacious, tedious, and costly treatment.

"And straightway," etc. ( Mark 5:29). The immediate effect was the drying up of the source of her malady. This she felt inwardly, a sensation assuring her that the cure was complete. St. Mark gives details, such as St. Peter must have dwelt upon frequently, both for their significance and their resemblance to miraculous works wrought afterwards by himself in the name of Jesus. Cf. Acts 3:6-7; Acts 5:15; Acts 9:34, Acts 9:38.

"And Jesus... gone out of him" ( Mark 5:30). Or, "And immediately Jesus having perceived in himself (or recognised inwardly) that the virtue (literally, the power) had gone forth from him." This statement, taken from our Lord"s own word ( Luke 8:46), throws some light on the nature of the miraculous effluence from the Person of our Saviour. It was physical in its operation—the woman felt the result in her body—but spiritual in its source and condition. Our Lord recognised the fact that the indwelling virtue had been drawn forth by an act of faith.

"And his disciples" ( Mark 5:31). St. Luke notices that St. Peter was, as usual, the spokesman. The question was natural, but interesting as proving that no mere bodily sensation called the attention of Jesus to what was done.

"But the woman" ( Mark 5:33). Each word indicates the inward struggle of the woman. She knew that what had been done in her was a result of her own Acts , without permission from Jesus, and she could scarcely hope that the faith which suggested it would be accepted as genuine; hence the terror and trembling, the sudden prostration, and the full confession.

"And be whole" ( Mark 5:34). A different word from that used in Acts 5:28, giving an assurance of restoration to perfect health, such as was still needed by the woman. This is recorded expressly by St. Mark alone, but it is implied by other words of our Lord in St. Matthew and St. Luke.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 5:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/mark-5.html. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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