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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Mark 5



Verses 1-17

Mark 5:1-17

This story may be viewed in four aspects.

I. The human. (a) The human aspect as seen in shadow: (1) Man impure—unclean spirit; (2) Man dis-socialised—his dwelling was among the tombs; (3) Man unrestrained—no man could tame him; (4) Man self-tormented. (b) As seen in light: (1) Man tranquillized—sitting; (2) Man civilised—clothed; (3) 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 spirit.

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

IV. (1) Society trembling under manifestations of spiritual power—"they were afraid." (2) Society caring more for beasts than for men—they prayed Him to depart out of their coasts.

Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 83.

References: Mark 5:1-20.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 190. Mark 5:11-20.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 104.

Verse 15

Mark 5:15, Mark 5:17

I. We learn that in our Saviour's day there was devil power at work in the world, and that it assumed various manifestations and forms more or less repulsive, agonising and destructive. This was Satan's day, his hour, and the power of darkness. And has this devil power ceased in our own day? It would be a fond delusion to suppose so. He may be gagged and pushed into the slums and back streets of a civilised community. He may assume among us the garb of an angel of light; but across the sea he has no motive for playing at such disguises. There he is as ever the open and avowed enemy of God and man.

II. We have seen in this narrative as in others, that the devils were obedient to the potent word of command which fell from the lips of Christ: "Come out of him, thou unclean spirit," and shortly afterwards the once-possessed might have been seen "sitting, clothed, in his right mind." This power and authority was relegated to His apostles by the Master also, not for a temporary purpose, or to be confined to one age or one nation, for we read that after the cross had been endured and the grave emptied, the Master said again, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. In My name shall they cast out devils." We dare not explain this away and say this was a miraculous power which ceased with a miraculous age. The Gospel and the Church, which is a keeper and witness of the truth, have had this power ever since, and they have exercised it in every age, and before our eyes, and we are witnesses that it is no sham, but a blessed reality. Every one called from darkness to light, and from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God is a witness. Christendom is a living witness, built up of lively stones, to the potency of Christ, His Gospel and His Church, over all Satanic arts and influences.

A. Cooper, Penny Pulpit (New series), No. 932.

References: Mark 5:15.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 139. Mark 5:18.—G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to my Friends, p. 239.

Verses 18-21

Mark 5:18-21

I. 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.

II. We see here 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.

Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 84.

References: Mark 5:18, Mark 5:19.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 163. Mark 5:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 109; H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, 4th series, p. 27.

Verse 20-21

Mark 5:20-21

Thronging Christ and touching Christ.


I. The mighty difference, it may be a difference for us as of life and death, between thronging Jesus and touching Him. The multitude thronged Him; only this faithful woman touched Him. There was nothing to the outward eye which should distinguish between her action and theirs. Peter and the other disciples could see nothing to distinguish this woman from any other member of that eager, inquisitive, unceremonious multitude which crowded around Him, as was their wont; so that Peter, who was always ready, and sometimes too ready, with his word, is half inclined to take his Lord up and rebuke Him for asking this question, "Who touched me?" A question which had so little reason in it, seeing that the whole multitude were thronging and pressing upon Him at every moment and on every side. But Christ re-affirms and repeats His assertion: "Somebody hath touched Me." He knew the difference, He distinguished at once, as by a Divine instinct, that believing one from the unbelieving many. There was that in her which put her in connection with the grace, the strength, the healing power which were in Him. Do you ask me what this was? It was faith. It was her faith. She came expecting a blessing, believing in blessing, and so finding the blessing which she expected and believed. But that careless multitude who thronged the Lord, only eager to gratify their curiosity, and to see what new wonder He would next do, as they desired nothing, expected nothing, from Him, so they obtained nothing. Empty they came, and empty they went away.

II. Is there not here the explanation of much, of only too much, in the spiritual lives of men. We are of the many that throng Jesus, not of the faithful few who touch Him. We bear a Christian name; we go through a certain round of Christian duties; we are thus brought outwardly in contact with the Lord; but we come waiting for no blessing, and so obtaining no blessing. Faith is wanting, faith, the divine hunger of the soul, the emptiness of the soul longing to be filled, and believing that it will be filled, out of God's fulness, and because this is so, therefore there goes no virtue out from Him to us; it is never given to us so to touch Him as that immediately we know in ourselves that we are whole of our plague.

R. C. Trench, Sermons in Westminster Abbey, p. 318.

Verses 21-43

Mark 5:21-43

The Daughter of Jairus.

This story shows us:

I. The Heart of Jesus. Many are anxious to find out what the face of Jesus was like, but our concern should be to know how His heart feels towards us. If you lay your hand upon any page in the gospels, you will feel the throbbings of a heart full of wonderful pity for all sinners and sufferers. All His sayings and doings, His death and resurrection, reveal a loving kindness to which there are no bounds. As the great ocean opens its bosom to receive all the rivers, so Christ's bosom is open for all the sorrows of men. The heart of Jesus to you is the very same as it was in the house of Jairus. He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

II. The Hand of Jesus. It touches the sick and dead; it is full of power. With a mere wish, with a word at a distance, He could have healed this girl; but it was usually His way to touch those He healed. He did more than touch this girl; He firmly grasped her with His warm human hand, and she arose. He became a man, our kinsman and elder brother, that He might be near enough to touch us fully, and to touch us always.

III. The Healing of Jesus. This girl must have had strange feelings when her soul returned to the body it had recently forsaken. We are not told that she was startled or frightened. Perhaps she could say about her new life what Dr. Malan of Geneva said about his: "I was awakened as a mother awakens her child with a kiss," with all the power of God and with gentleness more than a mother's, Christ by touch and voice awoke the girl, and welcomed her back to life. Jesus has more than a touch, a tear and a kind word to give to our misery. His name declares the work to which He gave himself on earth, and gives Himself still in heaven. Jesus means healer. Nor is He like the healers in our hospitals, who must sometimes leave the healed to starve and to find hunger as cruel as disease. Christ did not heal and then leave this girl: He helped her up, and got her food. He preserves and strengthens for ever the life He gives to the soul. About the after history of this girl we are told nothing. But we are sure that she loved her healer while she had being. We readily believe that she was made Christ's by every tie of gratitude. And so our religion is a religion of gratitude for the greatest and freest favours. It is, therefore, a religion of love and joy.

J. Wells, Bible Children, p. 199.

Reference: Mark 5:21-43.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 109.

Verses 22-24

Mark 5:22-24

The case of the ruler may be treated as showing the instructive-ness of domestic affliction.

I. It shows the helplessness even of the greatest men—the applicant was a ruler, yet his rulership was of no avail in this case.

II. 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.

III. It shows the need of Christ in every life.

Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 93.

References: Mark 5:22-43.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 169. Mark 5:24.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 161. Mark 5:24-34.—Ibid., Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, 10th series, p. 425.

Verses 25-27

Mark 5:25-27

(with Isaiah 42:3)

The Survival of the Fittest and a Higher Law.

I. We see in this text, from Mark, the compassion of Christ for those who are, humanly speaking, incurable, as this woman was according to the medical knowledge of her age. Jesus did not say to her, "Go away; you are too weak and broken to hold your own in the world; best for you to be down and wait for the end, while others take your place who can do your work." That would have been a sorrowful word, not to her only, but to us also; for it would have set a limit, not to Christ's power merely, but to His very compassion; and therein also to ours. That, however, is not the law which human hearts acknowledge. Our power may easily have limits, but our pity must have none, and as we can help not a little even when we cannot heal, it is bound upon our conscience never to be inhuman. The bruised reed He would not break. But this, while it is the supreme law of man's nature, is by no means the law of Nature elsewhere. On the contrary, that law has been not unfairly expressed in the now familiar formula, "the survival of the fittest"—that is to say, Nature allows those only to live who are able to hold their own, and the rest she ruthlessly dooms to destruction.

II. It seems clear that the natural law of a supreme struggle for existence and survival of the fittest could never, by any process of development, grow into the moral law of self-sacrifice and supreme compassion for the weak and suffering. The whole higher life of man—whether seen in the noble magnanimity of the Gentile hero, or in the chivalry and meek suffering of the Christian,—all those virtues of compassion, gentleness and mercy, which we justly call humanity, because he who has them not is unworthy of the name of man, are all alien and opposite to the mere law of nature, and could not possibly grow out of it. However it be with our bodies, our souls are not an evolution of the brute soul—not a mere variety better fitted for the struggle.

III. I claim for man an exceptional position in God's universe, that he may be led to do the fitting works of an exceptional virtue. It is a great thing to live under a higher law than that of the brute creatures; but our guilt is only the greater if we live on like the brute. To allow the better and follow the worse is always base; but it is doubly bad when we claim superiority in virtue of the good we allow, and yet do not practise it.

W. C. Smith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 177.

References: Mark 5:25.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 542. Mark 5:25, Mark 5:26.—Ibid., vol. i., p. 256. Mark 5:25-27.—Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 34.

Verses 25-28

Mark 5:25-28

The Power of Feeble Faith.

I. We have here, first, the great lesson that very imperfect faith may be genuine faith.

II. Christ answers the imperfect faith.

III. Christ corrects and confirms an imperfect faith by the very act of answering it.

A. Maclaren, Sermons Preached in Manchester, 2nd series, p. 294.

References: Mark 5:25-27.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 104. Mark 5:25-28.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 827.

Verses 25-34

Mark 5:25-34

I. Human extremity—the woman had suffered many years, and had spent all.

II. Human earnestness—though much people thronged the Saviour, and she was weak, yet she found her way to the Healer.

III. Divine sensitiveness. Jesus Christ knew the difference between mere pressure and the touch of loving faith.

IV. Public confession. Thankfulness should always be courageous and explicit.

Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 93.

References: Mark 5:25-34.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 114. Mark 5:26.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 281.

Verse 28

Mark 5:28

The spiritual value of the near and visible.

The afflicted woman did not invoke the whole power of the Godhead; she said that a mere touch was enough. 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. Apply this thought.

I. To spiritual existences. If I touch but a grain of sand, I find the Mighty One.

II. To the scheme of spiritual providence. Limit the new to one life—touch but the hem of the garment.

III. To the processes of spiritual education.

IV. To the uses of spiritual ordinances.

Parker, City Temple, vol. i., p. 55.,

References Mark 5:28.—New Outlines on the New Testament, p. 35; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1382. Mark 5:29-34.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 281. Mark 5:30.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 249; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 36. Mark 5:30, Mark 5:31.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1640. Mark 5:33.—Ibid., vol. ix., No. 514; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., pp. 282, 283. Mark 5:34.—Ibid., p. 282. Mark 5:35.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 31; J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 407.

Verses 35-43

Mark 5:35-43

This part of the incident shows how two views may be taken of the same case.

I. 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.

II. 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." 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.

Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 94.

References: Mark 5:35-43.—Homilist, new series, vol. iv., p. 64. Mark 5:36.—W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 269; T. Wallace, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 143; R. Thornton, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vii., p, 77. Mark 5:39-40.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 251. Mark 5:41-42.—New Outlines on the New Testament, p. 37. Mark 5:42.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 542. Mark 5:43.—J. Vaughan, Sermons, 8th series, p. 45.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Mark 5:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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