From:  Busy Person’s Guide to Mark 1 to 8                                    Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2019


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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:

Quickly Understanding Mark


(Volume 1:  Chapters 4-5)






Chapter Four




                        The Parable of the Sower Presented (4:1-9):  1 Again he began to           teach by the lake.  Such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there while the whole     crowd was on the shore by the lake. He taught them many         things in parables, and in his teaching said to them: 

                “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed,     some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured     it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it did not have much    soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. When         the sun came up it was scorched, and because it did not have   sufficient root, it withered. Other seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up and choked it, and it did not produce        grain. 

                But other seed fell on good soil and produced grain,       sprouting and growing; some yielded thirty times as much, some sixty, and some a hundred times.” And he said, “Whoever has       ears to hear had better listen!”     --New English Translation (for         comparison)



            4:1       And again He began to teach by the sea.  And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea.  “Again” indicates that He had used this method previously:  Mark 2:13 refers to Him teaching in such a location and Mark 3:7ff. to a large number of healings occurring in connection with it.  Using the boat allowed Him to get a little physical distance so that far more people would be able to see His face as He spoke than would be the case if they were in a circle all around Him.  (The distance would also avoid the danger of Him being accidentally crushed by the enthusiastic crowd.)  Even then, crowded the audience would still be, since it was a “multitude” (“very large crowd,” ESV, GW, NASB) that had gathered to hear His words. 


            4:2       Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching.  The chosen teaching tool that day was short stories (= “parables”).  These involved things that either had or might occur in the world around them but which, if one thought about it, could convey a spiritual or moral lesson as well. 

            Sidebar:  The subject of many of Jesus’ parables were things He could see in the distance from the boat:  “From the fishing-boat the eye of the Divine Speaker would rest on (a) patches of undulating corn-fields with the trodden pathway running through them, the rocky ground of the hill-side protruding here and there, the large bushes of thorn growing in the very midst of the waving wheat, the deep loam of the good rich soil which distinguishes the whole of the Plain of Gennesaret descending close to the water’s edge;

            “(b) the mustard-tree, which grows especially on the shores of the Lake;

            (c) the fishermen connected with the great fisheries, which once made the fame of Gennesaret, plying amidst its marvelous shoals of fish, the drag-net or hauling-net (Matthew 13:47-48), the casting-net (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16), the bag-net and basket-net (Luke 5:4-9);

            “(d) the women and children employed in picking out from the wheat the tall green stalks, called . . . the tares of our [English] Version;

            “(e) the countless flocks of birds, aquatic fowls by the lake-side, partridges and pigeons hovering over the rich plain.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)


            4:3       “Listen!  Behold, a sower went out to sow.  Although the sea provided abundant fishing and income to many fishers, there would have been no one unacquainted with the nearby farms either.  They would have known the farmers and their families, heard them talk about their work, and seen them do things like Jesus is about to describe.  A goodly number of the listeners would likely have been such people themselves.


            4:4       And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it.  The sower is not about to intentionally waste his time, effort, and money throwing seed where it would do no good, but some of this was inevitable.  The “wayside”--think a path either through the farmland or on its edge--would be “hard as a rock” and frustrate any effort of the seed to sprout and set down roots.  But usually it didn’t get even that far:  The birds would see the seed and use the hard path as their “dining room table” to get a snack or meal. 

            This failure represents those who refuse to give the gospel any serious consideration at all.  The hard ground is the callous soul and its prejudices making it possible for Satan to remove it from us.  (Verse 15 tells us that Satan is represented by that bird.) 

            Sidebar:  The description of the property clearly implies that this is not some casual garden but a property extending over a good piece of ground.  Likewise the Great Commission’s instruction to the apostles (“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” -- Mark 16:15) carried with it the implication that the entire inhabited world constituted the “ground” where they were to sow the seed of Jesus’ teaching.   


            4:5       Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth.  Some ground would look promising but it would only be a misleading veneer:  Immediately below the surface would be obstacles to setting down roots.  The word of God may be received, initially, with interest, but it has moral and ethical teachings that some will find impossible to embrace for long; too great a permanent change in lifestyle would be required. 


            4:6       But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away.  With no (spiritually) growing root structure to provide nourishment, the intense sunlight (and its heat) would obviously kill it.  The only question would not be “whether” but “how soon?” 


            4:7       And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.  In this case the seed has a competitor for the same space--thorns--and in the contest for room and nourishment they destroy their constructive rival.  In regard to both morality and spiritual development, think in terms of evil habits and attitudes that are so strong that they drive out the instinct for self betterment.  They may like to maintain the public personae of being a Christian without maintaining it within their character as well. 

            For but one example, consider folk who are obsessed with being prosperous:  “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. . .” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).  And that quest chokes the spiritual life out of them.  They may maintain a “respectable” veneer of religiosity, but there is nothing of substance beneath it any more.  There are no good works produced by it.  They are unbelievers merely wearing the outward “robes” of faith out of long usage or self-interest.   


            4:8       But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”  Failure of the seed is not inevitable; that is true of only some.  In contrast, other seed will produce results so large as to deserve both respect and praise.

            Sidebar:  The “hundredfold” obviously is given as an example of extreme abundance and success.  Hence in the case of the patriarch Isaac we read that he “reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him” (Genesis 26:12).


            4:9      And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  In effect:  Think about what I’m saying!  Do that until you understand My point!  Jesus heavily stressed living by the Divine standards of right and wrong, but in this parable He stresses that not everyone will be benefited by that knowledge.  However it won’t be the result of a failure of either Jesus or His doctrine, but of other factors entirely.  If you fail the opportunity given you, then the blame is on your shoulders and not that of God.



                        The Reason for Parables Being Given (4:10-12):  10 When he was    alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the       parables. 11 He said to them, “The secret of the kingdom of God     has been given to you.  But to those outside, everything is in         parables, 12 so that although they look they may look but not see, and although they hear they may hear but not          understand, so they may not repent and be forgiven.”

                        --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:10     But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable.  There is “a time and a place for everything,” it is said--or it certainly feels like it most of the time.  For example, one does not have to be arrogant or conceited to be embarrassed at having to admit in front of others that you don’t understand what has been said and the application intended for it.  Especially when the Lord has just demanded of His listeners:  If you have ears to hear use them and understand (verse 9)!  But that shouldn’t stop you from prying into the subject further as these folk did.  Your lack of understanding today doesn’t have to be your situation tomorrow if you persist in learning more.


            4:11     And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables.  In other words, no matter how much everyone should be able to understand what Jesus has had to say, many will not make the effort; it will all remain at the “pretty story/parable” stage.  Hence they will remain “outside” of the religious movement Jesus is creating.  For those within it are those who have worked out such things in their minds; they will understand the once secret truths (= “mystery”) about God’s kingdom.  It isn’t that the truths are “mysterious”--the interpretive gross we normally put on that term in modern English--but because they are things that previously were hidden from our sight and understanding.

            Sidebar:  The usage of “mystery” to refer to things previously unknown to humankind, but now revealed can be seen in Paul’s references to how his writings presented and explained these mysteries:  “The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but has been revealed to His saintsTo them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles:  which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).  In the same vein also note Ephesians 3:3-4, 8-10, and 1 Timothy 3:16.     


            4:12     so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, / And hearing they may hear and not understand; / Lest they should turn, / And their sins be forgiven them.’   In Isaiah 6:9-10 this is the warning to Isaiah that his contemporaries will refuse to embrace what he has to teach.  Similar stubbornness, similar consequences in Jesus’ day as well:  You rebel at candid direct instruction; then you will remain in ignorance.

            Jesus does this by shifting His teaching style.  If the listener is unable/unwilling to accept the Divine truth being taught, why waste time giving yet more clear teaching that they will also reject?  Why not present stories (parables) that disciples can “chew over” in their minds and meditate upon?  After all even the explicit and direct teaching will be regarded by the outsiders only as “eccentric,” “heretical,” or “absurd.”

            Sidebar:  Although a bit “longish” for the concise type of commentary we are trying to present, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges has some excellent thoughts on this shift in teaching style:  At the beginning of His ministry our Lord did not teach by Parables.  The Sermon on the Mount may be taken as the type of the ‘words of grace’ which He spake ‘not as the Scribes.’  Beatitudes, laws, promises were uttered distinctly, not indeed without similitudes, but with similitudes that explained themselves.   And so He continued for some time. 

            “But His direct teaching was met with scorn, unbelief, and hardness.  From this time forward ‘parables’ entered largely into His recorded teaching, and were at once attractive and penal.  (aAttractive, as ‘instruments of education for those who were children in age or character,’ and offering in a striking form much for the memory to retain, and for the docile and truth-loving to learn; (bPenal, as testing the disposition of those who listened to them; withdrawing the light from such as loved darkness and were willfully blind, and protecting the truth from the mockery of the scoffer; finding out the fit hearers, and leading them, but them only, on to deeper knowledge.”



                        The Parable of the Sower Explained (4:13-20):  13 He said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable?  Then how will you   understand any parable? 14 The sower sows the word. 

                15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown:       Whenever they hear, immediately Satan comes and snatches the    word that was sown in them. 

                16 These are the ones sown on rocky ground: As soon as   they hear the word, they receive it with joy. 17 But they have no

        root in themselves and do not endure. Then, when trouble or    persecution comes because of the word, immediately they fall     away. 

                18 Others are the ones sown among thorns: They are those        who hear the word, 19 but worldly cares, the seductiveness of       wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the        word, and it produces nothing. 20 But these are the ones sown on     good soil: They hear the word and receive it and bear fruit, one         thirty times as much, one sixty, and one a hundred.”

                        --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:13     And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?  How then will you understand all the parables?  It is hard to imagine anything less than at least a mild exasperation in Jesus’ voice:  If you can’t understand this parable, how in the world are you going to understand any of them?  The clear implication is that it really isn’t all that hard to understand, if you are willing to work at it. 


            4:14     The sower sows the word.  The “word” is the message approved and authorized by God and the sowing/sharing of it was what Jesus was doing whenever He went about preaching and teaching:  “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49).  That message was the “seed” which provides us the vital information of how to be born again--introducing us into the new world of true spirituality and full service to the Lord:  “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).


            4:15     And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown.  When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.  The “bird” who does this in verse 4 is transformed into a “vulture” (so to speak)--one who acts this way not because he is in the right place at the right time but out of malice aforethought.  The timing of a literal bird’s arrival might well vary or be accidental, but Satan is on the job “immediately” for that word could destroy his plans for you.  He’s always “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, using the image of a dangerous lion).  

            Of course he would much prefer to snatch away even the opportunity to hear the gospel--using your prejudices and preferences to guide you away from even taking time to listen at all.  (And he operates that way as well.)  From Satan’s perspective, if you refuse the opportunity, you’ve done his work for him. 


            4:16     These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness.  These folk are enthusiastic about what they hear.  They recognize its importance and are filled with joy at the insight and redemption it has brought into their lives.  But they have an Achilles heel, their lack of spiritual depth.  Their passion and joy is unquestioned, but it is all superficial.  And when the rough times come--they always do!--then such depth is essential.  Hence the result is inevitable if circumstances go the right way . . . and sooner or later they will.


            4:17     and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time.  Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.  Their catastrophe may occur because of the difficulties they face:  “tribulation” (“affliction,” NASB; “trouble,” NIV), a term that covers a wider (though vaguer) variety of problems than the second cause listed--overt “persecution.”  With no spiritual depth they solve the problem quite easily and quickly (“immediately,” our text says) by casting overboard their faith and loyalty to the gospel.  Jesus doesn’t quite say that they are lost forever, just that they have catastrophically “stumble[d].”  For many (most?) it will be quite permanent, but their situation is not yet set in concrete.  They still have the option of repentance.  But will they use it? 


            4:18     Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word.  If those converted while on the “stony ground” are blissfully unaware of how little spiritual depth they have, it is surely far different in this case.  Whatever the dangerous “thorns” they are living their life among, it is hard to believe that they are unaware of their presence.  It is that they don’t see any real danger from them and the threat they pose if not firmly rooted out. 


            4:19     and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  There are at least three lines of attack that “thorns  are ready made to exploit to undermine any person’s spiritual foundation.  “The cares of this world” are the worries that so easily overwhelm us.  Too little money chasing too many bills.  Too many health, work, and family problems besieging us at the same time. 

            If that doesn’t create enough of an obstacle, then there is “the deceitfulness of riches:  Money can do so much good for us, it is easy to forget the limits of its benefits.  Obtaining it, keeping it, or “growing” it, can easily gut moral scruples as enthusiasm makes this the only criteria of success.  As Paul warned in 1 Timothy 6:10, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

            “The desires for other things:  Note that both are in the plural.  They can come in a multitude of forms that can vary from one person to another.  Your Achilles heel may not be mine nor vice versa.  But each of us has some passion--and it need not have anything to do with sexuality or overt evil--that is of such great interest to us that it can potentially twist our priorities and take first place . . . destroying our religious zeal, our marriage, and our good relationships with others. 

            In such cases as these the word of God that had blossomed in us withers and “becomes unfruitful” for we, in our delusion, have found something “better.”


            4:20     But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”  In spite of all the negative dangers to faith, there will be many who will spiritually prosper.  Jesus does not want the apostles to feel personally guilty about those who don’t.  He wants them to understand the approach to be taken in interpreting parables and why many promising individuals fall short of embracing the truth--either initially or permanently.  The “flip side” in understanding this particular parable is that everyone stands on their own feet:  It’s not their fault that others don’t do as they should.  Furthermore He does not want them to be so concerned with the failures that they forget the great good that will occur from those who remain faithful and steadfast.



                        Three Short Parables:  (1)  Hidden Light (4:21-25):  21 He also said   to them, “A lamp isn’t brought to be put under a basket or under       a bed, is it? Isn’t it to be placed on a lampstand22 For nothing is hidden except to be revealed, and nothing concealed except to     be brought to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, he had better         listen!” 

                                24 And he said to them, “Take care about what you hear.   The measure you use will be the measure you receive, and more        will be added to you. 25 For whoever has will be given more, but   whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from         him.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:21     Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed?  Is it not to be set on a lampstand?  A lamp has an inherent purpose and no one would think of doing something that would undermine its function.  Hence knowledge and insight that are gained by the “light” are to be used rather than merely cherished for oneself alone.  “True to His uniform teaching that privileges are to be used for the benefit of others, Jesus tells His disciples that if they have more insight than the multitude they must employ it for the common benefit.  These sentences in Mark represent the first special instruction of the disciples.  Two of them, Mark 4:21; Mark 4:24, are found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:15; Matthew 7:2).”  (Expositor’s Greek Testament)


            4:22     For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.  God already had His agenda of what was to be ultimately revealed through the gospel and the entirety of it would ultimately be shared with the human race.  Or as the apostle Peter later wrote, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (1 Peter 1:3).

            And, after it has been learned, it is to be shared with others as well--the apostles setting the example for this.  In fact Jesus’ closing words in the gospel of Matthew stress this obligation:  “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).  


            4:23      If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Just as He had addressed the large crowd earlier in regard to the parable of the sower (verse 9), Jesus repeats the point yet again.  Another affirmation of the principle that if you work at it, you can understand spiritual matters and what Divine revelation has had to say.  It does not have to be or remain a closed book.  That doesn’t mean everything is going to be equally easy or that you won’t have to work at it.  It does mean that if there is thorough commitment it will ultimately be a successful endeavor.


            4:24     Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear.  With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.  “Take heed what you hear:  The words seem odd at first impression but make full sense in light of the events of Jesus’ entire ministry.  There were rival theologies floating around, especially the various variants of Phariseeism.  If they chose to embrace one of these instead of the teachings of Jesus it would be their loss.  They would pass by the very teachings that would save their souls.

            Furthermore, these teachings are not just for them alone:  “with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  The more they share it with others, the greater additional knowledge and understanding of it that will be measured out to them as well.  They are at the beginning of their knowledge journey; they still have much to learn themselves.

            “To you who hear, more will be given”--because they are willing to hear.  God forces knowledge of His will on no man and no woman.  It is all voluntary.  But if you genuinely wish to learn more, you will be given the abundant opportunity to do so.  


            4:25     For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”  Today we would say:  “Use it or lose it.”  If you are desirous of learning more, the opportunity will be given and the sum total of your knowledge and understanding will expand.  However if you recognize that you really are spiritually unlearned but have no real passion to learn more, it won’t be forced on you.  What limited insights you have “will be taken away” by your laziness and self-neglect.  They retreat into the realm of fuzzy memories now half-forgotten--or even entirely so.



                        Three Short Parables:  (2)  Seed Growing Even Though Farmers Don't Understand the Mechanics of How It Is Possible (4:26-29):  26 He also       said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. 27 He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and        the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 By    itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then        the full grain in the head. 29 And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle because the harvest has come.”     --New English             Translation (for comparison)



            4:26     And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  This is the only parable found in Mark alone.  It is again concerning the farmer who sows seed, but where in the parable of the sower the emphasis is on the seed itself, the emphasis here is on the ignorance of the farmer concerning the details of what is happening.


            4:27     and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.  He proceeds about his normal course of business after spreading the seed, sleeping at night and doing whatever he has that is necessary during the daylight.  During this period the seed germinates and grows even though he has not the slightest idea of the mechanics of what is going on.  (Even today when we can know so much of the biological details, the farmer’s mind is still centered on the ultimate result.)  Similarly the teacher of the gospel has little idea of what exactly is going on in the “field” of the listener’s mind but can observe a growing impact over a period of time. . . .  


            4:28     For the earth yields crops by itself:  first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.  The seed matures and grows all on its own, with the farmer able to see it going through its various stages.  He can’t make it grow.  Oh we moderns can be sure it is watered and is as protected as we can.  But we too must wait until the crop has “sprouted” and is fully grown.  At that point our active intervention is necessary as the human crop had reached the point where it is ready to be “harvested” (= converted). . . .


            4:29     But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”  When the grain finally reaches maturity and “ripens,” then--“immediately”--he acts to bring in the harvest.  When the spiritual farmer has seen contact with the gospel grow to the point where it is visibly obvious, then it is time to do his own part by bringing the task to completion and adding the new convert to God’s harvest house of the kingdom (= church). 

            Each person who is involved takes pride in their own contribution to the result, but the ultimate credit for the result still goes to God:  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3).



                        Three Short Parables:  (3)  Seed Producing Something Incredibly Out      of Proportion to Its Source (4:30-32):  30 He also asked, “To what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed that when sown in the         ground, even though it is the smallest of all the seeds in the    ground— 32 when it is sown, it grows up, becomes the greatest of         all garden plants, and grows large branches so that the wild     birds can nest in its shade.”     --New English Translation (for             comparison)



            4:30     Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God?  Or with what parable shall we picture it?  Jesus asks two related rhetorical questions to make His listeners think about what is being said.  He is deliberately using language to involve them intellectually and emotionally:  Note the use of “we” rather than “I.”  They are no longer to be mere listeners.  They are to be “thinking it out” with Him as He presents His illustration.   


            4:31     It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth.  The greatness, splendor, and glory of God’s kingdom is part of clear Old Testament rhetoric (for example, Isaiah 2:1-4; Daniel 2:44) but Jesus is consciously seeking a more humble example to illustrate that same kingdom (verse 30).  He finds it in the lowly mustard seed which is as if nothing when compared to others.  Not physically impressive.  Not large.  Not awesome.  If anything the exact opposite.  Yet . . .


            4:32     but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”  The result is unimaginable if only working from the origin.  In a similar manner, the greatness of the kingdom of God that Jesus is on earth to establish.  A mere nobody from outcast Galilee, its founder.  Common men without a learned reputation or theological training to propagate His message. 

            Yet they turn the religious world upside down and the resulting church/kingdom that Jesus establishes transforms from being a mere regional “sect” in an obscure part of the world . . . into a movement that has entered every arm of the Roman Empire within fifty years of its creation.  A spiritual kingdom with “large branches” that all the varied people of the world “may nest under its shade.”  It couldn’t possibly be done.  But it was. 



                        The Meaning of Parables Explained to the Apostles In Private (4:33-      34):  33 So with many parables like these, he spoke the word to       them, as they were able to hear. 34 He did not speak to them       without a parable. But privately he explained everything to his         own disciples.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:33     And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it.  That day was a day for parables--one following after another; hence the reference to “many such parables.”  The fact that His audience did not “walk out on Him” argues that they stood/sat there while trying to work out the spiritual application that the Lord intended.  If the parables seemed nothing more than their superficial external form, why would they have stayed?  They may not have grasped the full meaning, but they were willing to make the effort.

            “As they were able to hear it” argues that He kept His selection of stories to ones that both spoke to their spiritual needs and yet required no profound depth of spiritual insight:  He kept things at their level of knowledge and wisdom.  Hence a fair number of translations provide a less literal, but conceptually accurate translation:  “as much as they could understand” (CEV, NIV); “according to their ability to understand” (ISV); “according to their capacity for receiving it” (Weymouth).


            4:34     But without a parable He did not speak to them.  And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.  The beginning words of both verses 33 and 34 overlap:  Because He spoke nothing but parables (verse 34), He obviously had to use many of them (verse 33) and if he used all that many it would hardly be surprising if that was the only form of teaching He used that day!

            On this occasion at least, He did not “walk” the broader audience through an explanation of any of the lessons He provided.  But He made sure to do so when He discussed them in private with the apostles.  This assured that their analysis was “moved in the right direction” when doing their own independent thinking about them.  It acquainted them even more with His way of reasoning.  One can even reasonably argue that it better prepared them for listening to His direct, non-parabolic teaching as well. . . . learning to pay attention not just to the mere words but to the “freight” they also carried but which had not been explicitly spelled out.

            Sidebar on the use of the term “parable” in both testaments:  The Greek word thus rendered denotes (aa placing beside, (ba comparing, a comparison.  In Hellenistic Greek it became coextensive with the Hebrew mâshâl = similitude.  (ii) In this sense it is applied

            “(1) In the Old Testament, to—

            (a) The shortest proverbs: as 1 Samuel 10:12, “Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets?”  1 Samuel 24:13, “As saith the proverb of the ancients;” 2 Chronicles 7:20, “I will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.”

            “(b) Dark prophetic utterances: as Numbers 23:7, “And he took up his parable and said;” Ezekiel 20:49, “Ah Lord God!  they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?

            “(c) Enigmatic maxims: as Psalms 78:2, “I will open my mouth in a parable;” Proverbs 1:6, “the words of the wise and their dark sayings.”

            2) In the Gospels, to—
            (a)  Short sayings:  as Luke
4:23, “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself.”

            (b)  A comparison without a narrative:  as Mark 13:28, “Now learn its parable of the fig tree” . . .

            (c) Comparisons with narratives of earthly things with heavenly, as the Parables of our Lord.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Mark 4:2)


                        Jesus Walking on the Sea (4:35-41):  35 On that day, when   evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” 36 So after leaving the crowd, they took         him along, just as he was, in the boat, and other boats were         with him. 

                37 Now a great windstorm developed and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. They     woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” 

                39 So he got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,        “Be quiet! Calm down!” Then the wind stopped, and it was dead      calm. 40 And he said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you     still not have faith?” 41 They were overwhelmed by fear and said    to one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and sea obey         him!”     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:35     On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”  With the day of teaching over, the natural question was what to do next.  Jesus provided the answer by making the decision to depart for the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum, where He was now at or near.


            4:36     Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was.  And other little boats were also with Him.  There were no special preparations for the trip.  He left “as He was,” with nothing extra.  He was not unescorted, however, for the owners of some other small boats were accompanying Him.  The text doesn’t suggest that they were invited, but their presence strongly argues the interest to hear and learn more.  In other words, they had taken the initiative on their own.  Praiseworthy as it was, the evening was going to have its special problems that they could not have anticipated.  (And provide additional witnesses for the strange event that was about to occur.)


            4:37     And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.  The Sea of Galilee could get hit by powerful and unexpected storms that quickly grew worse and this was one of those occasions.  It was one of those sudden and violent squalls to which the Lake of Gennesaret was notoriously exposed, lying as it does 600 feet lower than the [Mediterranean] Sea and surrounded by mountain gorges, which act ‘like gigantic funnels to draw down the cold winds from the mountains.’  These winds are not only violent, but they come down suddenly, and often when the sky is perfectly clear.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

            No matter how sea worthy a vessel might be, if you have a bad enough storm it starts “taking water” and endangers its survival.  Since Jesus’ vessel was in danger, it was inevitable that the other boats (verse 36) were as well.


            4:38     But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.  And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”  Jesus was so exhausted by the day that He was sleeping through the catastrophe in the making and the disciples are horrified that He is doing so.  They are convinced they are on the edge of drowning--and Jesus is doing absolutely nothing about it!  Note that this protest inescapably implies the conviction that He could--barring the ability to work miracles, what else could it possibly be?  They don’t explicitly ask for one but are convinced that He has the power to remove the danger.  


            4:39     Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!”  And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.  Of course the wind and water can’t hear the words, but by what other means than addressing the raw elements can Jesus convey that the peace that is about to be imposed is of His origin?  He speaks and all is calm.  Raw power at work.  Not only does disease heed His intervention, but so does nature.


            4:40     But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful?  How is it that you have no faith?”  Jesus is not particularly annoyed by the bout of foul weather, but He is disturbed by the reaction of His disciples.  Haven’t they seen enough of what He could do to rest confident that He can easily handle anything that might occur?


            4:41     And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”  If the storm had horrified them, its dramatic stopping shocked them even more.  They obviously wanted it to happen because it was clearly life-threatening, yet they were still amazed when Jesus so easily did so.

            They knew He had supernatural power for they had seen it exercised repeatedly.  But this wasn’t against disease and demons, but against “nature.”  They were awed by the healings, of course, but that element of personal hazard and danger was not present.  In contrast with the cures, this was power exercised against the tumultuous Sea that they had sailed hundreds of times.  They had seen it in calm and tumult and yet at the most all it took were a few words of Jesus to stop the entire chaos. 

            Hence they “feared exceedingly” or as others render it “they were overwhelmed by fear” (NET) or “they were terrified” (Holman, NIV).  This was the kind of raw power not even the most powerful earthly monarch could exercise.  And they knew it.  








Chapter Five




                        An Extremely Dangerous Demoniac Healed and How It Leads to the      Destruction of a Herd of Pigs (5:1-13):  1 So they came to the other side    of the lake, to the region of the GerasenesJust as Jesus was      getting out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came from the tombs and met him. He lived among the tombs, and no one       could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For his hands and feet had often been bound with chains and shackles, but he   had torn the chains apart and broken the shackles in pieces. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Each night and every   day among the tombs and in the mountains, he would cry out         and cut himself with stones. 

                When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed   down before him. Then he cried out with a loud voice, “Leave    me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by   God—do not torment me!” (For Jesus had said to him, “Come       out of that man, you unclean spirit!”) 

                Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “My name        is Legion, for we are many.” 10 He begged Jesus repeatedly not to         send them out of the region. 11 There on the hillside, a great herd    of pigs was feeding. 12 And the demonic spirits begged him,      “Send us into the pigs. Let us enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them         permission. So the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs. Then the herd rushed down the steep slope into the lake,     and about two thousand were drowned in the lake.

                         --New English Translation (for comparison)



            5:1       Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes.  An area with a high Gentile population as can be seen in the large herd of swine that is nearby (verse 11).  Jesus had likely left in the desire to rest and meditate for a while away from the large Jewish crowds He had taught the previous day.  No matter how hard a worker one is, there is still the need for “down time” as well.  What He faces immediately, however, is something much different. 


            5:2       And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.  Why the possessed man did not flee we do not know for the inner demon knew full well that Jesus could destroy it (verses 7-10) and that seems the most logical course of action to have taken.  Perhaps the man had enough control to stop at least some of the actions of the demons.  On the other hand the demon may not have realized until too late who he was running toward.  If so he surely had hoped to terrify this newcomer as he already had the locals--what other reaction could they have had to his behavior (verse 4)?  He had been a danger to so many others, who could possibly be a danger to him?

            Sidebar:  These tombs were either natural caves or recesses hewn by art out of the rock, often so large as to be supported with columns, and with cells upon their sides for the reception of the dead. Such places were regarded as unclean because of the dead men’s bones which were there (Numbers 19:11; Numbers 19:16; Matthew 23:27).  Such tombs can still be traced in more than one of the ravines on the eastern side of the Lake.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)      


            5:3       who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains.  The bones in the tombs were counted by Jews as “unclean.”  What better place for an “unclean spirit” to live in than such a place!  True as that is the real reason was surely utilitarian:  Tombs were out of the way, would be avoided by most people at most times, and provided a “roof over the head” for bad weather and cold nights.


            5:4       because he had often been bound with shackles and chains.  And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.  No one was able to provide more for him because he was quite capable of ripping apart any restraints placed on him.  Being able to do that, even those who wished to help him--restrained, of course, for self-protection--probably felt it better for him to be off to himself and not an ongoing nuisance or danger to everyone else. 

            Sidebar on the nature of the “shackles and chains:  These were not necessarily of metal. The two processes of snapping the latter by one convulsive movement and wearing away (not ‘breaking’) the latter by friction, rather suggests the idea of ropes, or cords, as in the case of Samson (Judges 15:13).”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers) 


            5:5       And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.  The isolation was quite acceptable to the demonic; there is no hint that he wanted to be around rational townsmen and women any more than they wanted to have him around.  Beyond this, enough people would have encountered him screaming and inflicting harm upon himself, that they were even more thankful that the poor man did not try to remain in their company.  


            5:6       When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.  Regardless of whether the demonic was in control of the approach, he automatically recognized that this was the one Person his normal fear producing actions would not impress.  Instead of attempting to use those, he bowed down and honored Jesus as his superior.  Cf. James 2:19:  “Even the demons believe--and tremble.”


            5:7       And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”  The demon recognized that he was faced with his nemesis and that he utterly lacked power to stop anything Jesus might do.  The only tool he had were words and those were a plea to not cause him any anguish.

            Sidebar on the language used to describe God:  Thou Son of the most high God:  This is the first occurrence of the name in the New Testament, and is therefore a fit place for a few words as to its history.  As a divine name ‘the Most High God’ belonged to the earliest stage of the patriarchal worship of the one Supreme Deity.  Melchizedek appears as the priest of ‘the Most High God’ (Genesis 14:18).  It is used by Balaam as the prophet of the wider Semitic monotheism (Numbers 24:16), by Moses in the great psalm of Deuteronomy 32:8.  In the Prophets and the Psalms it mingles with the other names of God (Isaiah 14:14; Lamentations 3:35; Daniel 4:17, 4:24, 4:324:38; Daniel 7:18, 7:22, 7:25; Psalms 7:17, Psalms 9:2, Psalms 18:13, Psalms 46:4, and elsewhere). In many of these passages it will be seen that it was used where there was some point of contact in fact or feeling with nations which, though acknowledging one Supreme God, were not of the stock of Abraham.  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)  


            5:8       For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”  “For” connects the order with the demonic protest, as if saying during the very act of ordering the demon out the demon pleaded for his escape from pain and anguish.  The demon got a part of his wish at least:  He was not immediately expelled for Jesus was willing to tolerate for a little his attempt to change his fate.  Perhaps this was because a protest was rarely attempted--demons knew they had the far inferior “hand” to play--or perhaps Jesus wanted to see just how the entity would try to escape what was going to happen next.

            Sidebar:  Note how that though both the demon (verse 7) and Jesus (here in verse 8) speak in the singular as if there were only one, there were actually a very large number within the possessed person (verse 9).   It could be that this is because only one addressed him or was the dominant personality within the possessed.  Perhaps this is also caused because you may speak of preaching to a few or many, you normally speak of talking only in terms of dealing with one specific individual.  This tendency to speak in terms of one individual occurs in several non-demonic miracles as well even though more than one person was actually being helped.  It may strike us as a tad odd, but it clearly made sense to them.   


            5:9       Then He asked him, “What is your name?”  And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”  Since there are many, no individual name would fit (assuming they even have such), but the description “legion” would, making it a fitting collective epithet to describe them by. Why there would be so many, we do not have any way of knowing.  Perhaps one alone was not adequate for the particular kind of afflictions they were imposing; perhaps one or a few were unable--at least usually--to inflict as much damage as if there were a larger number.  For all we know individual strengths might vary drastically from one to another, just as they do among humans. 

            Sidebar:  For comparison, Mary Magdalene had been plagued by “seven demons” (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2).  Jesus speaks of how a demon who left might, under certain circumstances, return with “seven other spirits more wicked than himself” (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 12:24-26).


            5:10     Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.  This was the “turf” they knew and they were terrified of trying to function in any different an environment.  This could mean anything from being uncertain as to their power and ability in a different setting to a stark recognition that they were only permitted to plague the particular area where they currently were.


            5:11     Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains.  The large number of Gentiles meant a major market for pigs that would not exist in those regions where the proportion was drastically smaller.  Hence the presence not just of pigs but “a large herd” is hardly surprising.


            5:12     So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”  Just as there were a large number of demons within the suffering human, there were plenty of swine available to accommodate them--some 2,000 (verse 13).  Furthermore, from Jesus’ Jewish perspective, what more appropriate thing than to expel “unclean spirits” into “unclean animals”?  From their standpoint it would at least avoid their terror of being sent “out of the country” (verse 10).  That it could be self-defeating does not enter their minds as they concentrate on surviving the immediate problem of their expulsion from the human sufferer.  (We learn in Matthew 8 that there are actually two of them, but Mark chooses to focus on only one in particular.) 


            5:13     And at once Jesus gave them permission.  Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.  Jesus promptly gave consent, but the result is clearly not what the demons anticipated:  the large herd reacted violently to the intrusion of the demonic entities into their bodies.  The ground was “steep” and once the panic set in there was no stopping them until they plummeted into the sea to their doom.  Jesus had, indeed, not “sent them out of the country” (verse 10) and He had not “torment[ed]” them (verse 7), but He had granted their own request (!) and used it to doom them.  There is a certain ironic justice in that, isn’t there? 



                        The Reaction to the Demonic Healing (5:14-20):  14 Now the    herdsmen ran off and spread the news in the town and   countryside, and the people went out to see what had         happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed        man sitting there, clothed and in his right mind—the one who    had the “Legion”—and they were afraid. 

                16 Those who had seen what had happened to the demon- possessed man reported it, and they also told about the        pigs. 17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their region. 18 As        he was getting into the boat the man who had been demon-        possessed asked if he could go with him. 

                19 But Jesus did not permit him to do so. Instead, he said         to him, “Go to your home and to your people and tell them what    the Lord has done for you, that he had mercy on you.” 20 So he   went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus         had done for him, and all were amazed.     --New English      Translation (for comparison)



            5:14     So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country.  And they went out to see what it was that had happened.  You emphatically do not hang around after seeing 2,000 of the animals under your care drown in this dramatic a manner.  You promptly--and in a panic--rush word back to the owners if you are mere employees as these likely were.  And if any of the owners were with them, they would “want a shoulder to cry on” and want to share word of the danger that is now facing other pig owners.  The startling news assured that everyone who was able returned with them to the scene of the disaster to learn more about what was going on. 


            5:15     Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind.  And they were afraid.  It may sound callous to be horrified at the cure of a dangerous and mentally unbalanced man--for this was what he was as a result of the demonic infestation--yet there is full logic in it.  For this man to be rational simply couldn’t happen for they had seen too many examples of the inability to “tame” the unstable soul.  Just like losing 2,000 pigs in a mass panic into the sea was just about as unthinkable.  But both had clearly occurred.  And it would be extremely hard for the astonishment to be manifested in anything short of a dread over what might happen next.  Jesus was a potential danger to every other pig farmer around.  Why this Jew might even demand they give up their idols!     


            5:16     And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine.  Different parts of the story they would hear from the various witnesses and it all fit together into one awesome whole.  But there was also a potential threat beneath all the news.  Jesus hadn’t threatened to use His obvious vast power to do further monetary harm, but they were raising animals considered “unclean” by the Jews.  They were--most of them at least--surely outsiders, Gentiles.  How in the world do you treat a man with the kind of power that Jesus clearly had?  The obvious solution was to let someone else figure out the answer.  So. . . .


            5:17     Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.  Not just from the physical location where they were standing and talking but from the entire area anywhere close to it.  Jesus saw no problem in this.  Even if He had wished to teach them more, their fears and the economic harm some of them had just suffered created a frame of mind that made it far better to pass by the opportunity.


            5:18     And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him.  The healed demoniac was morally indebted to Jesus and that alone would have made him want to continue with Him.  He was newly cured and may well have feared that without Jesus’ presence that the old infliction would plague him yet again.  This was not irrational and it was not selfish; it was prudence.  Yet that still did not guarantee that it was a good idea.


            5:19     However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”  Heal Him, Jesus was happy to do.  Permit him to stay with him--another matter entirely.  Taking it from the negative standpoint, he was almost certainly a Gentile in light of the mission given him and how he applied it in the next verse.  To have a permanent traveling companion who was such would open up needless repeated arguments that would take precious time from His primary teaching goals.  From a positive standpoint, this man could do something that was unique and no one else could do as well--share with family and friends what Jesus had done for him.  That would plant the seeds in the region for conversions after Jesus died and was resurrected and the apostles started spreading the word near and far.   


            5:20     And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.  The Decapolis were ten Greek/Roman cities planted and developed to the east and south of Galilee for the purpose of planting Greco-Roman culture in the region.  They were designed, in effect, to provide Gentiles a kind of cultural “counter-balance” to the dominant Jewish environment.  The healed demoniac was “sowing the seed of faith” by passing around word of the astounding power of this Jewish teacher . . . preparing minds to be receptive when they later heard additional facts about both His teaching and His resurrection.

            Sidebar on the location and identity of the cities in the Decapolis:  When the Romans conquered Syria, B.C.  65, they rebuilt, partially colonized, and endowed with peculiar privileges ‘ten cities,’ the country which was called Decapolis.  All of them lay, with the exception of Scythopolis, East of the Jordan, and to the East and South-East of the Sea of Galilee.  They were (but there is some variation in the lists), 1) Scythopolis, 2) Hippos, 3) Gadara, 4) Pella, 5) Philadelphia, 6) Gerasa, 7) Dion, 8) Canatha, 9) Abila, 10) Capitolias.  The name only occurs three times in the Scriptures, (a) here; (b) Matthew 4:25, and (c) Mark 7:31; but it seems to have been also employed to denote a large district extending along both sides of the Jordan.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)    



                        Immediately in Succession:  First a Woman With a Severe, Ongoing        Health Problem Is Supernaturally Cured . . .  (5:21-34):  21 When Jesus    had crossed again in a boat to the other side, a large crowd      gathered around him, and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the         synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came up, and when he saw     Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He asked him urgently, “My little         daughter is near death. Come and lay your hands on her so that   she may be healed and live.” 24 Jesus went with him, and a large         crowd followed and pressed around him.

                25 Now a woman was there who had been suffering from a         hemorrhage for twelve years. 26 She had endured a great deal     under the care of many doctors and had spent all that she had.   Yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. 27 When she heard        about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched         his cloak, 28 for she kept saying, “If only I touch his clothes, I will   be healed.” 

                29 At once the bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Jesus knew at once that       power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd     and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 

                31 His disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing   against you and you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 But he looked        around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, with fear and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell         down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her,        “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be   healed of your disease.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            5:21     Now when Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea.  This was just as had occurred the day before, large numbers wanting to hear His message (4:1).  They had not fully dispersed for Luke 8:40 tells us that “they were all waiting for Him,” arguing that they were confident that He would return to the same community even if there were a temporary delay.  However the initial crowd was probably modest for we read that they “gathered to Him,” i.e., they weren’t already assembled in a large group.  Doubtless, as word quickly spread, the numbers blossomed as people learned that He was back on their side of the Sea.  If He wasn’t present, they had other daily business to handle; if He was present, He was their business for the day.

            Sidebar on the role that this location (Capernaum) played in Jesus’ life:  Jesus now crosses over the sea again, and apparently in the same boat, to the other side, the opposite shore, near to Capernaum.  St. Matthew (Matthew 4:13) distinctly tells us that he had left Nazareth, and was now dwelling at Capernaum, thus fulfilling the ancient prophecy with regard to Zebulun and Nephthalim.  The circumstances under which he quitted Nazareth are given by St. Luke (Luke 4:16-31).  St. Matthew (Matthew 9:1) calls Capernaum His own city.  Thus as Christ ennobled Bethlehem by His birth, Nazareth by His education, and Jerusalem by His death, so he honored Capernaum by making it His ordinary residence, and the focus, so to speak, of His preaching and miracles.”  (Pulpit Commentary)


            5:22     And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet.  A synagogue had a variety of leaders and the name of one was Jairus.  (Note the plural “rulers” in the verse.)  His prostration at the feet was not only a sign of humility before someone who had no rabbinic standing and was intensely controversial, it was also evidence that personal pride and office holding was never going to stop him from utilizing whatever resources that might assist his family.  For them, he would fully lay aside any pride and arrogance for Jesus’ record of healings demonstrated that the power of God was working through Him.  Hence. . . .


            5:23     and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death.  Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.”  Some problems “cure themselves” through the passage of time.  Some times doctors and traditional medicines will help.  In yet other cases, the problem so to speak, “ferments” and the patient gets ever worse.  His very young daughter was in this category. 

            We don’t know why he waited this late.  Reluctance to consult some controversial figure like Jesus since it might damage his own standing?  Overconfidence in the advice and help of others who had previously been reliable medical guides?  Regardless of the reason, circumstances had left him with no other option that offered a path away from death.  He was now willing not only to “beg” but to do so passionately (“earnestly”).  And Jesus--who quoted Old Testament scripture on how God said “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13)--was quite willing to extend the mercy that Jairus could gain from no human source.


            5:24     So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him.  If they wanted to learn more from Jesus they had no choice but to do this:  Whatever further teaching was going to be done, it was going to be where He was.  At least some of them would have heard the request of Jairus and that would have provided a second reason to follow as well--to see what Jesus did about the crisis.  But before anything could be done at his home, there was someone else in the crowd also in need of assistance because of a very unpleasant and long term, unending medical condition. . . .


            5:25     Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years.  In effect, a never ending menstrual period, whatever may have been its cause.  This made her ceremonially unclean, as were her bed and her clothes for whatever period the problem continued (Leviticus 15:25-30).  Exclusion from the tabernacle (and its first century equivalent the temple) was obligatory (verse 31).  Sexual relationships with the spouse made him unclean as well (verse 33), thereby further complicating family life.  As a short term matter, this was embarrassing; as a long-term one “humiliation” would surely be the emotion being felt. 

            Sidebar:  A male could also be ceremonially unclean due to reproduction related matters.  The emission of semen would do so:  Leviticus 15:16-18, 33.  They also conveyed that same status to anyone by touching them (Leviticus 22:4).


            5:26     and had suffered many things from many physicians.  She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse.  She sought one treatment after another, going from one doctor to another in what turned out to be a futile endeavor to find someone who could help.  If that were not bad enough, her condition continued to degenerate in spite of spending every penny she had in her futile search for escape.


            5:27     When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment.  28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” Hearing the reports of Jesus’ cures, she would have been less than human if she did not take advantage of this opportunity.  Embarrassed to ask Him, she was willing to gamble that the mere touch of His garments would make her well for she knew He had the power to do so (verse 34).  The size of the crowd allowed her to do this with no danger of it getting attention:  they “thronged Him” (verse 24):  “pressed around Him” (NIV); “pressing in on Him” (NASB). 


            5:29     Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.  In other words, she was actively suffering from the problem at the very moment she touched Jesus and, as she did so, the symptoms totally vanished.  By the nature of her problem she couldn’t “see” it like the leper could see that his skin contagion had vanished, but she knew by decade-plus experience how it felt internally and now all that was gone--permanently.


            5:30     And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”  Jesus recognized that healing power had flowed out of Him and He wants to speak with the one who had been benefited.  He doesn’t invoke His supernatural powers to identify who it was; rather He calls on the person to present herself.  There were only two people present who understood why the question was asked.  To everyone else it seemed a tad irrational, even to the apostles. . . .


            5:31     But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’   They knew it wasn’t any of themselves (as Luke 8:45 notes) so it had to be someone in the crowd.  But the crowd was so large (a virtual “multitude”), how in the world could anyone know who that specific person had been?  It seemed, inherently, an unanswerable question.  But not to Jesus. . . .


            5:32     And He looked around to see her who had done this thing.  He searched out who it might be that had touched His clothes and, having been healed, the woman recognizes that there is no way someone who had been so powerfully blessed could keep her silence. . . .


            5:33     But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.  The “fearing and trembling” could come from embarrassment at having to make publicly known the affliction she kept to herself as much as possible.  Since she had not openly asked Jesus for help, perhaps she feared His rebuke or even a withdrawal of the blessing.  Then there was the fact that touching a woman with this kind of condition also made one ceremonially unclean and this reality might draw out Jesus’ anger. 

            (Although Leviticus 15:19 can easily be read in this manner, the legalistic nit-picker’s case arguably did not match what the text warned of:  “Whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.”  Jesus did not touch her; she touched Him.  Furthermore it was the garment and not the person who was touched.  Hence if any foe of Jesus wanted to argue the case they would be faced with the situation:  “Live by the technicality; die by the technicality.)    


            5:34     And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”  The healing was made possible through her faith and these words convey a vivid picture of just how thorough-going and pervasive it must have been.  Faith not just to be cured, but after more than a decade of the same suffering!  Hence Jesus bore her no ill will for the very “unorthodox” action but wished the best for her:  she would “go in peace” without any resentment on His part and she would remain “healed of your affliction.”  She got both what she wished and desperately needed that day.



                        Immediately in Succession:  . . .  Then A Dead Child Is Restored to         Life (5:35-43):  35 While he was still speaking, people came from the   synagogue ruler’s house saying, “Your daughter has died. Why       trouble the teacher any longer?” 36 But Jesus, paying no attention   to what was said, told the synagogue ruler, “Do not be afraid; just believe.” 37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter,        James, and John, the brother of James. 

                38 They came to the house of the synagogue ruler where he       saw noisy confusion and people weeping and wailing      loudly. 39 When he entered he said to them, “Why are you      distressed and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 And         they began making fun of him.

                But he put them all outside and he took the child’s father         and mother and his own companions and went into the room     where the child was. 41 Then, gently taking the child by the hand,       he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to     you, get up.” 

                42 The girl got up at once and began to walk around (she   was twelve years old). They were completely astonished at       this. 43 He strictly ordered that no one should know about this,       and told them to give her something to eat.     --New English             Translation (for comparison)



            5:35     While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue's house who said, “Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble the Teacher any further?”  Word of the death was promptly hurried off to the father so that he could be alerted as quickly as possible.  Normally he would have been right there on the premises with them, but since Jesus provided the only possibility of assistance, he had rushed off in the hope of securing it.  

            Normally a man of this status--“the ruler of the synagogue”--would have delegated the task of asking or requesting to subordinates.  That’s what one had servants for in the first place.  But even in that context, there were things that could properly be done only by the head of the house.  Telling Jesus to come wasn’t likely to gain a positive reaction from someone so skeptical of most of the current religious leaders; asking Him--truth be told, begging Him (verse 23)--might well be different.  At this point he had nothing to lose.  And criticism from other religious “authorities” would be nothing more than “water off a duck’s back”--totally irrelevant and contemptible.  To now hear the latest news from his household must have been horrifying--it was all too late. 


            5:36     As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”  Jairus needed a two-fold piece of advice.  The first was not to give into despair or terror--“Do not be afraid.”  The situation was not irrevocable; it was not beyond being salvaged.  The second was to continue to “believe.”  If Jesus could have healed the child ten minutes ago, He was just as capable of doing so now.  (In the gospel of John we read of Lazarus being raised from the dead not after minutes or hours but after three days.)  Jesus’ power to act was not limited or restricted in any manner.


            5:37     And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James.  Why three and just these particular three?  A private home only had so much room and it would be crowded with mourners (verses 38-39) and both of these factors likely played a role in the decision.  Another one would be that Jesus had seen in these three special qualities of potential leadership and He wanted to go out of the way to give them special opportunities to be close to Him at certain extraordinary times.  (We read of two other examples:  their being closest to Him of any of the apostles in Gethsemane [Mark 14:32-35] and their being the only three apostles to be with Him at all during His Transfiguration [Mark 9:2-8].) 


            5:38     Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly.  In the ancient world genuine mourners were normally supplemented by hired ones.  The Talmud argues that even a poor Jew should find the funds for two flute-players to play dirges and one “professional” mourner:  These would display sorrow both loudly and passionately as if the dead were their own kin--even if they knew nothing about the deceased beyond the name!

            Jesus rebuked those who thought prayer was made more powerful by repetition:  “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.  For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7).  Yet when it came to mourning, volume again was often substituted for sincerity. 

            In all fairness, however, for many a good part of this grew out of the genuine desire to show just how deeply they were hurting.  This was demonstrated not merely by what they themselves were doing but by what they had others do on their behalf.  They felt that they alone were unable to reflect the full depth and intensity of their own sorrow.  (Or, at least, what they should feel.)  Hence the willingness to hire others to join in the bereavement. 


            5:39     When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep?  The child is not dead, but sleeping.”  All this noise and all these tears might or might not be appropriate in a different context, but in this one it was blatantly inappropriate:  The child was not yet dead.  This, they thought, was utterly ridiculous. . . .


            5:40     And they ridiculed Him.  But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying.  What needed to be done next was best done in peace and quiet.  So the mourners were pushed outside--“pushed” perhaps literally, depending upon how stubborn they were.  Then the parents who were the ones directly involved went into her room along with three of the apostles.  Five witnesses to what Jesus did and two of them were those most personally acquainted with what the child had gone through.  There was no room for fakery in any sense.


            5:41     Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”  The words are Aramaic, the common spoken tongue in the region.  Perhaps they are preserved in the original language because the kindness, gentleness, and affection with which they were spoken so deeply impressed the minds of those who were there.  Just as He commanded the dead Lazarus to “come forth” from his tomb (John 11:43), so he commanded this child to “arise”--both from death and from her sick bed.

            Sidebar:  Note the contrast with the vigorous actions involved in raising a child by both Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:18-25, 32-37).


            5:42     Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age.  And they were overcome with great amazement.  Promptly the girl did exactly what she had been told and was so steady on her feet that she could even walk around.  After all the trauma she had been through, if this were mere coincidence she would almost certainly have collapsed on the floor--as you and I would in the weakness of “sickness” breaking . . . if we dare try to get out of bed at all. 


            5:43     But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.  She had been through immense agony and pain.  Hunger is the inevitable side effect of such and if--out of misplaced stubbornness and pride--we refuse to recognize our bodies need nourishment we are going to suffer a physical backlash from it.  In the excitement of the moment neither she nor the family might think of that, but a kindly Jesus makes sure the matter is taken care of.

            In one sense the command to the parents that “strictly no one should know” of the healing sounds absurd.  As the mourners left and as friends saw the child again, word would quickly spread.  But Jairus’ own position as synagogue leader might be compromised if the miracle were immediately publicized and Jesus had no desire for undue harm to come upon a parent who loved his child so much.  The Lord’s enemies would not view this as a glorious manifestation of God’s grace, but as a gratuitous insult since it would build up the reputation of this “notorious heretic.”