Reading the Gospels: Mark, Chapters 5-8

Chapter 5 of Mark begins with Jesus and crew arriving in Gadarenes, on the other side of the sea. Right away, a man who lived in the tombs came out and met them. This man was possessed, and chains could no longer bind him. Day and night he howled from the tombs and cut himself with stones.

Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man, and asks him his name. He replies:

“My name is legion, for we are many.”

The demons then beg to be sent into a large herd of pigs grazing on the mountainside. Jesus complies, the demons enter into the pigs, and then the whole lot (about 2,000) plunge down a steep bank into the sea and drown. The man is so grateful, he asks to join the entourage. Jesus says no:

“Go to your house, to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.”

In some cases, Jesus tells people to keep His amazing feats to themselves, and in others asks that people spread the word. Why do you think he gives conflicting commands?

Anyway, the formerly possessed man does as he is told, and when Jesus crosses back over the sea,  a huge crowd is waiting for Him. One of the crowd is Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, has a daughter near death and begs Jesus to heal her. Jesus goes with the man and a throng follows. In the throng is a woman “who had an issue of blood for 12 years.” She touches His clothes thinking it will make her well. It does. Jesus, sensing some of his power had left him turns:

“Who touched my clothes?”

The disciples, feeling the mass of humanity pressing upon them, are incredulous at the question, but the woman, trembling, comes and falls down before Jesus and tells Him the truth. He tells her that her faith has made her well and to go in peace.

Some people come from the synagogue and tell Jairus that his daughter is dead. Jesus tells the stricken father:

“Don’t be afraid, only believe.”

He comes to the house where the girl lays, throws everybody out, except Jairus, his wife and a handful of disciples, and takes the girl by the hand. He commands:

“Talitha cumi!” [Girl, I tell you, get up!]

The 12-year-old girl immediately gets up and walks. Jesus orders everyone to keep quiet about what they have just seen.

Chapter 6

Jesus comes into his own country, and begins teaching in the synagogue. People who know Him are astonished, wondering where he got all this knowledge. They’re offended, thinking Jesus got a little too big for His britches. Jesus answers:

“A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.”

He does a little healing and marvels at the unbelief of those around Him. He calls the disciples, gives them authority to drive out unclean spirits, and sends them out two by two. He tells them to bring only a staff, no bread, no wallet, no money.

The disciples do as they are told, cast out many demons and heal the sick. King Herod hears about it and thinks it is John the Baptist, risen from the dead. We hear the backstory of how John was beheaded (the daughter of Herodias dances well at a birthday celebration and Herod tells her he will give her whatever she wants. She asks her mother what she should wish for and the mother answers “the head of John the Baptizer.”)

Jesus and the disciples then depart to a deserted place. Many people follow and Jesus feels compassion for them as they are sheep without a shepherd. So He teaches them. Late in the day, everyone is hungry. Jesus feeds 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish…with 12 baskets of left-overs.

After dinner, He sends the disciples into the boat to go to the other side, while He heads up into the mountains to pray. In the middle of the night, He sees them rowing with great difficulty into the wind, so He walks out to them on the sea. The disciples, of course, think it’s a ghost, but He calms them down, gets into the boat, and the wind immediately ceases.

Chapter 7

The Pharisees and some scribes see the disciples eating bread with unwashed hands (the tradition of the elders was that all Pharisees and Jews must wash their hands and forearms before eating). Jesus answers their incredulity with:

“…you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men–the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things…Hear me, all of you, and understand. There is nothing from outside of the man, that going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man.”

Jesus then leaves and heads into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. He wants to go undiscovered, but a woman recognizes Him and begs Him to purge the unclean spirit from her little daughter. He does.

He next goes to the sea of Galilee where a deaf and dumb man is brought to Him. Jesus and the man separate from the crowd. Jesus puts His fingers in the man’s ears and touches his tongue and commands both to be opened. Instantly the man can hear and speak. Jesus warns the crowd not to speak of what they have seen.

Chapter 8

Jesus preaches to a huge crowd for three days and He wants to feed them. With seven loaves and a few small fish, He feeds 4,000 people.

After restoring the sight of a blind man, He asks the disciples:

“Who do men say that I am?”

They say that some think He is John the Baptizer and others say Elijah. Jesus asks them who they think He is. Peter answers, “You are the Christ.” Jesus tells them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be killed, and then rise three days later. Peter gets mad and rebukes Jesus, who says to him:

“Get behind me, Satan! For you have in mind not the things of God, but the things of men.”

He then tells all the disciples:

“Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for my sake and the sake of the Good News will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?

Next week: Mark, Chapters 9-12

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