Mark 5 – Jesus Christ, Reluctant Superstar

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Today’s PassageMark 5

Today’s chapter could easily be the subject of two entries, as it comprises two events: an exorcism in the wilderness of Gerasa, and a resurrection at the synagogue official Jairus’ house. We could spend two days on them, one after the other as we have with other chapters, but I’m inclined to take them both in a single post, straddling the two and hoping I don’t lose my footing.

First off, Jesus’ travels take him to the region east of the Sea of Galilee, where he encounters the Gerasene demoniac. Or the Gergesene demoniac. Or the Gadarene demoniacs. Different manuscript copies of the synoptic gospels have different names for the region where the man resides, and Matthew reports that there are two demon-possessed men. Prima facie, these may seem like discrepancies between the accounts, but the accounts are easily harmonized with a few considerations. Gerasa and Gedara are two proximal cities which the gospel writers used to identify the region, and Matthew simply exhibits more specificity concerning how many demon-possessed men were there. Let’s thank Apologetics Press and Got Questions Ministries for their handy explanations, save our skepticism for the less easily-resolved passages, and move along.

On this reading, I’m struck by the scariness of the demon-possessed man who takes center stage in Mark’s gospel. He’s been living among the tombs, breaking every shackle or chain that anyone tries to restrain him with, and he shrieks and lacerates himself with rocks at all hours of the night. In many ways, lonely and self-harming, he’s the picture of a person suffering from severe mental illness, but then there’s the uncanny chain-shattering strength and the cry of “My name is Legion; for we are many” (9). If I knew this man personally, I’d feel sorry for him, but I wouldn’t go near him for fear of my personal safety. It takes a stronger and more compassionate man to even approach him, much less solve his problems. But that’s what Jesus does.

Following both this exorcism and the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus continues to have trouble keeping his miracles quiet. He tells the healed demoniac, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you” (19), perhaps hoping that the man will attribute his newfound wholeness of mind to the Lord his God, and the region’s citizens will credit God for the miracle. But the demoniac credits the Lord, all right: the Lord Jesus. Word spreads throughout the Decapolis to the southeast, which is perhaps why Jesus goes back to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

And there he encounters Jairus, whose daughter ends up dying while Jesus is en route to the house to heal her, so that Jesus ends up having to raise her from the dead. After the incident, perhaps having seen that subtly trying to dissociate his name from the miracle doesn’t work, he gives the witnesses explicit instructions to keep it quiet: “He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this” (43). And this time, he’s exhibited the foresight to limit the witnesses to the synagogue official, his wife, Peter, James, and John. Surely neither his disciples nor the grateful couple with the resurrected daughter would fail to respect his orders?

It would seem Jesus has covered all his bases, and you might think he’d pulled off a stealth resurrection. But as Matthew informs us: nope. It doesn’t work.

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