The Gospel according to Mark

Chapter 5

5:1 We imagine Mark asking. "You have mentioned possession by evil spirits. Can you describe your most memorable experience of this.?" So Peter described an occasion across the lake in the district of the Gerasenes . Matthew gives the precise location by the city of Gadara (Matthew 8:28, where the KJV used a manuscript which has Gergasene) which was situated on the lake of Galilee.

5:2 Peter told the story from the point of view of the man who wanted to leave the area and accompany Jesus (5:20). He seems to have been known among Christians as the one who evangelized the Decapolis (ten cities to the east of the Jordan). But when Matthew used Mark's account (see Introduction), he remembered that there were two fierce possessed men in the area (Matthew 8:28).

5:3-5 Peter then described what the people of Gadara told him at the time about the life of this man before his conversion. Those who have experience of demon possession often report the superhuman strength of the possessed.

5:6-8 It seems that the man ran up and prostrated himself. Jesus immediately recognized that this was not genuine worship and ordered the evil spirit to leave the man (5:8). It was then the spirit recognized Jesus as the Son of God (see 1:1, 11, 24, 3:11) and demanded to be left alone.

5:9 When confronted with what might be demon possession those who are experienced in exorcism say that it is important to address the spirit and ask its name. In this case the answer given indicated multiple possession.

5:10 Peter reported to Mark that when the possessed man was freed from their power the legion of evil spirits pleaded not to be sent "out of the country." This may be connected with Matthew's report of one of Jesus' sayings (logia) that "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none" (Matthew 12:43, Luke 11:24).

5:11-12 Most people find the idea of a herd of pigs being possessed by evil spirits totally beyond their comprehension. To approach such a phenomenon we could begin with the close rapport that can exist between humans and animals. This is certainly the case between pets and their owners. Jesus was able to ride an unbroken donkey colt through a noisy crowd into Jerusalem (Mark 11:2-10). And Paul wrote that "the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). The opposite is also true. Rottweiler dogs owned by loving people are gentle pets, but when possessed by angry vicious owners they are very dangerous.

5:13 In Peter's account we are not told why Jesus gave the evil spirits permission to possess the herd of pigs. Perhaps the alternative was that the spirits would have been released to possess other people in the area (see note on 5:10). Demonic possession usually works with one person for the demon to control, but when these spirits possessed the pigs their herd instinct took over and drove them (like lemmings) madly into the sea.

5:14-15 "What did the owners think about the drowning of their 2,000 pigs?" They went and reported their loss in the town of Gadara, and people came to see what had happened. To their astonishment the man they had known as violently vicious was now sitting there composed and obviously healthy.

5:15-17 But the business interests of the city did not appreciate what Jesus had done, and they asked him to leave.

5:18-20 When the man wanted to join Jesus' group of disciples Jesus sent him back to his neighbors to tell them about the astonishing change in his life. This made a huge impression on the people of the whole area of the Decapolis.

5:21-23 The reference to the synagogue may suggest this was the synagogue Jesus attended in Capernaum (Mark 1:21). The fact that this important religious leader fell at Jesus' feet indicates how desperate he was to have his little daughter healed.

5:24-28 On the way there was a woman who had suffered from internal bleeding for twelve years. When Dr. Luke used this passage from Mark we can guess why he omitted the fact that she had spent all that she had on numerous physicians, and only got worse. But he agrees that she came behind Jesus in the crowd, and it was touching his garment that resulted in her healing (Luke 8:43-44). This woman was not only physically ill, but according to Jewish law was ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 15:19) and by touching him made him unclean. Hence the secretive way in which she touched him. Peter seems to have noticed the strange coincidence that Jairus' daughter was twelve years old, and the woman in the crowd had suffered from internal bleeding during the same twelve years (5:25, 42).

5:29-31 Peter noted the fact that she immediately sensed she was healed, and Jesus felt that spiritual power had been drained from him to heal her. When Dr. Luke commented in his gospel on Mark's account of what Peter had reported, he accepted the fact that Jesus's healing power was involved and Jesus himself knew when his power moved into her body (Luke 8:45-46). That is strong confirmation of the fact of spiritual healing from a Doctor, and he himself reported cases he had personally witnessed in Paul's ministry (Acts 16:18, 28:8-9). Luke also noted that Jesus did not know who had been healed (Luke 8:46). But Peter remembered that when Jesus asked who had touched him, and drawn on his power in this way, he and the other disciples thought this was an unreasonable question in view of those crowding in on him.

5:32-34 Jesus was still looking around wondering who this could be. But the woman in great fear came forward and admitted what she had done. Jesus told her it was her faith that had resulted in her healing. The importance of faith is often stressed, but in the ministry of healing we prefer to call what is happening Spiritual Healing because it is the power of the Spirit in the life of Jesus that is released and effects the healing. This power of the Spirit to heal is stressed by Luke (Luke 4:14, 18, 5:17, 6:19). The final step in healing is also important. Jesus told her to go in peace knowing that she was healed.

5:35-36 Here again Dr. Luke has no difficulty accepting and using Peter's report in Mark's Gospel that the girl was already dead (Luke 8:49). Cases of individuals being raised from the dead are reported from many pioneer missionary areas. In this case Jesus said "the child is not dead but sleeping" (5:39, Luke 8:52). Paul similarly used sleep as a metaphor for death (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 15 where the Greek is "fallen asleep"). I personally witnessed one boy I knew very well being raised after I heard a gathering of six doctors at the Hotel Dieu Hospital pronouncing him clinically dead from Leukemia. After they had left, I heard the Chaplain Bob Gorham, decided to have a communion service with the parents (one of them a physician in this city) and the dead boy called out for juice and recovered.

5:37 Peter remembered that Jesus took him and the two other members of his inner circle (see note on 3:16-17, 9:2, 14:33) to see the dead child.

5:38-40 The house was filled with the commotion of weeping and wailing which is still part of a Middle Eastern wake. And Jesus was mocked for saying "the child is not dead but sleeping" (see note on 5:35-36). He told them all to leave the room and went in with the child's parents and the three who had come with him (see 5:37).

5:41-42 Peter vividly described the tender way in which Jesus took the dead girl by the hand and spoke to her in her mother tongue (Aramaic). We can imagine the astonishment of the mourners and family who had seen the little girl failing steadily (5:23) and then died, and now they saw her immediately able to begin walking around.

5:43 The Greek text says "He commanded them several times"not to announce this. This is another principle of the ministry of spiritual healing that we should not announce a healing as a great miracle. Let people take time to observe and come to their own conclusions. Meanwhile it is important to continue with normal life and proper food and drink.

Chapter 6