What kind of people does Jesus spend time with? It’s the troubled, the sick and the heart broken. In this chapter we see him restore a town’s biggest outcast, heal a woman who had been sick for years with a touch and raise a young girl from the dead.
Jesus Sends Demons into a Herd of Pigs / 5:1-20
Though we may emphasize the love for the world that God expressed through Christ, we sometimes fail to apply it to individual people. That Jesus permitted the demons to enter the large herd of pigs strikes us as odd, and we might be surprised by Jesus’ disregard for personal property. Jesus’ action, however, demonstrated the value of the man possessed by the demons. The demons, not Jesus, incited the pigs in their suicidal stampede.
By any standard, the value Jesus places on each one of us cannot be measured. He did not hesitate to present his own life in exchange for our salvation. The story about the herd of pigs dramatically contrasts the purposes of God and the purposes of Satan for people. To Jesus, the crazed man was worth saving. To Satan, he was a soul targeted for destruction. Upon entering the pigs, the demons immediately revealed their destructive intent. They accomplished in the pigs what they had been doing in the man.
5:1 The land of the Gerasenes was located southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The precise location is uncertain because this area is sometimes written as “Gerasenes,” “Gergesenes,” or “Gadarenes” in various manuscripts. However, some scholars cite evidence that favors “country of the Gerasenes,” probably referring to a small town called Gersa (modern-day Kersa or Kours). Others prefer “Gadarenes,” citing the town of Gadara, one of the most important cities of the region. Gadara was a member of the Ten Towns (see 5:20). These ten cities with independent governments were largely inhabited by Gentiles, which would explain the herd of pigs (5:11). The Jews did not raise pigs because, according to Jewish law, pigs were unclean and thus unfit to eat.
Whatever the exact location of their landing, the point is that Jesus had planned to go there. This was Gentile territory, revealing a new direction for his ministry.
5:2 It is difficult to picture the awful sight of this man, with an evil spirit, bloody (5:5), out of control, and apparently strong and frightening (5:4). Having an “evil” or unclean spirit means being demon possessed. Although we cannot be sure why demon possession occurs, we know that evil spirits can use the human body to distort and destroy a person’s relationship with God. These evil spirits (5:9) had entered the man’s body and were controlling him.
5:3-4 This demon-possessed man’s condition was clearly hopeless without Christ. He no longer had contact with society, but lived among the tombs. This could refer to a type of graveyard with caves hewn into the rock. People with hopeless conditions, such as this man, could find shelter in the caves. People had tried to restrain his violent acts. The man had been put into chains and shackles. But he snapped the chains and smashed the shackles, indicating power not his own, but derived from the demons that held him. This man was so strong that no one could control (or overpower) him.
5:5 His screaming was more of a shriek—the voices of the demons (see also 1:26). The hitting of his skin with sharp stones refers to gashing and hacking at his body, leaving him bloody and covered with scars. These horrible actions occurred constantly. He was indeed a frightening creature.
5:6 The man did not run to escape Jesus, but ran to confront Jesus and scare him away as he would do to anyone else who ventured into his territory. When he came close to Jesus, the man fell on his knees, not in worship, but in grudging submission to Jesus’ superior power. The demons immediately recognized Jesus and his authority. They knew who Jesus was and what his great power could do to them (see James 2:19).
5:7 The demon’s first question was a request that Jesus leave them alone, showing the demons’ ultimate rebellion. Jesus and the demons were as far separated as anything could be. Jesus’ purpose was to heal and give life; the demons wanted to kill and destroy. But Jesus would not leave this man in such a condition.
Like the demon who had possessed the man in Capernaum (1:24), this demon tried using Jesus’ divine name to control him. This demon referred to him as Jesus, Son of the Most High God. This is the highest title used for Jesus in Mark’s Gospel and shows that the demons recognized Jesus as God’s divine Son. The words “Most High God” appear in the Old Testament, and often were used by Gentiles when speaking of the superiority of Israel’s God over any idol.
Then the demon had the audacity to ask for Jesus’ mercy so that he would not be tortured in hell! The word for torture is graphic and correct. The Bible says that, at the end of the world, the devil and his demons will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). The question revealed that the demons knew their ultimate fate; they hoped that Jesus would not send them to their fate early.
5:8-9 Jesus’ first command was to one evil spirit. When that one did not obey, Jesus commanded the demon to give him its name. The answer revealed that there were many demons. A legion was the largest unit of the Roman army; it consisted of three thousand to six thousand soldiers.
5:10 The demons knew they had no power over Jesus; so when they saw Jesus, they begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place or into the Bottomless Pit (see Luke 8:31). Why didn’t Jesus just destroy these demons—or send them away? Because the time for such work had not yet come. Jesus healed many people of the destructive effects of demon possession, but he did not yet destroy demons. In this situation, Jesus wanted to show Satan’s destructive power and intent over the two thousand pigs. The same question could be asked today—why doesn’t Jesus stop all the evil in the world? His time for that has not yet come. But it will come. The book of Revelation portrays the future victory of Jesus over Satan, his demons, and all evil.
5:11 According to Old Testament law (Leviticus 11:7), pigs were “unclean” animals. This meant that they could not be eaten or even touched by a Jew. This incident took place southeast of the Sea of Galilee in the region of the Gerasenes (5:1), a Gentile area. A normal herd of pigs would be 150 to 300 head. So this herd was unusually large.
5:12 The evil spirits begged Jesus not to send them away, but to send them into those pigs. The demons knew they had to submit to Jesus’ power and authority, and they knew that he could seal their fate by returning them to the abyss or sending them far away. Notice that they did not ask to be sent into the city; they knew Jesus would not allow them to inhabit other people. But on the hillside were enough physical animal hosts for all these demons to inhabit.
5:13 Jesus did not command the demons to go into the pigs; he gave them permission to do what they requested. Satan has no final authority but can do only what God permits. While Jesus granted the demons’ request to enter the pigs and destroy the herd, Jesus stopped their destructive work in people, and particularly the man they had possessed. Jesus also showed his disciples, the townspeople, and even us who read these words today the absolute goal of Satan and his demons. They desire total and complete destruction of their hosts.
The demons’ action proves their destructive intent—if they could not destroy the men, they would destroy the pigs. Jesus’ action, in contrast to the demons’, shows the value he places on each human life. Some people might have difficulty with the fact that all the pigs died, but Jesus considered the man to be more important than the pigs.
5:14-17 When Jesus performed this miracle, he again gained immediate publicity. The herdsmen, astonished at what had happened, ran and told the amazing story. Their story seemed unbelievable: Two thousand pigs floating on the edge of the lake would certainly be a sight, so those who heard the story rushed out to see for themselves. The crowd saw the pigs in the water, they saw Jesus and the disciples on the shore, and they saw the one who had been demon-possessed in his right mind. Jesus had restored this man’s humanity; he was sane and self-controlled.
The people might have responded in several ways. They could have been overjoyed to see Jesus on their own shore, or they could have responded with joy that the demon-possessed man had been healed. However, Mark used one word for the people’s response: frightened.
What were they afraid of? Perhaps such supernatural power as Jesus had displayed frightened them. Perhaps they thought Jesus would be bad for their economy (losing two thousand pigs in one day certainly cost someone). Perhaps they didn’t want Jesus to change their status quo. In any case, their fear caused them to make a terrible mistake. They asked Jesus to go away and leave them alone. Unlike their own heathen gods, Jesus could not be contained, controlled, or appeased. They feared Jesus’ supernatural power, a power that they had never before witnessed. And they were upset about losing a herd of pigs more than they were glad about the deliverance of the demon-possessed man. Unfortunately for them, Jesus did as they asked. And there is no biblical record that he ever returned. Sometimes the worst possible thing that can happen is for Jesus to answer one of our requests.
5:18-19 Having been freed, the man begged to go with Jesus. The man’s request meant that he wanted to be one of Jesus’ followers, with Jesus as a constant and close companion. But Jesus had other plans for him. As Jesus had done when he healed the leper (1:40-42) and the paralytic (2:11-12), Jesus gave this formerly demon-possessed man his life back. He could go home, something he could not do before. Certainly his family would rejoice to see him returned to sanity. When they would ask him what happened, the man was to tell them about the Lord’s mercy.
Often Jesus asked those he healed to be quiet about the healing (1:43-45; 5:43), but he urged this man to “go and tell” what the Lord had done for him. Why the difference? This man was returning to his home in a Gentile region. Jesus knew the man would be an effective witness to those who remembered his previous condition and could attest to the miraculous healing. Through him, Jesus could expand his ministry into this Gentile area. Jesus would not remain in the region, but he did not leave himself without witness.
5:20 Although the man was healed and able to travel with Jesus, Jesus sent him on a mission. And the man wasted no time. He started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region. Ten cities, each with its own independent government, formed an alliance for protection and for increased trade opportunities. These cities had been settled several centuries earlier by Greek traders and immigrants. Jews were a minority in the area. Many people from the area followed Jesus (Matthew 4:25). This former madman may have been known throughout the region. So when he returned to that same region, his testimony had results—everyone who saw and heard him was amazed.
Jesus Heals a Bleeding Woman and Restores a Girl to Life / 5:21-43
Mark often wove together events in Jesus’ life. On the way to see an ailing child, Jesus met a suffering woman. While he was dealing with her crisis, the message arrived that the sick girl had died. The account rings with lifelikeness. We are familiar with the jumble of urgency, delays, obstacles, and disappointments in life. Mark demonstrates that Jesus knew the same experiences. The conclusion of this episode reintroduces Jesus’ efforts to control his publicity. His compassion motivated him to constant action, but God’s plan required that Jesus resist the pull of growing public acclaim.
5:21 Jesus went back across the Sea of Galilee, probably landing back at Capernaum (4:35). As always, a large crowd gathered (see also 1:33; 2:2; 3:7, 20; 4:1). The contrast with Jesus just having been asked to leave the Gerasene region is unmistakable. Unfortunately, although he was popular with the people in Capernaum, they really were no more receptive to his message.
5:22-24 The synagogue was the local center of worship (see the explanation on 1:21), and Jairus was a lay person elected as one of the leaders. Jairus held a position of high esteem in the town. For him to fall down before Jesus and plead for him to come heal his daughter was a significant and daring act of respect and worship.
We do not know the nature of the young girl’s sickness; apparently nothing had helped her and she would soon die. But Jairus remembered someone who could help—someone whose touch had healed many people in Capernaum (1:33-34). When Jairus heard that Jesus had returned to Capernaum, he was among the crowd on the seashore (5:21). He asked for Jesus’ touch on his daughter, knowing that if Jesus were to come, his daughter would live. So Jesus went with him, with the curious crowd following along.
5:25-26 In the crowd that pressed on Jesus was another person in need of divine help. A woman who had had a hemorrhage (that is, bleeding; this may have been a menstrual or uterine disorder) for twelve years. The bleeding caused the woman to be in a constant condition of ritual uncleanness (see Leviticus 15:25-33). She could not worship in the synagogue, and she could not have normal social relationships, for anyone who came into contact with her would also become unclean. Thus, the woman was treated almost as severely as a leper. She had suffered and become destitute in trying to get a cure. There was no hope for alleviating her suffering, until she heard about Jesus.
5:27-28 The woman worked her way through the crowd and came up behind Jesus. She knew she only had to touch his clothing and she would be healed. The decision to touch Jesus’ garment was due to the popular belief that the clothes of a holy man imparted spiritual and healing power (see 6:56; Acts 19:11-12). She may have feared that Jesus would not touch her if he knew her condition. Or she may have feared that if her disease became known to the crowd, the people who had touched her would be angry at having become unclean unknowingly. The woman knew she could be healed, but she tried to do it as unobtrusively as possible. She thought that she would just get healed and go away.
5:29 The moment the woman touched Jesus’ garment, the bleeding stopped. The disease that had weakened her body for years suddenly disappeared. She felt the difference and knew not only that the pain had stopped, but that she was also completely healed of the disease. What a moment of incredible joy this must have been for this woman!
5:30 The healing had been immediate upon the woman’s touch (5:29); Jesus’ knowledge of the healing was also immediate. As the woman felt the healing of her body, Jesus felt the supernatural healing power go out of him. Someone had touched him in order to be healed, that person’s faith had allowed the healing to take place, and Jesus perceived what had happened. Jesus’ question, “Who touched my clothes?” had a definite purpose. Whether Jesus already knew who touched him or not is inconsequential. What mattered was that Jesus wanted to establish a relationship with this woman. She had hoped to go away undetected. Jesus, having healed her physically, wanted to heal her spiritually as well.
In the meantime, Jairus must have been exasperated; he was already in a hurry due to the severe illness of his daughter. No doubt the slow movement of the crowd was frustrating him. Then, of all things, Jesus stopped to ask a seemingly silly question. Little did Jairus know that through all these events, he would be learning a valuable lesson about Jesus’ power.
5:31 The disciples were surprised by Jesus’ question, so their reply seems almost rude. In effect they said, “How can you ask such a ridiculous question? Lots of people are touching you!” They did not understand that Jesus meant a different kind of touch.
5:32 Jesus looked around—the healed person could not have gone far, for Jesus had stopped immediately upon being touched. He knew that person was there. In his piercing gaze at the few people nearest him in the crowd was the unspoken demand that the person come forward. The crowd didn’t understand what was happening, the disciples thought Jesus was being unreasonable, and Jairus was probably fuming. But one person did understand what Jesus meant by the question, and she knew she had no choice but to answer.
5:33 The woman told him what she had done—that she had been unclean and had come jostling through the crowd, that she had dared to touch him (a man) and did so in her unclean state, that she had hoped to remain undetected, and that she had been healed. To top it off, she had to say all of that in front of a crowd. No wonder the woman was frightened and trembling. According to Jewish law, a man who touched a menstruating woman became ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 15:19-28). This was true whether her bleeding was normal or, as in this woman’s case, the result of illness. To protect themselves from such defilement, Jewish men carefully avoided touching, speaking to, or even looking at women. By contrast, Jesus proclaimed to hundreds of people that this “unclean” woman had touched him—and then he healed her. In Jesus’ mind, this suffering woman was not to be overlooked. As God’s creation, she deserved attention and respect.
5:34 Far from being angry, Jesus spoke to the woman in gentle words. She came for healing and received it. But she also received a relationship and peace with God himself because of her faith. Jesus explained that it was not his clothing that had healed her; rather, her faith in reaching out to the one person who could heal her had allowed that healing to take place. She not only had faith, but she had placed her faith in the right person.
The disciples, no doubt, received a profound lesson in the value of planting seeds in even the most unlikely places. The crowd, while seeming to be nothing more than a hindrance on the way, held one pocket of “good soil” in whom Jesus planted a seed.
5:35 The time taken by Jesus to seek out and speak to the woman was too long for the sick little girl at Jairus’s house. During the delay, she died. The message was delivered to Jairus, undoubtedly calling him to come home. The opportunity for healing had passed, so the Teacher would no longer be needed.
5:36 Death did not make Jesus too late, however; instead, it meant that Jesus would do an even mightier miracle. Jairus must have looked in despair at Jesus, but Jesus made no indication of changing his plans. He turned in the direction of Jairus’s house and told Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” Jairus must have wondered what Jesus was going to do.
5:37 No doubt the curious crowd had every intention of staying with Jesus, having observed the healing of the diseased woman and hearing the words of the men from Jairus’s house. What would Jesus do next? Sensitive to Jairus’s pain, Jesus stopped the crowd. He planned to raise this little girl from the dead—a sign to his disciples of his true mission, of his power, and as a harbinger of his own resurrection. So he left the crowd and nine of his disciples behind, followed Jairus, and took along Peter and James and John. These three men became Jesus’ inner circle—his closest followers, the only ones to see this miracle, observe the Transfiguration (9:2), speak about the end times on the Mount of Olives (13:3), and know of Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane (14:33).
5:38 The five men finally reached Jairus’s house, and the commotion of loud weeping and wailing filled the air. Such cries were customary at a person’s death; lack of weeping and wailing was the ultimate disgrace and disrespect. Some people, usually women, made mourning a profession and were paid by the dead person’s family to weep over the body. Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, was an important person in the town. Thus, at the death of his only daughter, the town demonstrated their great love and respect for Jairus and his family by their weeping and wailing.
5:39 Jesus’ words, “The child isn’t dead; she is only asleep,” probably made Jesus appear rather stupid—certainly anyone could distinguish death from sleep. Neither was she just in a coma from which Jesus would awaken her, as some have proposed. The girl was indeed dead, and everyone from the family to the paid mourners knew it. Jesus knew it too, but his words revealed to Jairus the hope beyond all hope of what Jesus was about to do. She was dead, but Jesus would bring her back to life, as if awakening her from sleep.
5:40 Jesus’ words sounded ridiculous to the faithless crowd, so Jesus took charge in Jairus’s house and used force to get rid of the jeering mourners. He had nothing further to say to them, and he had no use for their mourning or their scoffing.
Then Jesus took the girl’s father and mother and the three disciples who had come (5:37) and went into an inner part of the house. Jesus had come to earth to conquer sin and death, and in this dramatic but quiet miracle, he would show his disciples that power. And two bereaved parents would receive back their beloved daughter.
5:41 Jesus did no incantations and spoke no magic words. He simply went to the girl’s bedside and held her hand. The fact that Jesus touched the girl’s hand would have amazed the proper synagogue leader and the disciples. Touching a dead body meant to become unclean. But Jesus had already dealt with a demon-possessed man and a woman with an incurable issue of blood and had touched and healed them. Touching the dead girl confirmed once again that compassion was more important than the letter of the law. Then Jesus spoke a simple command, “Get up, little girl!”
5:42 At Jesus’ touch and command, the dead child awoke as if from sleep, immediately standing up and walking around. Just as the healings Jesus performed were always complete, so the rising of this young girl from the dead was complete. She didn’t come back to life in the sick state in which she left; she came back well, whole, and able to walk around. The parents and the disciples were absolutely overwhelmed.
This was not the first time the disciples had witnessed the raising of a dead person. Luke 7:11-15 records Jesus raising a boy near the village of Nain. Yet, even in this instance, the disciples were amazed.
5:43 Jesus then gave two further commands. First, he commanded them (that is, the parents and the three disciples) not to tell anyone what had happened. Obviously the girl was not to be hidden for the remainder of her life; people would know she had recovered. Those in the unbelieving crowd would have to decide for themselves what had happened—no one would try to convince them. In fact, no one would even tell them what had happened.
Jesus told them to be quiet because he was concerned for his ministry. He did not want to be known as just a miracle worker; he wanted people to listen to his words that would heal their broken spiritual lives. Jesus’ mission was to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God. If crowds descended on him to see dead people raised, they would not be coming with the heart attitude needed to hear and respond to the gospel (see also 1:43-45). The disciples would talk about them and understand Jesus’ miracles after his resurrection—then they could write them down for all of us to read and marvel as well.
Second, Jesus told them to give the girl something to eat. This is a good picture of Jesus’ compassion and his understanding of human needs. The girl would be hungry and should be fed. This command also revealed to the parents and disciples that the girl was completely restored—she was well enough to eat.
We’ll look at chapter 6 tomorrow. I’m praying that in this time of reading and reflection that you will KNOW Christ better,
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Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary
Life Application Bible Notes
New American Commentary
Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary
Preaching the Word Commentary