Mark 5–6: Authority & Astonishment

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 13: Saturday

And wherever He was entering villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the marketplaces, and pleading with Him that they might just touch the fringe of His garment; and as many as touched it were being saved from their sicknesses.
Mark 6:56 LSB

In Saturday’s Bible reading of Mark 5–6, Jesus’ ministry centers around the Sea of Galilee. There are some desperately needy people in these two chapters. There are also others, who in stark contrast, greet Jesus with unbelief.

Notice again Mark’s use of the word immediately. You’ll find it five times in each chapter. Remember R. T. France wrote that Mark’s recurrent use of immediately,

“adds to the graphic force of the narrative, and serves to keep the reader/hearer alert and aware of the dramatic development of the story.”1

The miracles in these chapters are phenomenal. Jesus delivers a man from demons, He heals a woman with a twelve-year illness, He raises a child from the dead, He feeds five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, and He walks on the water of the Sea of Galilee. France writes:

“Jesus appears from the outset of Mark’s narrative as one who causes astonishment, as a figure of unprecedented authority.”2

Here we will see Jesus’ authority over and over again: over nature, over demons, and even over death.

Mark 5 ended with Jesus stilling the storm with His words. At His command the wind died, and the sea became calm. France titles Mark 4:35-4:43 as “Further Revelations of Jesus’ Unique Authority.”3

“…now the stakes are raised by the inclusion of the first ‘nature-miracle’ recorded in this gospel, the calming of a storm on the lake by Jesus’ mere word of command, which evokes from the disciples an appropriately awed christological question, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?’ But even that is not the climax, for in the story which concludes this sequence set around the lake the healing which Jesus performs is not just of physical illness, but of a girl already dead. There is thus in this section of the gospel a mounting sense of excitement, as the ἐξουσία [exousia: authority] of Jesus is tested by, and proves victorious over, ever more challenging situations of need.”4

To say these people are desperate and in need is no exaggeration. In Mark 5, the first desperate person Jesus meets is the Gerasene demoniac. He is a pitiful creature. Notice he runs up to Jesus and bows down before Him. Jesus commands the legion of demons to leave him. They enter a herd of swine and rush into the sea. I’ve always loved the description of this man in the aftermath of his deliverance:

And they came to Jesus and observed the demon-possessed man sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had the “legion”; and they became frightened.
Mark 5:15 LSB

Jesus is next implored by a synagogue official, Jairus, to heal his twelve-year old daughter. Jairus is another desperate person. When he sees Jesus, he falls at Jesus’ feet and pleads with him.

On the way to Jairus’ home a woman who has been ill for twelve years, had spent all she had on physicians who’d only made her worse, is desperate for healing. Believing that she will be healed if she can only touch His garment. She does, and she is! Notice immediately she is healed, she knows it, and immediately Jesus knows power proceeding from Him had gone forth.

And He was looking around to see the woman who had done this. But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”
Mark 5:32-34 LSB

What a tender, compassionate thing to say to this poor woman. France writes:

“No one else is the gospels is addressed by Jesus as θυγάτηρ [thygatēr: daughter]; the closest parallel is the use of τέκνον [teknon: child] for the paralytic in 2:5. Here, as there, the effect is to offer reassurance.”5

Mark then goes back to Jairus.

While He was still speaking, they came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?”
But Jesus, overhearing what had been spoken, said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid, only believe.” And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James.
And they came to the house of the synagogue official; and He saw a commotion, and people loudly crying and wailing. And entering in, He said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and crying? The child has not died, but is asleep.”
And they began laughing at Him. But putting them all out, He took along the child’s father and mother and His own companions, and entered the room where the child was. And taking the child by the hand, He said to her, “Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”).

And immediately the little girl stood up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded. And He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this, and He said that some food should be given to her to eat.
Mark 5:35-43 LSB

France comments:

“The sequence of incidents around the lake…reaches its climax with a narrative unit in which two miracles occur, in the second of which the revelation of Jesus’ ἐξουσία [exousia: authority] reaches a new height with the raising of the dead. Following his control over wind and water and over the most intimidating of demonic power, this pericope leaves the reader with the impression that nothing can be impossible for Jesus, and the question Τίς ἄρα οὗτός ἐστιν; [Who then is this?] (4:41) becomes ever more insistent.”6

In chapter 6, Jesus enters Nazareth, where Jesus is met with a very different reception. France titles this journey to Jesus’ hometown, “Not Everyone Is Impressed By Jesus”7! Because of their unbelief only a few sick people are healed there.

Jesus next sends the twelve out to preach, heal and cast out demons. Herod has now heard of all that is going on and kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!”, and Mark then does a flashback to the arrest and death of John the Baptist.

The feeding of the five thousand also occurs in chapter six. This is another astounding miracle as we again see Jesus’ authority over nature as He feeds thousands with only five loaves and two fishes.

After the crowd has eaten, Jesus sends the disciples set off in a boat while He stays to pray. Another nature miracle occurs as the disciples later see Jesus walking across the water. After He gets in the boat, Mark records that the disciples “were utterly astonished,  for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” This, after all they had seen of Jesus’ phenomenal authority.

The chapter closes with the crowds frantically seeking Jesus to have their sick healed.

And when they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, and ran about that whole region and began to carry here and there on their mats those who were sick, to the place they heard He was. And wherever He was entering villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the marketplaces, and pleading with Him that they might just touch the fringe of His garment; and as many as touched it were being saved from their sicknesses.
Mark 6:54-56 LSB

Living in hopeless situations, and hearing of Jesus, they are rushing to find Him. They cannot yet answer ‘Who then is this?’, but they seeing His authority to meet their desperate need.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (La multiplicité des pains): James Tissot. Public Domain.
1,2,3,4,5,6,7R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 2002) 76, 24, 219, 220, 238, 234, 241.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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