Out Front – Week Four
Welcome to Week Four of the fall semester of Bible Studies.In the first three chapters of Mark, everything seems to be happening so quickly. People are being healed by Jesus, demons are being silenced and cast out, disciples are chosen, the opposition is discredited, sin is exposed, faith is praised, and the news of what Jesus has done is traveling like wild fire. At the beginning of Chapter Four, we find another large crowd gathering around him. After getting into a boat and freeing himself from the press of the crowd, he sits. His voice bounces off the water as he teaches the people who have lined the beach. By the end of the day, he and his disciples set sail to go across the Sea of Galilee to the opposite side. Flanked by other boats, they’re still not alone. Yet, Jesus chooses this moment to sleep. Read Mark 4:35-41.
In a basin surrounded by mountains, the lake was notorious for whipping up squalls. But this storm was in a league all its own; even the veteran fishermen were terrified. And for good reason! The boat was breaking and filling with water. Ironically, Jesus has made himself comfortable on a cushion in the stern of the boat and has fallen asleep. He’s either the soundest sleeper known to man, or even at rest he is teaching his companions about faith.
- What does the striking contrast between the peaceful rest of Jesus and the tempestuous storm surrounding him suggest to you? What did it suggest to the disciples?
- What do we learn about the disciples from this account?
- How is fear at cross purposes with faith?
- How would you differentiate between the fear the disciples felt during the storm and the fear they felt after Jesus calmed the storm? [Mark 4:41]
In a narrative that is usually pretty light on nuance, this account is filled with language that is very descriptive. For instance, we are told that Jesus “rebuked the wind”. The word “rebuked” is typically associated with demonic forces. It isn’t anything like the language used in Genesis 1 or Exodus 14:21. [CBS Commentary] This event can’t simply be explained away by saying the boat ran into some bad weather. This was not just a contest between man and the elements. It was a battle, though – a spiritual battle.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
- What does the fact that Jesus calmed the storm suggest to you about his power over the elements? About his power over the schemes of the devil?
- What can we be certain of when we have to weather our own personal “storms”? Can we be sure Christ will be there to carry us to the other side of it?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
- If you have made Jesus Lord in your life, what does John 14:12 suggest to you about His power in you and the schemes of the devil?
Back on land …
Read Mark 5:1-8. As soon as Jesus steps off the boat he is met by “a man with an unclean spirit.”Imagine what it was like for the disciples to see the composed Christ come face to face with this bruised and battered madman, broken chains hanging from his naked body [Luke 8:27] and his loud voice assaulting Jesus’ ears. As the disciples watch the scene play out, something irregular is about to happen. Verses 7-8inform the reader that Jesus has been telling the unclean spirit to come out of the man, but that there had been a delay in the devil spirit’s obedient response. In the previous confrontations with devil spirits, an immediate response has always been implied.
Read Mark 5:9. So, now we learn that there is a multitude of devil spirits Jesus is dealing with.
Read Mark 5:10-13. What just happened? It sounds like one devil spirit speaking on behalf of the whole lot made a request that sounded something like this: "If we must quit our hold of this man, suffer us to continue our work of mischief in another form, that by entering these swine, and thus destroying the people's property, we may steel their hearts against Thee!" [Commentary from Bible Study Tools] That just doesn’t sound like a good proposition. Nevertheless, it reads like Jesus agreed to their terms. What are we missing? Jesus knew full well the demons would not rest until they were done doing damage, even if it meant to a lesser degree than they would like. The only way to get the demons to altogether cease their evil activity would be to completely destroy them. But that event has been divinely reserved for another day. The pigs were an illegal trade for the Jews and their presence was an affront to their national religion. So, Jesus banished Legion to the herd of swine. He didn’t negotiate with the unclean spirit. He didn’t cower to the unclean spirit’s request, nor order them to drive the herd over the cliff. He understood the big picture and made a judgment call based on wisdom from his Heavenly Father. [John 5:19] [II Corinthians 5:7]
- Because of the unclean spirit’s delayed response, we learn that there was a multitude of demons taking residence in the man – at least 2000! Once Jesus sends the lot of them into the herd of pigs, what understanding should those present and readers today have regarding the power Jesus exercised?
- Even though there was a delayed response by the unclean spirit to evict himself from the man, it was obvious it knew Jesus dominatedit, prevailed over it. Without Jesus permitting it, Legion would not have even entered one pig. Likewise, when we walk in the power of the risen Christ, how must demons respond to us? Have you personally experienced this?
So far, Jesus has exercised his power over the elements and over demons. Now, we find him exercising that same power over death and disease. Read Mark 5:21-14. Jesus has encountered a man with a great need, and moved by his characteristic compassion, Jesus goes with him. On his way, the crowds press in around him. Read Mark 5:25-29.
In the crowd is a very sick woman who has been impoverished by doctors, disappointed by their failed results, and desperate for an end to her suffering. What she has heard about Jesus, she has believed – so much so that she is convinced that if she can get close enough to just touch his garment, she is certain she will be made whole. She gets that close, and she is indeed made whole – instantly. If we were to believe as resolutely as the woman with the issue of blood, what should be our first course of action when we get sick?
Read Mark 5:30-34. Realizing that “power had gone out from him,” Jesus asks who had touched him. “In fear and trembling” the woman humbled herself before the Lord and told him everything. In the midst of the crowd he stopped and listened. He wanted to hear what she had to say. And what encouragement it must have been for him to hear of such great faith.What does this say about the Lord’s availability to hear from you?
Jesus had been on his way to heal a dying child when all this happened. And that once again came to the forefront when – while he was still talking to the woman – someone came to tell the child’s father that his daughter had died. Had Jesus tarried too long talking to the healed woman? Would the outcome have been different if he had stayed the course and arrived at the child’s bedside earlier? What matters here is that things happened as God ordained them to take place. If Jesus had made a different choice, we wouldn’t have seen that same degree of power released, a degree that is dramatically emulated in the First Century Church. [Acts 19:12] Nor might we have seen him raise the young girl from the dead. [Mark 5:41-42] But we are a blessed people for having read of such faith and power.
- Knowing God ordained the contents of His Word, why do you think the inclusion of these four miracles is so significant? What do you learn about Christ’s power from these accounts? About your power?
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
- John G. Lake said, “Faith is more important than power. Faith commands power and vitalizes it.” Is that a true statement? If it is, what must we do to grow our faith in order to see more signs, miracles and wonders in the church today?