So far in Mark we have heard Jesus stressing the importance of listening to Him, and have seen something of the power of His word. In this week’s passage, we saw just how extraordinary that power is.
Whether the Met Office had predicted it or not, a storm had arisen that was fierce enough to leave hardened fishermen in fear for their lives; their exclamation in Mark 4:38 assumes there is no other logical response! They see that the boat is capsizing, and they would not even think of trying to negotiate with the weather. Yet Jesus says to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” and there was a great calm (Mark 4:39).
The demon-possessed man is filled with enough demonic power to drown 2000 pigs; he lives among the tombs, and everyone in the neighbourhood knows he is the man to avoid. He is the region’s strongest man, he has broken out of prison on numerous occasions, and the police aren’t even trying to catch him anymore. Yet the legion is intimidated by Jesus’ mere words, and is able only to do what He permits them to do. In an instant, the man is transformed into a vision of civility – ‘clothed and in his right mind’ (Mark 5:15), simply by the power of Jesus’ words.
The bleeding woman has exhausted her options. The embarrassment of the first few months has long passed; now she is faced with the crippling diagnosis from the doctors: “untreatable”. The NHS has run out of options, the private specialists are clueless, there are no overseas clinics for her to turn to. She is penniless and still bleeding. Yet a brief grasp of Jesus’ garment, and suddenly the flow of blood is dried up.
For those of us who are a bit slow on the up-take, and haven’t quite seen what Mark is trying to show us, he gives us an even clearer illustration of Jesus’ miraculous achievement. In case the fear of death wasn’t apparent in the rest of the stories, we see the clearest problem in Mark 5:35 - Jairus’ unwell daughter has actually died. Yet Jesus has clear instruction: “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36). And, true to His word, the girl is physically raised from death. Immense power!
So what links the Met Office, the Exorcist and the NHS? Mark shows us that Jesus is the King who is immeasurably more powerful than any of them – the one who is able to deal completely with deathly situations. Jesus' command to us is “Do not fear, only believe.” In the face of death, we have no reason to fear, because Jesus is much more powerful than death. Rather, let us have a right fear of Jesus, the formidable One who has authority in the darkest of situations.
Some questions for thought
Some of us will have come face to face with death and seen how greatly it devastates us. Even as young people we will see families torn apart by the death of a child in a road traffic collision or to a cruel disease. What does it mean to trust Jesus in this situation? Jesus doesn’t promise to heal all of our diseases in this life, but how can Christians take comfort when they are facing the doctor, or dealing with the illness of a loved one?
How would this passage help you if you were facing a desperate situation - even your own death? What do we need to remember about Jesus so that we are ready for when hardship comes? What can you do this week to help you remember what Jesus is like from this passage?