THE GOSPEL OF MARK
Lesson 4: Chapters 4-5
Jesus Teaches in Parables, Controls Nature, and Raises the Dead
Your love always exceeds the limits of our human longing. You are greater than the desires of the human heart. We beseech you, Lord, to direct each thought and each effort of our lives so that our faults and weaknesses may not obscure the vision of Your Son's glory or keep us from the peace You have promised us. Direct Your love that is within us, Lord, so that our efforts in the name of Jesus Christ may bring unity to our brothers and sisters within the Church and the hope of divine peace to our brothers and sisters in the human family. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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My people, listen to my teaching, pay
attention to what I say. I will open my mouth in parables; I will
announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world."
Psalm 78:1-2 LXX
All these things Jesus spoke to the
crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through
the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain
hidden from the foundation of the world."
Matthew 13:34-35 (quoting Ps 78:2 LXX)
Jesus' teaching in Parables was in fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalm 78:1-2. Parables are found in ancient secular literature as well as in the Bible. The English word "parable" is the transliteration of the Greek word parabole. A parable is a short story that is a comparison based on a familiar life experience that is used to teach a lesson. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word masal/mashal is used to describe this form of comparison to teach a lesson and is not limited to narratives but includes everything from proverb to allegory or an extended metaphor or simile.(1) When the leaders of the covenant people began to oppose Jesus, in the tradition of the Old Covenant prophets, He started speaking to the people in parables. When Jesus' disciples asked why He taught them in parables, He told them, "The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables ... (Mk 4:11). Those in opposition to Jesus are like the Old Covenant leaders to whom God had not given the ability to understand the message of the prophet Isaiah because of the hardness of their hearts (see Is 6:9-10 which Jesus will quote in Mk 4:12).
In chapter 2, Jesus told the short two-part parable of the "Old Cloth and Old Wineskins," and in chapter 3 He told the short parable of the "Strong Man." There are four more parables in chapter 4, and Jesus will tell His last parable in chapter 13. Altogether, there are ten parables in Mark's Gospel, using the same definition of a parable as those found in the Old Testament.(2) The Parables in Mark's Gospel:
Chapter 4: Jesus Continues to Teach in Parables
listen but never understand! Look and look, but never perceive! This people's
heart has grown coarse, their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight to
avoid using their eyes to see, their ears to hear, their hearts to understand,
changing their ways and being healed by me.
Isaiah 6:9-10 LXX (quoted by Jesus in Mt 13:14-15)
Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants, the prophets.
Mark 4:1-9 ~ The Parable of the Sower
1 On another occasion he began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. 2 And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, 3 "Hear this! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. 7 Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and chocked it and it produced no grain. 8 And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." 9 He added, "Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear."
Jesus can no longer teach within the towns because of the size of the crowds, so He uses the open areas around the Sea of Galilee as His auditorium. With His audience gathered around Him, Jesus begins to teach in parables. Jesus teaches several "kingdom parables." These are parables that help to define the Kingdom of God that is coming. The Kingdom parables in Mark's Gospel include the "Parable of the Sower," the "Seed that Grows Itself," and the parable of the "Mustard Seed," all of which appear in St. Matthew's seven "Kingdom Parables" in Matthew chapter 13.
Like the prophets of old, Jesus uses topics of everyday life in making comparisons to illustrate His teaching points that reveal "the mysteries of the Kingdom of God" (4:11). St. Mark will use the words "kingdom of God" fifteen times in Mark's Gospel and the term "kingdom of our Father" once (Mk 1:14, 15; 4:11, 26, 30; 9:1, 47; 10:14, 15, 23, 24, 25; 12:34; 14:25; 15:43; "kingdom of our Father" in 11:10). Notice that Jesus begins by commanding the crowd to "Hear/Listen" in verse 3 and He will end the parable with the same command in verse 9. The command to "hear" will be repeated by Jesus five times (Mk 4:3, 9, 23 twice and 24). The reason He begins and ends the parable in this way will become clear in Mark 4:12 when He quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10 (see the quote above). There may also be a connection to God's command in Deuteronomy 6:4, known to the covenant people as the Shema, which begins: Hear, O Israel!" The people are commanded not to respond to Him with closed ears and eyes in the way their ancestors failed to respond to the message of God delivered by His prophet Isaiah. To "hear" means to absorb and to appropriate Jesus' words by responding with open hearts to understand His message and His mission, and their understanding must transform them and redirect their path in life.
Jesus first parable is about sowing seeds in different kinds of soil;
it is a very common topic for the 1st century AD agrarian culture
where broadcasting seed over a wide area that would be plowed into the soil
later was a common practice. Every element in the parable is symbolic.
Question: What does the seed represent in Jesus' parable? See Mk 4:14 and Lk 8:11.
Answer: The seed is the "word of God," the Gospel message of salvation. It is the same message broadcast to every person within the scope of Jesus' teaching.
Question: Who is the in the sower of the seed in the parable?
Answer: Jesus is the sower. Jesus' teaching plants seeds of faith, like the sower in His parable.
Question: What do the different soil conditions where the seed
is sown represent?
Answer: The different kinds of soil represent the different kinds of human response to Jesus' message of salvation in the coming of the Kingdom.
|The seed||The word of God|
|Different soil conditions||Four kinds of responses by people who hear the word|
When the sower in Jesus' parable casts his seed, he casts it in every
direction into every kind of soil condition. This was a common farming
technique in which most, but not all, of the seed was expected produce healthy
plants.(3) The technique used up a lot of seed, but the generosity in
broadcasting the seed assured the area was well covered and that many plants
would spring up resulting in a fruitful harvest.
Question: How is this method of sowing seed similar to Jesus' teaching?
Answer: Jesus "broadcasts" God's message of salvation in every direction. His message is received by:
Question: The intent of the farmer is a bountiful harvest. What
is Jesus' intent?
Answer: Jesus' intent is the harvest of souls.
The more difficult part of the parable concerns the comparison in the four different kinds of soil where the seed falls. In Scripture the number four represents the world. Jesus will explain the meaning of the parable in verses 13-20. One of the keys to understanding the parable is that the produced fruit of the seed is far beyond a normal yield.
Mark 4:10-12 ~ The Purpose of Parables
10 And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. 11 He answered them, "The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, 12 so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand,"
After Jesus has dismissed the crowd, His Apostles and the other disciples ask Him to explain the parables (plural). You will recall that Jesus already started speaking in parables in chapter 2 in the parable about cloth and the wineskins (2:21-22). The first announcement that Jesus spoke in parables is in 3:23 just before the parable of the "Strong Man."
Question: In His answer to the disciples, what reason does Jesus
give for teaching in parables?
Answer: He says that "The mystery of the kingdom of God" has been granted to them but not to those who are "outside."
This is one of the most difficult pronouncements of Jesus in the Gospels. It sounds as if Jesus is deliberately excluding some people from the kingdom by hiding the meaning of His words. The key to understanding what Jesus is saying is in understanding what Jesus means by "the mystery of the kingdom of God." The word "mystery" is used in the Gospels only here in the singular but it is also used in the plural in Matthew 13:11 and Luke 8:10. St. Paul, however, will refer to the "mystery" frequently in his letters. In the Old Testament "mystery" refers to God's divine plans that are secret not because God wants His plans to remain unknown but because the way they must become known is through divine revelation. He reveals His plans only to the prophets for the sake of God's covenant people (see Dan 2:19, 28; Amos 3:7). In the New Testament it is the same. The "mystery" is God's divine plan for mankind's salvation that has been hidden since the Fall of Adam but which is now being revealed in Christ Jesus. As St. Paul wrote:
Then Jesus explains that "the mystery of the kingdom of God" has been granted to them by quoting from Isaiah 6:9 in which God told His prophet concerning the hardhearted covenant people to whom Isaiah carried God's word that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand. Jesus tells them that "the mystery of the kingdom of God" will be withheld from those who oppose Jesus and understanding will only be granted to them and others who receive the Gospel of salvation with an open heart. The use of the phrase "the mystery of the kingdom" is a term Jesus uses for the word they receive of the Gospel message of salvation and prepares us for subsequent references to "the word" in verses 13-20.
Question: What does the quote from God's message to the prophet
Isaiah have to do with Jesus' mission and His teaching in parables? See Is 6:8-10
and the prophecy in Ps 78:2 LXX: I will speak to you in parables,
unfold what has been hidden since the foundation of the world. This verse is
quoted by Jesus in Matthew 13:35.
Answer: God warned Isaiah that his message of repentance would not be received by most of the people. Jesus is teaching in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets who taught in parables when the people and the religious and civil authorities rejected God's messenger. Their hard and unresponsive hearts kept them from receiving an understanding of the prophet's message. As in the times of God's prophets like Isaiah, only those of open hearts who see with faith and hear with humility will grasp Jesus' message. Jesus is fulfilling that the Messiah would teach in this same tradition as is prophesied in Psalm 78:2.
In the time of the mission of the prophet Isaiah, the people were
obstinate and impenitent and they continued the more so in the rejection of
Isaiah's message that called the people to repentance.
Question: How is Jesus comparing the people of His generation to the people of Isaiah's generation?
Answer: Jesus is comparing the rejection of His mission to the rejection of Isaiah's mission. Like Isaiah's mission, many of the people of His generation will hear His parable teachings but will not respond in faith and try to understand, therefore missing out on knowledge of the "mystery of the Kingdom" that is the promise of eternal salvation.
Jesus will allow the hearts of some to remain hardened and unreceptive to His mission in order to bring about God's divine plan for mankind's salvation (see 1 Cor 2:8). In the Old Testament God "hardened the heart" of those who stood in opposition to the children of Israel in order to bring about His divine plan, like the already hard-hearted Pharaoh in the Exodus liberation, (see Ex 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34-35, 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8; Dt 2:30). And in the mission of the prophet Isaiah, God blinded the eyes and closed the ears of an already obstinate people (Is 6:9-10), turning their rejected blessing into a judgment. As in the time of the Old Testament prophets, so will it be for Jesus: the hard-hearted people who neglect to show their love for God through their humility and repentance are destined to become even more hard-hearted and unresponsive to Jesus' message, as in the response of the scribes, elders, chief priests, and Pharisees. Only those who are opened to the will of God for their lives will "look" and "see" Jesus' power and authority through His miracles and "hear/listen" and "understand" His Gospel message of eternal salvation.
Mark 4:13-20 ~ The Parable of the Sower Explained
13 Jesus said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will your understand any of the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. 17 But they have no root; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly [immediately] fall away. 18 Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, 19 but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. 20 But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundred fold (underlining added to identify repetition).
Jesus reveals the symbolic meaning of the four different kinds of soil that receive the seed. The four kinds of soil represent the four kinds of human response to the Gospel of salvation.
|Symbolism in the four kinds of soil where the seed is sown|
|1. Seed sown on the path||This person hears the word of the kingdom without making any effort to understand and embrace the truth. Since he has failed to understand, Satan is able to separate him from the truth and from his place in the Kingdom.|
|2. Seed sown on rocky ground||This person receives the word of God with joy, but he has not applied the word to his life; he has no internal stability ("roots"). In a time of hardship, he abandons his faith in God.|
|3. Seed sown among the thorns||This person hears the word but does not love God above all else; the secular world pulls him away from faith and he bears no good fruit/works.|
|4. Seed sown on rich soil||This person hears the word, understands it, and applies it to his "heart"/life and bears the fruit/works of faith in abundance.|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2011|
Question: Jesus describes those who hear the word of God but fail
to fully embrace the Kingdom. To what does Jesus attribute the three reasons
for their failure? List the verses.
Answer: Jesus attributes the failure to produce the good fruit of repentance and conversion to:
Question: How many times does Jesus use "the word" in this
passage? Why? What is Jesus referring to as "the word"? See Mt 13:19 and the
document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture".
Answer: Jesus uses "the word" eight times in this passage. In the symbolic meaning of numbers in Scripture, "eight" is the number of salvation. "The word" refers to the Gospel message of salvation that will be manifested in Jesus' Kingdom.
Mark 4:20 ~ But those sown on rich soil are the ones
who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a
Those who accept "the word" are known by the "fruit" deeds/works they bear (see James 2:14-26). Although some bear more than others, in each case their fruitful lives in the service of the Kingdom far exceeds what might be expected. It is common to expect a very good crop might yield about ten-fold, but the yields Jesus expects are far above what is average; it is an extraordinary, superabundant amount. Notice not everyone yields the same amount of good works/deeds. The yield is according to the different spiritual gifts given believers and how they manifest those gifts in works of mercy and love as they carry forth the Gospel message of salvation.
Mark 4:21-23 ~ The Parable of the Lamp
21 He said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. 23 Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear."
This parable is about the receiving and handing on of Jesus' teachings. Notice there is again the command to hear/listen three times in 4:23 (twice) and in verse 24. This parable is about "light." In the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies Himself as the "light" three times:
In Scripture "darkness" is a metaphor for sin. Jesus who is the "Light" shows us the way to salvation.
However, in Matthew 5:14 Jesus identifies the Christian as the "light
of the world."
Question: Is this a contradiction in Scripture? See Jn 12:36
Answer: Certainly not! The Christian does not generate his own "light;" it is Christ Himself who generates the supernatural internal light of the Christian soul. We reflect the burning love of Christ within us. In John 12:36, Jesus tells the disciples "...believe in the light so that you may become children of the light." Jesus Christ is "the light" and it is Jesus who empowers us to be "children of the light" who pass on His teaching.
Question: How does Jesus define Christian light? See Mt 5:16.
Answer: The "light" of God's children is the good deeds of Christians; it is the work of Jesus Christ, "the Light," working through and illuminating His children with His life.
Question: What is the implied contrast between the Christian/the
Church and the world?
Answer: The world is in darkness and the Church, through the Body of believers, provides the light of salvation to the world.
Question: What are the examples given to express the metaphor of
Christian light in positive and negative images?
Positive: A Christian and his faith community should be like a lamp set on a stand that gives light to the whole house just as a the righteous life and good deeds of Christians witnessing the life of Christ in acts of love and charity that are visible to all who know or observe that Christian or the works of the Christian community.
Negative: A light put under a basket or a bed is a Christian or a faith community that suppresses the Gospel and quenches the power of the Holy Spirit within the community. Such a Christian or community does not teach and uphold the doctrine of the Church and do works of charity in outward signs. This person or community is not sharing the light of Christ and is doing nothing to illuminate the darkness of those who have not heard the Gospel or who have not seen Christians acting Christ-like.
Symbolism in the Parable of the Lamp
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12
While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light. John 12:36
I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. John 12:46
|The light||Jesus Christ|
|Lamp under a bushel basket or bed||Professed Christians or Christian communities that do not share the "light" of the Gospel of salvation|
|Lamp on a lampstand that gives light||Christians who actively share the "light" of Christ and His message of salvation|
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014
Jesus is the Light of the world and we are called to reflect His light so that we can live as "children of the light." As St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness ... But since we are of the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation. For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and built one another up, as indeed you do (1 Thes 5:5-11).
Mark 4:24-25 ~ Jesus' Warning
He also told them, "Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."
This teaching addresses the consequences of hearing well
or hearing poorly and again has Jesus' command not only to "hear" but the "hear
Question: What warning does Jesus give? How does His warning apply to the 4th condition of the seed planted in good soil in the parable of the Seed and the Sower?
Answer: His warning is to be careful how you "hear" and how you receive (interpret), and apply what you hear. Be the 4th person in the Seed and the Sower parable: But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundred fold" heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance (4:20).
To the one who has, more will be given; from the one
who has not, even what he has will be taken away."
Question: What is Jesus' promise to the one who "has" and His warning to the one who "has not"? See 1 Cor 3:11-15.
Answer: To those who have the "light" and embrace and study the word with a generous heart and bear fruit consistently in the face of adversity, more graces will be given. But as for those have the "light" but quench the Spirit and do not produce good works as demonstrations of faith but only labor for worldly, temporal goods, they will ultimately lose what few blessings they "seem" to have in their material possessions but they will not lose their salvation. As Paul says: "the person will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor 3:15)
Mark 4:26-29 ~ The Parable of the Seed that Grows
26 He said, "This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land 27 and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. 28 Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come."
This "kingdom parable" is told only in Mark's Gospel, and
it may be recalled by St. James in James 5:7-9. The focus of the parable is
the seed's power to sprout and grow "of its own accord" after the sower has
liberally scattered his seed. It is a mystery to the farmer how this happens,
and the farmer cannot control the growing process. In this modern age,
scientists can provide chemicals to increase the yield and can describe what
happens in seed germination and growth, but the root cause of germination and
growth still remains a mystery.
Question: What three stages are listed in the growth of the seed?
Question: What is the final stage when the grain
is fully developed?
Answer: When the grain is fully developed it is time for the harvest and the farmer is ready with his sickle to reap the crop.
All human beings will face two judgments. When one dies one faces an Individual or Particular Judgment where each person will be rewarded according to his works and faith (Mt 16:26; Lk 16:22; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23; CCC 1021-22). But there is also a Last or Final Judgment that all humanity will receive at the end of time when Christ will return in glory "to judge the living and the dead" (Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed; Mt 25:31-46; Jn 5:28-29; Acts 12:15; 1 Thes 4:16; 2 Thes 1:8-10; CCC 681, 1038-41).
|Symbolism in the Parable of the Seed that Grows Itself|
|The land||The kingdom of God (the Church)|
|The seed||The word planted in the fertile hearts of the children of "light"/children of the Kingdom|
|The fruit of the seed||The good works of Christians that develops and bears "fruit" through the process of spiritual growth and maturity|
|The harvest||The gathering in of souls in the Last Judgment|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014|
The growth of the Kingdom of God is a divine act that defies human understanding. St. Paul will refer to this supernatural phenomenon when he writes about his work and the work of a fellow laborer for the Gospel: I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth (1 Cor 3:6-7).
Mark 4:30-34 ~ The Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 He said, "To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. 32 But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade." 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. 34 Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
Jesus uses hyperbole in describing the mustard seed as the smallest of
seeds and its plant in full growth as the largest of plants (a mustard plant
could only grow as high as 8-12 feet). This is another "kingdom parable."
Question: What is the contrast that Jesus is making between the mustard seed and His Kingdom?
Answer: The contrast here is between the small beginnings of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and its future expansion to encompass the whole earth, sheltering all who come to dwell in the household of Jesus that is the Church.
The allusion to the kingdom becoming so large that birds of the sky come and dwell in the shade of its branches is probably a reference to the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar in which he saw a huge tree that sheltered "birds of the sky" and other animals (Dan 4:7). Daniel interpreted the tree and the animals to represent Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom and the many different peoples over whom he ruled. The comparison is that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will be even greater than the Kingdom of the Babylonians (also see Dan 9:17-19).
|Symbolism in the Parable of the Mustard Seed|
|The tiny mustard seed||The small beginnings of the Kingdom (Church) of Jesus Christ|
|The mustard seed that is planted in the earth||Jesus plants the seed of the Gospel in the hearts of all who accept His message|
|The great growth of the mustard plant||The tremendous growth of the Church that is nurtured by the Holy Spirit|
|The large branches and the creatures that dwell in its shade||The spread of the Church across the face of the earth, calling all men and women of every ethnicity to salvation in Christ Jesus|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014|
Mark 4:35-41 ~ The Miracle of the Calming of the Storm
35 On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, "Let us cross to the other side." 36 Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. 38 Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" 39 He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. 40 Then he asked the, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" 41 They were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"
Jesus suggests to the Apostles that they sail to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. They are probably in the boats owned by Peter, his brother Andrew, and James and John Zebedee. Sudden storms springing up on the Sea of Galilee are very common, and without warning a storm overtakes the boats. The Apostles cry out to Jesus, who is asleep in the stern. Upon waking and seeing their peril, Jesus calms the storm.
Question: This miracle is a private sign for the disciples and
is another event that points to what revelation about Jesus' true identity?
Answer: Only God can control nature. His act in quieting the storm points to His divinity.
When He calms the storm and asks His disciples "Do you not yet have faith?" He is asking if they do not yet recognize His true identity and have faith that He is the divine Messiah. This will be the lingering question from this event until after the Resurrection when Thomas confesses, "My Lord and my God!" The first sign of His divinity was when Jesus forgave the sins of the paralyzed man and the Pharisees asked: "Who but God can forgive sins?" (Mk 2:7). The answer to that question, and to the Apostles' rhetorical question: "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?" in verse 41, is that only God can forgive sins and control the forces of nature. The other nature miracle will be when Jesus walks on the water and calms the storm (Mk 6:45-50).
The event is also very similar what is described as an act of God in Psalm 107, and one wonders if Jesus' disciples thought of Psalm 107:23-31 as the sea raged and they were fearful the ship might sink in the waves. If the Apostles were at all familiar with this psalm, they could not have missed the connection between God's power over nature in calming the storm and Jesus' power over nature in calming the storm—an event told in all three Synoptic Gospels (see Mt 8:23-27, Mk 4:35-41, and Lk 8:22-25). The only conclusion they could have reached is that Jesus who commands the storm is God!
|Psalm 107:23-31||Jesus Calms the Storm in Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25|
|Sailors in ships (Ps 107:23)||Disciples in a boat (Mt 8:23; Mk 4:36; Lk 8:22)|
|Storm with wind and waves threatens ships (Ps 107:25-26a)||Storm with wind and waves threatens the boat (Mt 8:24; Mk 4:37; Lk 8:23)|
|The sailors' become frightened (Ps 107:26b)||The disciples become frightened (Mt 8:25; Mk 4:39a; Lk 8:23b)|
|They cry out to the LORD (Ps 107:28a)||The disciples cry out to Jesus (Mt 8:25; Mk 4:39b; Lk 8:24a)|
|The LORD stops the storm (Ps 107:28b-29)||Jesus stops the wind (Mt 8:26b; Mk 4:39c; Lk 8:24b)|
|The LORD calms the sea (Ps 107:30)||Jesus causes the sea to be calm (Mt 8:26c; Mk 4:39d; Lk 8:24b)|
|Conclusion: God commands nature||Conclusion: Jesus is God who commands nature|
|Michal E. Hunt www.agapebiblestudy.com|
The Gospel of Mark records Jesus' healing miracles (Mk1:29-31, 40-45; 2:1-12; 3:1-6; 5:25-34; 7:31-37; 8:22-26; 9:14-29; 10:22-26), delivering people from demon possession (Mk 1:21-27; 5:1-20; 7:24-30; 9:14-29), His victory over hostile wills (Mk 11:15-16), raising the dead (Mk 5:22-24, 35-43), and 5 miracles that defy natural law and point to His divinity:
Notice that there is also an echo of the Book of Jonah in Jesus calming the sea. Like Jonah, Jesus was asleep as the storm was raging and had to be awakened, and all the others on the boat were in fear for their lives (Jonah 1:5-6; Mk 4:38). In Jonah's story it is God who calms the sea and saves those on the boat, and in Mark's story, it is God the Son who calms the storm and saves the Apostles. Jesus names the prophet Jonah more times than any other prophet in the Gospels, and He points to Jonah's experience being swallowed by the great fish and then released as a sign of His death and resurrection. And in Matthew 12:41, speaking of Jonah's conversion of the Ninevites and their salvation, Jesus tells the Jews: "...and look, there is something greater than Jonah here", referring to Himself. The message for us is: if God can control the wind and sea, He is also able to save those who have faith and trust in Him in the midst of the storms of life; He will never abandon us if we only have faith.
Chapter 5: Jesus Demonstrate His Power over Demons,
and He Raises the Dead
have not achieved for the earth, the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it
forth. But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you
who lie in the dust, for your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades
Mark 5:1-10 ~ The Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac
1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. 2 When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. 3 The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. 4 In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. 6 Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, 7 crying out in a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!" 8 He had been saying to him, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!" 9 He asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us." 10 And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.
This is Jesus' first journey into Gentile territory. The episode takes place on the east side of the Sea of Galilee (Mk 5:20). It was a Gentile region but there were Jews living there, and Jesus has come to share His message of the Kingdom with the "lost sheep" of Israel on the east side of the Galilee in the Greek culture Gentile territory of the Decapolis (means "ten cities" in Greek), a federation of independent cities. Jesus encounters a man possessed by demons who is living among the unclean tombs of the dead (Num 19:11, 14, 16; Ez 39:11-15). The confrontation with the man possessed by a demon is similar to Jesus' first miracle to the Jews in Mark 1:21-27. Once again the demons recognize Jesus' true identity, but He immediately subdues them and claims victory over Satan's influence. This story may also be a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 65:1-5. Part of that passage reads: People who provoke me continually, to my face, offering sacrifices in the groves and burning incense on bricks, living among the graves and spending the night in caverns, eating swine's flesh, with carrion broth in their dishes. Crying out, "Hold back, do not touch me; I am too sacred for you!" (Is 65:3-5).
Mark's description of the demon possessed man's condition is a picture of despair and shows how demonic influence distorts and destroys the image of God in human beings. The Greek verb for "bound" in verse 4 (deo) is the same verb used in the parable of the "strong man" in Mark 3:27. The healing of the demon possessed man is a demonstration of what Jesus said He would do in defeating the "strong man" in Mark 3:23-27.
Question: How do the demons react to Jesus in this episode the
same way as the demons at Capernaum in 1:24?
Answer: In both episodes, the demons asked "What have you to do with us" and then announce that Jesus is the divine Son of God.
The difference is that in this case the demons use the title "Son of the Most High God" in verse 7. This is not a confession of faith in Jesus Christ (although St. James calls such a simple acknowledgement of God the "faith of demons" in James 2:19), but is rather a desperate attempt by the demon to gain control over Jesus (see Mk 1:24; 3:11-12). Jesus, who has already commanded the demon to leave the body of the man, now demands the demon's name in verse 6.
Question: To ask the name of an unclean spirit in an exorcism is
the classic technique for gaining power over the demon. How does the demon
answer Jesus and what does his response mean?
Answer: He gives a Latin name, Legion; it is his name as well as his number.
The Latin word is legio. A Roman legion numbered 6 thousand soldiers (Fitzmtyer, The Gospel According to Luke, page 738). The demon pleads with Jesus to let him stay in the territory, suggesting that perhaps demons are territorial or are able to exert more power over humans in some regions (see Mt 12:4-45; Tob 8:3). Since this is a Gentile region in which pagan gods are worshipped, the demon may be comfortable there and may be in hopes of finding another suitably susceptible human host.
Mark 5:11-20 ~ Jesus Sends the Demons into a Herd of Swine
11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. 12 And they pleaded with him, "Send us into the swine. Let us enter them." 13 And he [immediately] let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. 14 The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. 15 As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. 16 Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. 17 Then they began to beg him to leave their district. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. 19 But he would not permit him but told him instead, "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity had done for you." 20 Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
Jesus has come to the Gentile region of the Decapolis to carry His Gospel of salvation to the Jews living there. Jesus' mission is in only going to the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel in fulfillment of the prophecies of the prophets (see Ez 34:11-16, 23; Mt 15:24; Lk 10:6). It will be the mission of the redeemed holy remnant of the new Israel of the Church of Jesus Christ to carry the Gospel message to the Gentile world (Mt 28:19-20). Only the Gospel of Mark numbers the swine at 2 thousand (Mk 5:13). The demons take possession of the swine, but they are unable to control them and the swine run down to the sea and drown themselves.
Question: Why did Jesus allow the demons to take possession of
the swineherd which immediately stampeded down an embankment and drowned in the
sea? The covenant people were forbidden to eat pork or to own swine (see Lev 11:7; Dt 14:8). Gentiles owned swine and pigs were a favored sacrifice of
Answer: It is unlikely that the pigs were owned by Gentiles. Jesus would not have cared about a Gentile community owning pigs, but He would care if Jews were violating the Law against owning and eating pork. This is probably an object lesson in obedience to the Law in the judgment of an economic hardship from the loss of the swineherd.
Notice that when the citizens of the town arrive that Jesus has clothed
the man; he is clothed physically and spiritually. The town is probably a
Question: How did the town respond to Jesus' healing of the man and the loss of the swineherd and why did they ask Him to leave?
Answer: Perhaps they feared Him because they considered if He chastised them for breaking the Law in the loss of the swineherd, what other penalties or severe judgments might He impose on them?
Question: Why didn't Jesus allow the grateful man to join His
disciples? See Mt 15:24; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8. What mission does Jesus give the
man instead? See Is 66:18-21.
Answer: Jesus' mission is to spiritually restore the faithful remnant of the people of Israel to become the envoys who will carry His message of salvation to the Gentile nations of the earth. His refusal to let the man join Him but instead allowing him to spread the word of the miracle (something He has not permitted previously) only makes sense if the man was a Gentile. Jesus sends the man to prepare his people for the message of the Kingdom that Jesus' Jewish Christians and the New Covenant priesthood will carry to the Gentile nations in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy.
The next part of the narrative is another of St. Mark's "sandwich" stories in which he begins one story, switches to another narrative, and then returns to the first part of the story. The narrative begins with the petition of an important man in the community for Jesus to heal his daughter. The story is then interrupted by an episode concerning a woman with a hemorrhage, and then the narrative returns to daughter of the synagogue official. Pay close attention to the repetitions that are found in verses 21-43; those words that link the two stories will be underlined in the text.
Mark 5:21-24 ~ The Petition of Jairus
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. 22 One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, "My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." 24 He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
According to Matthew's Gospel, after the healing on the opposite shore of the Galilee, Jesus crossed the lake and "came into his own town" (Mt 9:1), presumably to Capernaum, the headquarters of His ministry in the Galilee. An official of the local Synagogue has faith that Jesus can heal his daughter. He is a very important man in the community but notice how reverently he approaches Jesus in verses 22-23.
Seeing him he fell at his feet 23
and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, "My daughter is at the
point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and
Notice that Jairus asks Jesus to "lay your hands" on his daughter. This was a practice that reflected the belief that God's spirit of healing could be transmitted by the power of touch (see 2 Kng 4:34). The "laying on of hands" was a practice recorded in the Bible since the time of the ratification of the Sinai Covenant. The "laying on of hands" signified a transfer of power:
Jesus agrees to accompany him to his home. Here in Mark 5:21-43, we have two healing miracles told within one story. The link between the stories is significant. As you read the story, notice the significant repeats.
Mark 5:25-34 ~ The Healing of Woman with the
25 There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. 28 She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." 29 Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she as healed of her affliction. 30 Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" 31 But his disciples said to him, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
While Jesus was on his way to the home of Jairus, a woman with a
bleeding condition touched Him in hopes of being healed.
Question: For how many years had the woman suffered from uncontrolled bleeding?
Answer: For 12 years.
Question: The woman had a condition that may have been caused by
fibrous tumors in the uterus. How would a condition of continuous bleeding impact
her life? See Lev 15:19-30.
Answer: For 12 years she had been in a continual state of being ritually unclean. Anything on which she sat or laid became unclean and anyone who touched her or her bed or garments became unclean. Continuing in this state of ritual impurity, she could not attend her synagogue or Temple worship and her condition had an impact on her association with friends and family. She would not have been able to even take her meals with them.
When she grasped Jesus' cloak in her desperation to receive a healing, He immediately felt the power go out of Him. When He discovered who had touched Him, Jesus praised her faith, telling her "Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace." The question might be asked, if Jesus is God, why didn't He know who touched Him? Of course He knew, but He asked the question knowing the answer in the same way God asked "Where are you?" when He confronted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:9) when God had demanded to know where Adam and Eve were in their relationship with Him, inviting them to come forward and confess their sins. In this case, Jesus was asking the woman to confess her faith, her healing and her gratitude so He can grant her His peace and forgiveness. In addition, her public confession of healing will be an effective witness to others and bringing them to repentance and conversion.
Mark 5:35-43 ~ The Healing of Jairus' Daughter
35 While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?" 36 Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus [immediately] said to the synagogue official, "Do not be afraid just have faith." 37 He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 So he went in and said to them, "Why this commotion and weeping? This child is not dead but asleep." 40 And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child's father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. 41 He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" 42 The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. 43 He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.
Question: When someone from Jairus' house arrived to tell him
his daughter had died. What did Jesus tell him and what words are repeated
from what He told the woman?
Answer: He told both the woman and the father to have faith.
Question: Even though they have been told that the child is
dead, what Old Testament miracles might have encouraged Jairus to have faith
that Jesus could raise his daughter from the dead? See 1 Kng 17:17-24 and 2
Answer: The prophets Elijah and Elisha raised children from the dead.
Question: When Jesus arrived at Jairus' house, He only allowed
Peter, James and John Zebedee and the child's parents to come into the child's
room. Counting the child, how many people were in the room?
Answer: There were 7.
7 is one of the "prefect" numbers and in Scripture, symbolizing perfection and fulfillment, especially spiritual perfection. This is the first time Peter, James and John have been singled out to accompany Jesus. They will also accompany Him when He ascends the Mt. of Transfiguration (Mk 9:2) and when He prays in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest (Mk 14:33).
Question: Why does Jesus insist that the child is not dead?
What will her "sleep" and her rising from the dead prefigure? See 1 Cor 15:51-56; 1 Thes 4:14-18.
Answer: His statement is a message of hope for the family. When Jesus raises the child from death to life, her miracle prefigures His own Resurrection and the "sleep" of the faithful as they await the final bodily resurrection to come at the end of the age.
Jesus' command, Talitha koum, is Aramaic, the common language of Jesus' time in Judea.
Question: How old was Jairus' daughter?
Answer: She was 12 years old.
He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she
should be given something to eat.
Just as Jesus had attended to the practical by clothing the demonic man, He instructs the child's parents to given her something to eat. He also tells them not to share the true nature of the miracle. He tells them this because opposition to Him is continuing to grow and His mission to Israel is not yet completed; He needs more time before the climax of His mission.
The significance of the parallel stories of the official's daughter and the bleeding woman is that in both healings the woman and the girl are biblical "types" of Israel.
Question: What comparisons can you make between the two stories
and the relationship between those stories and God's chosen people of Israel?
|Jairus' Daughter||The Bleeding Woman||Israel|
|The official calls her his "daughter" (Mk 5:23).||Jesus calls the woman "daughter" (Mk 5:34).||Both the girl and the woman are "daughters" of Israel.|
|The official's daughter is 12 years old (Mk 5:42).||The woman bled for 12 years (Mk 5:25).||12 is the number of Israel, originally composed of 12 tribes who are the descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel.|
|Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead and restored her to her family (Mk 5:42).||Jesus healed the bleeding woman and restored her to her community (Mk 5:34).||Jesus came to heal and restore Israel and to raise the faithful remnant of the new Israel from bondage to death and to new life in Christ Jesus.|
|Michal E. Hunt © 2011|
Eusebius was the bishop of Caesarea in the Holy Land. In his 4th century AD Church History, he records that the woman with the uncontrolled bleeding lived in Caesarea Philippi. He wrote that she spread the Gospel message in her city, made her home a Church-home, and erected two statues, one of Jesus and the second of herself reaching out to touch the fringe of His garment to commemorate the event of her healing; statues which he testifies he had seen (Church History, VII.xviii.1-4).(4)
Jesus' teachings that may seem difficult to understand during His ministry will be revealed in the events of His crucifixion, Resurrection, and His forty days teaching the Church before His Ascension.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
How do Jesus' parables both conceal and reveal His Gospel message and an understanding of His Kingdom? What is the condition of your "spiritual" ears? The more you study Sacred Scripture, the deeper your understanding will grow and the more you will be able to discern God's divine plan for mankind's salvation in the Old and New Testaments. What have you learned in this week's lesson that you did not understand previously?
1. The Old Testament "parables" were also told as allegories, wise sayings, and proverbs by God's prophets to teach the people or warn them of impending judgment. God's prophets reverted to teaching in this way when the people and especially the religious and civil authority rejected the message of God's prophet. The word masal/mashal (or parabole in the LXX Greek Septuagint) is explicitly used for these parabolic or allegorical stories in the book of Ezekiel: Ez 12:22-23 (a proverb about the land of Israel); 16:43-45 (the allegory of Jerusalem as an unfaithful bride); 17:3-10 (parable-allegory of the two eagles); 20:45-49 (fire and trees). In other parables the word masal is not used and the stories are called "prophetic lamentations (for example see Ez 19:1-9 and 10-14). Some other examples of Old Testament parables are found in the Parable of the Rich man and the Ewe-lamb when the prophet Nathan confronted King David with his sin concerning Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:1-4); the Two Brothers and the Avenger (2 Sam 14:1-11); the Escaped Captive (2 Kng 20:35-40); the Vineyard (Is 5:1-7); the Lion Whelps (Ez 19:2-9); the Vine (Ez 19:10-14), the Forest Fire (Ez 21:1-5); and the Boiling Pot (Ez 24:3-5).
2. Bible scholars do not agree on the number of parables Jesus teaches in the Gospels. The difficulty arises from a disagreement as to how to classify Jesus' stories as all parables or as sayings or as allegories. For example, some scholars designate "the Good Shepherd" discourse in Jn 10:1-18 and the "Vine and the Branches" discourse in Jn 15:1-7 as parables while others classify them as allegories. Some scholars estimate the number of Jesus' parables as low as 35 while others list them as high as 72.
3. See the non-canonical document 4 Ezra 8:41, written c. 100 AD: "For just as the farmer sows many seeds upon the ground and plants a multitude of seedlings, and yet not all that have been sown will come up in due season, and not all that were planted will take root; so all those who have been sown in the world will not be saved."
4. Bishop Eusebius' account of the statues erected in honor of the healing miracle of the woman who suffered from a hemorrhage for 12 years (see Church History, VII.xviii.1-4) is repeated by several other early Christian writers including Sozomen in Church History, 5.21, and Philostorgius in his Church History, 7.3. Both Sozomen and Philostorgius record that the statues in Caesarea Philippi were destroyed by order of the Roman Emperor Julian (an apostate from Christianity) in the late 4th century AD. Archaeologists excavating in the ruins of the old city of Caesarea Philippi have discovered a 1st century AD Roman period dwelling with Christian symbols on the interior walls. It is believed that this house was the site of a 1st century AD Christian "church home," or "domus ecclesia," a place of Christian worship before the time of the Christian Roman Emperor Constantine. When Constantine put Christianity under the protection of Roman law, it was possible for Christian communities to begin building church buildings for prayer and worship. It is possible that archaeologists have discovered the home of the woman whose faith in Jesus Christ cured her of an illness from which she had suffered for twelve years, and in her gratitude she not only erected statues to commemorate her healing but provided her home as the meeting place for the early Christian disciples of Jesus the Messiah.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2014 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson:
CCC 681, 1038-41
CCC 1504, 2816
CCC 143, 1204, 2087
CCC 446, 498, 598
CCC 228, 2083