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Main Street Community Church, Frodsham

: Practice faithful presence

Mark chapter 4 verse 35 to chapter 5 verse 43

Sunday Morning talk given by Paul Wintle on .

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Outline

[00:00] Introduction

[02:06] Bible reading

[06:11] The responses of the onlookers

[19:50] The relevance to us

[23:11] Closing prayer

Read Mark 4:35 to 5:43 in the NIVUK on Bible Gateway.

Text Transcript

Introduction

We continue through our gallop through Mark’s Gospel — and I didn’t know exactly what to call it, because there are four miracles, which we look at today. And I wondered whether I should call is ‘pigs and people’, whether I should call it ‘fear and faith’, whether I should call it ‘being wholly whole’, whatever the message is entitled really doesn’t matter because it’s ultimately about being thankful that Jesus is Lord over all.

I’m going to be reading various kind of chunks of chapters 4 and 5 today; and have you ever wondered how it is the that Bible is carved up into chunks, into books, into chapters and into verses. Because I don’t think the original writers did that. And there’s probably a good reason for us to have the chapters and the verses so that we know exactly where we’re headed. For our purposes today it seemed more fitting to me that the last bit of Mark chapter 4, actually fits into Mark chapter 5 — so we’re just going to mess around with that a little bit. And it’s also the reason I didn’t mention Jesus calming the storm in my message last week.

This week we see Jesus out in the world, preaching and teaching the message of the Kingdom of God. This message however isn’t just a word to be heard — the actions of Jesus speak of his Kingdom being here on earth as it is in Heaven, where creation is fully whole and complete. This message today draws together four completely separate incidents, where all those involved and the onlookers are firstly fearful and then they are freed by faith into wholeness.

Scripture readings

So I’m going to read some scripture, we’re starting in Mark, chapter 4, verses 37 — 41; and then going on into chapter 5, verses 15–20 and then 25–34 and then 39–42; so I’m not going to read the whole chapter because that would take too long.

So, Mark, chapter 4, 37–41. So they’re on a boat, Jesus and his disciples. Bearing in mind that a lot of his disciples are fishermen:

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Into chapter 5, verses 15–20:

And so Jesus has restored a demon-possessed man:

When the people came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man — and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis, the ten cities, how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Verses 25–34:

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak; because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned round in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

And then finally verses 39–42:

Jesus went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father, Jairus, and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in to where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’, which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” Immediately the little girl stood up and began to walk around; she was 12 years old. At this they were completely astonished. He gave orders not to let anyone know about this and told them to give her something to eat.

The responses of the onlookers

The signs of the Kingdom of God are clear. Jesus is Lord over creation, demons, sickness and death. The individuals whom Jesus comes into contact receive peace and wholeness.

In preparing this message I was struck much less with the person who’d received the miracle and more with the response of the onlookers and the longer-term results of Jesus’ miracle on them. In each of these four circumstances a closer inspection of the raw emotion expressed by those involved demands deeper reflection. Not only because the English translation doesn’t really do justice to the text but that our own situations and circumstances may also be dripping with raw emotion too. And so we remind ourselves that whilst Lord and God, Jesus was also human and able to identify with us in our joys and our struggles. In each of the miracles here, Jesus brings total peace and unequivocal wholeness.

Now the struggle I had in squeezing four major miracles into one message has been a source of consternation, however please bear with me. I hope that this whistle-stop tour of some Greek words, well one Greek word in particular, which will help us to unpack the miracles, will help us to marvel afresh at the greatness of God in our world, whilst highlighting the similarities in each miracle, reminding us that Jesus is Lord over all.

And so the first thing that we notice in this clutch of miracles together, is that everyone was terrified — because of the raging storm and because the storm was calmed. The demons were terrified because they came up against a power that was more powerful than they were and they wanted to keep their superior position within Legion. Jairus was fearful for the future of his daughter’s life. The Gentile woman was terrified because she had nothing to lose. All these situations involved their knowledge, however little, that Jesus could change their lives for the better.

The main players in the miracles are faithless and fearful; the disciples, Legion, Jairus, the woman — faithless and fearful in different measure. They dread their immediate circumstances and what might become of them or their situation.

This terrifying experience of having Jesus come near to them drives them into action in one way or another. Depending on who they were in the passage they either fly or they fight. They stay or they go. Thankfully for us the response Jesus gives through calming the storm, bringing restoration to the man, giving healing to the woman and offering life back to the girl, shows that we may not fear.

In the incident of the calming of the storm we read that the disciples are terrified — fishermen who are used to squalls, terrified — it must have been a bad storm.

The rebuke from Jesus about their lack of faith is a recurring theme throughout Mark. Here they don’t yet see him as Lord and Christ; hence their terror, “Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey him.”

Legion, in juxtaposition to the disciples, know who Jesus is; “Son of the most high God!” they scream out as Jesus approaches. Jesus speaks directly with authority to them to be quiet, as he calms the storm with the words, “Peace, be still.” So he uses a similar technique in a different situation with the same outcome. The demons are terrified of Jesus and so plead that they are able to be set free into the pigs in the field opposite, and as a result the man is able to sit without chains, peaceful and in his right mind. “Peace, be still.” Be of right mind — perhaps the words for some of us today.

But what about those witnessing this incident unfold — the pig farmers. What about those who knew the man’s difficulties before he met Jesus? Again this word fear or afraid appears in Scripture. In the Greek, and I’m sure that somebody’s going to tell me that I’ve said it wrong, it’s the word ‘phobos’, Φόβος, something like that, where we get our word phobia. These onlookers were both afraid and amazed.

The King James’ version of the Bible says the people marvelled, they wondered, they admired — who wouldn’t be both disturbed and amazed at seeing a man healed from his difficulties? Who wouldn’t be both amazed and scared and disturbed by Jesus calming the storm? The disciples were ‘phobos’ in the boat and they were ‘phobos’’ when the storm was calmed with a word. The man with demons experienced ‘phobos’’, those watching were similarly afraid, the same word; and so through fear told everyone they met what they’d seen. ‘Phobos’, exceedingly fearing, otherwise translated as ‘faithless’. This is the common theme here.

And then we have Jairus; a devout man who believed whole-heartedly that Jesus is the man who can cure his daughter. A man at his wits’ end, beside himself with anxiety. Although Mark doesn’t specifically mention the word ‘phobos’ here, we can sense the tension and urgency as he pleads with Jesus to come to visit his sick child. This emotive word ‘pleads’ somehow does not come close to the panic that Jairus is probably experiencing. The Greek suggests that, in pleading, Jairus is actually praying for Jesus to accept his invitation to rush to his home. In throwing theological orthodoxy to the wind, he throws himself at the feet of Jesus, begging for help. And because Jesus is always, always on the side of the needy, the poor, the helpless and the outcast he agrees to go. We will remain with this particular miracle for the moment and return to the Gentile woman presently.

As with the disciples, the man delivered from the demons and the crowds watching — I am curious to discover more about the heightened emotions surrounding the illness and the subsequent death and resurrection of this 12-year-old girl. So as Jesus approaches Jairus’ house, the neighbours are already in full weeping mode as the custom before a funeral took place. Weeping, crying, wailing, sobbing, mourning — and so imagine the ridicule that Jesus suffers as he quietly says, “Just believe. Don’t be ‘phobos’, don’t be ‘phobos’, she’s only sleeping.” Imagine the Son of God derided for bringing false hope into a hopeless situation. “Who does he think he is? Does he think he can bring life where there’s loss?” Yet, true to his word, he goes to the room and restores the girl. Another life saved; another person who is alive, healthy and in her right mind, if a little hungry!

And so we see Jesus, King over creation, bringing peace to troubled lakes and fearful hearts. We see Jesus as Lord over evil, bringing peace and serenity to troubled minds and we see Jesus as Lord and conqueror over sickness and even death itself. The people, the onlookers, those who derided him and scorned him, are now completely foxed. King James’ version Concordance doesn’t even have the capacity and so exclaims, ‘They were astonished, with great astonishment.’ Overwhelmed, relieved, totally amazed, fearful? Yes, all of those emotions I would imagine and more. I would imagine that we too would marvel or stand in awe and amazement at all those things that Jesus packs into this chapter of his life.

Let’s remember that on his way to visiting Jairus’ daughter Jesus had been upheld by a throng of people converging from all sides and yet he knows when a meek, poor mite of a Gentile woman simply touches the hem of his cloak. Having explored some of the emotions of the others in Mark, chapter 5, I want to look a little bit more closely here at the emotions surrounding this lady. Just like the demon-possessed man, she’s the wrong sort of person to attract Jesus’ attention. She’s not a Jew, she’s not a man, she’s quite obviously ceremonially unclean and impure because of her disposition. She has absolutely no right, no right at all to be anywhere near Jesus, but despite her ‘phobos’, her absolute terror of being found out, she somehow knows that being next to this man, Jesus, can solve all of her problems; let’s face it, she had nothing to lose.

She manages to reach out, touches the hem of Jesus cloak and then probably scurries away into the crowd. ‘Oh thank goodness,’ she might think, ‘I’ve got away with it. I don’t have to experience the derision and ignominy of this massive crowd of people who look down on me.’ And then, oh no, Jesus stops and turns around, declares that he felt his miraculous power drain from him and demands, “Who touched me?”

Let’s stop for a moment and reflect on the paralysing fear that must have gripped this poor lady. I can only liken it to that moment in school when you’re about six years old and the teacher glares at the class and says, “Nobody is going out to lunch until you tell me who threw that rubber at my head.” It wasn’t me, honest. As she approaches Jesus to ‘fess up to her crime, sense the shame and the smallness of this lady; how she must have wished that the earth would just swallow her up, but no, watch this — Jesus’s compassion for the poor and the needy wins out again; love wins. “My faith has healed me, I’ve been made whole and I’m to go in peace?” Healing, restoration, peace — those words we have heard time and again reverberating through Mark, chapters 4 and 5; and our ‘iphobos’, and our fears, and our deepest worries met and absolved and cured by Jesus, the God-man who came to show His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.

The relevance to us

These glimpses of individuals healed are a foretaste of what’s to come for those who are in Christ. This kingdom is an inclusive kingdom for all who seek will find and those who are in need will receive. Kingdom living, becoming the best versions of who we are called to be.

And so as we draw our reflections together, we notice that what began as turmoil, turmoil for the disciples on the boat led to peace on the lake, yet challenged their minds as to who Jesus was. What began for the demon-possessed man as a normal day of madness and fear, ended up in peace and being right-minded. What began for Jairus as a day of fear and hurt, ended up as a time of feasting and rejoicing. And what began as another ordinary day for the Gentile women, ended in being made wholly whole in every part; emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially. For the bystanders too, those eyewitnesses to the accounts of these four miracles here — and to us 2,000 years later, and for everyone in between, as we reflect on the marvellous ability of Jesus to restore us to our full capacity, which strong emotion resonates perhaps with you today?

Come boldly to Jesus; touch the hem of his cloak — and more — fall at his feet, let him tell you, “Peace, be still.” God wants to meet with us in our turmoil and fear. Let Jesus offer you words of comfort and peace. “The Lord, my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie in green pastures, he leads me by still waters, he guides me in right ways and restores my soul.” In the joys of life, as Jesus laughs and enjoys the light times with you, may you know his peace, may you share that joy and peace with others. When life is just humdrum, along as normal, may you know the spirit of Jesus living in you and through you. May he be pleased with you, as you are Jesus to those around you. And in every circumstance, may we all know the full wholly wholeness that comes of being a child of the eternal and perfect Kingdom of God.

Closing prayer

Let us pray:

Father God, it’s always so amazing to turn to your word and see what Jesus did. It’s always easy for us to kind of think, ‘Well he did that then, but what about now?’

Father God, for those of who are struggling would you please speak into our hearts, “Peace, be still.” For those of us who are happy with life Father would you please walk with us as if we were in that crowd. For those perhaps who are in between, would you please continue to show us that you are here and that, whatever our circumstances, you are still God. Would you please allow your kingdom to come here, in Frodsham, as it is in heaven. Amen.

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