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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

Mark 5


Mark continues to portray Jesus as a man of powerful action in this chapter. He records three of the Lord’s great miracles: subduing the Gerasene demoniacs (1-20), raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead (21-24, 35-43), and healing a woman with an issue of blood (25-34).

Verse 1

And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.

And they came over unto the other side of the sea: Jesus and His disciples cross over to "the other side" or the eastern shore of Galilee, normally about a two-hour trip.

into the country of the Gadarenes: The word "Gadarenes" in the Greek text is Gerasenon. Luke also uses the word Gerasenon (8:26-40), but Matthew uses the word Gadarenes (8:28-35). The actual site where Jesus and His disciples land is generally believed to be Khersa in the district of Gadara. Gadara is the principal town in the area, and much better known, so Matthew calls the area "the country of the Gadarenes."

Verse 2

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,

And when he was come out of the ship: The confrontation between Jesus and the demoniac takes place near the shore as Jesus is getting out of the boat.

immediately there met him out of the tombs: Luke says the demoniac is "a certain man out of the city" (8:27). He used to live in the city, but now his dwelling is "out of the tombs." Trench says:

He had his dwelling among the tombs, that is, in places unclean because of the dead men’s bones which were there (Numbers 19:11; Numbers 19:16; Matthew 23:27; Luke 11:44). To those who did not therefore shun them, these tombs of the Jews afforded ample shelter (Isaiah 65:4), being either natural caves, or recesses artificially hewn out of the rock. Many such tombs may still be found in the immediate neighborhood of Gadara (Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord 98-99).

In view of the fact that tombs are unclean for Jews and that the people of the place keep swine, it is possible that the demon-possessed man is a Gentile.

a man with an unclean spirit: Mark and Luke (8:27) mention only one man while Matthew mentions two. This variation in reporting is not an uncommon thing even today and is certainly no basis for thinking this verse is a contradiction. Mark and Luke did not say there is only one demoniac who meets Jesus. The mention of one does not exclude the presence of a second unless it is specifically stated he is alone. It is probable the one mentioned by Mark and Luke is so much more ostentatiously fierce that they do not even mention the other man.

Each of the synoptics has a different phrase for describing the condition of the man. Matthew says, "two possessed with devils (demons)" (8:28). Luke says, "which had devils (demons)" (8:27). Mark refers to him as "a man with an unclean spirit." For a more complete discussion of "unclean spirits" and demon possession, see chapter one, verse 23.

Verse 3

Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:

Who had his dwelling among the tombs: Bickersteth says, "The Jews did not have their burial-places in their cities, lest they should be defiled; therefore they buried their dead without the gates in the fields or mountains" (209).

and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: "Chains" is from the word halusei. This word is "made up of luo ’to loose,’ or ’that which cannot be loosed.’ It means a chain, for a chain is something which cannot be loosed" (Wuest 101). Mark vividly describes a terrifying picture, and every word emphasizes the pathetic condition of the man. The people have tried to bind him, but he snaps the handcuffing chains as though they are strings.

There are probably two reasons for chaining the demoniac. They are afraid of him, and they might also want to protect him from himself since he is continually crying and cutting himself with stones (verse 5).

Matthew mentions that the demoniac makes the way impassable for travelers. Luke reveals that he is without clothing, which Mark later implies in verse 15 when he says that after the man is healed, he is found clothed and sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Verse 4

Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.

Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains: The verb is perfect in tense, showing a well-done, complete piece of work. The binding had been done most thoroughly. "Fetters" is the translation of pede, a fetter or shackle for the feet, the word coming from peza "the foot or instep." The English plural of "foot" is, of course "feet." The Anglo-Saxon word for foot is fot, fet, and the plural is feeter, hence, fetter, that which binds the feet. The demonized man was bound both by his hands and his feet (Wuest 101).

and the chains had been plucked asunder by him: "Plucked asunder" is from diaspao and means to "pull or tear asunder or in pieces, burst" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 95).

and the fetters broken in pieces: Vincent says the expression "broken in pieces" is from the verb suntribo which originally meant "to rub together, to grind or crush" (102).

neither could any man tame him: "Tame" is from damazo and is used properly of wild animals. The demoniac roams at will like a wild animal in the jungle.

Verse 5

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying: Henry Swete says, "at intervals during the night and day, yet without any long intermission" (93). Alexander Bruce says:

...incessantly night time and day time, even during night when men gladly get under roof and when sleep makes trouble cease for most: no sleep for this wretch, or quiet resting-place (371).

The word "crying" is from krazo and denotes "an inarticulate cry; a shriek" (Vincent 102). Sometimes he leaves the shelter of the tombs for the open, and his loud screams and shrieks can be heard in the hills.

and cutting himself with stones: Robertson says the verb "cutting" (katakopton) means literally to "cut down, gash, hack to pieces" (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. I 295). His body is probably gashed and scarred all over as a result of this self-laceration.

It would be hard to imagine a more wretched condition than the one Mark describes here. This man roams the area like a fierce, wild animal. He possesses superhuman strength that allows him to break chains as though they are strings. His naked body is covered with self-inflicted scars. His constant, ear-splitting screams are heard echoing from cavern to cavern near the rocky shore, sending a terrifying chill down the spines of those who are within hearing distance. He lives in graveyards on desolate hillsides. Persistent efforts have been made to curb his violent outbreaks and to restrain him from senseless self-torture, but all efforts have proved futile. His condition is hopeless. It is the despair and failure of human treatment for this miserable, wretched creature that makes the Lord’s action all the more impressive.

Verse 6

But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,

But when he saw Jesus afar off: Verse 6 resumes the story that is left off in verse 2. It is sometimes argued that this verse contradicts verse 2, but there is no need to see any inconsistency here. Verse 2 says the demoniac is there immediately as Jesus and His disciples step off the boat. Verse 6 says the demoniac was "afar off" and ran to Jesus. The meaning could easily be that while the boat is still afar off from the shore, the demoniac sees Jesus and His disciples coming and runs to meet them as they come ashore.

He ran and worshipped him: On the surface this is a confusing act by the demoniac. Initially, he seems to be running toward Jesus and His disciples with hostile intentions, possibly to drive these intruders from his territory; the next instant he prostrates himself at Jesus’ feet and worships Him. I agree with Hendriksen who explains:

In addition it should be pointed out that when this man started to run toward the company, he did not as yet recognize its Leader. When he--really the demons inside him, represented by their leader--in a manner that surpasses human understanding did recognize him, the first reaction, because of the majesty of Christ, was that of awe, resulting in prostration (190).

Swete says:

At first perhaps with hostile intentions. The onrush of the naked yelling maniac must have tried the newly recovered confidence of the Twelve. We can imagine their surprise when, on approaching, he threw himself on his knees (94).

Verse 7

And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus: The evil spirit uses the speech organs of the man whom he possesses and vents his feelings of frustration and despair at the presence of Jesus, the One who has come "to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

Once again the unclean spirit’s recognition of Christ is clear and instantaneous. As mentioned earlier, this instant recognition is characteristic of all cases of demon possession. This is a graphic illustration of James 2:19, "...the devils (demons) also believe, and tremble." This characteristic is one of the several that distinguishes demon possession from mere mental illnesses and diseases such as epilepsy.

The expression "What have I to do with thee" means "What do we have in common?" The demon is speaking in anger and fear, wanting to know why Jesus is interfering with him.

thou Son of the most high God: The behavior of the demoniac is strikingly similar to the one described in chapter one, verse 23. On both occasions the demon is aware of Jesus’ divine origin and nature. The designation "Son of the Most High God" corresponds to "the Holy One of God" in chapter one, verse 24.

I adjure thee by God: "Adjure" is from the word horkizo and means an oath. The demon is trying to get Jesus to take an oath or to swear that He will not torture him.

The very strong adjuration "by God" has a strange, ironic ring in the mouth of the demoniac. He senses that he is to be punished and employs the strongest adjuration that he knows. He invokes God’s protection, but the adjuration is without force, for Jesus is the Son of God. In the act of kneeling, the defensive use of the divine name, and the violent invocation of God to strengthen the plea that Jesus would not torment him, there is the full recognition of Jesus’ superior power on the part of the demon (William Lane 184).

that thou torment me not: "Torment" is from basanizo and means to "test metals; to test by torture. The latter is our present ’third degree’" (Wuest 103). Matthew says, "And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (8:29). It is obvious, from the demon’s own admission, that there is a specific time appointed for all the demonic world to be punished. Judges 1:6 says, "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." The demon who is speaking to Jesus realizes he is face to face with the very One who is to be the Judge at that time, and he is afraid that even now "before the time" Jesus may cast him and his cohorts into hell, or the abyss, as Luke calls it (8:31).

Verse 8

For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.

Wuest says:

the original has the progressive imperfect, "for He had been saying." Our Lord had repeatedly ordered the demon to come out of the man, as a result of which the demon had made this outcry (103).

Verse 9

And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.

And he asked him, What is thy name: Why did Jesus ask this question? Cranfield explains it was of utmost importance in the ancient world to know the correct name of an adversary. In exorcising it is thought that knowledge of the true name of the demon gives one power over it (178). This is hardly a satisfactory explanation, however, because if this were true, there would be a record of asking the specific name of demons in all other cases of exorcism recorded in the New Testament.

Other commentators believe Jesus asks the demon his name so that the others who are present will know the extreme magnitude of this man’s possession, that he is possessed with many demons, not just one, and that they may be all the more impressed with Jesus’ mastery over them.

Another possibility, and one espoused by several commentators, is given by Hendriksen:

Jesus wishes to reveal to the demoniac the seriousness of his condition. In order to deliver him from this condition he wishes to calm him down and to strengthen his consciousness of his real self. He desires to tear him loose from his close association--almost identification--with the demon, or demons, that had for so long a time dominated him (192).

And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many: A full Roman legion had 6,826 men and was not a rare sight in that area. To a Palestinian in the days of Jesus, the name would indicate not only vast numbers but also the extreme misery caused by the military occupation of a foreign power.

The name reveals the man is possessed with not just one demon but a whole legion. If one man could be possessed with so many demons, how vast must Satan’s arsenal of hosts be! There are several scriptures in the New Testament indicating that more than one demon could possess a person at the same time (Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26; Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2).

Verse 10

And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.

Legion, speaking on behalf of all the other demons, desperately tries to bargain with Jesus. Not only are they terrified of the abyss, but they prefer to remain in this particular area of tombs, desertion, and desolation. Grotius believes demons love this area because it is full of Hellenistic apostate Jews.

Verse 11

Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.

Mark, exhibiting his usual attention to detail, tells us in verse 13 there are about two thousand swine. Because Jews consider swine to be most unclean, this reference is an indication the area is a pagan environment.

Verse 12

And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

The word "send" is from pemphon and is a "sharp command to be obeyed at once" (Wuest 104).

Some believe this request of the demons is a brilliantly conceived plan to cause the swine to be destroyed and the owners and the townspeople to become outraged at Jesus and reject His mission.

Others believe demons had to have a physical body to indwell or they could not remain on the earth. This is a more likely explanation of the puzzling request the demons make to be allowed to enter into the swine, beasts without a human soul. It is obvious the demons are not going to be allowed to remain in the man, so they are frantically looking for an alternative to being cast into the abyss or driven from the country.

Verse 13

And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

And forthwith Jesus gave them leave: Jesus gives them permission, not a command, to enter the swine. The fact that they cannot enter without His permission shows the total mastery Jesus has over them.

And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently: The words "ran violently" are from hormesen and mean, "to set in rapid motion, to stir up, incite, urge on, to start forward impetuously, to rush" (Thayer 453).

To have stampeded the swine intentionally into rushing over the cliff to their death would have defeated the purpose of the demons for entering the pigs in the first place. With the swine dead, the demons would have no physical bodies to inhabit. It follows then that it is the unwelcome entrance of the demons into the pigs that startle them into their destructive stampede.

down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea: So far Mark has briefly stated four incidents, four summary facts: gave, came out of, went into, rushed down. It is as if he, in very rapid succession, shows us four snapshots. Then we are shown a slow-motion movie: one by one we see the (approximately) two thousand pigs choking to death in the sea, until all have drowned (Hendriksen 193).

There are several puzzles in this verse that beg for answers. First, why does Jesus give permission to the demons to enter the swine? It is impossible to know with certainty the reasoning of Christ on this matter, but there are several possibilities. It could be the Lord knows the pigs will rush into the sea to their deaths and the demons will be without bodies to inhabit after all. Trench says:

The wicked, Satan (Job 1:11) and his ministers, are sometimes heard, and the very granting of their petitions issues in their worst confusion and loss (Numbers 22:20; Psalms 78:29; Psalms 78:31). So is it now: the prayer of these evil spirits was heard; but only to their ruin. They are allowed to enter into the swine; but the destruction of the whole herd follows (Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord 102).

Second, it is possible Jesus allows the demons to enter into the swine to illustrate clearly the purpose of their possession is the total destruction of their host.

Further, this incident may have been done as evidence to the man that he has been completely purged of the demons. He might have worried that the demons are not completely gone or that they may return to him if he had not seen this spectacular scene involving the swine.

One other possibility is offered by Cole:

Sometimes the expelled demon spent his force in a last attack on the patient (9:26, the epileptic boy), but sometimes we have no record of any special manifestation on exit...It may well be that, in some way that we do not understand, this was some sort of "safety valve" or lightning conductor, to avert great spiritual violence from the patient (98).

Another question that demands an answer is: why are the swine allowed to be destroyed? Is the Lord inconsiderate of the owners of the swine?

There are several possible answers to this second question. If it is necessary to allow the swine to die to convince the man that he is no longer possessed of demons, the soul of one man is of much more value than many swine.

Animal-rights zealots will blame Jesus because the healing of the man involves the death of the pigs. How can the fate of pigs be compared with the fate of a man’s immortal soul?

Although none of God’s creatures is to be destroyed needlessly or thoughtlessly, we have no objections to killing animals for food. Surely if we kill animals for food, we can raise no objection if the saving of a man’s mind and soul involves the death of some swine. It is ironic that there are animal-rights activists in the world who loudly protest in anguish over the abuse of animals but do not give a second thought to the millions of human beings who are lost in sin and doomed to a devil’s hell.

Is Jesus inconsiderate of the owners? Of course not. By permitting the swine to be lost, Jesus is teaching them a very important lesson. The owners and the people of the community are selfish. It is more important to them to obtain and increase their material possessions than to assist a poor, wretched demoniac to be freed from the demons that possess him. This is a valuable lesson the people refuse to see.

We must always keep in mind that whether we understand the actions of Jesus or not, He is Divine, and His judgments are always righteous.

Verse 14

And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.

And they that fed the swine fled: The swine herders are terrified and run from the scene.

and told it in the city, and in the country: They tell what they have seen to the people in the nearby city and in the small hamlets in the countryside. They obviously want the owners to know they are not responsible for the loss of the swine.

And they went out to see what it was that was done: The townspeople and those from the country pour down to the place where Jesus has performed the miracle.

Verse 15

And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.

And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion: The road that brings them to Jesus reveals to them a sight even more astounding than the story the swine herders have told. The demoniac is well-known among them, and the vivid sight Mark describes shows the people were immediately astonished.

sitting: Instead of rushing about like a wild beast, he is sitting calmly at Jesus’ feet, a position of humility and trust. Before, chains could not restrain him, but now he is at rest.

and clothed: He has previously been naked, but now he is clothed.

and in his right mind: He no longer acts like a madman, screaming, rushing about, and cutting himself with stones but is in his right mind.

and they were afraid: So radical is the transformation of the demoniac that the townspeople are stunned and frightened. They are in awe of the power of Jesus that has not only healed the man but has destroyed two thousand swine. Fear is a common reaction to the strange and powerful works that Jesus does during His earthly stay.

Verse 16

And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.

The herdsmen, who are eyewitnesses, begin to tell their story once again at the spot where it all happens. They graphically rehearse what has happened to the demoniac and also emphasize what has happened to the swine. The loss of the swine is apparently foremost on their minds, and they want to make it clear to the owners they are not responsible.

Verse 17

And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.

The word "pray" is from parakalein and means "to beg, beseech, entreat, implore" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 303). All three synoptics report this reaction of the people. "Once before the people of Nazareth had driven Jesus out of the city (Luke 4:16-31). Soon they will do it again on his return there (Mark 6:1-6; Matthew 13:3-4-58)" (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. I 297).

There are apparently two reasons the people beg Jesus to leave Decapolis. First, they are afraid of Him because of the miraculous power He has displayed. Secondly, they resent Him because He is responsible for the loss of their property. This is a time of trial for the people of Decapolis. Which is more important in their lives, their spiritual well-being or worldly possessions? Tragically for them, as well as for many today, their worldly possessions are more important to them than their spiritual welfare. They view Jesus as a threat and a disrupter to their familiar lifestyles.

Verse 18

And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.

While Jesus is stepping into the boat, the man whom He has healed is begging Jesus to take him with Him. His request is a natural one. He is extremely grateful to Jesus, and he is reluctant to stay in the place where the demons have gained control of him. There is a striking contrast between this man’s response and the response of the townspeople.

Verse 19

Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

Howbeit Jesus suffered him not: The man’s request is refused. It seems ironic that Jesus grants the request of the demons to enter into the swine but now refuses the request of this man to accompany Him as a disciple. There are specific reasons for Jesus’ responses.

but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends: Robertson says "thy friends" is more properly translated "thy own folks" (Word Pictures in the New Testament 297). The man’s first duty is to go to his own house where he has long been a stranger (Luke 8:27) to speak to his relatives. But also he is to include his acquaintances and neighbors from whom he has been estranged for so long.

and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee: Swete comments:

...the combination of tenses expresses two sides of the transaction, its historical completeness and its permanent results. The act of mercy was momentary, the consequences would be before the eyes of those who listened to his tale (100).

The man is commanded to tell his people what great things "the Lord" has done for him. Obviously, according to verse 20, the man understands "the Lord" to refer to Jesus. Luke 8:39 substitutes the word "God" for the word "Lord." It is obvious the man understands "God" to refer to Jesus in that place. It follows the healed man sees Jesus as "the Lord, or God."

Jesus is leaving the eastern shore of Galilee, but He is leaving a witness of Himself in their midst. This man, whom they all know, has been wonderfully and spectacularly freed from the horrors of demon possession and now is a continuous testimony to the power and grace of God’s Son.

Some commentators find it perplexing that Jesus tells the leper whom He heals in Galilee (1:43-44) to say nothing of his miraculous healing and then tells this man to publish his healing abroad. There is no reason to believe there is any contradiction here. Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is "a time to speak and a time to be silent." It could be that Jesus tells the leper whom He has healed miraculously to be silent about it because of the undue excitement and misunderstanding that will be elicited toward His ministry. When the leper is healed, there is already a tremendous multitude crowding around Jesus for healing. There is no need for spreading the tidings. But in this case, there is no danger of too much enthusiasm for Christ because the people have begged Him to leave.

Trench offers another possible explanation:

Yet this command that he should go and declare the great things done for him, may very well have found its further motive in the special moral condition of the man. Only by a reference to this moral condition are we able to account for the apparently contradictory injunctions which the Lord laid on those whom He had healed:--some being forbidden to say anything of God’s goodness to them (Matthew 8:4; Luke 8:56),--this one commanded to publish everywhere the mercy which he had received. We may very well suppose that where there was danger of all deeper impressions being scattered and lost through a garrulous repetition of the outward circumstances of the healing, silence was enjoined, so that there might be an inward brooding over the gracious and wondrous dealings of the Lord. But where, on the contrary, there was a temperament over-inclined to melancholy, sunken and shut up in itself, a sufferer needing to be drawn out from self, and into healthy communion with his kind,--as was evidently the case with such a solitary melancholic sufferer as is here before us,--there the command was, that the man should go and tell to others the great things which God had done for him, and by the very act of this telling maintain the healthy condition of his own soul (Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord 105-106).

Verse 20

And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

And he departed, and began to publish: "To publish" is from kerusso and means "to make a public proclamation" (Thayer 346).

in Decapolis: The word "Decapolis" is the transliteration of two Greek words meaning "ten cities." The ten cities referred to are Scythopolis, Philadelphia, Gerasa, Pella, Damascus, Kanata, Dion, Abila, Gadara, and Hippos.

Throughout this region there was a scattering of Jews, but by and large this was definitely Gentile territory; a fact to which, for example, many Greek amphitheaters bore witness (Hendriksen 198).

how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel: The word "marvel" is in the imperfect tense and means "kept on marvelling." The people who hear this man testify continue to be filled with wonder and amazement for some time. The man has a better opportunity for declaring what Christ has done for him right there in his homeland than anywhere else. All the people know he had been the wild demoniac, but now he is a new man in Christ. Thus, in the midst of the Gentiles, the God of Israel is glorified through the heralding of what Jesus has accomplished.

Verse 21

And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea.

And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side: The "other side" refers to the western side of the Sea of Galilee. Matthew says, "...and came into his own city" (9:1). Jesus must have landed near Capernaum because this is now His "own city." Bickersteth says:

St. Matthew (iv.13) distinctly tells us that he had left Nazareth, and was now dwelling at Capernaum, thus fulfilling the ancient prophecy with regard to Zebulun and Nephthalim. The circumstances under which he quitted Nazareth are given by St. Luke (iv.16-31). St. Matthew (ix.1) calls Capernaum his own city. Thus as Christ ennobled Bethlehem by his birth, Nazareth by his education, and Jerusalem by his death, so he honoured Capernaum by making it his ordinary residence, and the focus, so to speak, of his preaching and miracles (211).

much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea: A multitude gathers around Jesus while He is still by the sea. It is probable the multitude comes together at the first sight of the boat; and as soon as Jesus has landed, the crowd swarms Him. Luke says, "...the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him" (8:40). There is a remarkable contrast between the attitudes of the people on the eastern shore and the multitude on the western side. On the eastern shore, Jesus is asked to leave; but, on the other side, His return is anxiously coveted. Here Jesus is the center of attraction. The people have gathered to see Jesus and to avail themselves of His help.

Verse 22

And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,

And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue: The synagogue is no doubt in Capernaum. The expression "one of the rulers" makes it clear a single synagogue had a plurality of rulers, just as there is a plurality of elders in the church. (See comments on chapter 3:1.) Swete believes an exception to that rule may be found in Luke 13:14, and he concludes that in small synagogues sometimes there was only one ruler (101).

Jairus by name: The name "Jairus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew name, Jair. Jair occurs in the Old Testament in Numbers 32:41, Judges 10:3, and Esther 2:5. The name means "whom Jehovah enlightens" (Wuest 108).

and when he saw him, he fell at his feet: Jairus apparently makes his way through the crowd until he reaches Jesus; then, in an act of the highest respect for Jesus, he prostrates himself at Jesus’ feet. Bickersteth speculates that Jairus kneels down and bends forward until his forehead touches the ground (211). Swete comments:

The prostration is the more remarkable as that of a dignitary in the presence of a crowd. His dignity was forgotten in the presence of a great sorrow; he recognised (sic) his inferiority to the Prophet who had the power to heal (101).

Verse 23

And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.

And besought him greatly: The word "besought" is from parakaleo and means "to beg, entreat, beseech" (Thayer 482).

saying, My little daughter: "This little endearing touch in the use of the diminutive is peculiar to Mark" (Vincent 103). Often the use of the diminutive is as a term of endearment, and that is certainly the case here. The Jews regarded a girl as becoming a woman at the age of twelve years and one day. Hence, this girl is on the verge of womanhood (verse 42); yet her father refers to her as "my little daughter." It is probable he calls her "little" not so much because of her tender years but because of her preciousness in his eyes.

lieth at the point of death: The Greek is eschato echei. The first word (eschato) means "lastly" and modifies the verb "she has" (echei). The idea is "to be in the last gasp," at the point of death (Wuest 108).

Vincent says this is "one of the uncouth phrases peculiar to Mark’s style, and which are cited by some as evidence of the early composition of his gospel" (103).

Matthew 9:18 says, " even now dead." Some critics charge that Matthew’s words constitute a contradiction. It is probable though that because the child is at death’s door when Jairus leaves to find Jesus, he now does not know whether to regard her as alive or dead. So, in anguish, he refers to his daughter one moment as being "at the point of death" and the next moment as being "even now dead."

I pray thee, come: The words "I pray thee" are not found in the Greek. Literally Jairus’ words are, "My little daughter lieth at the point of death--that thou come...." Vincent says that in his anguish, Jairus was speaking brokenly and incoherently (103).

and lay thy hands on her: The practice of laying on hands is common in ancient stories of healing. It is adopted by Jesus and also practiced later in the church to symbolize and impart gifts of healing or of grace. This is the first mention of the laying on of hands in Mark.

that she may be healed; and she shall live: In making such a request, Jairus demonstrates a remarkable faith in Jesus’ ability to do what he asks. It is possible he has seen Jesus perform miracles before in Capernaum, but still it is remarkable that, with his only child so near death’s door, he has faith that Jesus can save her if He will only come.

Verse 24

And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.

And Jesus went with him: Jesus is impressed with the simplicity of Jairus’ faith and, thus, goes with him promptly.

and much people followed him, and thronged him: The verb "thronged" (sunthlibo) means "to press together, to press on all sides" (Thayer 605). Luke 8:42 uses the word sumpnigo, which means they keep pressing or thronging around Jesus so as almost to suffocate Him (Thayer 597).

Verse 25

And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,

On the way to Jairus’ house, we are momentarily distracted by another encounter. In the crowd following Jesus, there is a woman who has been afflicted by some sort of hemorrhage for twelve years. This hemorrhage, or flow of blood, is not only a serious physical problem, but it is a source of religious problems as well. Such a condition would prohibit this woman’s participation, in any full sense, in the religious acts of Judaism (Leviticus 15:25-30). She would be considered to be in a constant state of uncleanness and would be generally avoided by people since contact with her would render others unclean.

It is impossible to determine from Mark’s words the exact cause of her loss of blood, although tradition has it that it is discharged from the womb.

Verse 26

And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,

And had suffered many things: The word "suffered" is pascho and means "to suffer pain" (Wuest 109). Vincent explains:

What she may have suffered will appear from the prescription for the medical treatment of such a complaint given in the Talmud.

Take of the gum of Alexandria the weight of a zuzee (a fractional silver coin); of alum the same; of crocus the same. Let them be bruised together, and given in wine to the woman that has an issue of blood. If this does not benefit, take of Persian onions three logs (pints); boil them in wine, and give her to drink, and say, "Arise from thy flux." If this does not cure her, set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her right hand, and let some one come behind and frighten her, and say, "Arise from they flux." But if that do no good, take a handful of cummin (a kind of fennel), a handful of crocus, and a handful of fenugreek (another kind of fennel). Let these be boiled in wine and give them her to drink, and say, "Arise from thy flux!"

If these do no good, other doses, over ten in number, are prescribed, among them this:

Let them dig seven ditches, in which let them burn some cuttings of vines, not yet four years old. Let her take in her hand a cup of wine, and let them lead her away from this ditch, and make her sit down over that. And let them remove her from that, and make her sit down over another, saying to her at each remove, "Arise from thy flux!" (Quoted from Lightfoot by Geikie, Life and Words of Christ) (104-105).

of many physicians: The preposition "of" is from hupo and means "under." She has suffered much pain under the hands of many physicians (Wuest 109).

and spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse: This is a pitiful picture of a poor woman who has a chronic condition and who has tried doctor after doctor. But instead of getting better she grows worse. With her money depleted and her illness progressing, she desperately feels her last chance is with Jesus.

Luke, being a physician himself, reports this episode in a way that is less critical of the physicians of the woman. Luke in no way contradicts Mark but just implies the woman has a disease they do not know how to cure and therefore are not to be blamed (8:43).

Verse 27

When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.

When she had heard of Jesus: The woman has heard the reports about Jesus. There is an indication here that not only is Jesus’ popularity growing but that there is also a wider awareness of his healing powers.

came in the press behind: The word "press" is ochlo and means "crowd" (Marshall 157).

and touched his garment: The woman expresses her faith by pressing through the crowd, confident that if she only touches Jesus’ garment, she will be healed. Lane amplifies on this by saying:

The desire to touch Jesus’ clothing probably reflects the popular belief that the dignity and power of a person are transferred to what he wears. Similarly, ritual impurity is transferred from contact with the person to contact with his garments in Leviticus 15:27; Leviticus 17:15. On this understanding, her touch combined faith with quasi-magical notions which were widespread in that day (192).

Verse 28

For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.

For she said: The verb is in the imperfect tense, which means she keeps on saying as she presses through the crowd. Matthew says she is talking to herself (9:21).

If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole: The word "whole" is from sozo, which is used of the act of saving either from a physically ill condition or a spiritually evil state (Wuest 110). The woman is apparently shy and reluctant to call attention to herself, so she hopes to touch the garment of Jesus without His noticing.

Verse 29

And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up: "And straightway"--here is Mark’s favorite word again, which means "immediately." Immediately, her flow of blood is dried up at the source. The perfect tense of the verb indicates it is a complete, permanent cure.

and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague: The woman is instantly conscious of the fact the flow of blood has stopped and that she is now free from the horrible illness that has plagued her for twelve years.

Verse 30

And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him: The word "knowing" is epiginosko and means "knowledge gained by experience," thus a personal knowledge (Wuest 111).

"Virtue" is dunamis and means "power" (Marshall 157). J.B. Phillips renders this passage, "At once Jesus knew intuitively that power had gone out of him" (79).

Cole offers this observation:

This is an interesting verse, in that it shows that the Lord was conscious of the flow of healing power from Himself to the sick individual; it may have been that such healings cost Him much spiritual energy, for we read of Him being wearied, and escaping from such things for times of recuperation and prayer (Matthew 14:13, etc.). But in apostolic healings there is no hint of any such cost to the healer (Acts 3:7, etc.). Perhaps we may see the key where Matthew saw it, in the application of Isaiah 53:4, to the Lord’s healing ministry: ’Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses’ (Matthew 8:17) (102).

turned him about in the press: Jesus turns about immediately in the crowd.

and said, Who touched my clothes: Surely Jesus is not asking for information. As He seems to have done on a number of occasions, He is asking for the benefit of the person involved. If it is true that her belief in "the healing touch" is based partly on superstition and magic, Jesus could not let her disappear into the crowd with such false ideas.

Verse 31

And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?

Jesus’ question seems pointless to the disciples since he has been jostled and touched by a host of individuals. Luke says Peter makes this remark (8:45). Swete says, "That the remark was Peter’s might have been inferred from its hasty criticism, and a certain tone of assumed superiority, which at a later time called for a severe rebuke" (104).

Verse 32

And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.

The verb is in the imperfect tense and means, "He kept looking around in the crowd for the woman." Jesus politely ignores the impatience of Peter and the other disciples and keeps scrutinizing the crowd.

Verse 33

But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.

But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her: Robertson says:

These participles vividly portray this woman who had tried to hide in the crowd. She had heard Christ’s question and felt his gaze. She had to come and confess, for something has happened to her (Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. I 301).

came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth: The woman is deeply touched by the knowledge that she has been healed and is profoundly impressed by the power of the One who has healed her. "With awe and only partial understanding of what had taken place, she declared the truth to Jesus" (Lane 193).

Verse 34

And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

And he said unto her, Daughter: A.B. Bruce offers this beautiful note:

The woman had already heard the fame of Jesus (ver.27). From what Jesus said to her she would for the first time get some idea of His exquisite sympathy, delicately expressed in the very first word: daughter, to a mature woman, probably not much, if at all, younger than Himself! He speaks not as man to woman, but as father to child. Note how vivid is Mark’s story compared with the meager colorless version of Matthew. A lively impressionable eyewitness, like Peter, evidently behind it (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 376).

thy faith hath made thee whole: Jesus gently corrects any erroneous ideas the woman may have had about her healing. It is as though Jesus is saying:

There is nothing magical about my garment; hence the touching of my garment is not what healed you. But, rather it is your faith and my divine power that made you whole. Your touch just brought these two elements together--your faith and my power.

go in peace: The word "in" is eis and means "into" (Wuest 113). Jesus says to her, "Go into peace," contemplating the new door just opened to her, the peace in store for her. Jesus has now opened the way for this woman to reenter, in full fellowship, the social and religious circles of her people. Now she can continue to travel the rest of her life "in peace."

"Peace" may also include the idea of the Hebrew word shalom, "well-being for both body and soul" (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. I 301).

and be whole of thy plague: Mark is the only one of the synoptics to add this statement. It means, "Be continually healed and free from your distressing bodily disease" (Amplified Bible 55).

Verse 35

While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?

While he yet spake: The story of Jairus and his daughter, which began in verse 22, is resumed at this verse. Jairus is a man in desperate need and unashamed to make his need publicly known. Regardless of his lofty position as a ruler of the synagogue, he humbles himself before Jesus, in public view, and begs Him to come and lay hands on his daughter so that she may be saved from death.

The healing of the woman with a chronic hemorrhage results in a delay that proves fatal for Jairus’ daughter. While Jesus is speaking, He is interrupted by a party from Jairus’ home with the sad report that Jairus’ daughter is dead. While this interruption may have been devastating to Jairus, it is a source of relief for the woman who has been healed as it diverts the attention of the crowd from her.

there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: The verb is in the aorist tense and means her death is now a past event, literally, "Your daughter died."

why troublest thou the Master any further: This question is directed to Jairus. The word "troublest" is from skullo and means literally "to flay." In this place it means "to vex, annoy, distress as in Matthew 9:36" (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. I 301).

The messengers who have come from Jairus’ house have evidently given up all hope of saving the girl and have concluded that any further disturbance of Jesus is futile. This statement is also evidence that the power to raise the dead has not yet been attributed to Jesus. There has been only one instance of Jesus’ raising the dead prior to this time, and it has not been in the Capernaum district (Luke 7:11 ff).

Although Jairus may have been frustrated with Jesus’ slow push through the crowd and His distraction by the woman with an issue of blood, there is an obvious purpose to it all. Jesus evidently allows Himself to be delayed in order to demonstrate His power of resurrection. Cole explains:

Christ had already been shown as Lord of nature; it was necessary that He be shown as Lord of life. This was an important proof of Godhead, for it was supremely fitting that He, who created life first, before sin and death entered the world, should show Himself now Master of death and the grave. More, this was an important piece of preliminary evidence for His own resurrection: He who could thus conquer death in others could burst its bonds Himself. The central miracle of the Bible is ever resurrection, because it must be the central fact of all true Christian experience (103).

Verse 36

As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.

As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken: The word "heard" is from parakouo, and means "to hear alongside, to overhear" (Wuest 114). The message is addressed to the ruler, but Jesus overhears it and ignores the conclusion of the messengers.

he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid: The verb is in the present imperative, which usually denotes continued action. Jesus is telling Jairus to stop doing something that he is already doing, "fearing."

only believe: Again the present imperative is used denoting, not a single act, but a steady, continuous attitude of faith. Jairus has already shown his faith in coming to Jesus; now he must continue his believing. He has witnessed the healing of the woman, clearly illustrating the connection between faith and divine help. But now Jairus is being asked to believe his child would live, even though she has already been reported to be dead.

Verse 37

And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.

Jesus dismisses the entire multitude, including His disciples, with the exception of Peter, James, and John. This is the first mention of the trio who enjoy a more intimate relationship with Jesus than the other disciples. They are also allowed to witness two other events the other disciples are not permitted to see--the transfiguration and the suffering of Jesus at Gethsemane.

We can only speculate as to why Jesus allows only the three disciples to accompany Him and Jairus to the house. Robertson and Bruce believe the house may have been too small to accommodate more than three disciples. Swete believes the Lord is just being careful not to invade the seclusion of the home life at such a time. Cole contends it may have been because of their responsiveness to the Lord that they are trusted with more responsibilities. Hendriksen believes that had more than three been selected it would have been more difficult to enforce the injunction against telling what they have seen (verse 43).

Verse 38

And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.

And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult: The word "tumult" is thorubos, "a noise, uproar," used of persons wailing (Wuest 115). Robertson says here it refers to the "monotonous wail of the hired mourners" (Word Studies in the New Testament 302). It is customary for even the poorest man to hire professional mourners and flute players (Matthew 9:23) at the death of his wife. A man who occupies the prestigious position of "ruler of the synagogue" would probably be expected to hire a large number of professional mourners. Lane includes this footnote:

A vivid description of the tumult is provided by L. Bauer, Volksleben im Lande der Bibel (Leipzig, 1903), pp. 211 ff. The women form a circle around the leader of the dance of death, and dance rhythmically from left to right with their hair hanging down.

Gradually they increase their mournful lament and the wild movement of hands and feet until their faces become flushed to a high degree and appear especially excited as the time of burial draws near. Jesus found such a tumult at the house of Jairus before his little daughter (196).

Customarily, anyone who enters upon a funeral is required to join it. Hence, in this case, family, friends, passersby, and hired mourners are making the most of this occasion, perhaps all the more because Jairus is a very important man.

and them that wept and wailed greatly: There is wailing, moaning, and howling without restraint. It is a mob scene. Occasionally, above the din of wailing, can be heard the shrill notes of the flute players (Matthew 9:23).

Verse 39

And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

And when he was come in: Whether this initial entering of Jesus is into the courtyard or part of the actual house is not clear. It is clear, however, that Jesus has to go further into the house to get to where the girl is.

he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep: The word "ado" is thorubeo, "to make a noise or uproar, to wail tumul­tuously" (Wuest 115). Jesus rebukes the crowd’s noisy tumult.

the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth: The word "damsel" is paidion and means "child" or "little girl" (Thayer 473). The Lord’s words here are somewhat ambiguous. Because He insists the girl is just sleeping, some have concluded she is not actually dead, but is in sort of a coma. Luke makes it clear, however, that the girl is dead and that what takes place is a resurrection (8:55). Jesus refers to the girl as asleep because she is not dead to stay dead. There is to be such a speedy awakening that the girl’s death can be regarded as only a sleep.

Jesus also raises from the dead the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and Lazarus (John 11). Jesus describes Lazarus’ death as a "sleep" and His mission as that of awakening him from sleep (John 11:11). Paul refers to the dead as "asleep in Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

Verse 40

And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.

And they laughed him to scorn: The word translated "laughed him to scorn" is katagelao and means to "deride, to jeer" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 215). The mourners are absolutely certain the girl is dead, and they ridicule Jesus for His statement. The word is in the imperfect tense, which indicates they continuously jeer Jesus.

The fact that these people can shift so quickly from mourning to scornful laughter is an indication there is very little grief here.

But when he had put them all out: The phrase "put out" is from ekballo and means "to bid one to depart, in stern though not violent language" (Thayer 193). Vincent quotes Bengel as saying:

"Wonderful authority in the house of a stranger. He was really master of the house." Only Mark relates the taking of the parents with the three disciples into the chamber (Vincent 104).

There is some pressure needed to eject the paid mourners, for it is in their own selfish, best interest to stay.

he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying: Jesus takes only the father and mother, and Peter, James, and John and goes in where the child is.

Verse 41

And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.

And he took the damsel by the hand: Jairus has earlier asked Jesus to lay hands on his daughter, but Jesus does even better than that. He takes her by the hand, giving confidence and help.

and said unto her, Talitha cumi: Mark’s penchant for details is carried still further as he preserves the actual Aramaic words that Jesus speaks, "Talitha cumi." Mark then translates the simple words into Greek for those who do not know Aramaic. The literal translation in English is "Little girl, I say to you, arise."

Verse 42

And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.

And straightway the damsel arose, and walked: The effect is instant or immediate. The little girl stands up and begins walking. The word "walked" is in the imperfect tense and means "she kept on walking about."

for she was of the age of twelve years: This phrase is added to show the child is old enough to walk. It should be remembered the woman who had the issue of blood had been in her condition for the same period of time. She is, therefore, referred to as the woman "whose misery was as old as Jairus’ daughter."

And they were astonished with a great astonishment: The word "astonishment" means "a great ecstasy, especially on the part of the parents" (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament 303). The little girl had been a corpse just a moment ago, and now she is walking around filled with life. Seeing such an incredible demonstration causes the parents of the little girl and the disciples to be so overwhelmed that, momentarily, they almost take leave of their senses.

Verse 43

And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

And he charged them straitly: The Amplified Bible translates this phrase, "And He strictly commanded and warned them."

that no man should know it: It would be impossible to conceal completely the fact that a funeral has been stopped and that the girl has recovered. Jesus does not want the ones who have witnessed the resurrection to give the details of what they have seen. It is possible His ambiguous suggestion that the girl was asleep is designed, at least partially, to create uncertainty in the minds of those who are on the outside.

Why does Jesus commit the parents to silence? Probably so the crowds in that area will not be unduly excited with similar expectations. Jesus gives a similar charge to the healed leper in chapter one, verse 44, when the crowds are also thronging Him.

Cranfield observes:

...Jesus wanted it kept as private as possible--no one was to know about it who need not. There was at least a chance of avoiding unnecessary publicity. And if immediate publicity were avoided, the news when it was no longer fresh would cause less excitement when it did get round (191).

and commanded that something be given her to eat: Here the practical thoughtfulness of Jesus is portrayed. In the excitement of the moment, the parents of the little girl might have overlooked her need for food. Because of her fatal illness, she has not been able to eat for some time; and now the life that has been restored miraculously must be supported by ordinary means. What a beautiful picture of the sympathetic tenderness of Jesus and His keen attention to every detail!

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Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Mark 5". "Contending for the Faith". 1993-2022.