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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Mark 5

Verses 1-43

The Saviour and the Maniac

Mark 5:18

Of all the encounters of Jesus with men, surely none is more striking than His meeting with the maniac whose home was among the tombs. Jesus had just left the boat, and stepped upon the shore, when from out one of the caves that served for a burying-place among the limestone hills there rushed towards Him a creature that seemed not so much like a human being as like an evil spirit incarnate. Perhaps the unhappy man had been watching the boat coming across the lake; and with the swift bounds of a maniac, he made straight for the Master as He disembarked. It was always so with Jesus. No sooner did He touch the land than He was met by human want and misery.

How very touching is the contrast between these two men the Saviour and the maniac; immortal symbol of the world, wild and gloomy, hopeless, and homeless, rushing on to offer its instinctive and unconscious homage to the Jesus whom it needs. There stands the Master, with His quiet, fearless bearing, with His sorrowful face and His beautiful eyes; and there, at His feet, is the demoniac, wild and fierce and naked, with the strength of a demon in his right arm and the awful light of madness in his eye. Not only all the day, but all the night, when other men were sleeping, the lonely hills where he made his home would ring with his unearthly cries, and he would gash himself with stones until the blood would spurt. So powerful was he that he could burst the heavy chains with which he had been bound, and so terrible was he that the bravest were afraid to pass that way.

I. No one would pass but Jesus. He was not afraid. Such were the ways He loved to pass. He loved to set the fallen upon their feet, to restore again the ruins of human nature; and to heal this wild misery which rushed towards Him from the hills, and then threw itself impulsively at His feet, was just to do the work which His Father had given Him to do. A brave heart might well have quailed before such an onset, and fled perhaps in terror; but Jesus stood and, looking upon him, loved him. We listen with bated breath to hear what He will say to this poor, unhappy, and dangerous man. Jesus is always simple, serenely and sublimely simple. He does not begin by preaching any gospel, He simply asks the man his name. And we may well believe that the maniac's manner would be instantly transformed. Here was a voice which sounded as perhaps no human voice before or since has sounded the quiet, gentle, affectionate tone must have gone home with healing to the recesses of that shattered mind; and here were the words of One who spoke to him as a man speaks to his friend. Other men had repeatedly come to bind him with their cruel chains; who could this be who came with no chain, but who bound him all the more firmly by the gentle bonds of love?

Is it any wonder that in the quiet, authoritative presence of Jesus the maniac is transformed? He, who before was naked, now is clothed. He, who before rushed with wild frenzy about the desolate hills, now sits quietly at the feet of Jesus. He, who before was possessed by devils, is now possessed by the spirit of Jesus.

II. Why did Jesus refuse the man's request? Partly for the world's sake and partly for the man's own. 'Go,' said Jesus, 'to thy house, to thine own people, and tell them all that the Lord, in pity, hath done for thee.' The saved man has to be, in his turn, a saviour, or at least a preacher. Anything that he knows about Jesus, those who are dear to him should know too. 'Go to thine own people and tell them.' Upon the man who has been redeemed, who has passed from insanity to soundness of mind, from lonely misery to fullness of joy, lies the obligation to tell the story to those whom he can influence, first to those of his own household, and then to those beyond it; for if a man has been healed by the shores of the sea of Galilee, then Decapolis has a right to know about it too. Life upon the mountains and among the tombs is no more possible for such an one: he must go with his message among the men who need it The new power which Jesus has brought into his life is not only for himself but for them. Inspiration has to be translated into action, knowledge and power into service. The work for which he was redeemed will not be done if he sits at Jesus' feet So, for the world's sake, Jesus says, 'Go'.

But no less for the man's sake. He has to learn that the power which redeemed him can keep him, whether the bodily presence of Jesus is near him or not Perhaps, like many men, he was anxiously dependent upon a visible support to his faith; and the gracious Jesus, who loved him better than he knew, deliberately sent him away, that he might learn the true meaning of spiritual religion. 'Go and tell what the Lord hath done.' The Lord was the Lord of all the earth, and everywhere He might be found. When Jesus entered into His boat, and was lost to sight across the lake, the power which He represented did not vanish with Him; and Jesus wished to bring home to this redeemed but anxious soul, that the Divine resources were always at the disposal of the man who trusted them alike upon the sea and land, upon the valleys and the hills, in the crowded city and on the waste and desolate place where no man is. God and His power and His love are everywhere.

J. E. McFadyen, The City With Foundations, p. 33.

References. V. 19. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, God's Heroes, p. 217. H. Ward Beecher, Sermons (4th Series), p. 30. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 109. V. 22-24. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 149. V. 22-24, 35-43. John Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 338. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 230. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 194. V. 25. J. Halsey, The Spirit of Truth, p. 183. V. 26-27. M. Guy Pearse, Jesus Christ and the People, p. 158. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. i. p. 104. V. 25-28. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 199. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 827. V. 25-34. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 157. J. Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 229. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 243. V. 26. J. Service, Sermons, p. 73. V. 28. C. Brown, God and Man, p. 236. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1382. V. 28-34. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 213.

Personal Experience

Mark 5:29

All Christians have to be witnesses, to be living testimonies, that they have become connected with the eternal fountains, and are no longer in need of supply from inferior streams.

I. What a marvellous picture this is! But there is a counter side, shall we say a corroborative side, strongly and perfectly confirming the woman's own feeling. You have it in the very next verse; that is to say, Mark 5:30 , 'And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue had gone out of Him'. There you have the double picture: the woman knew she had received something, and Jesus that He had given something; with that double testimony who shall stand up and deny it in either of its aspects? This mystery of intercommunication is going on all the day, the outgoing of faith, the incoming of healing. That is the gracious mystery, and in that mystery we ought to live and grow and become quite strong. Ministers surely know when virtue has gone out of them. There are sermons that cost nothing; there are discourses that are delivered from the lips; there is a fluent ignorance. There are sermons that tear the soul as they come out of it the upper side of that marvellous demoniacal possession. It may be quite possible for persons to preach and to lose nothing, but if they lose nothing they gain nothing. That is the solemn and all but tragical mystery. Jesus Christ gave Himself; He turned His own soul into wisdom, parable, gospel invitation, and feast of mercy. What wonder that He lived but a little time when the drain or the strain upon Him was so exhausting?

II. What a wonderful testimony we find in the first Epistle of John, chapter one, and the opening of the chapter, 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life... that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.' Had they no personally original remarks to make? None. How did they preach? By telling what they knew; not by telling what somebody else knew. That is preaching, preaching that cannot be put down; not preaching in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but in the power of the Spirit and the demonstration of the omnipotent grace of the Cross.

III. Have we touched the Saviour? If so, why not say so? why not be personal witnesses to a Divine experience? If we only have what the books have given us, all that we have can be taken away from our hearts; but if the Spirit itself bear witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, then our religion, if I may so say, is treasured where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

This also is the true strength. If we have our salvation only in our memory we may lose it at any moment. Salvation is not a recollection only, it is a present experience, it is the joy of the morning, it is the crown of the noonday. This is true joy what we ourselves have felt and known and seen and handled

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. Iv. p. 203.

References. V. 30, 31. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1640. V. 32. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 215. V. 33. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 514. V. 35-43. Ibid. vol. xliii. No. 2507. V. 36. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. i. p. 99. S. Martin, Sermons, p. 191. J. J. Tayler, Christian Aspects of Faith and Duty, p. 169. VI. 1-13. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark I.-VIII. p. 228. VI. 2. N. Dwight Hillis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. 1899, p. 74. V1. 2, 3. J. Clifford, The Dawn of Manhood, p. 20. VI. 2-4. H. Scott Holland, Church Times, vol. lvii. 1907, p. 53; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxi. 1907, P. 17.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 5". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.