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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Writings

Mark 5

Verses 1-43


We have seen the perfect Servant sowing the good seed. Now we are permitted to see another form of His service - the dealing with individual souls. In this gracious service we see, not only the spiritual blessing of souls but also divine power overcoming the devil, disease, and death. It thus becomes clear that, in the Person of the Lord, God was present with grace and power to deliver man from the effects of sin; but, even so, man finds the presence of God intolerable.

(Vv. 1-5). In the story of the demoniac we have first brought vividly before us the utter misery of the man under the power of Satan. We see a man "who had his dwelling among the tombs." Where men dwell, there they die, and hard by their dwellings will ever be found a burying place with its tombs, ever reminding us that this world is under the shadow of death. All Satan's power is put forth to drive men into death. "The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill and to destroy" ( Joh_10:10 ). He would rob us of every spiritual blessing, kill the body, and destroy the soul.

Secondly, the story shows the utter helplessness of man to deliver himself, or others, from the power of Satan. All the efforts to restrain the violence of this poor man, or to tame him were in vain. So today every attempt to restrain evil or reform the flesh entirely fails to deliver the world from its violence and corruption, from the power of Satan, or to change the flesh.

(Vv. 6-13). Thirdly, we learn that though we are ruined and helpless, yet, in the Person of Christ there is One with power and grace to deliver us from all the power of Satan. The poor man is so entirely identified with the unclean spirit that his body is the dwelling place and instrument of the demon, who acts and speaks through the man. But demons have to bow in the presence of One that they know is the Son of God with all power to consign them to their just doom. Men may be ignorant of the glory and authority of Christ, but not so demons. Seeing that at the word of Christ they must come out of the man, they ask that they may be sent into swine. Apparently evil spirits require some natural body through which to act. Having obtained leave, they enter the swine with the result that the destructive malice of the demons is at once seen for in their case there was no restraint that the demons could not at once overcome. Thus the whole herd immediately rushes to destruction.

(Vv. 14-17). Fourthly we learn from this solemn incident that if the power of Satan is terrible to man, the presence of God is intolerable, even when present in power and grace to deliver man. One has said man is "more afraid of Jesus and His grace than of the devil and his works." The men of the city, coming out "to see what it was that was done" are at once faced with the evidence of the grace and power of Jesus. The man who had long been a trial to the country, they find "sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind." Beautiful picture of a truly converted soul, delivered from the terrible power of Satan, and brought to rest at the feet of Jesus; no longer naked and exposed to judgment, but clothed, cleared from every charge, justified before God, Christ his righteousness, and in his right mind - reconciled, with all the enmity against God withered up.

Then we read, "They were afraid." What a comment upon the men of this world! They see the evidence that God had drawn very near, and they were afraid. Guilty man is ever afraid of God. Adam, fallen, was afraid; Israel, at Sinai, were afraid, and the men of Gadara were afraid. It matters not how God comes, whether as a visitor in the Garden of Eden, in majesty at Sinai, or in grace as at Gadara, the presence of God is insupportable to guilty man. Men prefer the demons, the demoniac, and the swine, rather than the Son of God even though He be present in power and grace to deliver man. So we read "They began to pray Him to depart out of their coasts". Their prayer was answered - He departed.

(Vv. 18-20). Lastly, we see, in striking contrast to the men of this world, that the man that has been so richly blessed desires to be with Jesus. In due time his desire will have a glorious answer, for we know that Christ had died for believers that "we should live together with Him," and very soon we shall be for ever with the Lord. In the meantime we have the privilege of being for Him in a scene from which He has been rejected. Thus the Lord can say to the man, "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And what was the result? "All men did marvel." The more we realise our utter ruin under the power of Satan and what Christ has done for us, and the compassion shown toward us, the more we may marvel.

(Vv. 21-23). Underlying the incidents of this chapter there is surely dispensational teaching setting forth the ways of God with Israel and the nations. From the herd driven into the sea, are we not intended to learn that, as the result of the rejection of their Messiah, the Jews were about to be scattered among the sea of nations? In the incident that follows the dying child, do we not see a picture of the condition of the nation morally when the Lord was present? But even as in the end of the story the Lord raised the child from death, so, when He returns to earth He will revive the nation. In the meantime we learn, from the story of the woman, that wherever there are individuals that have faith in Christ they will obtain the blessing.

(V. 24). In the case of the woman the Lord distinguishes between true faith and mere outward profession. Seeing that "much people followed Him and thronged Him," it might appear that the Lord was surrounded by a number of believing followers. Even so today it might seem as we see religious buildings crowded with professed worshippers of Christ, as we hear the Name of Christ taken upon the lips of men and women of the world in hymns and prayers, and as we hear the Name of Christ attached to the works of men, that there are a vast host of believers in Christ. Indeed, men do so judge, for they speak of themselves as Christians, call their lands Christian countries, and speak of their governments as Christian governments. But does this imply that all are true believers in the Lord Jesus? That all have personal faith in Christ? Alas, no! There is still the great throng of outward profession; and still the Lord distinguishes those who have personal faith in Himself, for we read, "The Lord knoweth them that are His." The crowd may have been sincere, for they saw the miracles and enjoyed the benefits that they received from Christ, but with no sense of their need of Christ they had no personal faith in Christ. Even so today, people may be quite sincere when they adopt, as they say, the Christian religion. But this outward profession of Christianity - this joining the throng to follow Jesus - will not save the soul, will not settle the question of sins, and death and judgment: will not break the power of sin, or deliver from the corruptions of the flesh and the world and the fear of death.

(V. 25). For true blessing there must be personal faith in the Lord Jesus. In the case of the woman we have this personal touch of faith very blessedly illustrated. First we see that where there is faith there will always be some sense of need of a personal Saviour. The sense of need may vary greatly in different cases, but it will be there.

(V.26). Secondly, not only was she conscious of her need, but she realised the utter hopelessness of her case as far as her own efforts, and the skill of man, were concerned. She had suffered many things of many physicians and had spent all in vain attempts to meet her need.

(Vv. 27-29). Thirdly, faith is not only conscious of need, and our own helplessness to meet the need, but perceives something of the excellency of the Person of Jesus - sees, indeed, that in Him there is grace and power to meet the need. Moreover faith makes a person humble. The needy soul is ready to take the lowly place and to say, like the woman, "If I may but touch the hem of His garment, I shall be whole." We have not to do some great thing to secure the blessing, that would only pander to our pride, but we are made willing to be nothing and to give Christ all the glory. The virtue is in Christ, not in the faith; the touch of faith secures the blessing by putting us in touch with the One in Whom is all the merit.

(Vv. 30-34). Then we see that the Lord delights to encourage faith. He is not content that the one who has received the blessing should go quietly away. He brings the believer into His own presence there to tell him all the truth. He delights that we should have everything out with Him - that there should be no distance or reserve between Himself and His own.

Lastly, we see the result of getting into the presence of the Lord and having all out with Him. Like the woman we can then go on our way, not trusting in our feelings or in some experience, however real, but with the assurance of His own word. Thus the woman learns from His own lips that she was healed, for He can say, "Thy faith hath made thee whole."

(Vv. 35-43). While the Lord is dealing with the case of the woman, there comes one from the house of the ruler, saying, "Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?" This person little knew either the power of His hand or the tender love of His heart. However deep our sorrows, however great our trials, we need not fear to "trouble" the Lord with our burdens. He was here to share our griefs and bear our trials. Entering into the feelings of the poor father, the Lord drops a word of comfort into his heart - "Be not afraid, only believe." As far as man was concerned the case was manifestly hopeless, the child was dead. But the case was not beyond the reach of Christ. Having dealt with unbelief and put out those who laughed Him to scorn He raised the child and cared for her needs.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Mark 5". "Smith's Writings". 1832.