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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Mark 5:1. Gadarenes.—Gerasenes is undoubtedly the true reading here, and in Origen’s time it was the prevalent one; “but the copyists, thinking this referred to the well-known Gerasa in Gilead, and knowing that the miracle could not have occurred there, at a distance of twenty miles from the Sea of Galilee, altered it to ‘Gadarenes,’ since at Gadara there were the ‘tombs,’ and other particulars of the miracle, and it might easily be supposed that the whole district took its name from this chief city. Gadara is a little over six miles from the lake. As for the reading ‘Gergesenes,’ we owe it either to Origen’s own conjecture, or else Gergesa was a dialectic variety of the name Gerasa.” To Dr. Thomson we owe the discovery of the real site. “It is,” he says, “within a few rods of the shore, and an immense mountain rises directly above it, in which are ancient tombs.… The lake is so near the base of the mountain, that the swine rushing madly down it could not stop, but would be hurried on into the water.… The name, pronounced by Bedouin Arabs, is so similar to Gergesa, that, to all my inquiries for the place, they invariably said it was at Chersa; and they insisted that they were identical.” See The Land and the Book, pp. 375–378.
Mark 5:2. A man.—Matthew (Matthew 8:28) mentions two men. Mark and Luke speak only of the better known or fiercer of the two, who probably acted as spokesman for both.
Mark 5:5. Cutting.—Or, beating.
Mark 5:7.—See note on chap Mark 1:24.
Mark 5:9. Legion.—Cp. Matthew 12:45; Luke 8:2.
Mark 5:15. Clothed.—He had been wont to wear no upper garment (Luke 8:27), and doubtless such clothes as he had were very ragged.
Mark 5:20. Decapolis.—The district of the ten cities, lying for the most part east of the Jordan, and east and south-east of the Sea of Tiberias. Its ten cities were Scythopolis (the only one on the west of Jordan), Hippos, Gadara, Pella, Philadelphia, Geresa, Dion, Canatha, Raphana, Damascus.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 5:1-20
(PARALLELS: Matthew 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-39.)
Christ and the Gadarenes.—
I. The Gadarene demoniac.—
1. What was the nature of the so-called “demonism” of the New Testament? It is nowhere said there concerning any one that he was possessed of the devil. In one passage only (Acts 10:38) mention is made of the healing of “all that were oppressed of the devil.” But in all other like passages there is no mention made of “the devil,” but of “unclean spirits” or “demons.”
2. A second point of difficulty that troubles some people is that this describing of a malady as if it were the infestation of some living thing that had entered into the person seems so like the relic of a barbarous and superstitious pathology, which ascribes all sicknesses to such a cause. To which we may make either of two answers:
(1) That if this description of certain maladies as wrought by evil spirits is a survival of the superstitious notion that all maladies were so caused, it may be a survival of just so much in that notion as was true and ought to survive. Or,
(2) That if barbarism and superstition used to allege that all human diseases are produced by the agency of living beings invisible to the ordinary sight entering into the patient, then barbarism and superstition are in pretty good company, considering that the very latest word of the most advanced pathological science comes out at precisely the same point.
3. Why are there no cases of demonism in our own times?
(1) It is not certain that there are no such cases now. There are many who insist, with a very formidable array of evidence in favour of their claim, that cases of possession by spirits, clean or unclean, are peculiarly frequent in these days.
(2) If no cases just like what are described in the Gospels are recognised in modern pathology, this is no more than might be expected from analogy. It is one of the commonest maxims of medical science that the type of diseases changes from age to age. For my part, I find it nothing unlikely that in an age like that of the coming of our Lord, when a decisive conflict was impending between the kingdom of evil and the kingdom of heaven, those maladies that involve the mind and soul, and indicate the presence of some mischievous spiritual agency, should be found to take on a character of pecular malignity.
4. Taking the Gospels as an honest and not unintelligent record of the phenomena, we make out two points very clearly concerning this demonism:
(1) It was not mere lunacy or epilepsy, for these diseases are recognised and clearly distinguished from the work of the evil spirits.
(2) As this demonism was not mere disease, so, on the other hand, it was not mere wickedness—the wilful giving up one’s self to the instigation of the devil. It is always spoken of and dealt with as an involuntary affliction, looked upon by the Lord with pity rather than censure. Neither is it treated as if it were, in any special sense, a visitation for sin.
5. The truth seems to be this: that sin, unbelief, ungodliness, opened the way for this awful curse, and that, when the alien spirit had taken hold of body and mind and will, it had the power of plaguing with various disorders—with wild, moping, melancholic madness, or with epileptic convulsions, or blindness, or dumbness.
6. The startling and unearthly fact, in the words and actions of the demoniac, is the presence in him of a double consciousness and will. He is torn with discordant desires, and tossed to and fro between conflicting passions. Physicians who have studied the horrible symptoms of delirium tremens describe the sort of double consciousness that sometimes characterises its wretched victims, in terms which remind us of this demonism described by the Evangelists.
7. As to the spirits themselves, we get some hints of their ways here and elsewhere in the New Testament. They are represented as wandering uneasy and restless until they can find lodgment in some human body and soul, it may be; if not there, then anywhere, even in a swine’s carcass—some living organism of which they can take possession, and there work their malignant will. The unclean spirit beds itself luxuriously in the consciousness and thoughts and members of its victims, and loathes to be dispossessed. Like certain noxious tropical insects, it sinks its feelers and tentacles into the flesh, so that to tear it away is like tearing the flesh away from itself. To leave it there is torture, and to remove it is worse torture; so that the patient rushes to the surgeon, and, when the surgeon puts forth his hand to heal him, it is as if victim and tormentor shrank away together, crying: “Let me alone! I beseech thee, torment me not!” Now is it any dark parable to you, that I should need explain how like this is to the possession which sin takes of the mind?—how evil thoughts and passions and purposes, for which the soul was not made, but which are alien to its Divine constitution in God’s image, do root themselves like a morbid growth into its very substance, till the soul, bewildered at the unnatural conflict within itself, cries out against the power of sin, craving to be delivered, and then, when the Deliverer comes near, cries out again, with a loud voice: “What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of God most high? I beseech Thee, torment me not!”
8. What help is there for the soul that is in such a plight—the will, the motives, the desires, the active faculties, all that should co-operate in the effort of self-healing, themselves implicated in the disease, so that even when deliverance is brought nigh it will none of it, but warns the Saviour away? It will, and yet it will not. The consciousness of need and danger are of no avail; even faith and prayer bring no help, for there is no prayer but with a reservation—let not the double-minded man think that he shall receive anything from the Lord. So Augustine prayed, “Save me, O Lord, save me,—but not now.” O helpless man, the hope for you is that God will be to you better than your prayers, will do for you exceeding abundantly above that you ask,—that when you pray, “Save me, but not now,” He will answer, “Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation: look unto Me now and be saved.” Be not afraid to come near your Lord and Saviour, even though the sin that is in you, the evil thoughts, the demoniac passions, cry out against your prayers and say, “Let us alone! torment us not! depart from us! what have we do with Thee, Jesus, Son of the most high God?” Doubt not that the compassionate Lord will be more ready to hear this craving of your better nature than the clamour of a legion of evil spirits, and that, if you will but suffer Him, He will deliver you from your worse self; He will command the inward discord of your mind to cease, and make the storm a calm; and you, even though it be not without sore rendings from the retreating fiend, shall at last sit peaceful at the feet of your Redeemer, clothed and in your right mind.
II. The gospel among the Gadarenes.—
1. You may be at a loss, perhaps, to see any good reason why the healing of the wretched man possessed of demons should have been an occasion of terror to the people of the neighbourhood. It might seem more reasonable that they should have found it rather an immense relief to their fears, when the frightful creature that had been the terror of that part of the country, whose horrible frenzies had made the road that led by his cave impassable, so that they took long circuits to avoid him, was found by them sitting as quiet as a good child, at the feet of Jesus, trying to learn something of God and truth and duty, and of who this wonderful Saviour was—this destroyer of the works of the devil. What good reason could they find, in all that they had heard, for sending Jesus out from their borders? What good reason? Ah! but this is asking too much—to look for a good reason for a wrong action. It is the very nature of sin to be unreasonable. Its reasons are no reasons. We may look for the motives of it, and for the excuses for it. But in giving reasons for wrong conduct, we cannot go much further than to shew that it is like the conduct of human nature in general under like circumstances. And we do not pretend to justify human nature. Why should Adam and Eve be afraid when they heard the voice of the Lord God in the garden? Why should Moses be afraid and hide his face when the Lord spoke to him out of the burning bush, and said, “I am the God of thy father”? Why should Isaiah, when he saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up, cry out, “Woe is me, for I am undone, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts”? It is in human nature, somehow, account for it as you may, that men do not like to come quite so near to God. It is not only that they shrink from the manifestation of the Divine anger—that would be intelligible enough; but men do not like such close dealings with God anyway. In fact, anything that brings them close, face to face with the powers of the unseen world is a thing that men in general shrink from. It is the one labour of the ministry of the gospel to persuade men to come near enough to God to know Him—to look Christ in the face long enough to know Him. Dr. H. A. Boardman wrote a little book entitled The Great Question; and when you looked within to see what “the great question” was, you found it nothing but this—“Will you consider the subject of personal religion?” And why should not any man—every man—say yes to this Great Question? But they will not. The complaint of the old prophet is the complaint of the modern preacher—“My people will not consider.” Our lips frame words of welcome and praise; but our hearts are all the time silently pleading with Him to “let us alone,” and depart out of our coasts, even though we would shrink from putting such a thought into words. We feel easier with a legion of malignant demons near us, than with one faithful and merciful and holy Saviour.
2. The second topic of consultation among the Gadarenes was this: “concerning the swine.” I do believe (to do these people justice) that if we could have been there, and could have charged them to the face with having deliberately rejected Christ, wilfully driven away the Great Healer, simply on account of their interest in pork-raising, they would indignantly and sincerely have repelled the imputation, and have suggested a number of other reasons by which they supposed they were actuated, instead of the one which really affected and decided their minds. I do not believe they said explicitly to each other, “This is a great and Divine work of mercy. God Himself is manifest here destroying the works of the devil, and delivering our fellow-man from bondage to unclean spirits. Surely the kingdom of God is come nigh unto us! But then, on the other hand, see what it costs; two thousand head of pork is a great deal to lose, and we will not have God’s kingdom.” I do not believe they said this; I do not believe they distinctly thought it; but they did it. And you, beware how you put yourself under the same condemnation. For you need not expect that the gospel of salvation will ever come to you without bringing along with it some conditions of loss and self-denial. It will interfere with your plans, break up your arrangements, frustrate your schemes, in business, in politics, in society, in the conduct of life. That petty fraud—that adulteration or misrepresentation, so common that no one thinks of it—that smart, lying advertisement that you have got in your desk ready for the press—those keen little tricks or disingenuous compliances in politics that are to carry the caucus or the election and put you into office and keep you there—those shams and deceits, that neglect of homely duties and of wearying charities, by which you are studying to gain social position and pleasure,—how these herds of unclean things, the soilure and blemish of your lives, will have to rush off into the sea, if the Holy Christ is to come to you and live with you! Are you ready to let them go, or will you rather come and pray the Lord to depart out of your neighbourhood?
III. The apostle to the Gadarenes.—There, away up the hillside, the angry crowd are lingering yet. They have carried their point, and the Saviour whom they have rejected has turned to leave them;—it is so easy to be rid of Jesus if you will. Downward He goes in sorrow to the beach where the little shallop lies rocking in the sands, and timidly in the rear comes this new disciple with only one humble petition—“that he might be with Him.” “Go home to thy friends!” “But, Lord, I have no friend but Thee. I have been an outcast now these many years, a dweller in unclean sepulchres, abhorred of men. What have men done for me but bind me in chains and fetters of iron? But ‘Thy hand hath loosed my bonds of pain, and bound me with Thy love!’ Let me be with Thee where Thou art!” But still from that Most Gracious One comes the inexorable, “Go back—back to thy friends and thy father’s house—go tell them what the Lord hath done for thee!” “What? I, Lord? I, so disused to rational speech? whose lips and tongue were but now the organs of demoniac blasphemy? I, just rallying from the rending of the exorcised fiends? I, surrounded by a hostile people, that have just warned away my Lord and Saviour from their coasts? And can I hope that they will hear my words, who turn a deaf and rebellious ear to Thee? Nay, Lord, I entreat Thee let me be with Thee, there sitting at Thy feet clothed and in my right mind, that men may look and point at me and glorify my Lord, my Saviour! Let them go, whose zeal to tell of Thee even Thy interdict cannot repress,—there be many such—send them! But let me be near Thee, be with Thee, and gaze, and love, and be silent, and adore!” Was ever a stronger argument of prayer? And yet Christ departs, and the grateful believer is left alone to do the work for which he seems so insufficient and unfit! To translate the story into the terms of our daily life, it shews us:
1. That the path of duty which Christ has marked out for us may be the opposite of that which we naturally think and ardently desire. You say to yourself that a man must be willing to leave father and mother and children and business for the gospel’s sake: but God finds some way of admonishing you that a man must also be willing to stay by them for the gospel’s sake, when he is called thereto, and answers the fine texts with which you try to excuse yourself from humble and irksome duty with other texts,—how he that provideth not for his own household is worse than an infidel,—and how he makes void the law of God who says to his father or mother Corban—I have consecrated to religious uses the time and labour that might have gone to your support;—and so God shuts up your favourite path of service, and makes plain before your feet a very humble and obscure little by-way for you to walk in.
2. That when religious privilege and religious duty seem to conflict, the duty is to be preferred above the privilege. It would seem as if the case of this lunatic had been set before us here as an a fortiori case for all generations to the end of time. What one of us can ever be called to surrender that supreme religious privilege—the personal, visible companionship, the personal, audible teaching of Jesus the Lord? And if he might not choose, but must needs go away, untaught, untrained, to be alone from his Saviour, and be himself a teacher of others, can there ever be imagined a case between duty and privilege when you or I should be at liberty to hesitate?
3. That duty, preferred and followed instead of privilege, becomes itself the supreme privilege. See to what honour came this nameless man at last. Having given up the infinite delight of the personal companionship of Jesus, behold him now promoted to this dignity, that he should be the first in the kingdom of heaven. The trained disciples, that had left all to follow the Lord, are passed over, and this highest honour, that he should be the first commissioned preacher of the gospel, is given to him who left the Lord Himself, at His command, to do the Lord’s work. And no man knoweth his name unto this day. But in the resurrection those unknown syllables shall be spoken again with “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and shall shine above those of prophets and apostles, like the sun, and like the brightness of the firmament, for ever and ever.—L. W. Bacon.
Mark 5:17. Christ rejected by the Gadarenes.—We are not surprised to learn, that those “in the city and in the country,” when such strange tidings reached them, “went out to see what it was that was done.” We should have so acted ourselves in similar circumstances. Perhaps we think that here the likeness ends; and that, instead of beseeching One who had given such proofs of power and goodness to “depart out of our coasts,” we should rather have imitated the conduct of the people of Sychar (John 4:40). In both cases Jesus granted the request made. What the Gadarenes lost by their rejection of Him we may never know; but that their loss may be our gain, let us try to discover the feelings which influenced these persons, and which may still actuate any possessed of the same depraved and disordered moral constitution.
I. Vexation at pecuniary loss sustained.—We may partly excuse this feeling on the ground of its naturalness, but we may not allow it to be a just and right one. We may not admit that ever so large an amount of this world’s goods is to be weighed in the balance against one immortal soul, “turned from darkness to light,” etc. Moreover, the Gadarenes had ample evidence that He who permitted this destruction of property was no ordinary man, for “with authority He commanded the unclean spirits, and they obeyed Him.” He belonged, evidently, to another world. He had passed the boundary which separates things visible from invisible. He must have much to tell, therefore, which is most important for all to know, who are conscious that they possess a spiritual nature. Compared with the benefits which all might expect to reap from His “wisdom and mighty works,” what was the injury which a few had sustained from the loss of a portion of their worldly wealth?
II. The dread of preternatural agency.—“They were afraid” (Mark 5:15). Why, and when? Not when they beheld the traces of the destructive energy which had been at work; but when they saw “him that was possessed … sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind.” Not because they thought he would do them an injury—he was now as harmless as he had heretofore been dangerous; but because they saw in him one who had just been the subject of a preternatural agency, and because the Agent Himself was close at hand. So Peter (Luke 5:8). So all the disciples (Luke 8:25). These Gadarenes had hitherto been living according to the course of this world. Perhaps they professed some form of religion; but it exercised no regenerating influence over their hearts: of the “power of godliness” they knew nothing at all. Probably they had heard a rumour of the “Great Prophet who had risen up” amongst their neighbours; but it had made no particular impression upon them; not one of them thought more of making provision for another life, or less of getting and enjoying the good things of this. Suddenly their carnal ease is broken in upon by the report of the arrival of the new Teacher in their own country, and of the awful display of supernatural power which ensued. The effect was instantaneous. It was like the first warnings of an earthquake—the slight trembling which precedes the more powerful shock which is to bury the city in its own ruins. Not more hastily do the inhabitants, on the first premonitory vibration, rush out of their houses and take refuge in the open country, than did the Gadarenes, with one accord, “pray Jesus to depart out of their coasts.” They desired to have nothing to do with Him. He had already seriously disturbed them; and if He were allowed to go on, who could tell whereunto these things would grow?
III. Consciousness of guilt, and fear of punishment.—Yes, “guilt” is the word, as implying not only wrong, but wrong which must be answered for, wrong which subjects to the penalty of the law. This is what all mankind are alike implicated in. God had not left these Gadarenes without a witness to Him in their own breasts, for He had given them a conscience, and thoughts which accused or excused according to the bidding of that inward monitor. But they, being ignorant of God’s ways, and knowing only that they were “the enemies of God by wicked works,” supposed that He must be their enemy also, and could think of no other way of fleeing from His wrath but by fleeing from Him and from every one who came in His name. What could be more natural? All that they had as yet heard or seen of Jesus only confirmed them in the impression that He was come to torment them before their time, and to bring upon them or their families such swift destruction as had already befallen their swine. We cannot doubt that abject personal fear had the largest share in prompting them to “pray Him to depart out of their coasts.”
1. Was it the loss of worldly substance which induced the Gadarenes to wish to be rid of Christ’s presence? In this, even knowing no more of Him than they did, they acted foolishly and wickedly. But what must be said of those who know Him to be the Saviour of the world—“the Way, and the Truth, and the Life”—and yet allow worldly considerations to prevent them from reaping the full benefit of His Mission?
2. Did the carnal-minded Gadarenes see in Jesus a messenger from the invisible world, who was come to turn their thoughts from things temporal to things eternal? and did they therefore desire to have nothing to do with Him? This also was inexcusable even in them; but how much more so in us! We cannot plead that it was well with us before this Man of God came among us, and that we desire to “let well alone.” There never was a time when He was not among us—never a time when the name of Jesus, His work and His doctrine, were not familiar to us as household words. “In the light are we, that in us the light may be.” Let us, then, go out to meet “Him that cometh in the name of the Lord,” and pray Him not to depart from us, not to let us alone, but to come unto us, and make His abode with us, for time and for eternity.
3. Did the Gadarenes reject Christ because they saw in Him a swift Minister of that Divine vengeance which was due to them for their sins? We cannot blame them for this. But what if they had been better instructed in the nature of His Person and Mission? What if they had known that (1 Timothy 2:5)? What if they had heard those charming words (John 3:16-17; 1 John 4:9)? Why, then the whole population would surely have gone out to meet Him, and to escort Him in triumph into their city. While they accepted Him as their Priest to make atonement for them, they would have sat at His feet as their Prophet, and sworn allegiance to Him as their King. What they did not know we do; therefore the reception which, had they known, they would have given Him let us give, and the homage which they would have rendered to Him let us render, saying, “Worthy is the Lamb,” etc.
Mark 5:17-19. The two prayers.—No contrast could be more striking than that presented by these verses. Under what circumstances was it, and with what motives, that these two prayers, most opposite in their purport, were offered to Christ? The answer to this question will shew us that these two contrary prayers are in fact offered up to Him now and daily,—one or other of them by every one of us; both, at different times, by many.
I. The prayer of the Gadarenes.—They might have known that One who gave signs so infallible of a Divine Mission must have a message for them from God. That that message was on the whole a gracious message they might have inferred from the sight of one out of whom demons were departed sitting at His feet clothed and in his right mind. But no: their fears and their displeasure prevailed, and they prayed Him only to depart out of their coasts. These Gadarenes were a type of thousands now. To us also Christ has come. We hear His Word. We see those miracles of His grace by which the thoughtless, selfish, sinful, are changed into a new image by the transforming power of faith in Christ. These things we see;—and, if our own heart condemns us as being still ourselves dead in sin, we may well tremble as we behold. But what further effect have these things had upon us? Have we drawn near to Him whose works are thus mighty, whose words are thus gracious? Have we sought to know more of Him than we could by the mere hearing of the ear? Being assured, by His own promise, that He hears prayers, have we prayed, are we daily praying, to. Him? Do we bring to Him our daily wants and sins and weaknesses, our daily duties, snares, and temptations, and ask in each for the everpresent help of His Holy Spirit? Or do we neglect all these things, and live much as we should if Christ had never died for us, and try to keep as far from Him as possible, lest we should be obliged to part with those things which we love better? Then, it is with us just as if we every day uttered the prayer of these Gadarenes, and besought Christ to depart from us! And this is a prayer which is soon answered. In that heart which refuses to believe Christ does no mighty works, because of its unbelief. He who desires to forget Christ may easily succeed in doing so. The Lord’s Spirit will not alway strive with man. So long as by our carelessness or our sins we are praying Christ to depart from us, and not to torment us before the time, so long we may too reasonably fear that that prayer will be heard—that He who has come out of His place with offers of mercy, He who is calling to us from heaven, and bidding us hear and live, will go and return unto His place, till we acknowledge our offence and seek His face.
II. The prayer of the man delivered from demons.—Knowing his own weakness, and the subtlety of his great enemy; knowing that till he heard the voice of Christ he had been in bondage, and that only by His strength is he free; fearing lest the departure of his Deliverer should be the signal for the return of the unclean spirit to his now deserted habitation,—he prays that he may remain with Christ, contented to be the companion of Him who has not where to lay His head, if he may but still hear the sound of that gracious voice, and be still within the reach of that compassionate arm. But as the prayer of unbelief and of carelessness, which beseeches Christ to depart, is but too surely fulfilled in His withdrawal, so this, though it be the prayer of faith and love, is yet no less surely refused. The time for uninterrupted converse with the Lord is hereafter, not now. A life of rapturous meditation, of ecstatic communion with a world unseen, is not that which will best glorify Christ, or shine most brightly before men. He who has been first healed by Christ must go back into the world to shew forth His praise. By pureness, by meekness, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, he must be Christ’s witness; men must take knowledge of him, by these signs, that he has been with Jesus. This is his work:—the other his refreshment, his recreation, his invigoration for future service. Seasons indeed are allowed him—and happy is he who cares for them—of visiting Christ, of communing with Him, of receiving from Him new supplies of mercy and grace. Such opportunities are prayer, the study of Scripture, and above all the Holy Communion; opportunities of being with Christ, of seeking from Him the restoration and revival of our souls—the casting out of those evil spirits of pride and sensuality and worldliness, which are ever regaining, in some new form, the possession of our hearts, and which no power but Christ’s can enable us to overcome. But every such approach to Him implies and looks forward to a subsequent return to the duties of daily life. We come to renew our strength, that again we may run and not be weary. We come to eat of that living bread, that so in the strength of that meat we may enter upon another stage of our pilgrimage towards the heavenly city.—Dean Vaughan.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 5:1-15. The greatness and the weakness of man.—
1. His greatness—seen in the fact that many demons can enter into him. Shew how men may be great in evil as well as in good—tyrants, warriors, conspirators, hypocrites, etc.
2. His weakness—seen in his yielding where he ought to have resisted, in his helplessness when he had once admitted the power of evil into his heart—seen also in his fear of the only power that could redeem him from its bondage.—J. Parker, D.D.
A revelation of the Saviour’s glory.—
1. As the Son of the living God.
2. As the King of the world of spirits.
3. As the Deliverer of the wretched.
4. As the Holy One, who does not suffer Himself to be entreated in vain to depart.—J. J. Van Oosterzee, D.D.
Mark 5:3; An inveterate habit of uncleanness frequently extinguishes all the principles of the Christian life; and an unchaste soul dwells in its body as in a loathsome sepulchre, where there is nothing but the remains of worms and corruption. This is but too often literally true. An unchaste person is a madman, whom everything provokes, whom nothing stops, and who will not bear the least restraint.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 5:4. Spiritual strength.—That poor man, possessed by that unclean spirit, was able to burst the fetters and chains which bound his limbs, and to break through all opposition of the arms of men; how much more powerful is he who is possessed by the Spirit of God, his will wholly given to obey His call, powerful to break away through any bonds with which the world would bind him, and to follow on the heavenly path, defying all opposition of an ungodly world!
Mark 5:5. The desolate places of the earth.—The gloomy waste, the sterile desert, are the contrast of Eden, and shewed themselves contemporaneously with man’s trangression; death and the grave are the result of sin—what fitter habitation than these could Satan and his myrmidons find? The demoniac, in the midst of his mental confusion, retains his old notions of the habits of demons, and yields readily to the impulse that sends him to solitude and graves, wherein he supposed they specially delight. How far he is a free agent, how far under the control of an alien force, we cannot accurately define. This is one of those mysterious matters of which we are greatly ignorant; but we have glimpses of an identification of man and devil which is inexpressibly awful. Meantime, whatever opinion we may form concerning the notion of evil spirits being especially attached to certain localities (and if we localise holiness we may equally localise wickedness), we may at any rate learn this lesson, that it is in souls dry of grace that Satan takes up his abode, in hearts not filled with love and faith that he finds entrance. Solitude does not bar him out. People have fled to the desert, living a life of want and pain far away from the busy haunts of men, that there, alone with God, as they thought, they might wrestle out their soul’s salvation; but the tempter has found them there. Wherever a soul is to be lost or won, as surely as this present life is our trial-time, as surely as this present world is our battle-field, so surely in this time and place are we exposed to the assaults of evil; and nothing can keep us safe but watchfulness and prayer.—W. J. Deane.
The madness of sin.—Having gone through some fearful scenes with madmen, I have a vivid idea of what this savage was. How strong, how rampant, how brutal! I have seen one leap from a third-storey window at a bound, and another crimson with his own blood from broken glass, and yet another defying five police-officers to touch a hair of his head. And what lessons have I then and there learned about the dreadfulness of being given up to Satan, and having such frenzied beings for everlasting associates—lessons, too, of thankfulness to God for sparing our reason, and warding off those accidents which might have robbed us of it. A fall on the ice, a fright, a blow from a stick, and you and I might now be even such outcasts.—Jas. Bolton.
Mark 5:6-7. A double nature.—That the man worshipped Jesus, and yet a moment after the evil spirit within him cried with a loud voice, as one who was not in the kingdom of Jesus—this is like our daily case. There is within us a double nature—a good spirit and an evil spirit; one minute one prevails, another minute the other governs. Even the best man is not free from sin. Good people have said they are surprised at the wickedness within them. On the other hand, even the worst man is hardly a devil yet. But most of us are between the two. We change, not perhaps quite so quickly as he whom the Gospel describes, and yet very quickly. In the morning we worship Jesus with our prayer and make good resolutions. But perhaps the same day, not long after, we lose our temper, and say spiteful things that have nothing in common with Jesus, the Son of God. Or perhaps he who said a prayer the same day is drunken, or does some dishonest action, or tells a lie. Thus we pass from Jesus to Satan.—Jas. Lonsdale.
Mark 5:7. The struggle to get rid of sin.—A man can never leave sin without violence; he can never root up an evil habit but nature must suffer deeply. She fights against grace; she causes the flesh to strive against the Spirit, and will against will. Whoever loves impurity dreads to be delivered from it, and omits nothing to continue himself under that miserable possession.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 5:9. Legion.—It may be that the fiends within him dictated his reply, or that he himself, conscious of their tyranny, cried out in agony, We are many—a regiment like those of conquering Rome, drilled and armed to trample and destroy, a legion. This answer distinctly contravened what Christ had just implied, that he was one, an individual, and precious in his Maker’s eyes. But there are men and women in every Christian land whom it might startle to look within, and see how far their individuality is oppressed and overlaid by a legion of impulses, appetites, and conventionalities, which leave them nothing personal, nothing essential and characteristic, nothing that deserves a name.—Dean Chadwick.
Troops of temptations.—Our enemies come upon us like a torrent. How much does it concern us to band our hearts together in a communion of saints! The number of our enemies adds to the praise of our victory. To overcome single temptations is commendable; but to subdue troops of temptations is glorious (Matthew 12:45; Isaiah 59:19; Philippians 1:27).—Bishop Hall.
The Legion of sin.—Truly the name of sin is Legion. It is anger, malice, intemperance, murder, impurity, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, equivocation, dissimulation, falsehood, hypocrisy, ingratitude, disobedience, impatience, discontentment, envy, covetousness; it is profanity, formality, superstition, idolatry, blasphemy, and atheism. It is a repudiation of the authority, a defiance of the power, a slight to the wisdom, a contempt of the holiness, and unthankfulness for the goodness of God. It is the cause of all the error, conflict, cruelty, suffering, weeping, and woe that exist in this world. Like a foul demon, it has poisoned and polluted, blighted and cursed, everything it has touched. It has caused man, the noblest work of God, to become the destroyer of his own soul, the murderer of his brother, the enemy of his God.—A. Thompson.
Mark 5:12. The prayer of the demons.—
1. The language of conscious degradation. The demons knew there was an inexorable necessity carrying them downwards; the lake of unutterable woe would receive them at length; but they felt as if it would be a breaking of their fall, a something less than their ultimate misery, to take up their abode even in the vilest and most loathsome of the brute creation. Think not that you can indulge your vicious propensities without debasing your moral nature, or that you can tempt others to moral depravity without yourself becoming more depraved.
2. The language of conscious terror and alarm. That woful and degrading punishment they would acquiesce in, nay, acknowledge as a mark of condescension and favour, hoping thereby to effect at least a temporary delay of their ultimate sentence to the lake of endless perdition. They gain their wish; their prayer is answered; and with it increasing debasement, and the consummation of woe. Verily, it is a dangerous thing to tamper with our moral nature, and to take even a single step that leads down the terrible declivity.—J. Cochrane.
Mark 5:13. Jesus gave them leave.—Thus His power over the world of spirits was shown to be absolute; they could not operate even on the lower animals without His permission, much less could they dominate men, the sheep of His pasture. And at the same time this hidden world was demonstrated to be very real and very formidable, encompassing our path, restlessly seeking to mar, and to deface, and to destroy. Hereby too the sufferer was assured of his cure, and realised from what a tremendous evil he had been delivered; he was afforded a visible proof of that supernatural region; he was allowed a glimpse behind that veil which mortal eye cannot penetrate.—W. J. Deane.
Why such destruction?—Some think that the herd belonged to Jews, who were thus justly punished for dealing with animals forbidden by the law. But if the owners were Gentiles, another reason may be given. The heathen may have needed to be taught the reality of demoniacal possession, and that it was the providence of God alone that preserved them from evils worse than those which they saw exemplified in the demoniacs and the swine; or they might thus learn that salvation is of the Jews, and that it was the same God who gave to them their laws who shewed His authority over evil spirits by the demolition of the herd.—Ibid.
The drowning of the herd does not appear to have entered into the calculations of the unclean spirits. They desired houses to live in after their expulsion, and for them to plunge the swine into the lake would have defeated their purpose. The stampede was an unexpected effect of the commingling of the demoniac with the animal nature, and outwitted the demons. “The devil is an ass.” There is a lower depth than the animal nature; and even swine feel uncomfortable when the demon is in them, and in their panic rush anywhere to get rid of the incubus, and, before they know, find themselve struggling in the lake. “Which things are an allegory.”—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Mark 5:14-15. Miracles not necessarily convincing.—No miracle could be more decisive, or more directed to the hearts of men, than that which Christ worked on this occasion, and yet it produced no good effect whatever on the Gadarenes. The fact is, that much previous education and preparation are necessary in order to make a miracle effectual; in certain cases it may be wholesome or even necessary, but it is of the nature of a very violent medicine, which if administered indiscriminately may do much more harm than good. Might not one of the purposes of our Lord in working this miracle, which in some respects is of so exceptional a kind, have been to shew how impracticable it would have been for Him to establish His kingdom in the world by mere force of miracles?—Bishop H. Goodwin.
Mark 5:15. A reformed character.—When the formerly careless and mad wanderer after this world’s vain bubbles is under the salutary influence of Divine grace, where is he to be found, and what is he doing? He is to be found “sitting at the feet of Jesus,” receiving the instruction which the gospel of Jesus imparts, watching daily at wisdom’s gates, and waiting at the posts of wisdom’s doors. He is to be found in the court of the Lord’s house, waiting to hear what God the Lord will say unto him by the Divine Word. He becomes a companion of all those that fear God and keep His commandments. He now delights in the society of those as the excellent of the earth, whom he formerly hated and reviled as needlessly precise or superstitiously religious.—E. Edwards.
1. How one spirit may disturb a whole household—make every means of happiness vain—render all the resources for enjoyment of no worth! All these resources only say, How happy we might be! There is a relief when our sorrow comes from sickness, accident, the visitation of God; but when it comes from moral insanity, the arrow is barbed indeed, and strikes and rankles deep. How much there is of this—from intemperance, dishonesty, passion, selfishness, sensuality, and meanness!
2. Jesus can transform this wild spirit and send him home a blessing. The moral maniac has been tamed! The ferocious tiger has departed, and the serenity of a true, manly soul has appeared—like the passing of the thunderous clouds that made night awful, and the coming forth of the morn, pouring her baptism of light on hill and tower and on the rolling river and the home.
3. Do not let us shake all this off with the passing hour, because we are not maniacs and cannot go home as such. But let this be our question: Where do we stand between this extreme, and what we should be? Here is the terrible maniac, and there is Jesus—where are we? With which have we the most features of character in common?—Henry Bacon.
Mark 5:17. Sins of communities.—
1. It is possible for communities as communities to sin, to transgress the law of righteousness, to incur guilt.
2. When a town as a town, or a parish as a parish, by its own vote and determination, does what is wrong, the bad consequences of the evil act are very likely to involve those who disapproved of the unrighteousness along with those who favoured it.
3. The duty which attaches to all right-minded people of trying to prevent this thing. By the words we speak, the opinions we express, the preferences we hint, the disapprovals we venture, the judgments we utter, the votes we cast, we do all of us and every one help to give character to the aggregate of public opinion. How are we to exercise this power of influence as we ought? By always seeking, as God gives us grace to do so, to take the worthiest and highest view of every question that comes before us.—W. R. Huntington, D.D.
Entreating Christ to depart.—It is an entreating of Christ to depart out of our coasts, whenever we allow ourselves in ever so little a matter to put profit before principle, to prefer gain to godliness. The permanence and stability of all we value most in social life, the maintenance of mutual confidence, the preservation of the purity of home—these and many other such precious possessions depend on being able to keep Christ within our borders.—Ibid
A Christless world.—That will be indeed a fatal day for society if ever the voices of those who would have Christ depart should so far prevail as to secure the accomplishment of the wish. Picture the Christless world rolling on its dismal course through space, no homes of prayer anywhere upon its surface, no gathered congregations lifting the voice of worship, no kneeling suppliants interceding for the sick and sorrowing, no bread of life, no cup of blessing, no tender ministries of loving care and sympathy, no children taught to say “Our Father,” no holy benediction for man and wife, no word of trustful hope for the dying, no utterance of faith in a joyful resurrection over the dead—nothing of all this, but, instead, only one long, hard, selfish struggle to see who shall be richest and who shall be strongest in a life of which the grave is the acknowledged end.—Ibid.
The difficulty of saving work.—Those who are acquainted with missionary exertions, either of ancient or modern times, to plant the gospel in heathen countries, know with what extreme difficulty any saving effect is wrought. In most instances, perhaps, the Word of life has been rejected, and Christ desired to depart out of their coasts, as an unwelcome guest, who was come to torment them before the time. But need we go far from home to see this? When any attempt is made to revive practical religion in our days, and to call the attention of nominal Christians to those grand truths which they profess in words, how is the attempt received? When Christ is faithfully preached, and the doctrines of His religion explained and pressed upon men’s consciences, how do they behave? When any among them are persuaded to receive Christ into their hearts by faith, to come out from the world which lieth in wickedness, and to devote themselves to His service, how are they treated by their unbelieving friends? Is there not still something in the presence of Christ, and the close application of His doctrines to the mind and conscience, that is tormenting? Is not a life formed upon the principles of the gospel offensive to those who will not receive nor act upon those principles?—W. Richardson.
Mark 5:18-19. Lessons.—
1. This shews how dear the presence of Christ is to those who have seen and felt His grace.
2. Let us submit readily to our Lord’s will in all His denials of our requests.
3. Let us reflect on the experience we have had of the power and compassion of Christ.
4. What noble subjects religion furnishes for domestic converse!
5. How graciously Christ adapts our sphere of labour to the state of the body and mind!
6. Be content to labour in the humblest and most private sphere.—H. Belfrage, D.D.
Mark 5:19. Home.—A man may be said to have two lives in one—his public and his home life. Those who work with him through the week can tell you his outward character, his habits, his appearance; but there may be a great deal, whether of good or bad, that they do not know because they do not know his home. If they did, they might respect him more than they do already, or despise him more than they do already, but probably their opinion of him would not remain the same.
1. Home is the refuge of affections. Among strangers we might be misunderstood or condemned; at home we are believed in; they who know us best, know that, with all our faults, there is something to care about.
2. Home is a place of memories. In your own household pleasures need never be far to seek while you recall together things which happened years ago.
3. The best homes are also centres of personal religion. “Go home to thy friends, and tell them” all that God teaches you, all that God has given you to know of His dealings: tell those at home in the best of all speech, that of your daily example.—W. R. Hutton.
The Lord’s doings.—
1. Christ is ready to do all for His people that He consistently can do.
2. Christians are bound to tell all that Christ has done for them.
3. Why does Christ not do more for many of His disciples? Chiefly because they do not make an honest surrender of themselves and all they possess to Him.
4. Christians should seek to know more, experimentally, that they may have more to tell.
5. If Christians had more to tell of the Saviour’s wonderful works in them, and were more faithful in telling it, our country would soon be brought to Christ.—J. B. Shaw, D.D.
How the gospel is to be propagated.—
1. It is to be declared at home.
2. It is to be founded on personal experiences.
3. It is to acknowledge the power and goodness of God alone.—J. Parker, D.D.
What has Christ done for us?—What is our present state as compared with our former condition? What is our moral tone? What is our attitude in relation to the future? If we can answer these questions satisfactorily, we have a sufficient reply to all controversial difficulties and to all speculative scepticism.—Ibid.
Be fruitful.—The first act God requires of a convert is, “Be fruitful.” The good man’s goodness lies not hidden in himself alone; he is still strengthening his weaker brother. How soon would the world and Christianity fail, if there were not propagation both of it and man! Good works and good instructions are the generative acts of the soul, out of which spring new prosperity to the Church and gospel (Luke 22:32; John 1:40-41; John 1:45; John 15:16; Romans 1:11; James 5:19-20).—O. Feltham.
Mark 5:20. A thankful heart can not easily confine itself within the narrow bounds of gratitude prescribed to it. There are some graces which are proper to be published; and there are others which ought to be concealed. It is just to publish those which, being preceded by heinous sins, cannot be ascribed to anything but the pure mercy of God, and which are visibly counterbalanced by our demerits. It is the safer way to conceal such as may be looked on as the reward of great fidelity in making a good use of those which a man has received before. The glory of God and the advantage of our neighbour are the rules to be observed on this occasion. He who does not publish them of his own accord, when they are extraordinary in their kind, and the example may be dangerous to the weak, shelters his neighbour’s weakness under the veil of silence, and his own under that of obedience.—P. Quesnel.
Marvelling.—The demoniac’s narrative would shew these people that it was not Jesus whom they had to fear, but evil spiritual powers to whose invasions their lives and habits exposed them, and would thus prepare them to receive with favour the preaching of the apostles after Christ’s ascension and the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Ghost. The immediate effect of the missionary’s story is related alone by Mark: “and all men did marvel.” Such marvelling is the beginning of faith; it leads to consideration of the claims of the Wonder-worker, and acknowledgment of His Divine power.—W. J. Deane.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Mark 5:2-5. A man in ruins.—Can anything be more sad than the wreck of a man? We mourn over the destruction of many noble things that have existed in the world. Men, when they hear of the old Phidian Jupiter—that sat forty feet high, carved of ivory and gold, and that was so magnificent, so transcendent, that all the ancient world counted him unhappy that died without having seen this most memorable statue that ever existed in the world—often mourn to think that its exceeding value led to its destruction, and that it perished. It was a great loss to art that such a thing should perish. Can any man look upon the Acropolis—shattered with balls, crumbled by the various influences of the elements, and utterly destroyed—and not mourn to think that such a stately temple, a temple so unparalleled in its exquisite symmetry and beauty, should be desolate and scattered? Can there be anything more melancholy than the destruction, not only of such temples as the Acropolis and the Parthenon, but of a whole city of temples and statues? More melancholy than the destruction of a statue, or a temple, or a city, or a nation, in its physical aspects, is the destruction of a man, the wreck of the understanding, the ruin of the moral feelings, the scattering all abroad of those elements of power that, united together, make man fitly the noblest creature that walks on the earth. Thousands and thousands of men make foreign pilgrimages to visit and mourn over fallen and destroyed cities of former grandeur and beauty; and yet, all round about every one of us, in every street, and in almost every neighbourhood, there are ruins more stupendous, more pitiful, and more heart-touching than that of any city. And how strange would be the wonder if, as men wandered in the Orient, there should come some one that should call from the mounds all the scattered ruins of Babylon, or build again Tadmor of the desert! How strange it would be to see a city, that at night was a waste heap, so restored that in the morning the light of the sun should flash from pinnacle, and tower, and wall, and roof! How marvellous would be that creative miracle! But more marvellous, ten thousand times, is that Divine touch by which a man, broken down and shattered, is raised up in his right mind, and made to sit, clothed, at the feet of Jesus.—H. W. Beecher.
Mark 5:3. The tombs.—In the East the receptacles of the dead are always situated at some distance from the abodes of the living; and if belonging to kings or men of rank, are spacious vaults and magnificent structures, containing, besides the crypt that holds the ashes of their solitary tenants, several chambers or recesses which are open and accessible at the sides. In these the benighted traveller often finds a welcome asylum; in these the dervishes and santons, wandering mendicants that infest the towns of Persia and other Eastern countries, generally establish themselves, and they are often, too, made the haunts of robbers and lawless people, who hide themselves there to avoid the consequences of their crimes. Nor are they occupied only by such casual and dangerous tenants. When passing through a desolate village near the Lake of Tiberias, Giovanni Finati saw the few inhabitants living in the tombs as their usual place of residence; and at Thebes the same traveller, when he was introduced to Mr. Beechy, the British Consul, found that gentleman had established himself, while prosecuting his researches among the ruins of that celebrated place, in the vestibule of one of the tombs of the ancient kings. Captain Light, who travelled over the scene of our Lord’s interview with the demoniac, describes the tombs as still existing in the form of caverns cut in the live rock, like those at Petra—as wild and sequestered solitudes, divided into a number of bare and open niches, well suited to be places of refuge to those unhappy lunatics for whom the benevolence of antiquity had not provided a better asylum.
Mark 5:11-15. The demoniac’s restoration.—A victim of intemperance was dashing himself hither and thither at risk of life, in vain attempts to elude the monstrous phantom serpent he saw assailing him. Nurses and physicians were baffled. Opiates had no effect. The man must sleep, or he must die. A new physician was summoned. He entered the room with a huge bare knife, attacked the phantom serpent, fought it, drove it under the bed, while the cowering wretch watched every motion in an agony of alternating hopes and fears; stabbed it again and again, slew it, dragged it across the floor, threw it from the door, locked the door again; and the sufferer, with a great sigh of relief, sank into a slumber which saved his reason and his life. May not such an experience throw light upon the fact that Jesus allowed the demons to enter into the swine and drive them down a steep place into the sea, where they were choked? Certainly not until he had seen that did the demoniac sit at Jesus’ feet, “clothed, and in his right mind.”
Mark 5:13. The destructive character of sin.—Satan’s work is a work of destruction. Nearly seven hundred years ago Jenghis Khan swept over Central Asia, and it is said that, for centuries after, his course could be traced by the pyramids of human bones—the bones of slaughtered captives—which his armies left behind them. If the bones of Satan’s slain captives could be piled up in our sight, what a pyramid that would be! Self-mutilation has always been common among the worshippers of false gods; to this day the fakirs of India cut and gnash themselves with knives. The devil sets his servants at the same unprofitable task. Aloed-Din, the chief of the Assassins, succeeded in persuading his men that whoever would fall in his service was sure of paradise; and so, at a nod of their chief, the poor dupes would stab themselves to the heart, or fling themselves over precipices. Satan’s one aim is to blind his captives, and lead them to self-destruction.
Mark 5:15-16. Transforming influence of Christianity.—A young man, an apprentice in an extensive tin factory in Massachusetts, who had formerly been very profligate, having applied for admission into a Church, the minister called on his master to inquire whether any change had been wrought in his conduct, and whether he had any objection to his reception. When the minister had made the customary inquiries, his master, with evident emotion, though he was not a professor of religion, replied in substance as follows: Pointing to an iron chain hanging up in the room, “Do you see that chain?” said he. “That chain was forged for W—. I was obliged to chain him to the bench by the week together, to keep him at work. He was the worst boy I had in the whole establishment. No punishment seemed to have any salutary influence upon him. I could not trust him out of my sight. But now, sir, he is completely changed—he has really become like a lamb. He is one of my best apprentices. I would trust him with untold gold. I have no objection to his being received into communion. I wish all my boys were prepared to go with him”.—In a manuscript by an old Scotch minister, in the early part of the eighteenth century, there is a remarkable account of the conversion of Lord Jeddart, who had been famous for his recklessness in sin, and of the astonishment it caused among Christian people. A little after his conversion, and before the thing was known, he came to the Lord’s table. He sat next a lady who had her hands over her face, and did not see him till he delivered the cup out of his hand. When she saw that it was Lord Jeddart, who had been so renowned for sin, she fell a-trembling terribly for very amazement that such a man should be there. He noticed it, and said, “Madam, be not troubled: the grace of God is free!” This calmed the lady; but when we consider what sort of man Lord Jeddart had been, we can account for her surprise.—Guthrie, of Fenwick, a Scotch minister, once visited a dying woman. He found her anxious about her state, but very ignorant. His explanation of the gospel was joyfully received by her, and soon after she died. On his return home, Guthrie said, “I have seen a strange thing to-day—a woman whom I found in a state of nature I saw in a state of grace, and left in a state of glory.”—“When I get to heaven,” said John Newton, “I shall see three wonders there: the first wonder will be to see many people there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see; and the third and greatest wonder of all will be to find myself there.”
Mark 5:17. Rejection of Christ.—Even so do men now deal with their Saviour. He draws nigh to us in His Word and Sacraments. He is close to us in blessings and in the discipline of life; but we will not have Him to teach us. We fear it may interfere with our plans and ways of life if we should become really religious! In many ways we “beseech Him to depart”—some by wilful sins, which cannot be enjoyed in the presence of Christ. The busy, active man, who lives for this world only, has no time “to waste” on religion, so he bids the Redeemer “depart.” The thoughtless, careless lover of pleasure, looking upon spiritual claims as an interruption to his amusements, feels no need for a Saviour and hears with unconcern His retreating footsteps. Alas! how many will, when too late, regret their neglect of, or contempt for, religion! A few years ago, the Prime Minister of England stepped across Downing Street with a friend, who wanted some information from one of the Government officials. They entered the particular office, and on inquiring for the Head of the Department were curtly told to “wait” by an insolent young clerk, who did not even look up from his newspaper, and presently added an order to “wait outside.” When the principal official returned, he was thunderstruck to find the Head of the Government sitting with his friend on the steps of the stone staircase. Equally surprised was the clerk when, to his dismay, he learned by his dismissal the result of his careless insolence. In earthly things men bitterly regret “chances” lost or thrown away, and yet we treat with indifference our opportunities in the spiritual life!—Dr. Hardman.
Folly of communities.—Bishop Butler had a very poor opinion of the wisdom of communities. His chaplain, Dean Tucker, tells that he one day asked him “why whole communities of public bodies might not be seized with fits of insanity, as well as individuals,” and on the chaplain declaring that he had not considered the subject, the bishop added: “Nothing but this principle, that they are liable to insanity equally at least with private persons, can account for the major part of those transactions of which we read in history.”
Mark 5:19. “Tell what the Lord hath done for thee.”—A young lady sat in her room one day reading her Bible, and came to this verse. The words rang in her ears, and refused to leave her, until she resolved she would speak to the first person she met on her way down town. Closing her book, she donned her wraps, and stepped into the street just as a young man, who was one of her particular friends, was passing. As they walked along together she tried hard to find courage to speak to him; but each time Satan would say, Wait. When they came to the place of separation, they lingered a moment, and she said, “George, I want to tell you about my Friend, one that has been so kind and good to me, and one whom you would enjoy to know, and whose influence you so much need.” Her companion listened with unusual earnestness. “George, I want to see you under the care and influence of my Saviour. Won’t you, now, just give up all, and take hold on Him?” The young man was deeply impressed, and promised to seriously meditate on such a step, at the same time informing his friend that he would leave town next day to be gone some time in the interest of his employer. The young lady passed on down the street to attend some business, thinking little more about the young man, until, a few days after, when a small note was handed her, bearing these words: “Mamie, I accepted your Great Friend as my Friend too: am saved. Oh, how glad that you told me of Him! Your friend, George.” The words were written as he lay dying in a railroad wreck.
Mark 5:20. Zeal in spreading the gospel.—A remarkable case occurred in the Batticaloa District. It was that of a heathen who was employed in one of the mission schools, not to teach Christianity, but to assist the Christian teacher in teaching secular subjects. Being thus brought under the influence of the gospel, his mind gradually opened to receive the truth; and as soon as he had made a profession of Christ, he had a desire to make known to others the glad news of salvation. Week after week, and month after month, he walked six or eight miles to a distant village, without pay, to preach Christ to the people. The love of Christ constrained him to the work, and the result was that nearly all the people of that village received the truth, and a short time after the missionary there baptised on one occasion thirty-two persons.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Mark 5:22. Rulers of the synagogue.—The synagogues had no clergy, but were managed by laymen, who conducted or superintended the services, and administered discipline. The rulers of Capernaum had already (Luke 7:3) approached our Lord on behalf of the centurion who built their synagogue. Now one of them comes to prefer a petition on his own account.
Mark 5:25. An issue of blood.—Hæmorrhage. See Leviticus 15:19-30.
Mark 5:36. As soon as Jesus heard.—For another reading see R.V. It is not easy to determine the exact shade of meaning which παρακούσας bears here. Dr. F. Field renders, “Jesus, making as though He heareth not the word spoken,” etc.
Mark 5:41. Talitha cumi.—St. Peter, who was present, would treasure in his memory the very words used.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 5:21-43
(PARALLELS: Matthew 9:1; Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56.)
Mark 5:21-24; Mark 5:35-43. Jairus’daughter.—
I. The faith of a father.—
1. It was Christward. “Behold, there cometh,” etc. He came to Christ when all human power was useless. He had confidence in the superhuman power of Christ. He had seen Christ cast out the fiend in the synagogue. He knew of the recovery of the centurion’s servant. These mighty deeds planted the seed of faith in his heart. Personal trial was needed to make it grow and bring forth fruit. Afflictions are blessings if they bring us to Christ.
2. It was humble. “Fell at His feet.” Jairus saw beyond the outward poverty of Christ. He, a man of rank and position, prostrate before Christ, conscious of his own inferiority. No place on earth higher than the feet of Jesus. To fall is to rise. Those who lie at His feet shall hereafter sit on His right hand.
3. It was earnest. “Besought Him greatly.” He knew, felt, begged, one thing. The blessing sought was precious. Only Christ could give it. Jesus delights to hear passionate prayer. Each tear is a jewel, each cry an oration. Cæsar said, “The voices of the distressed crying for my help make sweetest music in my ears.” A father delays granting the request of his darling child, not that he is heedless of its appeals, but he likes to hear its little voice. Jesus often delayed to answer, not that He disliked giving, but because He liked the asking.
4. It was imperfect. “Come, and lay Thy hands,” etc. His faith was inferior to that of the centurion. “Say the word only,” etc. Healing while being absent a mystery to Jairus. Instrumentality not essential to Christ. The secret of success was in Himself. Distance no disadvantage. Now that He has exchanged worlds He is still the same.
II. The death of a daughter.—She was twelve years old, and dying. A very trying age in which to lose her. There was mutual entwining of affections. They had arranged for her future. They had promised to themselves much comfort from her. How insecure are the most promising earthly objects! Jairus’ daughter, like a beautiful flower, fades in its budding. Her day closed early—night before noon. Her death full of pathos.
1. The death of a young daughter.
2. The death of an only daughter.
3. The death of a loved daughter.
4. The death of a good daughter. The fact that she was so beloved implies that she was all that could be desired.
III. The sympathy of the Saviour.—
1. It was prompt in its action. Jesus was ever ready to sacrifice personal enjoyment for the good of others.
2. It was new in its sphere (Mark 5:35). It is implied that death is incurable. Jesus, the Infallible Physician, can cure the disease of death. His power reaches to both sides of mortality—this and other side.
3. It was contemptuously treated. “Laughed Him to scorn.” What others called death Jesus called sleep; and as we with ease awake the sleeper, so Christ can awake the dead. Hitherto this power of Christ was unrevealed, hence the mockery. Their laughter was serviceable to Christ, for it proved the reality of her death. So Christ was no impostor. They unconsciously reared a platform on which He displayed His Divine power.
4. It was blessed in its results.
(1) Resurrection of the dead.
(2) Joy to the household.
(3) Impetus to the truth.
(4) Glory to Christ.—B. D. Johns.
Mark 5:25-34. The timid woman’s touch.—
I. Salvation is through Christ, not in human endeavours.—Here was a woman who had been an invalid for twelve years. In that time she had faithfully sought the best medical advice to be had, had done her utmost to obtain a cure, had spent all that she had in her endeavour to find relief. But it had done no good. It is not strange, indeed, when we consider the empiricism of medicine in that day, that this was so. To cure the disease of this woman there was a great variety of remedies. Among other things, she was to be set in a place where two ways met, with a glass of wine in her hand, and some one was to come up behind her and frighten her. Or seven ditches were to be dug, in which the shoots of grape-vines were to be burned, and then with a cup of wine in her hand she was to sit down in each. No wonder the poor woman “was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.” This is the great lesson here: Men try to heal themselves of their sins by their own devices. They go to human advisers in their sense of need. One tells the sin-sick man, as Burns was told, to drive away his melancholy by gay company; another, as Theodore Parker did in Boston years ago, sneers at the idea of sin; another, as did Comte, tells men to worship humanity. Others hope by a pretty good sort of a life, as the phrase goes, to come out right, though without any very definite idea of how it is to be. Now, in opposition to all this, nothing is more plainly taught in Scripture than that salvation must be through Christ.
II. Salvation is through personal effort, and does not come by waiting.—There is danger of swinging from the error just considered to the opposite extreme, and doing nothing. Men sometimes make a wrong use of the doctrine of election, and persist in waiting for religious influences instead of coming to Christ without delay. They are practically fatalists. It was not so with this woman. She kept saying, “If I touch but His garments, I shall be made whole.” She evinced determination and perseverance. No one will fail to-day who comes to Christ in a similar spirit. “Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.” God appoints us something to do in receiving salvation. We must at least reach out our hand for it and accept it. We must shew such a desire for it as to seek it. God does not want heaven filled with puppets, to move only as He pulls the string. He wants Godlike men, men to be holy as He is holy, and this can be only as each man in the sovereignty of his own free-will decides for himself whether or not he will accept the salvation of Christ. But further than this, as man is made, God could not force salvation on us against our will. Salvation would be impossible without an acceptance on our part. It would not be salvation, but punishment, to be forced into heaven if we did not wish it or enjoy it.
III. Salvation is through faith in Christ, and not by mere contact with Him.—Many are at church from Sunday to Sunday listening to the truths taught by the Saviour, without any personal interest in them or purpose to apply them. They are there from curiosity or habit, or because others are, and have no thought or wish to accept Christ for themselves. They cannot receive salvation in such a frame of mind. They must put forth the hand and touch Him. Contact is not enough. There was a spring in California where many came and drank. All admired its clear water and sought it in turn to slake their thirst. But one who knelt there with the rest saw what the others did not, recognised a vein of glittering gold lying beneath the water, put forth his hand, and made his fortune. The difference between the throngs in Christian lands, who do not accept Christ and those who do is a similar difference. The one fail to take Christ to themselves, though perhaps gathering around Him in admiration. The others see His infinite worth and eagerly take the treasure offered them.
IV. Salvation is by simple faith, and not by elaborate works.—We trust Jesus—that is all. The mode of expressing our trust is an insignificant matter. There was a certain young people’s society which had a warm discussion as to whether in their meetings the voting should be done by word of mouth or by a shew of hands. It was a question of absolute insignificance. The things of importance were that they should have a definite mind on the subjects considered, should make up their minds aright, and then should express their wills clearly. The method by which their will was expressed was immaterial, so long as it was expressed. So is it in regard to faith in Christ. It is of the utmost importance that we commit ourselves to Christ, but how that committal shall express itself is a matter of comparative indifference. We are like a party under guidance through a country infested by hostile Indians. Such a party is bound to follow its guide implicitly. It is its only hope. We must trust ourselves implicitly to the guidance of Christ. He alone knows what is best for us to do. He alone can guide us through the dangers of life, so that we shall come out safely at the last.
V. Salvation is through Divine love, and not by any mystical virtue.—The woman touched the border of Christ’s garment, that white fringe attached to the blue ribbon which bound His robe. She went to Christ very much as many, two centuries ago, went to King Charles of England to be healed of the king’s evil by his touch. But Christ called the woman out of the crowd and forced her to acknowledge her dependence upon Him, partly to teach her and us that He was personally concerned in her healing. It was not something with which His will had nothing to do. It was a result brought about by His knowledge of her need and her faith. She must see that Christ’s aid was His free gift, and not to be surreptitiously taken from Him; that He knew her desire and freely and lovingly gave her help.
VI. Salvation comes through confession, and not in secret.—It was a sore trial for the poor woman to be called to make an acknowledgment of Christ before that unsympathetic company. Why, then, was this sacrifice required of her?
1. It was for the good of others. It is important that the world know that we are saved by Christ. Sometimes Christ did not allow His healings to be heralded, because it was not safe for Him to excite too much publicity; but generally He did. There is no reason now why we should not confess Him, and every reason why we should. I have somewhere read a narrative of the escape of a large company from Malay pirates in the South Seas. A boat was discovered by two or three of the captives. They could easily step on board by themselves, silently drop down the river, and so escape. But they could not bear to leave behind the large company of their friends held in torture and danger of death. So they went back, told their friends their discovery and the possibility of escape it opened, and urged all to undertake it. At night the whole company, including babes in arms, slipped out, passing sleeping guards, tiptoed their way to the river, and so escaped. We honour the few who risked all their hopes rather than leave the rest behind. There are striking points of similarity in our duty to-day. To be sure, we risk nothing in helping others to escape from their sins; but, on the other hand, to find the way of escape ourselves, and to be unwilling to tell others of the way when we have found it, is such ungenerous conduct that we can scarcely conceive it possible in a Christian.
2. But this confession of Christ is required, not only for the good of others, but for our own good quite as much. How much this woman would have lost had not Christ obliged her to confess Him! She needed just this to be confirmed in her assurance of permanent healing. She needed spiritual blessing as well as physical aid. She needed to take a stand on Christ’s side for the sake of developing her character. She was thus brought nearer to her Lord. Many a despondent one, questioning his salvation, has instantly found peace when he came forward and confessed Christ by joining the Church.—A. P. Foster.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 5:22-24; Mark 5:35-43. Various phases of faith.—
1. Supplicating faith heard by Jesus.
2. Eager faith tried by Jesus.
3. Sinking faith strengthened by Jesus.
4. Thankful faith perfected by Jesus.—J. J. Van Oosterzee, D.D.
Christ in His offices.—View Christ here as—
1. The Consoler (Mark 5:36).
2. The Revealer (Mark 5:39).
3. The Conqueror of death (Mark 5:42).
4. The True Man (Mark 5:43).
5. The Divine Physician, ready to apply to each applicant the remedy required.
Mark 5:23. “The point of death.”—I. The point of death is a point of mark. The sound mind contemplates it, not as at a distance, but as at hand. The believer keeps it in his eye. He knows it is not the goal, but only the starting-point into eternity.
II. The point of death is a point of moment—a momentous point indeed. It is such when a man-child is born into the world, and still more so when he is born a second time. Surely it is not less so when the moment strikes that fixes his eternal destiny!
III. The point of death is a point of interest. Life is the seed-time; when death comes, it is harvest—the time of reaping, and of reaping that very kind of grain which we have sown.
IV. The point of death is a point of reference. It refers man to the future—to the hell from which he is to flee, to the heaven for which he is to prepare, and within the one or other of which his eternity is to be passed. When, therefore, you are reading the folio pages of truth and duty, study also the marginal references, and be ready to meet thy God.
V. The point of death is a point of fact. The disease which is to carry us off may now be in our veins, the place where we are to die is mapped off, the machinery of the providence is all set up, and known unto God is the moment in which the wheels are to go round; so that man is as good as dead. It is only a question of a little time—so very little, that we may almost suppose it traversed.
VI. The point of death is the final point, the closing period in the last paragraph of the last chapter of life. It is the “finis” indeed. Does it not therefore become us to ascertain what kind of death we are all dying?
VII. In a word, the point of death ought to be the point of preference. There is no sin in Paul’s estimate, that departing to be with Christ is “far better.” Only we would need to see that our hope is on the right foundation; if not, departing must be far worse than to live, vexing and soul-harrowing as life often is. Your preference will not be unsafe, and unsound it cannot be, if you have by faith seen Jesus at the point of death, yea, dead for you. In that moment you have reached the point of life.—John Macfarlane, LL.D.
“The point of death.”—This is one point to which every one must come. The paths of earth run in very diverse ways, but they all pass at last “the point of death.” It is a point that lies hidden from view; no one knows the day or the hour when he will come to it, and yet somewhere along the sunny years it waits for every one. Sometimes this point is struck in early youth. Even the children should think about dying, not as a sad and terrible thing, but as a point to which they, must come, and for which they should prepare.—J. R. Miller, D.D.
The beginning of eternity.—O most dreadful point, which art the end of time and beginning of eternity! O last moment of life! O first of eternity! How terrible is the thought of thee, since not only life is to be lost in thee, but to be accounted for!… Admirable is the high wisdom of God, which hath placed a point, in the midst, betwixt time and eternity, unto which all the time of this life is to relate, and upon which the whole eternity of the other is to depend! O moment, which art neither time nor eternity, but art the horizon of both, and dividest things temporal from eternal!… O moment, in which the just shall forget all his labours, and shall rest assured of all his virtues! O moment, which art certain to be; uncertain, when to be; and most certain, never to be again! I will therefore now fix thee in my memory, that I may not hereafter meet thee in my eternal ruin and perdition!—Bishop J. Taylor.
Mark 5:25-34. The faith of this woman was—
1. Secretly nourished.
2. Courageously shown.
3. Immediately discovered.
4. Humbly acknowledged.
5. Nobly crowned.—J. J. Van Oosterzee, D.D.
By-errands in God’s service.—In His blessed path as the Healer He is ever willing to be arrested by the sons of men, counting this no detention, no trouble, no hindrance, but the true fulfilment of His heavenly mission. Opportunities such as these were welcome to Him; nor was He at any time too busy, too much in haste, to take up the case of the needy, however suddenly brought before Him. To Him no interruption was unwelcome which appealed to His love or power. I know not whether we prize our own by-errands sufficiently, our “accidental” opportunities of working or speaking for God. We like to plan, and carry out our plans to the end; and we do not quite like interruptions or detentions. Yet these may be, after all, our real work. Little can we guess, when forming our plans for the day, on what errands God may send us; and as little can we foresee, when setting out even on the shortest journey, what opportunity may cross our path of serving the Master and blessing our fellow-men. Whitefield, on his way to Glasgow, is drawn aside unexpectedly to tarry a night in the house of strangers. To that family he brings salvation. A minister of Christ misses the train which was to convey him to his destination. He frets a little, but sets out to walk the ten miles as best he may. He is picked up by a kind stranger in a carriage, a man of the world, who has not been in the house of God for years. He speaks a word, gives a book, thanks the stranger in the Master’s name for his kindness, and joys to learn some years after that he missed the train in order to be the messenger of eternal life to a heedless sinner.—H. Bonar, D.D.
Mark 5:25. Long affliction.—It pleases God to lay long and tedious afflictions on some of His servants in this life.
1. To manifest His great power, strengthening them to bear such long afflictions.
2. To magnify His mercy in delivering them at length out of them.
3. That He may make thorough proof and trial of their faith, patience, and other graces of His Spirit in them.
4. To wean them from this world, and to stir up in them a longing for heaven.
5. To make them more earnest in prayer to Him for deliverance. It is therefore no evidence of God’s wrath, nor any sufficient reason to prove such an one to be out of His favour, whom He so holds for a long time under the cross. Be well content, then, to bear afflictions, though of long continuance, submitting in this matter to the will of God, who knows it to be good and profitable for some to be kept long under discipline.—G. Petter.
Mark 5:26. God often the last resource of sorrow.—It is a great piece of infidelity for men not to think of God in afflictions until they have experienced the insufficiency of human remedies. What a mercy is it to be forced to have recourse to God, by misfortunes, diseases, or the ill-usage of men! See here a representation of those physicians of souls who, not acting in the name and in the spirit of Christ, do nothing else but feed and increase their maladies. Men are very far from doing as much for the health of the soul as for that of the body, and from giving all for eternal salvation, as they willingly spend all they have for temporal life. They are apt to seek out such physicians from whom they may suffer little or nothing, such as are likely to be most easy and gentle; and scarce will they hear speak of bestowing some slight alms. What wonder then, if such persons are nothing bettered, but rather grow worse!—P. Quesnel.
Mark 5:27-29. The means of grace.—It was not the hem of His garment that stanched her sickness. No; but it was the Divine power and the Divine love which lay beneath the garment. So with the means of grace; they are blessed to our souls because they are the channels through which the presence of the Lord Jesus comes to us to cleanse and to heal. The outward words of prayer cannot profit a man unless the heart rises with them. To say prayers without thought of God is to trust to an outward sign, not to the love and power of the Saviour. So also of the sacraments. The outward elements in the Eucharist are as the hem of His garment; we receive them in the hand and in the mouth: even as the woman touched His skirts. They are blessed to the soul, not because they are outward elements, but because through them there flows to us the virtue and the strength of that body and blood of which the elements are the Divinely appointed pledges and tokens and vehicles. And to this blessing two things are needful: the assured presence of Christ on His part; faith in His presence and in His love upon our part.
Soul-sickness.—By how much the soul is of more value than the body, by how much eternity outweighs time, by how much deliverance from everlasting misery and a title to eternal life transcend the comforts and pleasures of this world, by how much the favour and lovingkindness of the Lord are to be esteemed more than all that this earth can supply, just by so much is it more the part of a rational and immortal being to be in earnest about the prosperity of his soul than about the health of his body.
The distress of sin.—Our sins and troubles are not so grievous to us as was this woman’s infirmity to her; and yet they are greater evils. Our untempered, coarse, rude nature, our hard pride, our foolish running after men’s smiles and praises, our vanity in all things, our misconception of ourselves, our mistakes and foibles, our foolish faults and sins—do they distress us much?—H. W. Beecher.
Mark 5:29. The grace of Christ is the only remedy for all the most inveterate diseases of the soul. This will dry up the very fountain itself of sin, which is concupiscence, when the time of the perfect reign of charity shall come. It at present stops the course, the reign, and the dominion of concupiscence. The healing operation of grace alone can do all in a moment: the delays of it do not proceed from inability and necessity, but from dispensation and wisdom. When will it be, O my Saviour, that it shall drain in me the source of all sin, that it shall dry up that fountain of corruption and iniquity which I carry in my flesh and in my heart?—P. Quesnel.
Mark 5:30-34. Love in detection.—It was love, not harshness, which made the Lord detect this woman, who had, as it were, stolen from Him a blessing. Her faith was weak, and He would strengthen it. He would not suffer her to go away to her home without confessing Him as her Healer, and rendering Him thanks. He wished to give her His best blessing; she had only received a foretaste. Her humility might seem cowardice, and He would make her brave. Her silence might be want of gratitude, and He would teach her thankfulness. Not yet had she heard His voice or fully known all His love. But now that He has seen her and called her to Him, she is no longer timid, for she has “told before all the multitude for what cause she had touched Him, and how she was healed immediately”; and then the words are spoken which bring her His fullest blessing: “daughter,” etc.—Bishop Blunt.
Sought out.—Not because He did not know her did He seek her out, but because those who were with Him did not know her, and because He would not have her lose the honour, nor them the benefit, which the manifestation of her faith and its success might yield. This detection and manifestation were not designed to make her a gazing-stock, but to set her forth as an example and pattern, which might encourage others to come to the same almighty and exhaustless Fountain of strength and love for higher benefits and more spiritual gifts.
Mark 5:31. Two kinds of touch.—It is not because we surround and follow after Christ, in frequenting the services and even the sacraments of the Church, thronging to its teaching, interesting ourselves and taking our part in its works of piety and charity, sharing loudly and warmly in its controversies, watching closely its movements, rejoicing in its progress, and lamenting over its checks and hindrances—it is not because we do all this, and even more, that we are justified in taking ourselves out of the class of mere spectators of the redemptive work. As it must be a particular kind of wire to draw down the electric current from the thunder-cloud, so it is only a special kind of touch—the touch of faith—which draws forth healing virtue from Christ.
Mark 5:34. Not superstition, but faith.—What some of us would have sneered at as superstition Christ here dignifies by the name of faith. We pity the poor deluded devotees who crowd to Lourdes, or eagerly touch a relic or bow before a sacred image—we pity them and laugh at them; but perhaps God sees more that is worthy of love and Divine approbation in that faulty, superstitious worship than in our cold intellectual belief and our well-balanced creeds.
Faith is essentially a personal allegiance to Jesus Christ. Whoever is drawn to Him from any motive, whoever reverences and trusts Him in any way, touches the heart of Christian faith.
Imperfect faith.—Where this woman’s faith was imperfect ours may be complete. She came secretly, distrusting His willingness, believing only in His power to help. It is our privilege to come boldly to the throne of His grace, knowing that He is far more anxious than we to heal every sickness of our soul, and that He has provided in the Holy Communion a blessed means of spiritual contact with Himself.
Mark 5:35-36. Two views taken of the same case.—
1. There is the human view—the child is dead, trouble not the Master. Men see the outside; they deal with facts rather than with principles; they see the circumference, not the centre.
2. There is Christ’s view—only believe; man is called beyond facts, he is called into the sanctuary of God’s secret. We often put the period where God Himself puts only a comma: we say “dead,” when God Himself says “sleepeth.”—J. Parker, D.D.
Mark 5:36-43. Christ’s simplicity in miracle-working.—Our Lord in this miracle did His utmost to lower in the minds of the parents any sense of their obligation to Him for the kindness which He designed to shew them. He prepared it by a kind of Divine équivoque: “The maid is not dead, but sleepeth.” He would have it appear that He was doing nothing more than banishing sleep from the eyes of the slumbering damsel; that by this means He might, I think, put to shame those persons who arrogate to themselves so much praise for their insignificant services; whereas He lessened the immensity of His benefits by His modest way of conferring them.—Segneri.
Mark 5:37. Secret work.—Let us thus learn from Christ not to impart, except only to a few chosen persons, those works of God which we propose to undertake, for fear lest they should be obstructed. The Spirit of God would have us labour in secret as much as possible; whereas the spirit of the world continually affects noise and applause.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 5:39. Sleep the image of death.—Both are—
1. Preceded by weariness.
2. Accompanied by a rest.
3. Followed by a wakening.—J. J. Van Oosterzee, D.D.
Why did He thus speak?—Because so soon would He recall her spirit from the other world that it would be like an awakening from sleep—a sleep shorter than that of an ordinary night’s repose. Yes; but the Lord meant more than that by these words. He meant that the death of the body was not death, but only sleep. The word “death” He reserved for something more terrible—the death of the higher, truer life, the death of the spirit. That alone was death in the eyes of the Lord of life. He would have men think little of the decay of bodily powers, or of the corruption which followed on the dissolution of the outward frame, in comparison with the decay and death and corruption of the spiritual life. Death spiritual alone, in His sight, was worthy of the name of death, because life spiritual alone was worthy of the name of life.—Bishop Blunt.
Mark 5:40. Jesus with the dead.—
1. Notice, first, the solitude of Jesus in the midst of those men and women. He was the only man who had that great faith so that He could declare it. And how hard it is to be hopeful alone! A gloomy atmosphere depresses a man; the surroundings of mourning break the most courageous spirits. It was what Christ was which made Him able to stand alone; it was what He was that made Him the Leader of the human race. In the world disciples were faithless, in the garden disciples slept, on the Cross His friends deserted Him. Let us not be too indignant as we read of those facts. It was the condition of His success that it should be so. It was by that that He shewed Himself the Saviour of men, the Incarnate Son of God. It was that which put Him in advance of every position which any son of man had ever taken. Separating Him from all others, it placed Him where all others could come up to Him.
2. Notice, next, that though Christ felt His power, and asserted it only more boldly in the presence of those hopeless men and women, that power could not or did not work until they had all been put forth from the room. It shews us the distinction between two things that we often confuse. Unfavourable circumstances may hinder, but they cannot kill, true power. We cannot do in one moment what Jesus did—turn out all adverse influences—and so we let them tell us that they are all-powerful. The actions of Christ among those men were tokens of all His action everywhere. When He prepared the way for that miracle, quickly as it may have been done, it told the story that His power is never more truly present than when it is preparing the way for its own perfect working. It is not what we accomplish, but what we persist in for our God, which saves us. However unfavourable your circumstances, hindering great accomplishments, however hard the battle full of stubborn enemies and hard reverses, however small the gleanings of our poor sterile fields, the faith that fought on the one and worked on the other shall work salvation, and restore to the life of God its Father the soul that was dead in sin. That is a gospel to carry to the discouraged millions of the earth, and by it to nerve them to new effort.
3. After turning out all the other mourners and the minstrels, Jesus took the parents of the child, and entered into the room, and brought the child to life.Those parents by their presence seemed to form the connexion between the faithful Christ and the unbelieving world, for they had a relation to both. Doubtless to them the words of Jesus, “She is not dead, but sleepeth,”must have seemed very strange; they could not have meant all to them that they did to Him. And yet their parental love must have fastened on them with a hope which did not allow them to join in the scornful laughter with which others greeted them. They found a response in the deepest feelings of their hearts, which no others there appreciated; and so their presence was no hindrance to that miracle-working power of Christ. And, doubtless, in those wailings a hope kept alive by a parent’s love had yearned for something more, and was ready for it when it came.—A. Brooks.
Christ’s attitude towards earthly relationships.—Such a deed as He proposed to do must be done in silence, and yet not in loneliness. The parents were there; He regarded their claim to be present. Parents are the natural guardians of youth and infancy. This act is not at variance with what He elsewhere says about leaving father and mother for His sake, nor does it contradict what He says about the division and conflict which He introduces into family life. Divisions can only exist, or at least be permanent, where the presence and authority of Christ are disregarded by the parents on the one hand, or the child on the other. Where His presence is desired, though at first sight He may seem to disparage or lightly esteem blood relationship, yet in the end we shall find He has cemented earthly relationship, and bound father to child or child to father by closer ties, not of earth only, but of heaven too.—G. Walker.
Mark 5:41. “Talitha cumi” was a common term of endearment, used by loving mothers to wake their children. The old familiar words were what Jesus used. They seem to tell that in the glad waking, after the sleep of death, there will be nothing startling. It will all be just as natural as waking now. The old familiar love which has blessed us here will greet us there.
In the hand of God.—If God vouchsafe not to take our heart in His hand, it will never recover from its sin. The sacred humanity is as it were the hand and instrument of the Divinity, to which it is united in the person of the Word. It is from this humanity that our life proceeds, because it was in this that Christ died and rose again, and completed His sacrifice. He is man, since He takes this dead person by the hand; He is God, since He commands her to live and to arise, and is immediately obeyed.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 5:42-43. The order of conversion.—
1. To rise, by forsaking sin, its habits and occasions.
2. To walk a long time in good works.
3. To retire from the world, and to keep silence for some time.
4. To eat the living bread of the Eucharist. One ought to take great care not to give this bread to a dead person. That which ought to precede this Divine food, according to the order here intimated by Christ, is, that a man should rise, leave the bed wherein he was dead, and walk in the practice of virtue, with such edification as even to cause admiration in those whom he had before offended and scandalised by his sins.—Ibid.
1. It was better for the parents and better for the child to think, and not to talk, about this great blessing. It is seldom good, even for rulers and their families, to be the objects of interest, curiosity, and gossip.
2. The Lord did not want men to regard Him merely as One who wrought signs and wonders, healed the sick and raised the dead, but wished the report of His Divine teaching to precede or accompany the fame of His wonderful works.
3. The Lord would not needlessly multiply His marvellous works. Though the child’s life had been miraculously restored, it was not to be miraculously sustained.—Bishop Blunt.
The injunction as to food.—It is often said that this is a proof of Christ’s moderation and reason in the use of His miraculous powers. He who raised from the dead gave no miraculous supply of food. The lesson goes still further, as it shews how the miraculous power goes on, after its first exhibition, to affect all other methods of work. They who before mourned her as dead were now to give her food as living. Jesus had conquered those who laughed Him to scorn; and now those who, by their faithlessness, seemed to shut the poor girl away from life, were, because His power had intervened, to do all in their power to help her life. She was to walk through the world, meeting friends who once had mourned her, demanding and obtaining the tribute of their friendship in a better and richer way. So Jesus changes the world from a hopeless to a hopeful place.—A. Brooks.
Eternal life.—Faith itself and the new birth conduct us to eternal life, not merely, as once received, but as preserved (Luke 22:32; Acts 13:43; Hebrews 3:14).—J. Milner.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Mark 5:25-34. A testimony to Jesus.—At Cæsarea Paneas there might been seen, as late as the middle of the fourth century, a house, in the courtyard or garden of which was a group in bronze, consisting of a standing figure and a woman prostrate at its feet. Julian, the Apostate Emperor of Rome, commanded this memorial to be overthrown by his soldiers and destroyed. It was a monument that bore testimony to the faith he had renounced. The house was believed to be that in which this woman, cured of the bloody issue, ended her days, and the group represented the Divine Healer and His fearing and trembling patient.
Mark 5:27. No going back.—When sinners sweep away every other delusion, and view Jesus as the only Saviour, they will persevere till they find. When Cortez went to conquer Mexico, he found that the soldiers were few and dispirited. The Mexicans were many, and the enterprise hazardous. The soldiers would have gone back to Spain, but Cortez took two or three chosen heroes with him, and went down to the seaside and broke up all the ships; and “now,” he said, “we must conqueror die. We cannot go back.” When it is death or life, heaven or hell, pardon or condemnation, the sinner will be as determined and courageous as these poor Spaniards or as this poor woman.
Mark 5:28. The ordinances of the Church may be compared to telephone wires, through which messages are all the while passing. You may climb up and put your ear to the wire, or hold it in your hand, but you will not hear a word of all the important messages that are flashing through it. But let an operator come with his instrument, and attach it, and he hears every word. So in the ordinances we touch the invisible wires that bind heaven and earth together. Along these wires messages are flying,—up from earth to heaven, prayers, praises, heart-cries, faith-filled desires; down from heaven to earth, answers of comfort, cheer, joy, and help, blessings of pardon, healing, life, peace.
Mark 5:34. Faith and omnipotence.—Here is an exhaustless reservoir of power, the power of omnipotence, and the means by which it may all be made available to feed our lives. The mill-owner stores up in a reservoir on the heights the water that shall run his mill. Then he needs only a channel or sluice-way that shall bring the water to his wheels. If it were an exhaustless reservoir, like the Atlantic Ocean for extent, he would have no fear that his mill would run dry. These miracles and this text teach the Christian that omnipotence and omniscience alone bound the reservoir of his spiritual graces, and that he has under his own control the width and depth of the channel called “faith,” which brings them into his life. When Franklin grasped the principle of electricity, he could not only draw the lightning from a single cloud—all the electricity in the earth and in all the clouds was at his command, and he could send it upon his errands. When James Watt mastered the principle of the expansive power of steam. not only the little cloud of vapour that issued from his mother’s tea-kettle was under his control, but all the steam that could be generated by the stored-up combustibles of the world was really his. When the Christian can grasp this truth of the power of faith, the infinite spiritual resources of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are his. “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” There is the reservoir. “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” There is the channel that conveys the power into our lives and makes it available.
Mark 5:36. God seeking to save.—God beseeches men to be reconciled. He stands knocking—not we. Dr. Munhall in an address said there is not even a command to any sinner to pray before believing. A challenge came from a clergyman in the audience, who quoted Romans 10:13 : “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “Yes,” says Dr. Munhall, “but read the next verse: ‘How then shall they call on Him on whom they have not believed?’ ”
The seeking Saviour.—Mr. Moody was one night preaching in Philadelphia; near the pulpit sat a young lady, who listened with eager attention, drinking in every word. After he had done talking, he went to her. “Are you a Christian?” “No,” she replied, “I wish I were; I’ve been seeking Jesus for three years.” Mr. Moody replied, “There must be some mistake.” “Don’t you believe me?” said the distressed girl. “Well, no doubt you think you have been seeking Jesus; but, believe me, it don’t take three years for a seeking soul to meet a seeking Saviour.” “What am I to do, then?” “You have been trying to do long enough; you must just believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Oh!” said the young lady, “I am so tired of that word, ‘Believe,’ ‘believe,’ ‘believe!’ I don’t know what it means.” “Then we’ll change the word, and say, ‘trust.’ ” “If I say, ‘I’ll trust Him,’ will He save me?” “I don’t say that, for you may say ten thousand things; but if you do trust Him, He certainly will.” “Well,” said she, “I do trust Him; but I don’t feel any better!” “Ah!” said Mr. Moody, “I see; you’ve been looking for feelings for three years, instead of looking to Jesus.” If the translators of the Bible had everywhere inserted “feelings” instead of faith,” what a run there would be upon the Book! But God does not say a word about feelings from Genesis to Revelation. With men “seeing is believing,” but with the believer “believing is seeing.” An orphan child was once asked by her little friend, “What do you do without a mother to tell your troubles to?” “Mother told me to go to Jesus; He was mother’s Friend, and He’s my Friend too,” was the simple reply. “But He is a long way off; He won’t stop to mind you.” Her face brightened, as she said, “I don’t know about that, but I know He says He will, and that’s enough for me.” And should not that be enough for us all?
Mark 5:39. Only sleeping.—Is it no comfort to be told that the friend you thought to be dead only sleeps? There was a time when Christians took great consolation from this very truth—when it made them ready to die, and resigned to see those near to them die at the call of God. Go look at the catacombs of Rome, and see, in the records which those faithful caverns have preserved of the creed and life of our Christian forefathers, how the early Christians thought of death. The inscriptions are full of faith. Here a mother “sleeps in Jesus”; there a child “sleeps in Jesus”; husband, wife, and friend—they all “sleep,”—there is no sign of death in the catacombs. And I would rather visit now their grim and unadorned recesses, with the feelings suggested by the simple stones which tell how faithful Christians died as well as lived in the comfort of their faith, than go into our gay modern cemeteries, with their costly classic, not Christian, ornaments, telling of the unrest of broken-hearted survivors, rather than of the peaceful sleep of the dead in Christ. Our martyred forefathers of the early Church may teach us how to live, to die, to bury, and to mourn for our dead. “She is not dead, but sleepeth”. The sleep is long—it is too deep for us to break—our loved one may not be awakened by the call of affection or the cry of anguish; but still she only sleeps—she is not dead.
Sleep—and death.—There is in the German a beautiful fable which represents the angel of slumber wandering over the earth in company with the angel of death. As the evening draws near they approach a village and encamp upon one of its hills, listening to the curfew as it “tolls the knell of parting day.”At last the sounds cease, profound silence reigns round about, and the dark mantle of night covers the earth. Now the angel of sleep rises from her bed of moss, and, stepping forward to the brink of the height, silently scatters the unseen seeds of slumber. The evening wind noiselessly wafts them out over the habitations of weary men. Sweet sleep settles down upon all the inhabitants of the village, and overcomes them all, from the old man who nods in his chair to the infant resting in its cradle. The sick forget their pain; the afflicted, their anguish; even poverty is oblivious of its wants. All eyes are closed. After her task has been performed, the angel of slumber turns to her sister and says: “When the morning sun appears, all these people will praise me as their benefactor and friend. How delightful it is to go about doing good so silently and all unseen! What a beautiful calling we have!” Thus spoke the angel of sleep; but the angel of death gazed upon her in silent sorrow, and a tear, such as the undying shed, stood in her earnest eye. “Alas!” said she, “I cannot rejoice, like you, in the gratitude of men. The earth calls me its enemy, and the destroyer of its peace.” “O my sister!” replied the angel of slumber, “at the great awaking of the resurrection morning the souls of the blessed will recognise you as their friend and benefactor. Are we not sisters, and the messengers of our common Father?” They ceased to speak, but the eyes of the death-angel glistened with tears as they both fled out into the darkness of the night.
Mark 5:41. Make for the higher.—Nineteen centuries have passed since the Saviour spoke these words, but they are as full of meaning now as they were then to every girl who hath ears to hear. “Talitha cumi,”—My child, arise; get up from any slothful habit, from any frivolous, idle, selfish habit you have formed. My little lamb, mount up, be better this year than you were last year. Let His voice reach your innermost heart and awake you from the sleep of indifference. Not long ago an interesting memoir was written of one who heard words very similar to those which the Saviour spoke to the daughter of Jairus, and who acted upon them. An early friend of Catherine Spooner, who became Mrs. Tait, wife of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, remembers that in the flush of her bright girlhood, when every innocent delight was poured into her cup, she once told her how she had heard in her inmost heart, amidst all these joys and pleasures, a hidden voice saying, “Make for the higher.”This aspiration and consecration of her life was never lowered. In the sphere of activity and social intercourse, where the providence of God placed her, “Make for the higher” hallowed and sweetened all lower things for her.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Mark 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent