Jesus Calms the Storm
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's cross to the other side of the lake." 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, "Teacher, don't you care that we're going to drown?"
39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Silence! Be still!" Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. "Who is this man?" they asked each other. "Even the wind and waves obey him!"
In obedience to Jesus, the disciples set out across the lake and soon encounter a fierce storm which threatens to capsize their boat. At their wit's end, they finally awaken Jesus, who rebukes them because of their lack of faith. Jesus commands the storm to cease, and the disciples are utterly amazed.
A fierce storm (Mark 4:37)
Mark's description of the storm ("a fierce gale of wind" NASB) literally refers to "a hurricane of wind,"314 as confirmed by Matthew's term which means "a violent upheaval like an earthquake."315 This was no light rain shower! As one source notes, "the storm fell suddenly from Mount Hermon down into the Jordan Valley and smote the Sea of Galilee violently at its depth of 682 feet below the Mediterranean Sea. The hot air at this depth draws the storm down with sudden power. These sudden storms continue to this day on the Sea of Galilee."316
Jesus commanded the wind to be still - literally, "be silent!, be muzzled!"317 Here the sea is personified "as a raging monster" which, following Jesus' rebuke, "sank to rest as if exhausted by its own beating," producing an immediate calm.318 To the utter amazement of his disciples, both the wind and the waves obeyed Jesus.
Sleeping ... rebuked the wind (Mark 4:38, 39)
How could any human being sleep in such a storm? "The peaceful sleep of Jesus is due to the perfect absence of fear in his heart and to his absolute trust in his Father's care."319Here we have the perfect picture of Jesus' humanity placed alongside his deity. Humanity: because he was fully human, Jesus was exhausted from the day's events and needed rest. Deity: because he was fully God, Jesus was able to calm the fiercest storm with only a word - a storm which, by the way, disturbed not his peace but the peace of those who failed to place their complete trust in him. Jesus trusted in God and had peace; the disciples failed to trust in Jesus and had no peace. It would not have been difficult for Mark's first readers to have seen themselves in this story: hunted literally to death because of their Christian faith, they needed to know that Jesus was with them, that he really cared, and that he would keep them safe.320
They ... started out (Mark 4:36)
This account is filled with convicting irony. Trusting in their skill, the experienced sailors (= the disciples who had been commercial fishermen), take charge of the situation and take the lead as other boats follow (a detail recorded only by Mark). Of course, they are kind enough to do Jesus a favor by taking him along for the ride.321 A storm comes up, their self-confidence melts, they go into panic mode, and they cry out for Jesus. Convicting Part: How often do we do the very same thing? How often do we take charge, rushing in to lead ourselves and others because we happen to have some experience in a given area? Of course we are kind enough to take God along for the ride ("God is my co-pilot") via a quick, "Please bless my efforts, Lord" - rather than earnestly seeking his will to begin with. And then a crisis hits, we reach our wit's end, and we cry out to God for help.
The Paralysis of Fear
The magnificent Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937, at a cost of $77 million.
At first it was slow going, as the loss of 23 workmen instilled a sense of dread in the other workers and brought the project to a screeching halt.
Finally someone thought that there should be a net. And so for only $100,000 the largest net ever built was hung beneath the workers.
The net saved the lives of 10 men, and the work proceeded at a much faster pace than before.322
The lesson those disciples learned that day on the water was that their greatest enemy was not the storm without but the fear within.323 They could not see that life's storms are intended not to weaken us but to strengthen us, not to make us afraid but to make us faithful. God can and will use our difficulties as a bridge to bring us closer to him. And, miracle of miracles, God is so good that underneath every bridge he places a safety net: we may fall, but we will not fail.
??? Are you in the midst of a fear-producing situation? If so, what can this passage teach you about placing your trust in Jesus?
Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Man
1 So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from a cemetery to meet him. 3 This man lived among the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. 4 Whenever he was put into chains and shackles - as he often was - he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.
6 When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. 7 With a shriek, he screamed, "Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don't torture me!" 8 For Jesus had already said to the spirit, "Come out of the man, you evil spirit."
9 Then Jesus demanded, "What is your name?"
And he replied, "My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man." 10 Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place.
11 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. 12 "Send us into those pigs," the spirits begged. "Let us enter them."
13 So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
14 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. 15 A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 16 Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. 17 And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. 19 But Jesus said, "No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been." 20 So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.
Having traveled to an area populated mainly by Gentiles (= non-Jews), Jesus is immediately confronted by a madman possessed by many demons. Jesus heals the man, allowing the demons to move into a large herd of pigs which then rushes down the steep hillside and drowns in the lake. The townsfolk, more concerned with the swine than with the Savior, beg Jesus to leave. He does, leaving behind the former demoniac as a witness to his divine power.
A man possessed (Mark 5:2)
While the exact location of this incident is uncertain, the point is that Jesus had crossed over into Gentile territory.324 This has been described as "the eeriest episode in the life of Jesus. The description of this possessed and tormented man is shocking and disgusting."325 There are several disturbing images here: a lunatic; demons; a cemetery; and unclean swine. Evil spirits were associated with cemeteries in popular thought, and it was considered a sign of insanity merely to spend the night in a cemetery.326 The cemetery ("tombs" NASB) was most likely a series of "cavelike rooms cut into the rocks of nearby hills which served as tombs and sometimes as haunts for demented people."327 (Matthew writes of two demoniacs, whereas Mark and Luke mention only one. It is possible that one was Jewish and one was Gentile, with Mark and Luke choosing to focus on the latter328 and/or that they mention only "the leader and spokesman."329) The demon-possessed man's actions included cutting himself ("perhaps in a demonic form of worship"330), demonstrating that the ultimate intent of demon-possession is "to distort and destroy God’s image in man."331
The demons recognized Jesus for who he is: "Jesus, Son of the Most High God" (v. 7). Isn't it interesting that while "men will at times do their utmost to deny Jesus' deity, the demons do not"?332 The head demon responded to Jesus' inquiry by stating that his name was "Legion" - which pictures "an army, emphasizing power and fierceness."333 A Roman legion was comprised of as many as 6,000 soldiers.334 The term "a legion" was used as shorthand for "a great number of any thing"335 (compare MATTHEW 26:53), and in popular usage it was associated with uncleanness/impurity.336
Why did Jesus ask the man his name? Possibly:337
As a sign of Jesus' superior authority.
So that the onlookers, including Jesus' disciples, would realize that Jesus was dealing with a great many demons at once.
To reveal to the demon-possessed man the seriousness of his condition.
Why did the demons want to go into the herd of pigs? "Was it simply a yearning to destroy? Was it perhaps a sinister hope that the owners of the herd, seeing their property destroyed, would be filled with antagonism toward Jesus?"338
Possessed (Mark 5:2)
The demon-possessed man in this story is an apt illustration of what it means to be lost in sin and separated from God. He is completely cut off from his family, his community, and even himself, and tormented to the depths of his soul. He makes his home among the dead, and his only companions - the demons inside him - are those living in open rebellion against God. His life is completely void of peace, meaning, and purpose. He suffered both "bodily agony" and "distress of mind."339 He gave no thought to his physical well-being, for "in the possessed, even the law of self-preservation ceases."340 Salvation means going from being "restless, naked, and crazed"341 to being at peace with himself, God, and other people. Following his deliverance, the man "went off and did as Jesus told him. He heralded or published the story till all over Decapolis men marvelled at what Jesus did, kept on marvelling (imperfect tense). The man had a greater opportunity for Christ right in his home land than anywhere else. They all knew this once wild demoniac who now was a new man in Christ Jesus."342
Legion (Mark 5:9)
The demons present a picture of what it means to live in open, deliberate rebellion against Christ. Notice that "they did not come of their own accord into the presence of Christ, but were drawn by a secret exercise of his authority. As they had formerly been accustomed to carry men off, in furious violence, to the tombs, so now a superior power compels them to appear reluctantly at the tribunal of their judge. ... [T]heir rebellious complaints testify that their confession [regarding Jesus' true identify] was not made from choice, but was drawn from them by force."343 While Jesus "remains the sovereign 'Son of God' in the deliverance of the demonized man," this episode serves as a stark reminder "that while the kingdom of God does come in Jesus, it is not yet the time of final judgment when evil will finally and totally be put down. Demons remain and act like demons, tormenting and killing what they inhabit, but they are limited in that Jesus could and still can free people by his power."344
A crowd (Mark 5:15)
And the crowd that asked Jesus to leave is an apt illustration of the world. "It would seem that all they ever thought of was their own safety and protection."345 Repeated efforts to bind the demoniac fail, and in the end all they can do is to separate themselves from him (see Matthew 8:28). When Jesus uses the power of God to set the suffering man free, the townspeople react not with joy but with fear. In the end, they are more interested in their lost pigs than in their once lost neighbor who is now saved. This story helps to highlight the fact that Satan and his demons are all about death and destruction, whereas Jesus is all about life and deliverance.346
2,000 pigs ... drowned (Mark 5:13)
What about the herd of pigs? "In the age of Greenpeace and animal rights the idea that Jesus of Nazareth sentenced two thousand pigs, one of the more intelligent mammals, to death by drowning by allowing demons to invade and terrorize them raises problems for most readers. ... And even if Jesus did not care about pigs, shouldn’t he have cared about the livelihood of the swineherds and the owners? He certainly did not ask anyone’s permission."347 Besides the fact that it was the demons, and not Jesus, who caused the death of the pigs, we might first of all recall the perspective of the gospel writers: they saw animals in practical terms, as a source of food or forced labor; religiously motivated animal sacrifices were an everyday occurrence among both Jews and Gentiles; and the destructive behavior of demons was of far more concern than the destruction of a herd of unclean pigs.348 Their alleged enlightened intellect notwithstanding, modern skeptics and critics are not very far removed from the townspeople, who "miss the point when they see only their loss of pigs and fail to see the delivered man."349 Several points help to relieve any concern for the pigs:
The pigs were destined to die anyway.350
God is free to do with his creation as he sees fit.351
In this particular instance, the pigs served to glorify God by providing "tangible evidence to the man and to the people that the demons had actually left him and that their purpose had been to destroy him even as they destroyed the pigs."352
Possibly the pigs' destruction was also God's way of reprimanding their owners for their being more interested in their livelihood than in the wretched condition of their demon-possessed neighbor.353
If the owners were Jewish, the death of the pigs would have been understood as God's rebuking them for their dealings with an unclean animal.354
While Jesus' usual response was to tell the healed/delivered person to say nothing, in this case he did the opposite. Why is that? Since Jesus was in Gentile territory, he allowed "more open discussion of his ministry. ... [W]ith few Jewish religious representatives present, there would be less danger of misunderstanding Jesus' ministry as political."355 In the final analysis, Jesus sent a missionary to the very people who had rejected him, thus proving his love for them.356
I call’d the devil, and he came
And with wonder his form did I closely scan;
He is not ugly, and is not lame,
But really a handsome and charming man.
A man in the prime of life is the devil,
Obliging, a man of the world, and civil
A diplomatist too, well skill’d in debate,
He talks quite glibly of church and state.
- Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)357
The pig's owners and the townspeople may not have been possessed by the Devil's demons, but they had allowed themselves to be persuaded by the Devil's arguments.
In the Devil's hands, persuasion can be as deadly as possession.
John Calvin: "Thus at the present day, so long as men believe that the kingdom of God is opposed to their interest, either of a public or private nature, they are prepossessed by a depraved and carnal fear, and have no relish for his grace. Accordingly, when he comes, they think that God does not regard them with favor, but rather with anger, and, so far as lies in their power, they send him to another place. It is a mark of shameful insensibility in those men, that the loss of their swine gives them more alarm than the salvation of their soul would give them joy."358
??? In what way was this true in your own life before you surrendered to Christ?