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Mark 5

Frank Binford Hole

The Gospel of Mark

THE CONVICTION, as to "what manner of Man" the Lord Jesus is, once having been reached by faith, it carries with it the assurance that He must be equal to meeting every emergency. Yet, even so, it is well for the disciple to actually see Him dealing with men, and with the troubles that have come upon them by reason of sin, in His delivering mercy. In this chapter we see the Lord displaying His power, and thereby educating His disciples still further. That education may be ours also as we go over the record.

While crossing the lake, the power of Satan had been at work hidden behind the fury of the tempest: on arriving at the other side it became very manifest in the man with an unclean spirit. Defeated in his more secret workings, the adversary now gives an open challenge without loss of time, for the man met Him immediately He landed. It was a kind of test case. The devil had turned the wretched man into a fortress that he hoped to hold at all costs; and into the fortress he had flung a whole legion of demons. If ever a man was held in hopeless captivity to the powers of darkness, it was he. In his story we see mirrored the plight into which humanity has sunk under Satan's power.

He "had his dwelling among the tombs:" and men today live in a world that is more and more becoming a vast graveyard as generation after generation passes into death. Then, "no man could bind him," for fetters and chains had often been tried to no purpose. He was beyond restraint. So today there are not lacking movements and methods intended to curb the bad propensities of men, to restrain their more violent actions, and reduce the world to pleasantness and order. But all in vain.

Then, with the demoniac another thing was tried. Could not his nature be changed? It is stated however, "neither could any man tame him;" so that idea proved useless. Thus it has always been: there is no more power in men to change their natures than there is to curb and repress them, so that they do not act. "The carnal mind . . . is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8: 7), so it cannot be restrained. Again, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3: 6), no matter what attempts may be made to improve it. So it can not be altered or changed.

"Always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs,"-utterly restless-"crying,"-utterly miserable-"cutting himself with stones,"-damaging himself in his madness. What a picture!

And we must add, what a characteristic picture of man under the power of Satan. This was an exceptional case, it is true. Satan's grip on the majority is of a gentler sort, and the symptoms are much less pronounced; still they are there. The cry of humanity may be heard, as men damage themselves by their sins.

When the man spoke, the words were framed by his lips, but the intelligence behind them was that of the demons who controlled him. They knew what manner of Man the Lord was, even if others did not. On the other hand they did not know the manner of His service. There will indeed be an hour when the Lord will consign these demons along with Satan their master into torment, but that was not His work at that moment. Much less was it the manner of His service at that time in regard to men. To the demoniac Jesus came, bringing not torment but deliverance.

The Lord had bidden the demons to come out, and they knew that they could not resist. They were in the presence of Omnipotence, and they must do as they were told. They had even to ask permission to enter into the swine that were feeding not far away. The swine, being unclean animals according to the law, ought not to have been there. The spirits being unclean also, there was an affinity between them and the swine, an affinity with fatal results for the animals. The demons had led the man toward self-destruction, using the sharp stones: with the swine the impulse was immediate and complete. The man was delivered: the swine were destroyed.

The result, as regards the man himself, was delightful. His restless wanderings were over, for he was "sitting." Formerly he "ware no clothes," as Luke tells us, now he is "clothed." His delusions had ceased, for he is "in his right mind." The gospel application of all this is very evident.

The result, as regards the people of those parts was very tragic however. They displayed a mind that was anything but right, though no demons had entered into them. They had no understanding or appreciation of Christ. On the other hand they did appreciate and understand pigs. If the presence of Jesus meant no pigs, even if it also meant no raging demoniac, then they would rather not have it. They began to pray Him to depart out of their coasts.

The Lord yielded to their desire and left. The tragedy of this was very great, though they did not realise it at the time. It was succeeded by the even greater tragedy of the Son of God being cast right out of this world; and we have now had nineteen centuries filled with every kind of evil as the result of that. The departure of the Lord created a fresh situation for the man just delivered from the demons. He naturally desired the presence of his Deliverer, but was instructed that for the present he must be content to abide in the place of His absence and there witness for Him, particularly to his own friends.

Our position today is very similar. Presently we shall be with Him, but for the present it is ours to witness for Him in the place where He is not. We too may tell our friends what great things the Lord has done for us.

Having recrossed the lake, the Lord was immediately confronted with further cases of human need. On His way to the house of Jairus, where lay his little daughter at the point of death, He was intercepted by the woman with an issue of blood. Her disease was of twelve years' standing and utterly beyond all the skill of physicians. Hers was a hopeless case, just as much as the case of the demoniac. He was in helpless captivity to a great crowd of demons, she to an incurable disease.

Again we can see an analogy to the spiritual state of mankind, and particularly to the efforts of an awakened soul as depicted in Romans 7. There are many struggles and much earnest striving, but in result, "nothing bettered but rather grew worse" would describe the case delineated there, until the soul comes to the end of its searchings, and having "spent all," has "heard of Jesus." Then ceasing all efforts at self-improvement and coming to Jesus, He proves Himself to be the great Deliverer.

In the case of the man we can hardly speak of faith at all, for he was completely dominated by the demons. In the case of the woman we can only speak of a faith that was defective. She was confident of His power, a power so great that even His clothes would impart it; yet she doubted His accessibility. The thronging crowds impeded her, and she did not realise how completely He-the perfect Servant-was at the disposal of all who needed Him. Yet the cure she needed was hers in spite of everything. The access she needed was made possible, and the blessing was brought to her. Satisfied with the blessing she would have slunk away.

But this it was not to be. She too was to bear witness to that which His power had wrought, and thereby she was to receive a further blessing for herself. The Lord's dealings with her are full of spiritual instruction.

The perfect knowledge of Jesus comes to light. He knew that virtue had gone out of Him, and that the touch had fallen on His clothes. He asked the question, but He knew the answer; for He looked round to see "her" that had done it.

His question also brought to light the fact that many had been touching Him in various ways, yet no other touch had drawn any virtue from Him. Why was this? Because, of all the touches, hers was the only one that sprang out of a consciousness of need, and faith. When these two things are present the touch is always effective.

A good many of us would be like the woman, and wish to obtain the blessing without any public acknowledgment of the Blesser. This must not be. It is due to Him that we confess the truth and make known His saving grace. Directly virtue has gone out from Him for our deliverance, the time of witness-bearing has come for us. Just as the man was to go home to his friends, the woman had to kneel at His feet in public. Both bore witness to Him; and, be it noted, in the opposite way to what we might have expected. Most men would find the witness at home the more difficult: most women the witness in public. But the man had to speak at home, and the woman in the presence of the crowd. She spoke however not to the crowd, but to Him.

As the fruit of her confession the woman herself received a further blessing. She got definite assurance from His word, that her cure was thorough and complete. A few minutes before she had "felt in her body that she was healed," and then she confessed, "knowing what was done in her." This was very good, but it was not quite enough. Had the Lord permitted her to go away simply possessed of these nice "feelings," and this "knowledge" of what had been "done in her," she would have been open to many a doubt and fear in the days to come. Every small feeling of indisposition would have raised anxiety as to whether her old malady might not recur. As it was, she got His definite word, "Be whole of thy plague." That settled it. His word was far more reliable than her feelings.

So it is with us. Something is indeed done in us by the Spirit of God at conversion, and we know it, and our feelings may be happy: yet, even so, there is no solid basis on which assurance can rest in feelings, or in what has been done in us. The solid basis for assurance is found in the Word of the Lord. Not a few today lack assurance just because they have made the mistake which the woman was on the point of making. They have never properly confessed Christ, and owned their indebtedness to Him. If they will rectify this mistake as the woman did, they will get the assurance of His Word.

At the very moment of the woman's deliverance the case of Jairus' daughter took on a darker hue. Tidings of her death arrived, and those who sent the message assumed that though disease might disappear before the power of Jesus, death lay outside His domain. We have seen Him triumph over demons and disease, even when the victims were beyond all human help. Death is the most hopeless thing of all. Can He triumph over that? He can, and He did.

The way that He sustained the faltering faith of the ruler is very beautiful. Jairus had been quite confident as to His ability to heal; but now, what about death?-that was the great test to his faith, as also of the power of Jesus. "Be not afraid, only believe," was the word. Faith in Christ will remove the fear of death for us as well as for him.

Death was but a sleep to Jesus, yet the professional mourners mocked Him in their unbelief. So He removed them, and in the presence of the parents and those of His disciples who were with Him, He restored the child to life. Thus for the third time in this chapter is deliverance brought to one who is beyond all human hope.

But the beginning of verse 43 is in sharp contrast to verses 19 and 33. There is to be no testimony this time; accounted for, we suppose, by the contemptuous unbelief that had just been manifested. At the same time there was the most careful consideration for the needs of the child in the way of food, just as there had been for the spiritual need of Jairus a little before. He thought both of her body and of his faith.

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