Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mark 5

The encounter with the man possessed by "legion" is one of the wilder incidents of the gospel. A Legion in the Roman Army was 1000 soldiers. Can a person be possessed with 1000 demons or, as an agent of the father of lies, is the demon exaggerating the truth? We can notice that this event happens in a non Jewish area of the upper Galilee (otherwise there would NOT be a pig farm). I am intrigued by why the demons wanted to "go into the pigs" but Jesus lets them, the pigs go mad and all run down the hill and jump into the Sea of Galilee and drown. This mass porcine suicide, needless to say, creates quite a stir in the local community a crowd gathers and invites Jesus to be elsewhere. The man, who had been possessed, wants to join Jesus entourage. But Jesus tells him to go home and tell everyone what had been done to him. Isn't that always the first command to a new believer? Go home and tell everyone what has been done to you!
I am convinced that many of Jesus most significant miracles are "miracles of interruption" he does a lot of amazing things while he is on his way to doing something else. Jairus, a local synagogue leader, has asked Jesus to come to his home and heal his 12 year old daughter. Jesus agrees and they are on their way. Jesus fame at this point has spread so widely that everywhere he goes he draws a crowd. The crowd is not politely sitting on the sidelines, there is jostling and reaching and trying to touch -- its a mob scene. In the middle of this a woman with a long standing bleeding problem has convinced herself that if she can just touch his cloths she will be healed. The other gospels make note that she "touches the fringe of his robe". It was believed, among some of the religious Jews of Jesus time, that the fringe of the garment of the Messiah would have healing powers. She touches Jesus and is healed.
Here is where it always makes me giggle -- remember the Apostles in Mark are mostly comic relief (they never get it). Jesus stops in the middle of this mob scene and asks "who touched me". The disciples respond with appropriate exasperation: are your kidding? You see the crowd pushing everywhere and ask who touched me? The woman comes forward and is further blessed. At this point Jairus is informed that his daughter is dead, but Jesus goes and restores her to life. The Aramaic phrase "talitha koum" "little girl arise" is one of several Aramaic phrases preserved in the gospel (ephratha, maranatha, eli eli lamma sabathani). Many scholars believe that these phrases where preserved in their original form because the early church believed they carried extra power.

Dr. BJ

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