Monday, September 24, 2018

Devotional: Jesus’ Kingdom Authority, Mark 4:35-5:43

Mark 4.34 - 5,43 outline

In the first four chapters of Mark, Jesus (and Mark) are making some pretty radical claims; that Jesus is YHWH, the Son of God and has come to bring in the prophesied new age of the kingdom of God. Jesus has come to open up a new way of access to God and provide the blessings of this new age to the whole world. It’s a huge claim and Mark does not expect the reader to accept it without evidence of its truth. This next section (4:35-5:43) provides this evidence and deepens the revelation of Jesus’ identity through three spectacular miracles and and Jesus’ teaching that accompanies each one. It is important to pay close attention to what Jesus says as to what he does in these miracle stories.

In the first miracle, the calming of the sea (35-41), Jesus shows that, as the Creator, he has authority over the sea, seen in the ancient world as the most untamed and dangerous part of creation. Jesus engineers this object lesson from the beginning with his command to cross the sea. The storm represents the powerful forces of chaos that only a god could deal with. There is no hint whatsoever that there is any doubt about what will be the outcome of this battle.Jesus sleepily dispels the forces of chaos with a commanding word. Just as YHWH ordered the watery chaos  at creation, Jesus brings order and calm to the troubled sea and asks the disciples “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40). When we realize who Jesus is and what he has promised us there is no reason to be afraid of anything. The person who fears God need not fear anything else.

When they reach the other side of the lake they are in Gentile territory. Jesus now goes into the enemy’s home turf and “plunders the strong man” (3:27) of his possessions; a man oppressed and bound by demonic power. Not only is Jesus not in his home area, he takes on a “legion” of demons. It is an “away game” and Jesus is badly outnumbered. Nevertheless he takes on the enemy with just a word. The legion of demons recognize Jesus’ authority to do what he wants with them and the inevitability of his victory. He sends the demons into a heard of pigs which then stampede off a cliff into the lake and drown themselves; a graphic picture of what the enemy wants for humanity (Remember that the next time temptation looks attractive!) Jesus then commissions this man as an apostle (he sends him) to announce the gospel (ἀπάγγειλον, apangellion) and the mercy (covenant blessings) to his Gentile countrymen. Jesus is already extending the covenant to “bless all the families of the earth.”

Finally, the section moves the story back into Jewish territory and concludes with a double miracle in which Jesus heals a woman with a bleeding issue and raises a young girl from the dead. In both of these miracles it is the “touch” of Jesus that is emphasized. The woman who touches Jesus is healed and Jesus takes the little girl by the hand before commanding her to rise. With both, Jesus breaks down the barriers that would have separated these women from God. A new situation has dawned in which sickness, sin, and not even death, can separate people from God. The gap has been permanently closed. God touches sinful people and overcomes death. Just as sin had infected the whole human race, Jesus’ resurrection is now communicated to all and is able to “save” (5:34) all.

The question the disciples asked, “Who is this (4.41)” is answered. This is the creator who controls the chaos and you can trust him to bring peace to your chaos. This is the one who has decisively defeated all the forces of evil in the world and in our lives and calls us to announce this good news to those around us. This is the one whose touch reverses the results of sin, heals them and brings us into the presence of God. Trust and follow him.

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