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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mark - Chapters 5 and 6

Today, we cover passages from chapters 5 and 6. Here, Jesus begins his journey to Caesarea Philippi (5:1-8:26). This part of Mark is given structure by its series of doublets.
The story line, however, is carried by the various responses to Jesus’ wonderworking. As intimated in the stilling of the storm, the positive response is faith; the negative, disbelief.[1] Mark established a connection between healing, the forgiveness of sins, and faith (see 2:5). The connection is now more explicit (5:21-43). One either believes (5:36) in Jesus’ power to heal (5:34) or is faithless (6:5-6).
Today, we will cover the following sections:
5:21-43      Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter
6:1-56        Rejection, Sending 12, Death of Baptist, Feeding 5,000

Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter (5:21-43)

21And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24And he went with him.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32And he looked around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Following his control over demons and the sea, it seems that nothing is impossible for Jesus.[2] Here, we see Jesus had power over sickness, death and social and religious barriers that kept individuals from socializing with family and friend. Numbers 5:1-4 details those who are considered unclean – lepers, people with discharges of bodily fluids, and the dead. Jesus in Mark’s Gospel overcame each in turn: the leper (1:40-45), the woman with bleeding (5:24b-34), and a dead person (5:35-43).[3]
The delay caused by the healing of the woman is integral to the Jairus story,[4] but I will deal with the raising of the dead girl before discussing the healing of the woman.
Jairus was a synagogue president or elder, but not the chief official. Nevertheless, he was a man of consequence, and it shows us that not all Jewish authorities were hostile to Jesus. Yet, it was unusual for a Jewish official to have substantial faith in Jesus.[5]
Jairus’ deferential approach to Jesus, a recent arrival in town, is meant to be noticed. Jairus forgot his position and pride, and fell on his knees before Jesus not only because his daughter’s condition was at the point of death, but also because he recognized Jesus as a respected teacher with a reputation for miraculous healing powers. He saw Jesus not as a trained doctor but as a traditional healer.
The story brackets the healing of a woman suffering from 12 years of internal bleeding. After she was healed, Jesus overheard the comment to Jairus that his daughter was dead. Jesus sought to allay his fears to prevent him from despairing.
Despite the derisive laughter of the mourners, Mark recorded that Jesus expelled the faithless and took three apostles into the room with him. These witnesses were important in an environment where Jesus could be accused of necromancy, having already been accused of being in league with Satan (Mk 3).[6]
Mark recorded unique details based on the reminiscences of Peter, James and John.[7] That Jesus took the young girl by the hand, like Peter’s mother-in-law, and that the fact that Aramaic is recorded, the language Jesus and his people spoke but the New Testament authors rarely used, suggests Peter’s recollection. Sandwiched into the raising of the little girl from the dead is Mark’s account of the woman who suffered from internal bleeding for 12 years.
The woman has been suffering for 12 years. Her vaginal bleeding has made her a social and religious outcast (Lev 15:25-30). Since one could be defiled through contact with a normally menstruant woman, physical contact must be scrupulously avoided.
She probably had a primitive and magical understanding of Jesus’ healing, as she only wanted to touch the tassels on Jesus’ garment (vv. 28, 56). When she touched Jesus, she was instantly aware that something happened. The effect of the cure was recognized immediately by the woman and Jesus, which adds to the humanness and strangeness of the situation.[8]
While Jesus was spirituality aware that something happened beyond a simple jostling by the crowd, he is unaware of who has touched him in a special way. His disciples, however, were not as spiritually perceptive as Jesus was, for they appeared stunned. Again, Mark stressed Jesus’ supernatural power.[9]
The woman was afraid for she might be condemned or further ostracized. So she approached Jesus in fear and trembling. The woman was healed not by mere physical contact, but by faith. This was Jesus’ statement to her: Your FAITH has made you well. Her faith saved her, and to be saved means to be healed – a reference to the eschatological deliverance from the powers of darkness.
Though we are primarily concerned with the Christological and soteriological meanings (Jesus and salvation) of this story, we should not overlook its social significance. In terms of salvation, Mark teaches us that the Gospel reaches both those at the bottom of the social scale and those at the top. Despite the marked contrast between Jairus and the woman, they are both true disciples with insight and faith. It also shows that Jesus was prepared to help anyone, and was especially concerned for the vulnerable.[10]
Jesus’ statements at the end of each healing episode are telling for us. Many times a person who has become physically well still carries mental and emotional scars. Perhaps Jesus was suggesting that the family of the little girl and the woman need to know and accept that they are now whole again. They are no longer unclean for uncleanness is a matter of the heart, not a matter of the physical condition, and this means that even corpses are not untouchables as far as Jesus is concerned.[11] To be healed of a disease and to eat with family means a new normal, one that calls for celebration and fellowship with other believers and the Lord who has called us to be His disciples.

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

1He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

If faith has been the key to at least some of the preceding miracles of deliverance (4:40; 5:34, 36), what is to be expected where it is absent?[12]
This text is a rather classic example of a chreia, a short narrative about an historical figure climaxing with a memorable saying (6:4).[13] The invitation to teach in the synagogue reveals at first a degree of goodwill, or at least the recognition that Jesus is now a person of significance.[14] But note that this will be the last time Jesus will be depicted as welcome in a synagogue.
It is particularly hard to imagine the early church inventing the statement in v. 5 regarding Jesus’ inability to perform miracles, or the one in v. 4 regarding his relatives. The family is either not present or only his sisters were.
Hometown literally means “fatherland” and refers to the specific region where his family lived, i.e., Nazareth and its surrounding area.
The result of Jesus teaching literally means that they were “knocked out” by what he said and did. They dispute neither that he has wisdom nor that he performs mighty works; they are just dumb-founded that it comes from a hometown boy like Jesus.[15]
The term carpenter predominantly meant a worker in wood, but could have been an artisan of some sort, e.g., mason or sculptor, and one who was versatile.
How could a child of undistinguished or even dubious origins  (was Joseph really his father?) be able to interpret the Torah like this? Since it was Jewish practice to identify someone by the name of one’s father even if the father was deceased, the phrase “son of Mary” may reveal one reason why Jesus’ words were not immediately received by the audience. The phrase may be intended as a slur for if we read Judges 11:1-2, we see that referring to a man, as “son of the mother” was indeed a slur.
Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.”
The listing of Jesus’ family reminds us how small a role most of them came to play in later Christianity.[16] Only in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55 are Jesus’ brothers referred to by name. Refer to the handout from the LCMS website regarding our position on this. Some believe James was the one who wrote the Letter of James or the Letter of Jude, but the name James is too common to allow certainty. There are references, however, to Jesus’ brothers in Acts 1:14 and 1 Cor 9:5, suggesting that the family did join the church. The point is that Jesus’ audience was scandalized by his remarks. They found Jesus to be a stumbling block.
In an honor and shame culture, it is very important for family members to honor you. Here, the very persons who should honor Jesus give him the least honor. This must have cast a considerable cloud over Jesus’ ministry in a culture where kinship ties and affirmations by one’s kin were considered all-important, and where honoring parents involved accepting their evaluations of one’s self and work.[17]
V. 5 stresses that the unbelief in Jesus’ hometown was so great that he was unable to do any mighty work there. The focus is on the amazing lack of faith, but Mark clearly sees a connection between faith and healing, or lack of faith limits reception of help readily available from Jesus. The reaction to Jesus in Nazareth was more hostile than even Mark suggests.
The phrase Jesus states in v. 5 is a proverbial maxim similar to our “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The statement that Jesus was unable to work miracles is Christological striking. The mention of Jesus’ surprise underlines the human character of Mark’s portrait of him. He did not stay long in Nazareth, and this advice is given to his apostles in v. 11.

Did Jesus Have Siblings?

Question: My husband and I recently went to see the movie, "The Passion." I was wondering who the man was with Mary and Mary Magdalene. My husband believes it was Jesus' brother, James. My mother and I were unaware that Jesus had a brother. Why isn't there more talk about Jesus' entire family, if it is true that James was his brother?

Answer: Perhaps a couple of comments in response to your letter will be helpful. Based on my own viewing of "The Passion of the Christ," it is my understanding that the young man present on numerous occasions with Mary and Mary Magdalene was the disciple John, the Beloved-who became the "son" of the Mother of Jesus, and she his "Mother."
There are a number of "James" referred to in the New Testament, including one called "brother of the Lord." He is listed first among the brothers of Jesus, presumably as the oldest of them (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). Most scholars think that he is the same person as the one simply referred to as James in the book of Acts (12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor. 15:7) and in Galatians (2:9, 12). There has been some dispute regarding the relationship between Jesus and James, the natural interpretation being that James was the son of Mary and Joseph (thus a "half-brother" to Jesus). In the history of the Christian church, some believing in the perpetual virginity of Mary developed the view that Jesus and James were foster brothers, while others conjectured that they were cousins. LCMS theologians have found no difficulty with the view that Mary and Joseph themselves together had other children, including James.


Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles

7And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

Notice that 3:1-6 parallels 6:1-6 in speaking about the rejection of Jesus, and in both cases, this is followed up by a statement about ministry to a wide variety of people.[18]
The term apostle is not used here but the verbal equivalent is (v 7). These are his authorized agents. In 6:7-13 the disciples are sent out, and in 6:30, they report to Jesus. Their activity raises the public profile of Jesus, and Mark takes the opportunity to record people’s reaction to his mission.[19]
It brackets the story of the death of John the Baptist. The beheading inserted as a memorable narrative or in some way does this gruesome episode throw light on the developing situation of Jesus’ ministry and his disciples?
The execution is a sign of what the mission of the kingdom of God can expect from the kingdoms of this world. In 9:12-13, Jesus will spell out what ‘they’ have done to Elijah.[20]
This is the only place in Mark where the 12 operate away from Jesus. It is typical of a repeated mission rather than the recording of one unique occasion. The advice given here to the Twelve is not unique to this mission or this group of missionaries.[21] It is interesting that authority over unclean spirits is mentioned first, but perhaps the reason is that this, more than the preaching, manifested that the kingdom had come in power, and Mark’s concept of the inbreaking of the eschatological time is dynamic, not merely a matter of proclamation. The control of demons was to be central to both Jesus’ and his agents’ ministries.[22] That the mission involved preaching, exorcism and healing is confirmed by v. 30.
The disciples were to travel light and be mobile. Two witnesses established legal testimony (Dt 17:6). It is possible that early Christianity saw itself as competing with other movements and here distinguished itself from them.
Itinerant ministry and hospitality, evangelism and fellowship are crucial to the survival of the community as a social entity.[23] Food will be provided on basis of hospitality extended. Hospitality for visiting teachers is no surprise; they ought to be able to take it for granted.[24] While the disciples were to rely on the standing system of ancient Near Eastern hospitality, we do not find a call to ascetical lifestyle.[25] In v. 30, the disciples report to Jesus.
There is a centrifugal (v centripetal) principle at work here (see Isa 60:17).
Sandals describes more elaborate footwear. Two tunics meant a style of dress adopted by persons of distinction.[26] Move on within 3 days meant either the disciples would encounter households and even whole communities where the message is unwelcome or that this was common practice among early missionaries.
Finally, echoing Jesus’ call, people are to repent – now!

The Death of John the Baptist

14King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

30The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42And they all ate and were satisfied. 43And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Jesus Walks on the Water

45Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the nightg he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret

53When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
of the Twelve

Discussion and Reflection Questions
While Jesus is walking to Jairus’ house, a woman with internal bleeding touches Jesus’ clothes (5:25-32). Why does she do that instead of speaking directly to Jesus?

Mark places the story of the woman with internal bleeding (5:21-32) inside the story of Jairus’ daughter, an obvious sign for us to consider them together. How do they prompt us to believe more deeply in God’s power?

To multiply his ministry, Jesus sent out his 12 apostles in pairs. What is significant about the instructions (6:7-10) he gave them?

Why did Mark place the story of John the Baptist right after the episode of Jesus sending the Twelve?

[1] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, 3rd edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2010). 156f.
[2] R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (2002), 234.
[3] James Voelz, Mark 1:1 – 8:26 St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House (2013), 377.
[4] Ben Witherington III, The Gospel of Mark: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (2001), 184.
[5] Ibid, 185.
[6] Ibid, 189.
[7] Ibid, 185.
[8] Voelz, 372.
[9] Witherington, 187.
[10] Ibid, 185.
[11] Ibid, 190.
[12] France, 241.
[13] Witherington, 191.
[14] F rance, 242.
[15] Witherington, 192.
[16] France, 243.
[17] Witherington, 195.
[18] Ibid, 208.
[19] France, 245.
[20] France, 246.
[21] Witherington, 209.
[22] Ibid, 210.
[23] Ibid, 209
[24] France, 250.
[25] Witherington, 211.
[26] Voelz, 393.