We are studying the gospel of Mark and looking at it as a course of discipleship. Jesus is teaching his followers how to follow him. Look at the progression. In chapter three he chooses 12 disciples. In chapter four he gives them important teaching, the parables of the Kingdom. In chapter 5, our chapter today, he demonstrates the use of power. In chapter 6, which is for next week, he sends them out two by two, to announce the Kingdom and to use the power he has given them.
The proliferation of power has rapidly changed our world; the power of the computer, the power of communication, nuclear power are but a few of the powers I mean. And also the automobile.
The other day I was on the phone with Chris, my son. He was teaching Isabel, his 16 year old daughter, how to drive, riding the passenger seat as she drove. Aw! Learning to drive. Such a powerful freedom for a teenager! At one point his voice became very strained and finally he, in a semi frantic tone of command, said, “no, Isabel, turn here right now!” then to me, “dad, gotta go!“ And hung up. Fortunately, the trouble was averted, as he explained later period
I was reminded of a day long ago when Chris was 16 and had his beginners license. I was trying to teach him how to drive. He did so well all the way home. When he drove into our driveway I turned him to give a word of praise and encouragement. I noticed a sudden panic on his face. I looked forward just in time to see us enter the garage. The only problem was that the garage door was closed. Crash!
Power without control can be a big problem.
Abraham Lincoln said, “nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.“
And it was Lord Byron who said, “power tends to corrupt, and ultimate power corrupts absolutely. “
Jesus was not corrupted by power. He demonstrated principles of wisdom and grace in the exercise of his power. Today we will read four stories of Jesus exercising his great power. He will display his power over 4 areas where people are being greatly threatened.
Power over natural disaster, power over demons, power over sickness, and finally, power over death.
In each case, we will see that Jesus power is controlled according to principles, principles that are godly, that causes power to be governed in certain ways. He is teaching these principles to his disciples before he sends them out with power.
Finally, we will apply these principles to our own lives.
Story number one: Jesus calms the storm (4:35–41)
A few weeks ago, when her came Florence was bearing down on the Carolina coast, televangelist Pat Robertson, spoke out a prayer on his TV program. Arms extended, he commanded the hurricane to turn away out to sea and not cause any damage. Unfortunately the hurricane preceded to hit land and caused much devastation, a natural disaster. What Pat Robertson could not do, Jesus did. By his word he stopped a fierce storm at sea. Many skeptics have dismissed this story as fable and fantasy. “No man can do this,“ is there argument. However, Jesus did not claim to be only a man, but also the son of God. If one believes he is God Incarnate, then this power over nature, even the brute force of a violent storm, would be what one would expect. The creator is able to order his universe. If not, then the universe is more powerful than he is. Not so!
The story is straightforward. Jesus had just finished a long teaching session. Sitting out in a boat offshore while the people, a huge crowd, were listening on land. Even though sound carries well over water, it must have taken a great deal of energy to raise his voice so that people could hear. Light reflected from the water’s surface must have made him uncomfortably hot. But he endured until the evening. Then he said to his disciples, “let’s go over to the other side.”
Then it says: leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.
This is the only instance I know of where it says that the disciples took Jesus along. Usually he is leading them. Combine that with the statement, “just as he was,” we get the picture of an exhausted man at the end of his endurance, allowing himself to be helped along by his disciples as soon as he gets on board, he finds the cushion, perhaps the one reserved for the tiller, and promptly goes into a deep sleep, so deep that when a great wind swoops down and the waves rise to such Heights that they are spilling over into the boat, he remains asleep. The disciples bravely fight the elements, with all their sailing prowess, but finally, realizing they are in imminent danger of sinking, they Rouse Jesus with the cry, “don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus gets up, rebukes the wind with that same powerful preaching voice, “quiet, be still!” As we have said, a great display of power over the elements, averting a near disaster. This is testimony to his great power.
But there is still something else here. There is power with principle. And the issue is this. Jesus did not use his mighty power for himself. He allowed himself to become spent, physically exhausted, but did not tap that divine power to recharge his own batteries. He did not give himself a drink of spiritual energy like Red Bull. Instead, he slept. That is how we all recharge naturally. For his disciples and for all the other boats full of people caught in the storm, there was divine power to save. For himself, there was none.
Principle #1: God has given us power not for personal use , but for God and for others. We have power. Physical strength, economic strength, natural abilities, spiritual gifts. Who are we using our powers for? So often, I have to admit, it has been for self. If we are going to be disciples of Jesus, all that we have needs to be dedicated to serve God first, and others next. Self is to be cared for, but not first period
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
“The great disease of the end times is that mankind will be lovers of self” (2 Tim 3:2).
May the Lord teach us to be God centred not self centred. Serving others before self. Then we will show ourselves to be his disciples.
Story #2: the healing of a demon possessed man (5:1–20)
Only a minority of people at large consider this issue of spiritual warfare to be real. It is the stuff of Halloween make believe. Unfortunately, only a minority of God’s people believe it in practical terms, and don’t consider it important enough to pray daily for protection. The people in Jesus day were under no such deception. Demons were active and out in the open. This man of the Gerasenes on the Eastern Shore of the sea of Galilee was a case in point. He had become increasingly demonized. As this took place he became a threat to himself and others. They tried to restrain him with ropes and chains but he broke them all. Finally he was left himself wandering in the caves, crying out and cutting himself. Jesus and the disciples disembark at that place and immediately the man, driven by the demons, is on his knees before Jesus pleading for mercy. When Jesus asked what his name was, he said “Legion, for we are many.” A Roman Legion represented about 6000 soldiers. The demon pleads not to be sent out of the area, but rather to be sent into the pigs feeding on a nearby hillside. We are in some darkness here because we do not understand why Jesus agreed, but he did. The demons so terrorized the pigs that they charged over a Cliff into the Lake and were drowned. The people gathered to see what has happened. When they saw the demoniac sitting with Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind, they became afraid period of what? Perhaps they were afraid of such a horde of demons on the loose. Seeing the fate of the pigs and realizing that several thousands of demons were on the loose, they may have had great concern for themselves. Seeing the problem, but not the glorious answer before them in the powerful savior, they begged Jesus to leave. Instructing the former demoniac to remain and to preach his testimony to his family and friends, Jesus departed in the boat. great power demonstrated, disciples observed. A great lesson, but is that the only lesson?
First of all, a harrowing voyage across the Lake, for whom? For one man. Second, Jesus ends up sitting with one man delivered of demons, while 2000 pigs drown in the Lake. The animal activists are all incensed. But to set the record straight, Jesus was representing the heart of God. God loves all his creation. He loves animals and highly values them. He tells us, “look after the condition of your flocks as well as you can” (Proverbs 27:23).
But there is a difference between the value of animals and the value of a human soul. Some see no difference in value between human life and animal life. But Jesus says, “you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt 10:31).
Mankind was made in the image and glory of God. They were made to receive the divine nature, the life of Jesus by the spirit, and have unending fellowship with God. Next to the life of God himself, there is nothing more precious to God than the human soul. How do we know this? Jesus came to die for lost souls, not to secure the welfare of the animal world. Jesus became a man to rescue human beings. One man saved, 2000 pigs die. Such as the exercise of his power. Such is the lesson of power under divine control. It is the principle of the value of the human soul.
Where do we expand our energies? where is our power invested? Is it the gospel of redemption, the saving of souls? If not, our power is being misused. Disciples are called to live for the gospel that values the human soul. No expense is too great to bring a soul to Jesus.
“Whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).
Stories #3 and #4: The healing of the woman with a bleeding disease and the raising of Jairus’ daughter (5:21–43)
These next two stories are webbed together in the text. And I believe they are to be considered as two parts of one story. Both involve Jesus favor being shown to women, one woman sick for 12 years, and the other 12 years old period the first woman is healed from a chronic disease and the 2nd is raised to life from the dead. Jesus is exercising his power over disease and death.
Let’s review the two related events.
Jairus Is one of the synagogue rulers, perhaps in capernaum. His daughter is very sick. Fearing for her life, he throws any caution aside about Jesus and runs to the shore to implore Jesus, “my little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”
So Jesus goes with him. Alarge crowd follows and is pressing in on him period now we meet the woman. She is in the crowd clamoring for Jesus. But she is a great need. She has been sick for 12 years with a bleeding problem period although we are not told her condition, most commonly this would be from her womb. This bleeding would have made her ceremonially unclean, unable to worship with others lest she make them unclean by contact with blood. And the social ostracism would be great. She had spent all her money on doctor after doctor, treatment after treatment, all to no avail. Her only hope is Jesus. Perhaps if I touch the hem of his robe I will be healed. Her unseen hand reaches out in faith and immediately she senses something’s different. She is healed. But Jesus realizes that power has gone out of him so he stops and asks, “who touched my clothes?” The disciples don’t understand. “You see the people crowning against you, and yet you can ask who touched me?” In other words, “Lord, everybody is touching you!” Jesus overlooks the impertinence of the disciples and looks out over the crowd.
The woman comes forward in fear to confess. But Jesus receives her so well. He calls her daughter, and tells her to go in peace and be healed. What a blessing! Once I met the great evangelist, Billy Graham, and he voiced a blessing on me. Wonderful! But this is the Lord of all, stopping to give a blessing. Amazing!
However, while he paused to do this, Jairus and those with him were no doubt groaning in frustration. Remember who Jairus was, a synagogue official, a key man at the very centre of spiritual and social life, a man with power and influence. And he is waiting, waiting while Jesus talks with one sickly woman.
Men come up to them from Jairus’ house. “your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?” Then Jesus offers him the message of faith and hope. “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” He proceeds to Jairus’ home, With only the parents and Peter, James, and John. Encountering the mourners who are disbelieving, he sends them away. They entered the room where the girl lies dead. He takes her by the hand, and with a word, Jesus raises her to life. “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” she gets up, and he tells them to get her something to eat. Evidently, dying makes you hungry! Wonderful story of Jesus’ power over death!
But notice the principle here Jesus made a high ranking synagogue official wait while he ministered to a woman who was ceremonially unclean. What a wonderful principle emerges here! A principle concerning the godly use of power. God is no respecter of persons. He does not observe class distinction. He does not put people at the head of the line because of wealth or rank. There’s no prejudice. There is grace and mercy for all, but no people get to the front of the line by earthly privilege or influence.
We read in James 2:1 not to show favoritism, or discrimination.
“Someone comes in with a gold ring and wearing fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘here’s a good seat for you,’ let’s say to the poor man, ‘you stand there,’ or ‘sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?”
Power is not to be used with prejudice, but with recognition of the essential equality of all before God. So let’s review period and challenge ourselves with this word.
God gives his disciples power so they can serve him. We all have power. However, this power is to be used according to godly principles.
- Power for others first, not for sale first period
- power to bring souls to Christ, not to help animals first or to save the planet.
- Power to be exercised without prejudice and discrimination.
May the Lord help us to be faithful disciples who follow our master in these things.