Mark Summary Chapter 5

If you’ll recall, Chapter 4 was taken up with parables, about half of that dedicated to the parable of the sower. Chapter 5 was devoted to two stories: the Story of Legion, and the interwoven stories of Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman.

In some sense, it seems like we’ve kind of drifted a bit over the past three chapters. The gospel started with some heavy emphasis on the idea of the kingdom of God. We haven’t had a reference to that in some time. That theme, along with John the Baptist, were the introduction to the gospels. Now we’ve gotten to stories of Jesus. In a very real sense, there is no actual break between Chapter 4 and 5. We ended 4 with him crossing the lake and Jesus calming the storm; we started 5 with what happened once Jesus reached the far shore, where he was headed at the end of 4.

And in this way Chapter 5 is thematically related as well. We have more demonstrations of Jesus’ power: over Legion, healing the bleeding woman, and, essentially, raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. All of this would point unambiguously to an individual with some divine power, but then Mark inserts the passage about Jesus feeling the power go out of him, making it seem as if Jesus were a conduit for, rather than a source of, the power. Why this is included baffles me. Given its context in the middle of all these stories of Jesus’ power over the natural world–storms, disease, even death–and the supernatural world–the Legion of demons–why make it seem like Jesus not in complete control of this power?

Here, I think, might be the answer. Remember, Jesus was being jostled by the crowd. It’s not like he had a cordon of Secret Service agents (the American law enforcement officers responsible for the safety of the US president) around him to keep the crowd at bay. In fact, his own disciples ask how they’re supposed to figure out who touched Jesus’ garments given the way the crowd was surging. Now, if Jesus is being touched by all these people, why does the power go out of him only this once?


I mentioned that this is the first time we hear Jesus say “your faith has saved you” in this gospel. The woman had faith. She believed. What did Jesus ask the disciples after he calmed the storm? Why do you not yet have faith? What did he tell Jairus when the latter was told his daughter was already dead? Believe. Have faith.

In the earlier chapters, and during the parables, when Jesus was talking explicitly about the kingdom of God, I observed that we are not told how we become members of this kingdom. What are we supposed to do to participate in the dawning kingdom? We didn’t really know because we hadn’t really been told. Well, I think this series of miracle stories answers that question. The theme running through most of this is the idea of faith: faith that he can calm the storm, faith that touching his clothes will heal, faith that the young girl had not, or will not die. Note that Jesus sent everyone out of the room, except his three trusted companions, and the mother and father. These were the people most likely to have faith, and this will matter later, in the next chapter. Granted, faith is sort of missing from the Legion story, but three out of four isn’t bad.

So we’re back to faith. This was what Paul preached, and this is where Mark has come. And this is what Mark holds out, apparently, as the way to gain entrance into the kingdom. He shows us Jesus’ power, but he also shows the necessity of faith. For, of all the people touching him in the crowd, it was only the woman of great faith who was healed.

That is what Chapter 5 was about.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on February 17, 2013, in gospel commentary, gospels, mark's gospel, Summary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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