Mark 4, 35 - 5, 20 no. 15 Oct 3

Mark has shown his readership the powers of Jesus, then offered explanations for both the successes (’seed produced fruit’ - 4, 8) and failures of his sowing, and has shown God’s work in the sowing of the kingdom and its invincible spread to include ’all nations’. Leaving all and following Jesus has been a theme interwoven with the desire to destroy Jesus. Such is the development of the theme ’Messiah and Son of God’ with which Mark opened his Gospel: Jesus’ obedience to call people to enter the Kingdom against a growing opposition ranging from rejection to threats to his life. Mark now continues recital of the great, awesome powers of Jesus, only to contrast them again with rejection of him. A first miracle concerns Jesus’ control of nature. The meaning Mark emphasizes in Jesus’ control of wind and waves is visibly twofold, and more than just an emphasis on miracle. First, the disciples’ reactions of fear in face of death call for the question, ’Do you not yet have faith?’ Second, the powers Jesus exhibits are comparable, in Jewish history and the psychology of his disciples, only to those of Yahweh. In regard to the first lesson of this episode there really are two questions. First, do you not yet believe that I can control all evil threatening you? That is the more visible lesson. Second, do you not yet believe that I care enough, love you enough to save you from all evil? As for the power to control wind and wave, we note first that we have here not just an overpowering of nature, but a command-obedience reality which suggests divine power. Jesus does not only overpower (demons, nature, sin), but he commands obedience. Thus, while one can call him Messiah, one feels he is on the verge of calling him divine Son of God – which, of course, corresponds to the reader’s already existing profession of faith. A second miracle centers on the power of Jesus to control the demon world, and has strange elements to it which we see nowhere else in Mark. This story emphasizes the suffering of the man possessed, and his possession is by many demons, by Legion. The story certainly emphasizes healing – and one can assume the motive of the healing is Jesus’ ’love of neighbor’ – but there is much more here as Mark concentrates on a dialogue between Legion and Jesus. The demon Legion feels tortured by Jesus, apparently because Jesus wants to drive Legion from this pagan territory (we are now outside Israel). The solution was to drive Legion into the depths of the Sea of Galilee, a place Jewish tradition believed suitable for demons. (Jews at this time were very fearful of desert and water; it is in either of these two places Jews knew they would find the habitats of demons.) It may seem unsympathetic to have the demons take possession of pigs, with the result that they, frenzied, race into the Sea of Galilee and are thereby lost to their owners. But the story is Jewish, and pigs are unclean animals and the owners are pagan. These elements are considered when calling into question Jesus’ disposition of the demons; from a Jewish viewpoint it makes good sense. The response to Jesus’ control of Legion, of many demons, is fear. It is the normal response, noted in the OT and in the NT, when in the presence of God – fear! Especially pagans sensed that the divine left them alone till the time when the divine wanted something, intervened in human life – we fear their intervention, for they want something from us! This is a pagan witness to Jesus. Finally, most instructive is Jesus’ wish that the cured man not ’leave all and follow him’; this man’s vocation is to tell everyone of God’s goodness to him. There are many types of vocations in God’s plans for us; He wants us to find our vocations to give Him daily honor and glory, as befits our Creator and our Father. John Kilgallen, S.J.
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