Mark 5 contains three remarkable stories of Jesus’ power and authority. The first half of the chapter concerns the releasing of a non-Jewish man held under by a legion of demons. The second sees Jesus back in Jewish territory healing a desperately sick woman and healing (that is, bringing back to life!) a 12 year old girl who had died.
A few thoughts come to mind. First off, I am comforted. The demon-possessed man in the first half lived a horrible life. He was incredibly disturbed. He was a social outcast because of his behaviour. He was self-harming. He was violent. He was a man torn. And yet in spite of it all, he ran to Jesus and bowed down before him. He knew, somehow, that Jesus was his only hope. How much control did he actually have over his actions. At the best, a little. Enough to run to Jesus. But when he spoke, it was the demons inside of him speaking. He ran to Jesus his only hope, but the spirits inside of him wanted nothing to do with Jesus. They shouted and yelled. They wanted to be left alone. They were many – a legion. They thought they were strong. But Jesus was stronger. With a word, he sent them out into the herd of pigs. And such was the impact on the pigs that they all ran over a cliff and drowned.
Why does this story comfort me? Firstly, it’s because Jesus knows what we need before we even ask for it. This man didn’t run up to Jesus and ask to be delivered. He couldn’t. All he did was run up to Jesus and bow. Jesus knew what needed to be done, and did. But secondly, I’m reminded that if Jesus could heal such a man – one so disturbed in his thinking – then he can surely heal anyone else. He can heal me, and you. All we need to do is to run to him. Do we? Even if there’s something inside of us that yells that we should stay away from him, Jesus is the only safe place to be. Because he is the only one who can bring freedom and release to those bound under Satan’s power. No whether that’s direct demonic influence or not doesn’t matter. Whatever it is that disturbs me, do I run with it to Jesus. Do I go because I trust that he can help me? Lord – help us to run to you.
I do also notice that the man, once healed, longed to be with Jesus. Have I, have you, so experienced the freedom Jesus gives that we long to be near him? And are we so thankful that we are willing to tell as many people as we can what God has done in us and for us?
What about the second half of the chapter. The woman who had been bleeding for so many years reminds me of how sometimes our shame can make us hide from Jesus, rather than longing to be with him. Yes, he has saved us – in this woman’s case healed her – but we still feel guilty or ashamed or afraid. Yes, we trust him (after all, this woman touched his robe – that’s an act of trust!) But we think, perhaps, that if God really knew us, he wouldn’t want anything to do with us.
Isn’t it wonderful then that Jesus insisted on finding this woman. Because he wants to do more than just heal or free us as a business transaction. He wants to relate to us. He wants us to know that it is out of love for us that he acts. We shouldn’t think of Jesus’ saving acts as divorced from Jesus the person. He is more than a pill to cure our ills. He is a person who wants us to live in community with him. He wants to heal and save – true. But even more he wants to live in communion with us.
Finally, what about Jairus? On the way home, he and Jesus are told the girl is dead. But Jesus tells him to not be afraid, but to just have faith – to just trust. That urge to fear is very real: to think that things are too bad for even Jesus to make a difference. This man feared the death of his daughter. Sadly, that fear for us is often a (bad) fear of God – thinking that God doesn’t really love us. (Now, I know that is nonsense, but fear has a way of holding one’s theology hostage.) The antithesis of trusting God, so many times, is fear. But Jesus’ call is to not fear, but to trust in the power of God, to trust in Jesus. Do I trust Jesus can do all that he says?
Three very different people: and Jesus heals them all. God’s love is for all people. Jesus has the power to overcome any evil. Jesus is more than a mere healer – he wants to relate to us as people, not problems (He is, after all, Emmanuel – God with us). And Jesus is worthy of trust. We might be tempted to fear that our problems are greater than what Jesus can handle… but there is nothing that fits into that category!