After teaching during the day, Jesus went to the other side of Galilee at night. In Mark, this is the first time Jesus visited a Gentile settlement. What happened there shows us how people and unclean spirits were afraid of Jesus for different reasons.
Did You Know...?
1. Boat (4:36): A fisherman’s boat was between 20-30 feet (8-11 m) long and 7 feet (3 m) wide.
It moved through the water either by means of sails (Lk 8:23) or oars (Mk 6:48), and was steered at the stern (rear).
2. Windstorm (4:37): Situated in a basin surrounded by mountains, the Sea of Galilee is particularly susceptible to sudden, violent storms.
In spite of the danger, boats were the most convenient mode of transportation to get from one side of the lake to the other.
4. Country of the Gadarenes (5:1): Somewhere on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Several towns with similar sounding names (Gadara, Gerasa, Gergesa) were across the lake from Capernaum.
This region lay in the predominantly Gentile territory of the Decapolis (cf. Did You Know 7). The presence of pigs (Mk 5:11), inconceivable in a Jewish settlement, illustrates the region’s Gentile background.
5. Tombs (5:2): Often in Palestine people were buried in natural caves or in tombs cut out of the limestone rock. These provided good shelter for anyone desiring to live in them. The demon- possessed man probably had been driven from ordinary society into the tombs.
6. Legion (5:9): A main division of the Roman army comprising 3,000 to 6,000 men.
7. Decapolis (5:20): A league of ten free cities, located in the northeast part of Galilee.
Characterized by high Greek culture, they were a thorn to the Jews because they introduced non-Jewish lifestyle and architecture into Palestine.
- Jesus Calms the Storm (4:35-41)
- Jesus and the disciples go to the other side of the lake (4:35-36)
- Disciples are afraid of the storm (4:37-38)
- Jesus rebukes the storm, and then the disciples (4:39-41)
- Jesus Casts out “Legion” (5:1-20)
- The demon-possessed man comes to Jesus (5:1-7)
- The unclean spirits plead with Jesus (5:8-12)
- The unclean spirits come out of the man and go into the pigs (5:13-14)
- The people plead with Jesus to leave them (5:15-17)
- Jesus tells the man to testify the miracle (5:18-20)
a. disciples—They were afraid for their lives when a violent storm hit them; afraid of Jesus when He calmed the storm.
b. “Legion”—They afraid of Jesus’ power over them, and that Jesus would send them out of the region of the Gadarenes.
c. Gadarenes—They were afraid of Jesus because of what had happened to the man and to the pigs.
Which is a good fear to have?Hide Answer
The only good fear is the fear of God (Prov 9:10). The disciples feared Jesus when they witnessed His almighty power. When we fear the Lord, we learn to completely rely on Him.
When we have God’s wisdom to guide us, there is no need to fear our surroundings. We can sleep calmly through the storms in our life, like Jesus did (Prov 3:19-26).
The love of God drives out fear of punishment and suffering (1Jn 4:15- 18). If our fears hinder us from living for God, we can ask Him to help us (like the disciples did during the storm). Even Jesus experienced fear when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane because of the bitter cup that He was about to drink. But He prayed earnestly, and God helped Him by sending an angel to strengthen Him (Lk 22:42-44).
As God’s children, we do not fear Him like the demons do (Jas 2:19). There’s no need to be afraid of what God can do to us. When we strive to obey his will, He works out everything for our good (Rom 8:28). When we suffer loss, the last thing we would want is for God to be away from us. It was foolish of the Gadarenes to ask Jesus to leave because they feared Him.
Are you afraid of what Jesus can do? Why or why not?
How much time did Jesus wait before the boat ride?Hide Answer
No time at all. He was probably on the same boat he sat in when He was teaching the crowd (Mk 4:1). The disciples took Him along, “even as He was in the boat” (36). This implies that He did not take the time to wash up or to rest, even though He must have been tired (He fell asleep in the boat).
Do you ever feel rushed? How do you prevent from burning out?
Who went with Jesus?Hide Answer
The twelve apostles, other boats (36), possibly the people who had stayed behind to ask Him about the parables.
Suppose you were one of the disciples. What reasons were there for Jesus not to go to the other side of the lake in the evening?Hide Answer
He was tired, and should rest; the likelihood of a storm; on the other side were mostly Gentiles, with whom the Jews didn’t like to associate.
Why did Jesus want to go to the other side of the lake?
Has God put you in a situation where you would rather not be? What do you do about it?Hide Answer
There are times for us to be on dry land, listen to the word of God, and cultivate our spirituality. There are also times when we have to brave the storm.
God lets us decide whether or not we want to go. We decide whether we want to face a difficult situation with God on our side, or refuse to obey and face the consequences ourselves. Do we want to submit to God? These are the times when we expose our vulnerability in order to experience God’s mercy (2Cor 12:9-10).
How could Jesus possibly sleep through such a violent storm?Hide Answer
Jesus must have been exhausted. Also, because He was the Lord of all creation, the wind and the waves did not bother Him, no matter how strong they were. He could have stopped the storm at any time (although He deliberately did not do so until the last moment).
When your life is in turmoil, what do you think Jesus is doing?
Why did Jesus rebuke the wind and the waves (39)?Hide Answer
The same rebuke was used to quiet the unclean spirit and the storm (cf. Did You Know 3). Jesus also rebuked the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law (Lk 4:39). It is possible that the devil had brought the storm upon Jesus and the disciples. If this is so, then this was another one of his attempts to stop Jesus’ ministry. Jesus saw through the devil’s tricks.
Why were the disciples afraid of the storm? Why did they ask Jesus for help?Hide Answer
Many of the disciples were experienced fishermen, yet the storm was so strong (4:37) that they were afraid for their lives. Their large boat (cf. Did You Know 1) was quickly filled with water. Perhaps they had tried to row away from the storm but failed. Perhaps the other boats with them were also in danger of sinking. Clearly, the storm was so overwhelming that there was nothing they could do but ask Jesus for help.
Why were the disciples afraid after they saw that the wind and the waves obeyed Jesus?Hide Answer
Maybe they had only expected Jesus to help them steer or dump water out of the boat. They had not expected Jesus to rebuke the storm, much less the wind and the waves to obey Him. They saw Jesus’ anger when He rebuked the storm. Jesus also revealed their lack of faith. Moments before they were afraid of the storm, but now they were more terrified of Jesus’ power. This experience taught them about Jesus and about themselves.
Did the disciple have no faith? Why or why not?Hide Answer
In desperation, they cried out to Jesus for help. They believed that Jesus could somehow save them. However, because Jesus seemed to be ignoring them during the emergency, they accused him of not caring (4:38). The danger was so immediate that they did not bother to think why Jesus was sleeping through all of this. Afterwards, they were afraid of His power. They had witnessed Jesus casting out demons and healing, and still they underestimated Jesus. In that sense, they had no faith.
The disciples did not rely on their professional experience to solve their problem. What types of work- or school-related problems can Jesus help you with?Hide Answer
God helps us not only in the general sense. We do not need to hesitate to ask Him to help us solve a math problem, write an essay, or finish a project.
a. “Legion”—not to send them out of the area; to send them among the pigs
b. Gadarenes—for Jesus to leave their region
c. Man who had been demon-possessed—to go with Jesus
Why did Jesus ask the unclean spirit its name?
Why did Jesus give the unclean spirit permission to go into the pigs?Hide Answer
In other times, when Jesus cast out an unclean spirit, it just left. But this time Jesus allowed the unclean spirit to go into the pigs. One possible teaching is that if our hearts are unclean (according to the Mosaic laws, pigs are unclean animals), we give the devil a chance to work within us (Eph 4:27).
Isn’t it unfair for the pigs to die?
What does the name “Legion” imply? What warnings does the name give us?Hide Answer
“Legion” implies a great army of unclean spirits.
The devil always seeks to attack us in many ways, physically and spiritually.
From the dialog between Jesus and the unclean spirit, what can we learn about Jesus’ authority?Hide Answer
Even though the unclean spirit had power over people and the physical world (5:3-5), it was terrified of Jesus (5:7). There were many unclean spirits working together (they were named “Legion,” and there were enough of them to kill 2,000 pigs; Matthew tells us that there were actually two demon-possessed men [Mt 8:28]). Still, the demon had no power over Jesus, even though He was just one man, because He was God. Before Jesus said or did anything, the unclean spirit came to plead with Him. They even needed Jesus’ permission to stay or go (5:10, 12- 13). Jesus alone has the power to bind the unclean spirits (cf. Mk 3:24- 25); the devil cannot do anything without His permission (Job 1:12, 2:6). The unclean spirit might look strong to us (like the storm on the lake), but God is much greater.
Jesus was unfazed by the legion of unclean spirits. Have you ever felt outnumbered? How did you get through it?
Why did the Gadarenes want Jesus to leave their region?Hide Answer
They lost 2,000 pigs, and did not want Jesus to do any more “damage” in their area. They placed more value on their pigs than on the man who was possessed. By asking Jesus to leave, the Gadarenes got in the way of Jesus’ work and missed a chance to receive greater blessings. Note that they were afraid of Jesus (5:15), and did not dare to use force.
Has there been a time when you wished God would leave you alone? Why?
The man told how much the Lord had mercy on him (5:19-20), whereas the pig herders probably told about how Jesus spoke with the unclean spirit and killed 2,000 pigs. The man told his family about Jesus so that they too would believe. In fact, the man himself was a testimony for God; just by looking at him, the people saw that he was healed. On the other hand, the pig herders told the townspeople to make sure people knew it was not their fault that the pigs had drowned; to them, Jesus was the troublemaker. We must ask God for wisdom to see the entire picture of His will.
This is the first time Mark writes that Jesus commanded someone to tell others what He had done (5:19). Why now, in Gadara?Hide Answer
This was an area of mostly Gentiles (cf. Did You Know 4), so the scribes and the Pharisees did not have the influence to oppose the gospel. There is a time and place for everything. Paul counsels Timothy to “be prepared in season and out of season” (2Tim 4:2). For example, the church in communist China must be discreet in order to avoid government interference. But in countries where there is religious freedom, we must freely preach the complete gospel entrusted to us.
The man wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus told him to do something else. What has Jesus told you to do that you did not originally intend to?
How does Jesus’ command to this man apply to you today?