Today is day twelve in our ninety-day reading of the New Testament. Today we are reading Mark 4 through Mark 6.
And today’s reading is all about reaction.
Check out Flint Lockwood’s reaction to falling hamburgers in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It’s priceless.
If Mark is placing Jesus in the role of a hero and a conqueror, (see yesterday’s post) then he does that well in today’s readings. Four of the most prominent miracles Jesus performs in Mark are written one after the other, from Mark 4:35 through Mark 5:43. Let’s talk about those briefly.
But before we do, I want to draw your attention to a passage in Mark 3, where the reaction to Jesus really begins.
In Mark 3:31-35, Jesus has already grown familiar with the reaction of the official populations where he preaches. Earlier in the chapter, after healing the hand of a man, he is found to be angered by the questions about the Sabbath.
Yes, angered. Read Mark 3:5.
The plot, then, in Mark is hatched to kill Jesus. So Jesus leaves, withdraws, knowing that these sorts of reactions would precipitate his death, and he must leave. It’s not time for him to die.
So when we see Jesus entering a home, in 3:20, his family has reached their limit with Jesus’ behavior and reputation. They are upset. And they go after Jesus, to “take charge of him.” Even his own family believes he is crazy. The language here indicates that maybe they expected him to resist their efforts.
They not only believed Jesus to be out of his mind, but they were also afraid of him.
So Mark records these four miracles, where Jesus calms a storm, heals a man possessed by a demon, inadvertently healed a woman who touched his cloak, and resurrected Jairus’ daughter. Mark wants us to see Jesus, again, as a man of action.
He is unstoppable.
And yet, he can’t convince everyone that he is, in fact, the Son of God.
This Son of God was sleeping in the boat when the storm began on the sea. The indignance of the disciples turns quickly into fear. They want Jesus’ power to save them, yet when he exhibits that power, they become terrified (3:41).
Upon docking, they find a man possessed, living among the tombs, with supernatural strength. Ostracized from his community, he never slept, and cut himself repeatedly with rocks.
They find this man caked in his own dried blood.
Yet this possessed man, filled with demons, knew exactly Jesus’ identity. The demons called themselves Legion, and once they saw Jesus, they forced the man to his knees, and then called Jesus the “Son of the Most High God.” They called Jesus by his name.
It’s interesting to me that the demons knew more of Jesus’ identity than his own disciples. Their (the demons) reaction sort of reminds me of Flint Lockwood’s reaction in the clip above, around 1:25. They are just overwhelmed.
The woman, suffering from a hemorrhage, only wanted to touch Jesus, in Mark 5:28. Her experience of Jesus was formed by her suffering. She didn’t care about Jesus’ family. She didn’t care that he was the Son of God. She only knew Jesus could heal her.
And Jairus, a ruler of the local Jewish synagogue, wanted healing for his daughter, who died as Jesus spoke to the woman with the hemorrhage. Jesus resurrected the little girl, in the midst of mourners, and Mark tells us she was twelve years old.
Which is the exact amount of time the woman had dealt with her hemorrhaging. The woman suffered with her affliction as long as the little girl had been alive. In one moment, Jesus healed the woman and resurrected the girl, erasing twelve years of pain for one, and reclaiming the womanhood of the other. And the crowds were again amazed.
That is profound. Those not closest to Jesus were amazed. Yet those who knew him intimately were filled with doubt.
This brings us, then, to the crux of these reaction stories. Jesus goes to his hometown, to Nazareth, in 6:1, and taught in the synagogue, to the (again) amazement of those who heard him.
But many there were not convinced that a simple carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon, could be filled with so much wisdom.
Moreover, Jesus is identified in Mark as the son of Mary, not the son of Joseph. The fact that Jesus wasn’t identified as the son of his father was probably due to a persistent rumor in his hometown that Jesus was an illegitimate child.
Jesus never seemed to have shaken such an image. Even as man, they couldn’t wait to bring this rumor back to his attention.
Mark steamrolls these four miracles right into Jesus’ hometown. Surely people will believe Jesus is the Son of God. Surely. Mark is amazed himself at the doubters.
Regardless of what he did, though, Jesus would always be seen as the boy whose parentage would forever be in dispute.
And if anyone ever doubts God’s work in your life because your own past, then consider yourself in good company.
You can find all previous posts here. Thanks for reading!