So yesterday I’m reading Mark 5 and it hits me: Why does Jesus tell the once demon-possessed man to go home to his people and tell them how much the Lord has done for him (v. 19), but gives strict orders to the ‘sleeping’ girl’s family not to let anyone know (v. 43)?
At first glance, Jesus seems inconsistent. Why tell one party one thing only to contradict it with another?
I mean…yeah, we can settle on the fact Jesus was always following the Spirit’s lead. Fair enough.
Still, I can’t help but want to dig a little deeper.
Let’s dive in…
In 5:1, we find Jesus, fresh off of calming a tempest (4:35-41), crossing the lake to Garasenes, a country region lying on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Upon arrival, Jesus is immediately approached by a demon-possessed man decked with torn chains coming out from the tombs. So right away, it’s interesting to note not only is this the ultimate Halloween Bible read, but also this man comes to meet Jesus, not the other way around.
Moving on, we note the demon reveals itself as Legion (“for we are many” – v. 9), begs to be cast into swine, Jesus grants the request, and ultimately the stage is set for the man to go into ‘woman at the well’ mode (i.e. go into town1 , proclaim the good news of what Jesus has done, and watch as everyone is amazed).
Now, check out v. 21 – “When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.”
Again, we see life flocking to Jesus upon arrival. Coincidence? I think not considering the west side is more populated plus Jesus’ reputation has already gained momentum by this point. Yet, it’s here I want to pause briefly to highlight a key contrast.
When Jesus arrives at Gerasenes, how many people come to him? At least one that we know of, right? How about the flip side? ‘A large crowd’, you say? You’d be correct.
Granted, the population difference may seem like a subtle detail; however, when we stack it against proceeding context, we ultimately see how it’s a microcosmic glimpse into part of the answer.
What is the answer, you ask?
I’ll get to that in just a sec. For now, it’s important we understand the correlation between Jesus being closely tethered to the Father and how this enabled him to know the best way for the truth to get out. In the case of Mark 5, Jesus, having already revealed his nature on the west side, knew the best way for the good news to spread at Gerasesnes was for the ex-possessed man to ‘go tell it on the mountain’ per se. So in essence, what occurred at the Decapolis post-healing centered on the truth of Jesus’ identity being made known.
Yet, going back to the west side, the truth of Jesus’ identity was already being made known. Thus, it’s fair to say Jesus’ ‘cross-country’ trek was just as much about making the truth of his power known as it was confirming the truth of his identity (see healing of woman with bleeding problem (‘discharge’ meets discharge) – v. 25-34).
Before I forget, I find it amusing how ‘crowd’ is mentioned not once, not twice…but five times between v. 21-31. If in fact the author intended the reader to grasp the chaotic backdrop, mission accomplished. Yet, the point here, I submit, is not so much Jesus having to endure uncomfortable circumstances as much as it is he loving in spite of them. Imagine having zero personal space, teaching to the culprits responsible, then being interrupted mid-sermon, and thrust into a hot-mess commotion where people are crying and wailing loudly (v. 27). I’d probably lose my mind and grey my hair all at once.
But not Jesus. Instead, look at how incredibly unruffled he is, first in v. 36 when he says, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe’ in response to the disciples telling Jairus’ people, ‘Why bother the teacher anymore?’ and second in v. 39 when he says, ‘The child is not dead but asleep’ after the entire house thought Jairus’ daughter was dead.
Seriously…it’s like Jesus is calming a second storm here2.
Now for most, the story ends here, but the truth is Jesus had one more thing to say before peacing out, which in my paraphrasation3, goes something like ‘Shhh! What happens here, stays here.’
But again, why would Jesus demand this? What’s the big deal?
Well, go back to v. 36 - ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’
Throughout this whole chapter, we’ve seen three miracles, three transfers of power; however, this doesn’t mean Jesus was on the ‘power play’. Rather, Jesus was on a mission to inspire belief in people’s hearts. Therefore, it’s safe to say what mattered most to Jesus more than signs, more than miracles was the truth of his word.
In this context, Jesus knew if he allowed the news to break in ‘synagogue central’, it would lead to a major distraction. Remember there was already enough pandemonium leading up to Jesus’ encounter with the little girl. Any more attention would likely cause an uproar and reduce Jesus to the role of ringmaster4.
So it’s interesting to see how silence was sometimes part of Jesus’ strategy to further the Gospel.
Bottom line: While Jesus was definitely Spirit led in all he said and did, he was also able to discern the theology of the land and time he was in since he was constantly yielding to the Father. As a result, Jesus was able to reach more people with the love in his heart and teach them with the truth of his word.
1) In this case, the Decapolis – the Ten Cities
2) Seriously…imagine what Peter, James, and John must have thought. Something along the lines of déjà vu, eh?
3) Yes, I know this isn’t a word, but I couldn’t help myself
4) Obviously, Jesus wouldn’t want this to happen given the potential for people to be led further from the truth, not towards it.
Photo creds: Harmony Bible
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