23 January 2016

Mark 5:1-20

“Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood.” (v. 7)

Psalm: Psalm 20


This passage can be read on many levels, from a very big picture to a very detailed one. It seems to me that at all levels verse 7 holds true both then and today.

At the very detailed level we have a man who from the perspective of the Jews was about as unclean as it was possible to get. He was suffering torment and lived a life that was as scary to others as it was hopeless for him. In this detailed picture we see Jesus meeting a person in deep human distress and need with healing, restoration and peace.

At the biggest picture we see a part of the world that was occupied by the Romans, one that was not Jewish. There is powerful imagery of the big political picture with people wanting to see the Romans pushed back into the sea. Jews familiar with the book of Daniel would have put the Romans into their understanding of the sea as the place of monsters. So the idea of the Romans being driven into the sea (especially in pigs) to bring cleansing would appeal.

Across all these pictures there might also be in our minds what is going to happen to Jesus. We read this knowing that the Gospel story will include his body being torn apart by the Romans and in doing so evil will be defeated.

The response of verse 7 is true then and today.

When Jesus and his followers reached out to tormented, excluded, downright scary individuals, they brought hope and life. Welcoming, including, transforming the broken and hurting is deeply threatening to those in authority then and now.

When Jesus and his followers challenge the powerful, the violent and the occupiers then this too is deeply unpopular. Stay out of politics is one retort. The responses can be swift and brutal.

The powerful again respond out of fear and prejudice when Jesus and his followers look to the long story, to eternity, to ways of being that include self-giving love, sacrifice.

To Ponder

  • Which size of picture are you most and least comfortable with? Why?
  • In what ways might we see verse 7 acted out in response to actions of healing and challenge today?
  • How far have we got the balance between responding to individuals, nations and the full story of life, death and resurrection right? What should/could we change and why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.