Reflecting on Mark 5 1-13, 18-20

There is a lot going on in the text we are studying this week: the story of Jesus’ liberation of a man from “Legion,” a host of unclean spirits. That’s as Mark tells the story in Mark 5:1-13 (14-20).

The first thing we might want to ask ourselves is what features of the text – which references, which themes, which events – strike us as noteworthy or compelling. That might help us focus our attention on the parts of the story that will repay us in thinking about them, turning them over and over, meditating on their significance within the story, and maybe specifically for us. What do those elements, in particular, have to do with us?

Some notes on the text are here. Here are a couple of additional questions we might want to think about or consider discussing in class:

There are a few themes that crop up over and over in commentaries’ discussion of the story: the fact that it happens in Gentile territory; the theme of death, and of life from death (what with the man “living” – if we call it that – in “the tombs”); the theme of uncleanness or impurity (the spirits are unclean, death and pigs are both defiling for Jews, …).

We might want to think about whether, and how, these themes seem to be connected in the story, and whether this is telling us anything. What? Why do we say that?

Would we say the man is in bondage? Or, has been? And what keeps or is keeping him in bondage? Can the exorcism be described as “liberation”?

How is “power” related to the man’s bondage? To the man’s liberation? What kind of power, whose power, would we say?

[more personal] Do we see power like this in our own lives (whether positively or negatively)? In the world? How?

[ultimately more personal] Any implications for how the power of God is encountered, or what makes it effective in a person’s life? Like, maybe our own? What implications? Why do we say that?

Jesus tells the man to go home to his friends and tell people about what God has done for him. Why, do we think?

Does he do this, do we think, or not? Why do we think that?

People are amazed. What does that mean? For them? Is amazement a good thing, would we say? Or … ?

[more personal] Any implications for us, our time and place, our behavior? What implications?

Why do we think the people of the area ask Jesus to leave?

Any implications of that for us, our time and place, our behavior? What implications?

What do we notice about Jesus in this story?

What else? …

Image: “La Discussion Politique,” Émile Friant, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

7 responses to “Reflecting on Mark 5 1-13, 18-20”

  1. Thanx for taking on MARK! HAT!

    I’m still chewing on Cain and Abel, thanx to you, and not done with that. It’s a wrench in my worx! Jamming up my other interests, but not in a bad way. So, thanx for that too.

    Anyway, your are jogging loose fresh thoughts on Mark for me here. I appreciate that too. Thnx as always.

    I’m afraid engaging you on Mark will bog down your blog. So, I will just say thanx. Good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Agent X! Although this is not really a choice, more following the curriculum set by the Uniform Series … but I am with you that Mark is a perpetual challenge. Speaking of things that keep making us think … if not more than think.

      Best wishes, friend!!


      • I looked. Thanx. YES, I believe Jesus is easily confused with rebels. In fact, it’s my theory that Mark writes a recruiter’s pamphlet for the new temple militia of sorts. That like the boys dropping nets to follow, the raw recruits think they are signing up to fight. Yet over the course of their discipleship, they come to learn (hopefully that label “disciples” carries the weight) that Jesus is a different kind of messiah with a different kind of deliverance than what they naturally expect.

        All this written, I believe, very near the fall of Jerusalem, right when Simon bar Giora or John of Giscala (among others) are defending Herod’s temple that Jesus is accused of saying he will tear down and rebuild in three days.

        I think we have apocalyptic lit all through the document, not just in chapter 13.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I think that really fits with Mark. And what’s ironic in that – one of the things, anyway – is that the struggle Jesus is signing people up for is a tougher struggle than the one they think, in that story …

        Liked by 1 person

      • So true.

        As for the “Legion,” and the Little Italy part of Galilee, my view requires a broadening of the notion of apocalyptic lit. Chapter 4, especially, taps right into apocalyptic language and prophetic symbolism even flat-out making mention of mystery revealed and all the sermons are delivered in parables (hard to understand for that matter). The stilling of the sea is highly apocalyptic!

        And so crossing the sea, coming to the other side is too. In my view this demon (these demons) represent ROME- a man who cannot be bound but is dangerous to himself and others. And in this apocalyptic scene, Rome bows down to Jesus and begs mercy.

        IF, as I propose as part of my overall strategy for understanding Mark, Mark is recruiting fighters to come to Jesus (not to fight in the end, but to proclaim Jesus to the world (as per 1:38-39), the revelation of Rome bowing and begging mercy of Jesus has POWER to attract would-be temple defenders.

        In my view, Mark is the first to write “a gospel” – a genre that is biographic-like, but not actually a biography. It is a new genre, and a rare one too. But Mark practically invents it, and his calls a reader to wrestle the angel, not simply be informed.

        I think the reader is cast in an unannounced role to play a part in the drama as the 13th apostle (Let the reader understand). As you join Jesus and the “disciples” you think you are being recruited to fight as a warrior, but really, you are being discipled for a different kind of fight. You slowly come to see that the other 12 are clueless along these lines, and the onus to step up and give yourself to Jesus falls on YOU, the reader, in a mysterious way.

        It is also, my theory, that this sort of discipleship is/was so troublesome for the church and early readers that Matthew, Luke, and John were prompted IN PART to write other versions of the same story, the same genre too, but in ways that successionally comfort the reader and help the reader more than causing him/her to struggle with Jesus.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is really interesting – and I don’t think I would disagree, at all. I think that is why reading Mark has such a disturbing effect on people. (Well, it did on me.)

        There is another book, that I thought was good, Jesus and After – the First 80 Years, that I think would support that reading, at least partially – although he sees Mark’s central fight as between Jesus and Pharisees. That author puts the original ending of the gospel of Mark at 15:38.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: