Desperate measures

Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came to Jesus for help when his daughter was at the point of death. Even though Jairus fell at Jesus feet when he greeted him, it is unlikely that Jairus was a believer. It was customary at that time, when someone wanted to show reverence to another person to bow down as he greeted him. What Jairus was doing was acknowledging Jesus’ authority and rank as a spiritual leader. Jairus’ public display of humility was probably what prompted Jesus to accompany him to his home. On their way, a woman that had heard about Jesus’ ability to heal the sick came up behind him and touched his robe or outer garment because she thought, “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole” (Mark 5:28). Rather than continuing on, Jesus decided to stop and use this woman’s example of faith to teach Jairus an important lesson about the desperate measures she was willing to go to in order to be rid of her disease.

It says in Mark 5:25 that the woman that touched Jesus had an issue of blood twelve years. This meant she was ceremonially unclean and was not allowed to enter the temple or to have close contact with anyone associated with God’s work. She was probably filled with shame and was hesitant to approach Jesus while Jairus was present. In spite of this, she made her way through the crowd that surrounded Jesus and got close enough to grab ahold of his robe long enough to experience his miraculous power flow into her body and stop the bleeding. It says in Mark 5:30, “And Jesus immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” The woman, who was trying to escape without being noticed, came back “fearing and trembling” (Mark 5:33). The woman’s reaction may have been due to the fact that she had been healed without Jesus’ permission. It says that she “came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth” (Mark 5:33). The truth probably being the sin she had committed that she believed was the cause of her flow of blood for twelve years.

While Jesus was interacting with the woman that touched him, Jairus received word that his daughter was dead. It says in Mark 5:36, “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.” It almost seems as if Jesus intentionally waited for the news of the girl’s death to come before he interacted with Jairus. Jesus’ warning to not be afraid could mean that Jairus was suddenly made aware of his own spiritual failure. Like the woman with an issue of blood for twelve years, Jairus was no doubt guilty of some sin that he likely blamed for his daughter’s death. Jesus wanted Jairus to see that his need involved more than just a physical healing of his daughter. The desperate situation Jairus was faced with required an act of faith, something he probably didn’t have until after he saw the woman healed who had touched Jesus’ garment. When he said, “only believe” (Mark 5:36), Jesus was telling Jairus to give up on his own method of obtaining righteousness. The only way for his daughter to be healed was for Jairus to entrust his spiritual well being to Jesus (4100).

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The other side

The original word used to refer to God’s people, “Hebrew” was an ethnic term that referred to “a diverse mixture of nomadic wanderers or at least those who appeared to have at one time been nomadic” (5680).  The term Hebrew or Eberite is derived from the word ‘eber (ay’-ber). “When speaking of rivers or seas, ‘eber means the ‘edge or side opposite the speaker’ or ‘the other side'” (5676). The word ‘eber is derived from the Hebrew word abar (aw-bar’) which means “to cross over” (5674). This word can be found throughout the Old Testament of the Bible in conjunction with major events that occurred in the lives of Abraham’s descendants, primarily before they settled in the Promised Land. The Hebrew word abar communicated the idea of transgression, or crossing over the boundary of right and entering the forbidden land of wrong. An example of this was when Jacob “crossed over” the Euphrates to escape Laban (Genesis 31:21).

After concluding his detailed teaching about the kingdom of heaven (Mark 4:1-34), Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us pass over unto the other side” (Mark 4:35). Upon reaching the opposite shore of the sea of Galilee, Jesus was met by a man possessed by a demonic spirit who referred to himself as Legion. This seems to suggest that the territory known as the Decapolis was associated with sinful behavior and may have been considered off-limits to people that were obedient to God’s commandments. If so, the fact that Jesus directed his disciples to go to this god-forsaken location seems to suggest that he wanted them to see what was going on there. Most likely, the reason for their visit to the country of the Gadarenes was so that Jesus’ disciples could see him exercise his authority over Satan’s army because, like their ancestors,’ his disciples would have to conquer these enemies in order to occupy the Promised Land, a.k.a. the kingdom of heaven.

While their ship was crossing the sea, it says in Mark 4:37, “there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.” In spite of the sudden violent gust of wind and the torrential rains that accompanied it, Mark indicated in his account of the incident that Jesus was asleep on a pillow in the hinder part of the ship (Mark 4:38). Jesus’ disciples had to physically arouse him from his peaceful slumber and then, in a panic asked him, “Master, carest thou not that we perish” (Mark 4:38). The Greek word translated perish, apollumi doesn’t refer to death, but what is often associated with death; ruin, the loss of well-being. In other words, the disciples were suggesting that Satan could ruin their trip in order to stop them from doing damage to his kingdom. After rebuking the wind and telling the sea to be still, Jesus asked his disciples, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that you have no faith” (Mark 4:40). His point being that they hadn’t even made it to the other side yet, and his disciples were ready to concede to their enemy.

Discipleship

During his ministry on earth, Jesus centered his attention on the spiritual needs of God’s people; and for those who chose to become his disciples, he conducted a three-year apprenticeship program that focused on their membership in God’s kingdom. When the multitudes began to throng about him, Jesus looked for ways to discourage people from following him, rather than seeking to increase the number people that listened to him teach. An example of this can be found in Matthew 8:18 where it says, “Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.” The other side Jesus commanded his disciples to go to was the southern coast of the sea of Galilee. It was there, in the region of Gadara, that Jesus cast out the Legion from a demon-possessed man (Luke 8:33). Gadara was located in the portion of the Roman Empire known as the Decapolis. The Decapolis was a league of ten free cities characterized by high Greek culture (note on Matthew 4:25). Jesus’ motivation for taking his disciples to such a place may have been to expose them to the harsh reality of satanic worship that was taking place within the borders of the Promised Land.

As he was preparing to enter the ship to sail to the region of Gadara, Jesus was approached by a scribe, a professional writer of the Mosaic Law, who wanted to go with him on his trip. Their short interaction is recorded in Matthew 8:19-20, where it says, “And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee withersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head.” It is evident in Jesus’ response that he was trying to discourage the man from joining his entourage. Jesus’ image as an important person that people wanted to get close to was probably the main reason he had to constantly be on the move. This meant that his disciples rarely saw their families and were not afforded the luxury of sleeping in their own beds. The message Jesus was conveying to the scribe was that discipleship involved very difficult work that would require a huge sacrifice and not many were fit for the task.

Along with the hardship of being away from loved ones, and sometimes not even having enough time to eat, Jesus expected his disciples to give up all of their earthly responsibilities in order to focus their full attention on preaching the gospel. When one of his disciples asked to be excused from the trip to Gadara so he could attend to his father’s burial, Jesus responded, “let the dead bury their dead” (Matthew 8:21-22). Meaning, I have more important work for you to do. The spiritual work Jesus engaged in while he was on earth was not something to be taken lightly. During the brief time that he actively ministered to the Jews, Jesus probably spent less time sleeping than most people would think is humanly possible. What Jesus was looking for in the twelve disciples that became his inner circle of confidants and close companions during his three-year ministry was a willingness to leave everything in order to eat, sleep, and breathe with the creator of the universe. There was no middle ground, no half-hearted commitments. It was all or nothing in Jesus’ work of proclaiming the kingdom of heaven.

Satan’s army

Jesus demonstrated his authority over demon spirits by casting them out of the bodies they chose to possess. On one occasion, Jesus took his disciples to an isolated burial ground avoided by most people in order to free a man that was possessed by as many as 2,000 devils. It says in Luke 8:27, “And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.” The demon possessed man’s unusual behavior suggests that he was unable to gain control of his own body. What seems clear from Luke’s account of the incident was that Jesus wasn’t able to speak to the man, but was forced to interact with a devil god named Legion that lived inside the man’s body (Luke 8:30). It says in Luke 8:28, “When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee torment me not.”

Legion’s reaction showed that he not only recognized Jesus, but was also subject to his authority. His plea that Jesus not torment him was most likely a reference to the place he would have to go if he was forced to vacate the man’s body. The Abyss, a place of confinement for evil spirits and for Satan, is described in Revelation 9:1 as “the bottomless pit” which is conceived as the subterranean abode of demonic hordes (note on Revelation 9:1). The Greek word translated devils, daimonion (dahee-mon’-ee-on) is derived from the word daimon which refers to a demon or super natural spirit (1142). The name Legion is a Greek term that refers to a Roman regiment (3003), which typically consists of 1,000 – 2,000 men. Apparently, Legion was the commander of a demonic force similar to an army that overtook the man and turned his body into a camp from which they could operate on earth. Rather than being sent to the Abyss, Legion requested that Jesus allow his regiment of devils to enter into a herd of about 2,000 swine that were feeding on a nearby mountain (Mark 5:13).

The reaction of the people that heard about what happened showed that they didn’t have any interested in following Jesus. It says in Luke 8:35-37, “Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid…Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gaderenes round about besought him to depart from them.” Most likely, the reason the people wanted Jesus to leave after delivering the man from his demon possession was because his action to free the man had a huge financial impact on their economy. As a result of Jesus’ decision to let the devils enter into the swine, “the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters” (Matthew 8:32). Although, what Jesus did dramatically changed a man’s life for the better, the people of the country of the Gaderenes couldn’t seem to reconcile the fact that the cost of his deliverance was the loss of a herd of 2,000 pigs.

The kingdom of heaven

One of the topics that Jesus talked about frequently was the kingdom of heaven. Rather than a place far away, somewhere out in the cosmos, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven exists here on planet earth. In order to create a mental image of the place he was talking about, Jesus told a series of parables that are recorded in Matthew 13:24-52. The first of these parables is referred to as the parable of the tares. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way” (Matthew 13:24-25). According to the footnote on Matthew 13:25, the tares Jesus spoke of in his parable were “probably darnel, which looks very much like wheat while it is young, but can later be distinguished. This parable does not refer to unbelievers in the church. The field is the world (v. 38). Thus the people of the kingdom live side by side with the people of the evil one.”

Jesus’ illustration of the kingdoms of God and Satan existing side by side in the world was most likely a reference to the Jews dispersion throughout the world after Jesus was resurrected. For almost 1900 years, the Jews didn’t have a homeland, but were integrated among other nations and lived without any political structure to sustain them. It wasn’t until after World War II, when their race was almost exterminated, that the Jews were granted access to the land that was once their inheritance from God. In his second parable, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof” (Matthew 13:31-32). Since its reestablishment in 1948, Israel has continued to gain strength as a nation and has attracted worldwide attention because of what appears to be its supernatural preservation in spite of continual military attacks against it.

In his explanation of the parable of the tares, Jesus indicated there would come a time when Satan’s followers would be removed from the world. He told his disciples, “the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burnt in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world” (Matthew 13:38-40). After this explanation, Jesus used three illustrations to convey the extreme value of membership in the kingdom of heaven. He likened his kingdom to treasure hid in a field, one pearl of great price, and a net that was able to gather into it every kind of fish in the sea without breaking (Matthew 13:44-48). In his final remark to his disciples, Jesus emphasized the value both the Old and New Testaments of God’s word (Matthew 13:52). Whereas, some might have thought the history of God’s people was irrelevant, Jesus made it clear that it was important for them to know the whole story about God’s establishment of his kingdom on earth.

Understanding

Jesus’ teaching included some hard sayings that were often misunderstood by those that gathered to hear him speak. After the scribes and Pharisees began to twist his words and take them out of context, Jesus started using stories that were referred to as parables to convey truths about God’s kingdom. Jesus’ parables used comparisons or illustrations from nature and human life to convey messages that might be misconstrued if he were to talk about them openly among unbelievers. On one occasion, when there were so many people gathered by the sea side to listen to him teach that he had to get into a ship to keep from being crushed by the crowd (Matthew 13:1-2), Jesus used the parable of the sower to describe the effects of hearing the word of God. This parable included a key lesson that Jesus later interpreted for his disciples so that they wouldn’t misunderstand the point he was making. Therefore, its meaning was very important and Jesus wanted to make sure they didn’t misinterpret it.

When Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” (Matthew 13:10), it says in Matthew 13:11, “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” The Greek word translated mysteries, musterion (moos-tay’-ree-on) means a secret or mystery (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites)” (3466). What Jesus was implying was that membership in God’s kingdom was required for certain information to be revealed. In other words, unbelievers weren’t on the need to know list, therefore, Jesus didn’t tell them everything about the kingdom of heaven. When he explained the parable to his disciples, the key issue Jesus focused on was the unbeliever’s inability to understand or assimilate the word of God. Jesus said, “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:13).

Understanding of the word of God occurs at a deeper level than information that is processed through our brains. Jesus likened the word of God to seeds because seeds need to be underneath the soil in order for them to germinate. Like farming, Jesus suggested that assimilation of the word of God was a process that took place over time and an important factor that was revealed in his parable was the quality of the soil, or in reality, the condition of a person’s heart. He said, “But he that received the seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. The Greek word Jesus used for understanding, suniemi (soon-ee’-ay-mee) is derived from the word sun (soon) which denotes union; “with or together, i.e. by association, companionship, process, resemblance” (4862). The process of taking in and fully understanding the information and ideas that Jesus taught about the kingdom of God occurred while the disciples were living with him over the course of three years.

Spiritual relationships

Everyone is born into a family. Although their structures can vary greatly, families usually consist of a father and mother, and at least one child. Jesus made his disciples aware of the fact that those who had been born again also had a spiritual family. There may not be much difference between our physical and spiritual family, except that membership is optional, or chosen, in God’s family. While Jesus was teaching a crowd of people, his relatives came and wanted to speak with him. It says in Matthew 12:47-48, “Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who are my mother? and who are my brethren?” It appeared that Jesus’ mother, along with his brothers and sisters, came to listen to him preach and wanted to gain access to the place where he was teaching, but there wasn’t room for them inside. The Greek term that is translated “stand without,” histemi (his’-tay-mee) means “to make to stand” and “to appoint” (2476). Another way of looking at the situation would be to say that Jesus’ mother and siblings had to stand outside because they weren’t important enough to gain access to the building.

Jesus’ reaction to the situation might have looked as if he was indifferent to his family’s request to speak with him, but I believe the point he was trying to make was that his biological family members were no more important to him than those in his spiritual family. It says in Matthew 12:49-50, “And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren. For whoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Jesus was conveying to them that his disciples were of equal importance to him as his own family members, meaning that they were as close to him as anyone could get. This was an important distinction because in the Jewish religion, family relationships were the basis of all spiritual activities. Anyone that was not a member of Abraham’s family was excluded from God’s blessing. The key to understanding Jesus’ distinction between his biological family members and the members of his spiritual family was the statement, “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). What Jesus was saying was that doing God’s will was the deciding factor of who gained access to him.