Gospel of Mark: Chapter 5

The Gospel of Mark:

Commentary on Chapter 5

  • v. 1 – That is, the Sea of Galilee.
  • v. 2 – This area would have been Gentile and it is likely that this man was a Gentile. This is the first occurrence of ministry by Jesus to a Gentile in the Gospel of Mark.
    • An “unclean spirit” is a spiritual being in opposition to God.[1]
  • v. 9 – Legion was the name for a Roman military unit consisting of 5,000-6,000 men.
  • v. 11 – The presence of pigs, which were unclean animals to the Jews, supports the idea that this is occurring in Gentile country.
  • v. 13 – We do not know why Jesus allowed the unclean spirits to kill the pigs, to our modern sensibilities this is difficult to understand.[2] It is important that we not get caught up in the details while missing the point being communicated (about Jesus’ power and love).
    • William Barclay suggests that the man himself needed to see some visible sign that the demons had left him, that he was unable to believe they had left simply at Jesus’ word and so Jesus ordered the demons into the pigs.
  • v. 17 – Responses to Jesus’ mighty power are varied, even the disciples sometimes felt fear when Jesus perform miracles. The difference lies in how individuals responded to this fear – drawing closer or running away from Jesus.
  • vv. 18-20 – This man wanted to be Jesus’ disciple, but Jesus did not allow it, instead he encouraged the man to return to his home towns (Gentile country) and share the good news.
    • The Decapolis was ten cities that were mostly of Gentile population that had banded together for common defense.
    • Note that Jesus does not attempt to keep his identity secret here, this may be because it was a Gentile region and the danger of people misunderstanding him as a conquering messiah was less.
  • v. 22 – The synagogue is in many ways analogous to the church today. The temple in Jerusalem was the focus of Jewish worship, but it could not be traveled to with regularity so there were many synagogues in which religious services could occur on a more regular basis.
  • v. 25 – This discharge of blood would have been a difficult physical malady but also made her ritually unclean – preventing her from worshiping and even interacting with others in many ways.
  • v. 33 – Contrast the response of this woman with those from the region of the Gerasenes in the immediately preceding passage.
  • v. 37 – Peter, James, and John become Jesus’ inner circle.
  • v. 38 – Oftentimes professional mourners were hired to assist in creating a commotion. For the Jewish people of this time the mourning over death was a prolonged process.
  • v. 39 – Ironically, the term “sleeping” is oftentimes a euphemism for “death” in Scripture.[3]
  • v. 41 – The phrase “Talitha cumi” is Aramaic, which Jesus would have spoken during his lifetime, but Mark is written in Greek. Mark here gives both the original Aramaic and a translation into Greek.[4]
  • v. 43 – Again, Jesus perpetuates the “secret of the Kingdom.”

Author: David Mackey

Revision: 4/21/13.


[1] Christianity is not dualism – which believes that there are equally powerful forces of good and evil eternally fighting one another. The evil forces arrayed against God are minuscule in comparison to Him and only continue their opposition for as long as He allows. Why He allows them to continue for even this long of a period is a mystery not entirely revealed to us.

[2] Yet most of us eat meat and know that death is a natural portion of all living creatures on earth. We may also find solace in the knowledge that God cares for the animals, see Luke 12:6, Psalm 50:10, Proverbs 12:10.

[3] See for example Matt 27:52 and Acts 7:60.

[4] Why mention the original phrasing at all? Some suggest that Mark is reflecting how Peter spoke during his sermons. Peter was present during this occurrence and may have recalled the exact original words in the original language as Jesus spoke them.