The Perfect Servant in Mark’s Gospel: His Activity

The attitudes of people to the Worker and to the Word have been considered (3:20-4:34). The Lord Jesus was often misrepresented, and His teaching was often rejected. In our next section (4:35-5:43), people’s attitudes to the Works of the Perfect Servant are prominent. The power of God in the ministry of the Lord Jesus is on display, and the proper and improper reactions to that power are revealed.

Appreciating the Works (4:35-5:43)

Mark records four miracles in succession, and each of them demonstrates the unique ability of Jesus. First there is a storm in which seasoned sailors believe they are about to perish (3:35-41), and then there is a sinner whom society can neither bind nor tame (4:1-20). This is followed by a sickness which no doctor can cure (5:25-33) and a separation without a hope of reunion in this life (5:21-24,35-43). The point to note here is that each case confronting the Lord is a crisis with no natural solution. These are impossible cases.

How should people react in such circumstances? The options given are fear and faith. In the storm, when the disciples panic, the Lord asks, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (4:40).[1] When the news arrives that Jairus’ daughter is dead, the Lord says, “Be not afraid, only believe” (5:36). Fear and faith are in conflict. To be fearful demonstrates a lack of faith; to believe is to drive away fear.

Faith (confidence in Christ) is the proper response to crises. Trusting the Lord is not blind faith but a response to the abundant evidence provided of His power and pity. Faith is not an irrational leap but a logical response to Christ’s attitude and ability. Consider the Lord’s:

Sovereignty over the Storm (4:35-41)

Jesus instructed His disciples to “pass over unto the other side,” and in obedience to His word they set sail with Him onboard. Soon the increasingly fearful sailors were battling to keep afloat a boat tossed by waves, blown by wind and full of water. Meanwhile, to the infuriation of the terrified disciples, the Lord slept. While the ship appeared to be sinking, the One who ordered the journey was sleeping. They waken Him with an accusation: “Teacher, are we to drown for all you care?” (Moffatt).

Sleep was gone and sovereign authority was on display. Jesus “arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (v39). There is a suggestion in the wording of the text that the Lord recognised the storm as the product of demonic activity. A cosmic battle was raging, but He who was perfectly calm in the storm possessed perfect control over it. The great storm gave way to a great calm, for “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still” (Psa 107:29).

The disciples had obeyed Jesus’ command to cross the sea, and they were learning, contrary to all appearances, that no circumstance arises in service over which the Lord is not in complete control. Not only so, but the One in control is the One who cares. So the Lord issues His challenge: “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (4:40). Confidence in the Sovereign brings courage in the storm.

The disciples, awestruck, whisper one to another, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (v41). This man is none less than God in control. As Robin Mark put it:

All my changes come from Him
— He who never changes
I’m held firm in the grasp
of the Rock of all the ages
All is well with my soul He is God in control
I know not all his plans
But I know I’m in his hands.

We can have confidence in Christ as we face storms of opposition in our service. He who directed His disciples also protected them. No trial, no matter how fierce, is out of His control. The next narrative tells of the:

Salvation of the Sinner (5:1-20)

Jesus and His disciples came off the boat, and “immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit” (v2). Now, while this may have been a surprise to the disciples, it was no surprise to the Lord. In fact, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that this man was the reason for the Lord’s journey with His disciples across the lake. He had come to seek and save the lost.

The hopelessness of this case is emphasised by the evidences of Satan’s power. The man was demon-possessed, obsessed by death and corruption, fierce, and self-destructive. His life was a restless downward spiral of despair, pain and confusion. To society, he was a lost cause, a man who could neither be bound nor tamed.

However, by the end of the story he is “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (v15). This impossible case met the Specialist in impossible cases. The power of the Saviour brought Satan’s defeat and the sinner’s deliverance.

How did people respond? They “were afraid … and began to pray him to depart out of their coasts” (vv15,17). Divine power on display did not result in trust but in terror. They were afraid of the implications, terrified of what they could not understand, and fearful of One who could change lives so dramatically and drastically.

The story concludes with further evidence of the Lord’s transforming power. The delivered demoniac is declaring among his friends and in his hometown “how great things Jesus had done for him” (v20).

For all servants, there is tremendous encouragement here: there are no impossible cases with Christ. Some of us have almost despaired of individuals whose lives mirror, at least to some degree, the life of Legion. We have been tempted to fear that this case is impossible. However, to the Lord no case is impossible. Let us take heart from this and renew our efforts to reach such “hopeless” people.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.