I ended Part I of this series of posts by introducing one of the three main areas where in Mark’s Gospel bystanders–the Twelve, other disciples, the crowd, etc.–were affected in an extreme way by Jesus Christ. I touched briefly on the first one, namely his works. We looked at Mk 1:27 and 2:12 where we saw that his authoritative power over the unclean spirit and the paralyzed man, not to mention his ability to forgive sins, left the onlookers amazed and glorifying God. Now I’d like to show a few more examples from Jesus’ works where his deeds effected an awestruck reaction from those watching.
A familiar miracle of Christ is the one where he exorcised the Legion out of the man who lived among the tombs in the country of the Gerasenes. Once again, the demon testified to Jesus as the “Son of the Most High God” (cf. Mk 1:24) and pleaded with Christ not to torment him. This response from a servant of Satan and fallen angel is amazing enough to provide plenty of reason for one’s jaw to drop to the ground. However, Jesus proceeded to cast out the demons from the man and into the nearby pigs, ridding a herdsman of his livestock. The once demon-possessed man desired to stay and follow Christ, but Jesus commanded him to “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you (5:19).” Then Mark writes, “And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled (5:20).” The people were filled with wonder. They recognized just exactly how amazing it was that this infamous man had been rid of his demonic-possession/oppression. But we must not overlook the fact that this man was obedient to Christ’s command in 5:19, since in 5:20 it is Jesus to whom he gives the credit for his deliverance. So, we would be missing the point if we only marveled at the fact that this man was healed from such terror without marveling that it was Jesus, the Son of the Most High God, who had both the authority and the power to cause such a thing to happen. We must be careful not to be more amazed at the miracle than the miracle-maker. From the Legion to the demon-possessed man to the people in the Decapolis who marveled, Mark places Jesus at the center of his entire account of this event. The deeds done by the person of Christ are the reason for the marveling.
With reference to my title for this series, we’ve covered both “amazed” and “marveled”, so now let’s glance at a passage where the people were “astonished”. Once again in the region of the Decapolis, the people bring a deaf and mute man to Jesus for healing. Interestingly, Jesus heals him in private and then urges him to tell no one. Yet those who knew of the miracle could not keep silent. Mark says that “the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it (7:36b).” And then in 7:37, Mark recounts, “And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.'” If we look closely again at this passage, it is clear as to what the object is of the people’s astonishment. It is Jesus. This is manifested in their very own testimony as recorded in 7:37. It is the work of Jesus Christ, who does all things well, that causes them to stand amazed and astounded in his presence. And his mightiness is evidenced in his deeds as the Incarnate Son of God, who’s divine identity is revealed in the works which he does according to the will of the Father.
Other instances in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus’ actions evoked a dramatic response can be found for example in the healing of the Jairus’ daughter: “And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement (5:42)”; or in the disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ walking on the water in Mk 6:51: “And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded.”
When we read in Scripture and see our Lord do the remarkable, do we marvel? Can you say that you are “overcome with amazement” when you observe the Savior-Servant tell a dead twelve year old girl to arise from her sleep, and she does! Are we left utterly astounded as we envision Jesus walking across the water and then entering the boat with the disciples, and at once the wind ceases from its raging? Oh how we must recover a true, real sense of awe and reverence before the Living God (Heb 12:28-29). Though we may not claim to be, there is a good possiblity that many of us have a tendency to be practicing naturalists. Francis Schaeffer pleaded frantically in many of his works for Christians to guard themselves against this bent. We are not surprised by the supernatural. In fact, deep down, we may have become so accoustomed to the Gospels, that they in some ways have become more story than actual history to us. Because we see so little of the supernatural today in our setting, when we read about it in the Scriptures, we perhaps treat it more so as mythical than a reality; and we do so to our peril and in betrayal of God’s Word. Better yet, this is so much more important than simply for fighting against the fact that you may be desensitized to the miraculous. I’ve tried to make it clear that this is about your wonder towards the person of Christ, not just his works. He is the one who does all things well. Those in his hometown, under the sound of his preaching “were astonished, saying ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands (6:2)?'”
I hope that this brief look at Jesus’ works and the breathtaking reactions in response has helped you in some way rediscover the uniqueness and the majesty of Jesus as the Word made flesh. I pray that you will be left changed and transformed as you see him in his glory in the Scriptures. Be on the lookout for Part III where I will introduce a second area where Jesus elicits similar responses from those on the outside looking in.
(P.S. This past Sunday, my pastor, Tim Presson, touched on some of these same ideas and attitudes as he preached on the virgin birth from Matthew 1:18-25. Click here to listen to the sermon.)