The New Creation begins with Jesus.
The next section of Mark, 4:35-5:43 includes three or four miracles stories. (NICNT counts the first two as a single exorcism story, making the total count three.) These four stories are all related in that they deal with the realm of the unclean and the dead. Together they picture Jesus’ power over impurity, disease, and demons.
Calming of the Storm and Sea
The first story of this session’s passage is about the calming of a storm on the sea. The context is that the sea and storm represent the forces of chaos attempting to overtake and destroy Jesus and his family, his disciples. The demons are responsible and present in the winds of the storm. In response Jesus rebukes the wind. The language Mark uses represents that of an exorcism. The result is that a “great calm” settles on the sea.
In ancient mythology, only deities had the kind of command over nature that was displayed in this story. The disciples see and experience this, and their response is fear. They are starting to realize that Jesus is the Creator of the Genesis 1 account. Through his command over nature, Jesus demonstrates that all creation is under his command. All the damage sin has caused to the world, Jesus demonstrates that he has power to recreate. Jesus foreshadows the full realization and recreation of his future kingdom.
This story also bears some similarities and also striking differences with the Jonah account. What is important for Mark’s audience are the differences. In Jonah, God is outside the human trial, and not only that, he is portrayed as the one sending the storm to punish Jonah for his disobedience. In Mark’s storm account, God (in Jesus) is present with his people in the storm and it is not God, but demons, that are shown to be the cause of the storm. I see Mark correcting misunderstandings about God through this account.
The Demoniac and the Pigs
In this account we are given a picture of what evil and demons seek to do to people. With the demoniac, they have almost succeeded. From all appearances, he is no longer a human being. He cannot speak for himself and all his actions are self-harm.
Where all other people fear this man, Jesus has no fear of him. Jesus sees the kernel of humanity that is still present, and the potential that is still there. He removes the demons from oppressing the man.
The demons are allowed to complete their work of destruction through the herd of pigs. I believe Jesus allowed this to occur because his disciples and the former demoniac needed to see that the demons returned to their source, their abode – the sea – and perished, no longer able to wield their power over them.
The townsfolk were understandably upset and afraid. They too, like the disciples, probably recognized divinity in Jesus. In their legends and myths, the presence of a deity on earth is never a good thing, and it is understandable that they wanted Jesus to leave.
Jesus does not insist on staying but commissions the former demoniac as his first apostle to the Gentiles. He has no doctrine or creed to teach, but simply a testimony of God’s mercy. This is the heart of evangelism. This is the seed of the gospel that, when planted, will bear fruit.
This is Mark’s retelling of the second creation account of Genesis 2. The demoniac is recreated and given back his dignity of a human being. He is commissioned and given a task by God to sow seeds (to garden?) of the gospel in the lands given to him to steward. Jesus demonstrates his power to recreate humans beings in God’s image. Nothing unclean or evil can stand before him.
Again I see some parallels with the Jonah account. They are not exact parallels, but both Jonah and Jesus go to minister to Gentiles in non-Hebrew lands. Both are stories of God’s mercy. I see Mark using the second part of Jonah’s story to emphasize that Jesus’ actions follow historical precedent.
Illustrations of Jesus’ Teachings
Through these stories of Jesus’ power, Mark illustrates the “seed parables” of chapter 4. The gospel’s power is found not in the words of teaching, but in the testimonies of God’s mercy shown to his people.