Posts

Mark X: The Fear of the Lord - Mark 4:35-5:20

Does Jesus make you afraid? We talk about loving Jesus, knowing Jesus, or being amazed by Jesus, but do you fear Jesus? You ought to!

We are still in the first section of Mark’s gospel, where the main question that Mark seeks to answer shows up in 4:41: “Who is this?” And what Jesus does in these two stories from Mark 4:35-5:20 moves us closer to an answer, but it’s not a safe or comfortable answer.

What ties these accounts together is the response that Jesus gets. The structure of both stories is similar, and you can see it clearly when Jesus calms the storm: first, there is a great storm (4:37), then a great calm (4:39), then a great fear (4:41). Then, when Jesus encounters the man among the tombs, he has a great storm of demons inside him. By the power of His Word, Jesus brings this man to a place of great calm, but the townspeople are so filled with great fear that they ask Jesus to leave.

Jesus makes people afraid. They’re terrified because they’ve encountered unexpected power that they don’t understand and that they cannot control. But since human beings can’t live in a state of fear, they need to respond to it. Either that fear will resolve into worship and awe, which is what happens to the disciples, or it will resolve into some sort of self-protection, putting distance between you and what you fear. That’s what the Gerasenes do by asking Jesus to leave.

And that’s the decision you need to make when you encounter Jesus, as well. You might start out by being interested in Jesus, but soon you will come to the place where you are afraid of Him, and when that happens, what will you do with your fear?

The disciples made the right choice by turning their fear into awe. The reason they move from fear to awe is that Jesus quieted the storm and saved them. When they see the results of fearful power, that Jesus uses His power for their good, the nature of their fear changes.

In the second account, after the destruction of a very valuable herd of pigs, the townspeople are afraid of what welcoming Jesus will cost them, and so they send him away, except for the man who has been delivered from the evil spirits. He doesn’t want Jesus to go away; He wants nothing more than to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth!

When people recognize that Jesus’ terrifying power is actually saving power, then their fear becomes worshipful fear, and not the fear of someone who thinks he’s in danger of harm or loss. And that transition happens through faith. Faith is what recognizes that even though Jesus isn’t safe, as CS Lewis put it, He’s good. Out of His goodness, Jesus uses His fearsome power to deliver you from the storm, and to set you free from evil spirits. When by faith you see that supernatural power is saving power, then fear turns into worship.

So why didn’t the townspeople respond that way? At first, you might want to say that they didn’t need to be saved. They weren’t caught in a storm, and they weren’t possessed by evil spirits. Jesus wasn’t a savior to them; He was a troublemaker. But really, they were in denial: if you thought the demon problem was bad in Galilee, just wait until you meet Legion! That’s their storm: the Gentiles are cultivating uncleanness and being overrun by demons, and they think that they’re doing just fine!

But a miracle of mercy happened: Jesus came, delivered this wretched man, cast the evil spirits into the unclean pigs, and drowns the whole lot of them in the sea! Evil spirits? Gone! Uncleanness? Washed away!

So how about you? Are your sins legion? Have you tried to bind your sins with chains, but find that sin keeps breaking loose? I have good news for you: Jesus has come to bind the strong man, to set the captives free, and to destroy the works of the devil! No matter what you’ve done, no matter what condition you are in, Jesus has the power to heal you, to deliver you, to forgive you, to save you!

If you think that you’ve actually got things managed, if you’ve made peace with your uncleanness and found someone more evil than you to cast all your blame onto – “At least I’m not as bad as him!”, then Jesus will seem more like a trouble-maker than a savior, and you’ll beg Him to leave you alone.

But if you recognize that you’re full of sin and going to drown, then look to the power of Jesus in the fear of the Lord. He will speak the Word and quiet that great storm and replace it with a great calm, using His power to deliver you from the evil that lives inside you. He will take away your uncleanness and cast it into the depths of the sea! Jesus’ supernatural power is saving power, and He wants to save you.

Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 by CJ Bowen