Posts Tagged ‘Miracle’


Jesus comes down from the mount of transfiguration to discover his disciples are involved in a dispute with the Scribes. A crowd have gathered who are greatly amazed (ἐξεθαμβήθησαν) when they see Him.  Some commentators have suggested that it is because Jesus face is still shining from the transfiguration. However this text makes sense without this interpretation as people were no doubt excited to see a man whom so many have talked about. Jesus ministry is gaining popular approval .

Jesus seeks to find out the cause of the dispute. The focus of the story now switches from that of groups (disciples, scribes, crowds) to the plight of a father whose son has a ‘spirit that makes him mute’.  The father had sought help from the disciples but they were not able to cast out the spirit. The stage has been set, Is Jesus greater than his disciples? Is Jesus able to do what the disciples could not? The desciples lacked strength (οὐκ ἴσχυσαν ), will Jesus?

Jesus does not immediately heal the boy but calls the generation unbelieving ( γενεὰ ἄπιστος ). Mark’s gospel is full of sayings about faith/belief. See 2:5, 4:40, 5:34, 19:52, 11:22-23).  Jesus accuses the generation of being unbelieving.  One is reminded of  Deut 32:5, Numbers 14:11 and Is 65:2 which speaks of the rebellion of God’s own people. Jesus came to heal and restore and bring the kingdom.  He also offered a challenge to those who were living lives of rebellion.

The boy was brought to Jesus and the spirit took over the boy. The presence of Jesus causes evil to raise its head. (Mark 1:23-26, 34, 3:11-12, 5:6-13).  Jesus looks to the father for faith, in contrast to the faithlessness of the generation.  The man is weak in faith, perhaps due to numerous failed visits he had made with exorcists and the inability of the disciples.

True faith is always aware how small and inadequate it is. The father becomes a believer not when he amasses a sufficient quantum of faith but when he risks everything on what little faith he has, when he yields his insufficiency to the true sufficiency of Jesus, “ ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ ” The risk of faith is more costly to the father than bringing his son to Jesus, for he can talk about his son but he must “cry out” (Gk. krazein) for faith.103 True faith takes no confidence in itself, nor does it judge Jesus by the weakness of his followers. It looks to the More Powerful One (1:7) who stands in the place of God, whose authoritative word restores life from chaos. True faith is unconditional openness to God, a decision in the face of all to the contrary that Jesus is able.

Edwards, James R.: The Gospel According to Mark. Grand Rapids, Mich; Leicester, England : Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002 (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), S. 278 

Jesus commands the spirit in the first person (I command you) and it is not in the name of YHWH or one of the prophets.  Jesus has power, he could do what others could not. He has authority.


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Herod had a banquet which led to the death of John the Baptist. Here we find Jesus also leading a banquet for 5,000 people. Herod probably had a banquet to network and boost his own self-esteem. Jesus has the banquet to minister to peoples needs (v4). This miracle has a strong exodus motif. In no particular order and without completeness I offer the following reflections on a exodus motif.

1) Jesus ministry, as already explored in these postings, is to be understood as bringing the return from exile. That is to fulfil the promises of Deutero-Isaiah. The message of return from exile is similar to the exodus as freedom is offered to those who are living as slaves.

2) The disciples (see post on Mark 6:7-13) were to carry items similar to that of the flight from Egypt.

3) YHWH feeds his people with manner. Jesus gives bread

4) Moses arranged the Israelites in groups of 10,100,500,1000. Jesus (and the disciples) arrange the people in a similar fashion.

5) Jesus sees the people as being sheep without the shepherd (v34). This recalls to mind the wilderness wanderings after the Israelites left Egypt.

Numbers 27:17

“Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”

This story also has echoes of 2 Kings 4:32-44 except that Jesus far exceeds the miracles of Elisha.

Although an exodus motif is present in this miracle which would have been received as such by the Jewish community, we need to remember that prior to the exodus motif the parable speaks of the power and authority of Jesus to do the seemingly impossible. Jesus has power over nature.

So this narrative has echoes, for those hearers/readers who are equipped to recognise them, both of past miracles and of the future Eucharistic feast. Mark clearly so intended it. But the patent symbolism should not lead us to miss what is surely the primary purpose in Mark’s inclusion of this story, the sheer wonder of an ‘impossible’ act, and the testimony which this provides in answer to the growing Christological question of this part of the gospel, ‘Who is Jesus?’ He is not merely the healer of afflicted individuals or the rescuer of endangered disciples; he is one who is not bound by the rules of normal experience of what is possible and impossibleFrance, R. T.: The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle : W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002, S. 263

  • Application: This miracle also contains eucharistic language. the early church and the gospel writers no doubt saw a link between Jesus’ miracles and their own eucharistic practise. When the eucharistic feast is celebrated today do we look at it from a ‘new exodus motif” or through the eyes of the passover. If we do then we are encouraging our congregations to see that they are on a journey. They are no longer slaves but are awaiting the fullness of the kingdom. The escape from egypt was not simply about ‘getting your soul saved’ but was an event which can only be understoof holistically. Yes it had to do with worship  but it also had implciations for the community, for the family, for careers, for education. Likewise the ‘kingdom of God’ which came in part in the ministry and work of Jesus is to be understood holistically.
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    Mark 4:35-41 (ESV)
    35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”



    Mark has arranged the Jesus’ tradition in blocks. We have seen how he has put together a number of conflict stories (Chapters 2+3) together with a number of parables (4:1-34). We now find Mark putting together a number of miracle stories. ((4:35-5:43)


    In this story Jesus’ disciples take him onto a boat. In 1986 a 1st century fishing boat was discovered on an archeological dig. The depth of the boat is 1.25 metres. These boats which presumably is the same type as that which Jesus and the desciples used is particularly vulnerable to high waves flooding it.



    Jesus falls asleep in the boat as a wind storm strikes. We do not know whether Jesus was asleep due to exhaustion or due to a firm trust in the father’s omnipotence. 


    The disciples awoke Jesus out of fear of their safety, although we see that after the miracle the disciples are fearful at the power which Jesus exhibits.(v41)


    The commentaries of France and Guillech draw out the parallels/contrasts between Jonah and Jesus.


    A Great Windstorm (λαῖλαψ μεγάλη ἀνέμου ) Mark 4:37( and Jonah 1:4 and LXX Jeremiah 32:32 λαῖλαψ μεγάλη . Also of note is story which comes from the 12 patriarchs which, influenced by the Jonah story, was probably written in 1st century BC.  It is the story of Jacob’ ship which is symbolic of Israel.


    61 And again, after seven days, I saw our father Jacob standing by the sea of Jamnia, and we were with him. 2 And behold, there came a ship sailing by, without sailors or pilot; and there was written upon the ship, The Ship of Jacob. 3 And our father said to us: Come, let us embark on our ship. 4 And when he had gone on board, there arose a vehement storm, and a mighty tempest of wind; and our father, who was holding the helm, departed from us. 5 And we, being tost with the tempest, were borne along over the sea; and the ship was filled with water, (and was) pounded by mighty waves, until it was broken up. 6 And Joseph fled away upon a little boat, and we were all divided upon nine Planks, and Levi and Judah were together. 7 And we were all scattered unto the ends of the earth. 8 Then Levi, girt about with sackcloth, prayed for us all unto the Lord. 9 And when the storm ceased, the ship reached the land as it were in peace. And, lo, our father came, and we all rejoiced with one accord.

    ( indicates that the word or words so enclosed or printed are supplied for the sake of clearness.

    The use of these brackets means that the words so enclosed are omitted by A.

    Charles, Robert Henry (Hrsg.): Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004, S. 2:338



    It may be that these stories influenced the way this miracle has been portrayed by Mark. Jonah fell asleep in a storm when he was fleeing God’s mission. In contrast Jesus sleeps as somehow who is doing God’s will. Jonah prays to God, wheras Jesus addresses the wind and waves.

    It is difficult to know to what extent, if any, the disciples’ cry has been altered. The captain’s rebuke of Jonah was followed by a request that he pray to his God for help (Jonah 1:6). The disciples’ rebuke may too have at least implied a “Do something!” in an earlier form of the story. Perhaps they simply wanted him to share in their concern or help them by prayer in keeping with the Jonah story and similar rescue stories in Judaism (Str-B, 1:489–90). In any case, the resulting awe and question in 4:41 do indicate that Jesus acted contrary to their expectations. And as the story now stands, the disciples’ cry sets the stage for Jesus’ rebuke of their fear and lack of faith in 4:40. Their cry, therefore, does not come as a request but as an expression of despair and anger aimed at their “Master” (διδάσκαλε) who apparently cared little about them. Jesus’ rebuke in 4:40 now sets the tone of the disciples’ cry in 4:38.

    Str-B H. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, 4 vols. (Munich: Beck’sche, 1926–28)

    Guelich, Robert A.: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 34A), S. 266


     Who indeed is this that the wind and sea obey him?” The answer has two dimensions. First, the parallel with Jonah shows him to be greater than Jonah (cf. Matt 12:41; Luke 11:32). Instead of praying to God, he personally addressed the wind and the sea

    Guelich, Robert A.: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 34A), S. 267



    Jesus has power. He is a greater sign than the sign of Jonah. Jesus is not only a great teacher but he has great power.


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