Lectionary Year B
June 22, 2003
Mark 4:35-41

Step III: Composition


Pre: 4:1-34
Four parables precede this Sunday's pericope:
1. The parable of the Sower.
2. The parable of the Lamp under a bushel basket.
3. The parable of the growing seed.
4. The parable of the mustard seed.
[Note: three out of four have to do with the natural growth of things that is related to the kingdom of God.] Furthermore, Jesus explains the purpose of the parables to his disciples, to whom has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God (v. 11) - and yet, they do not seem to understand (v. 40). According to v. 33, Jesus seems to speak in parables to them "as they were able to hear [the word]." Does he adjust exactly to what they can understand, or does he possibly not tell them more than they need to know?

Post: 5:1-20
On the other side, Jesus meets a man with an unclean spirit. Like the sea and the wind, no human being is able to restrain this maniac (v. 3-4) and subdue him, to calm him down (v. 4). When the maniac sees Jesus, he recognizes Him right away. "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" Apparently, the demon is afraid because it/he knows that Jesus has the power and authority to tame it/him (v. 7-8); thus, begging for mercy. Then, Jesus casts out the demon "legion" into the swine. The swine drown, but the human being who was possessed by the demon is made healthy and whole (v. 15). And just as the disciples who had witnessed Jesus' calming of the storm (v. 41), the bystanders of the demon exorcism are afraid (v. 15). Are they afraid of what they had seen, of Jesus, of the power that he obviously possessed, of the notion that the ancient prophecies might have been fulfilled in him?


Tis ara houtos estin (v. 41)? Who, then, is this man? This key question of Mk 4:35-41 points backward and forward in this Gospel at the same time. Backward, because Jesus was already clearly identified in Mk 1:9-11. There, he stepped into the waters of Jordan to be baptized by John and "just as he was coming out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

But this voice who identified Jesus as "My Beloved" seems to have been addressed to Jesus alone. Why else does this questions surface again and again in Mark's Gospel? Who is this man (Mk 4:41)? Well, he is the Beloved, don't you know? No, the disciples do not seem to know. And this very same question points forward in Mark's Gospel, as Jesus Himself asks this question in Mk 8:27 and 29: "Who do people say that I am? ... But who do you say that I am?" Peter answers: "You are the Messiah (v. 29)." And finally, after Jesus died on the cross, having breathed his last, the centurion overseeing the crucifixion testifies: "Truly this man was God's Son (15:39)."

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