Miracles in Mark

Quick revise

After studying this section you should:

  • know the different types of miracle performed by Jesus
  • understand the purpose of the miracle accounts
  • know the connection between faith and prayer and miracles
  • know the key events of the miracles in Mark’s Gospel
Meaning of Miracles

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus performs many different types of miracle to demonstrate the nature of Jesus.

  • Jesus performs miracles to show that he has God’s power over nature and physical and mental illness.
  • He also shows that it is necessary to have faith in order for a miracle to
    happen.
  • The occurrence of miracles does not lead to faith.It does not matter whether Christians believe the miracles really happened in a supernatural sense.

A miracle is simply an event that is not explicable in a normal way.

  • Today, some scientists say there is a logical explanation for every miracle, but most believers do not search for a reason.
  • The miracle accounts, and what Jesus teaches about faith, are part of the Gospel writer’s Good News. They tell the reader about the person Jesus.

Miracles can be thought of in three dimensions:

  • Terras is the awe and wonder, the amazement, with which onlookers regarded miracles.
  • Dynamis is the power that was displayed.
  • Semeion is the meaning, which may be apparent to the healed and those witnessing the event.
Nature Miracles

Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4:35–41)

When Jesus calms the storm he says to his frightened disciples, ‘Have you no faith?’ Then they ask one another who he can be; they are with awe (terras) at the power (dynamis) of Jesus and they wonder what it can mean (semeion).

That day, in the evening, he said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side of the lake’. So they left the crowd and took him with them in the boat where he had been sitting; and there were other boats accompanying him. A heavy squall came on and the waves broke over the boat until it was all but swamped. Now he was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.

They roused him and said, ‘Master we are sinking! Do you not care?’ He awoke, rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush be still!’ The wind dropped and there was dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you such cowards? Have you no faith even now?’ They were awestruck and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’

Jesus feeds five thousand (Mark 6:30–44)

When Jesus has a large crowd to feed, he gathers five loaves and two fish.He looks up to heaven and gives thanks to God. Then he breaks the bread. When the disciples distribute it to the crowd, there is enough for all of them with twelve baskets of leftovers. Jesus is always recognised by Christians in the breaking of bread. He is the source of all life for them.

Jesus walks on water (Mark 6:45–52)

Jesus comes to the disciples in their boat by walking on the water and they are terrified, thinking he is a ghost. He calms them, but they are amazed because, despite the feeding of the five thousand, they still do not understand his power.

The water is symbolic of chaos, evil and darkness. Jesus shows his power over these things. Water is also a symbol of new life and is constantly referred to in the Bible. Walking on water shows power, like the power God demonstrates in the parting of the Red Sea. (Exod. 14).

In Mark 8:1–9, Jesus again feeds a large crowd; this time there are four thousand people. Jesususes the same method but only seven loaves. Again there are seven baskets of leftovers.

Miracles of healing – mental illness

Jesus is seen to heal many people who are possessed by evil spirits. They seem to have symptoms that might today be regarded as those of mental illness.

A man with an evil spirit (Mark 1:21–28)

  • Jesus is preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath when a man with an evil spirit says to him, ‘What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth? Are you here to destroy us? I know who you are, you are God’s holy messenger!’
  • Jesus replies, ‘Be quiet and come out of that man.’
  • The evil spirit shook the man hard, gave a loud scream and came out of him.
  • The people in the synagogue were amazed and questioned Jesus’ authority.

A man with evil spirits (The Gerasene Demoniac) (Mark 5:1–20)

  • This man lived in the territory of Gerasa and was possessed by so many evil spirits that his feet and hands had been chained. He smashed the chains and roamed the hills, screaming and cutting himself with stones.
  • When he sees Jesus he calls him the Son of the most high God and begs him not to punish him. Jesus is quietly ordering the evil out of the man.
  • Jesus asks, ‘What is your name?’ and the man replies, ‘Mob, there are so many of us.’
  • Jesus sends the spirits from Mob into the pigs feeding nearby and they all rush over the cliff into the lake and drown.
  • After this, Mob is sensible and quiet. He wants to go with Jesus but Jesus orders him to go through the ten towns telling people what Jesus has done for him.

The Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter (Mark 7:24–30)

  • This woman came to Jesus and told him her daughter had an evil spirit. She begged Jesus to drive out the demon and Jesus said, ‘Let us first feed the children.’
  • The woman, who was a Gentile, agreed saying that even the dogs could eat the scraps later. Jesus told her that because of her answer she would find her daughter cured when she returned home, as indeed she did.
  • It is important in Mark that Jesus heals all people, including Gentiles, and the Jewish term for dog was used for Gentiles. The woman had absolute faith that Jesus would heal her daughter and did not rush him.

The boy with the evil spirit (Mark 9:14–29)

This is an important story, illustrating the importance of faith in the working of miracles.

  • A boy has fits and the disciples cannot cure him. (These fits are described as similar to epilepsy.)
  • Jesus chastises the disciples for their lack of faith and asks for the boy to be brought to him.
  • The ‘spirit’ throws the boy on the floor and Jesus tells the boy’s father that his son can be healed if only the father has faith.
  • The father says he has faith, but begs for more. ‘I have faith,’ cried the boy’s father, ‘Help me where faith falls short.’
  • Jesus then heals the boy, and, in reply to the disciples’ questions, says that only prayer can drive out demons of this sort.

It is important to search for faith and to pray for faith, rather than to pray for miracles.

Miracles of healing – physical illness

Jesus heals many people (Simon’s mother-in-law) (Mark 1:29–34). Jesus very quietly heals Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever and then goes on to heal many who are brought to him when the Sabbath is ended.

Jesus heals a man with a dreaded skin disease (Mark 1:40–45)

  • A man approaches Jesus and says, ‘If you want to, you can make me clean.’ Jesus says he wants to, and cures the man, saying, ‘Be clean.’ He tells the man to keep the healing a secret but the man tells many people, thus increasing Jesus’ fame and notoriety. This miracle shows the faith of the man and Jesus emerging as a public figure.

Jesus heals a paralysed man (Mark 2:1–12)

  • Jesus is surrounded in a house and some men bring their friend to be cured.
  • When they cannot reach Jesus they lower the man through the roof on his mat.
  • Jesus tells the man his sins are forgiven and some in the crowd are astonished, saying, ‘It is blasphemy as only God can forgive sins.’
  • Jesus asks which is easier, to forgive sins or cure the man.
  • Then he tells the man to pick up his mat and walk. The man does so.
  • Jesus says, ‘I will prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ Jesus calls himself the Son of Man and shows He has God’s power not only to heal but to forgive as well.

The man with the paralysed hand (Mark 3:1–6)

  • A man with a paralysed hand is in the synagogue on the Sabbath and Jesus calls him up and asks, ‘What does our law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save a man’s life or to destroy it?’
  • Jesus heals the man and we are told that some Herodians met with some Pharisees to plot to kill Jesus.
  • It is an important part of Jesus’ developing ministry that he challenges the Pharasaical application of the Sabbath laws. When he makes this challenge by performing spectacular miracles it is very threatening to the authorities.

Jesus heals the haemorrhagic (Mark 5:25–34)

  • A woman touches Jesus’ cloak because she believes in doing so she can be cured of the bleeding which has afflicted her for years. She is healed and Jesus feels the power leave him.
  • He asks who touched him, and when the woman comes forward he tells her that her faith has cured her.
  • Mark shows that people do not need to ask for healing – they only need faith.

Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21–42)

  • Jairus begs Jesus to heal his daughter by laying his hands on her but then a messenger comes to say the girl is dead.
  • Jesus goes with Peter, James and John to Jairus’ house saying, ‘Don’t be afraid; only believe.’
  • When he arrives he asks why everyone is weeping and wailing.
  • He says the child is not dead, only sleeping.
  • He takes the child’s parents and his own companions in with him.
  • He goes to her and, taking her hand, tells her to ‘get up little girl’ (‘Talitha Koum’).
  • She gets up and walks around.
  • Everyone is beside themselves with amazement.
  • He then says she should be given something to eat.
  • He gives strict orders that no one should be told what has happened. Mark quotes the original Aramaic ‘Talitha Koum’, which Jesus might have used, to make the episode authentic to his readers.

Jesus heals a deaf mute (Mark 7:31–37)

  • A deaf mute is brought to Jesus by his friends and Jesus heals him in a very physical way.
  • Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears, spits and touches the man’s tongue, saying, ‘Ephphatha’ (open up).
  • Jesus does this away from the crowd and the man is cured.
  • When the crowd sees what Jesus has done they are filled with wonder. Candidates need to learn the sequence of events in this miracle as they occur exactly.

The blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22–25)

  • A blind man is also presented to Jesus by his friends.
  • Jesus leads the man from the village, spits on his eyes and also touches his eyes until he can see clearly.
  • The man is asked not to return to the village.

It is not clear why Jesus orders secrecy. It is possible he does not want to draw too much attention to himself yet or appear too threatening. Performing miracles is not his major task; it is part of his ministry to the sick.