Ever since I first preached it a couple of years ago, I’ve kept returning to this story in Mark 5. It shows so much of Christ’s unmanageable but life-giving power – a cruciform power that works in and through suffering, delays, frustrations and even death.
We tend to think of “sovereignty” in abstract impersonal terms. Here is a story of the towering authority of Christ working in and through the mess and darkness.
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In your imagination, picture olives being crushed and pressed together and the oil seeping out at the bottom.
That’s a picture of Jesus that Mark hints at again and again. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is in almost constant danger of being crushed.
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crushing him [that’s literally the word – ‘crushing Him’]. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.
That’s why in Mark 4:1 Jesus has to get in a boat to teach people, otherwise they’d smother Him. When he decides in v35 to go over to the other side of the lake, v36 says ‘they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.’ He couldn’t even risk stepping ashore, so they whisk Him off away from the crowds. Of course in this crossing, Jesus calms the storm (end of chapter 4), lands on the other side (chapter 5). Then, do we remember from last week, He meets Legion, exorcizes an army of demons and sends the delivered man back to his people as a missionary. That probably only took Him an our or two. So now, with that job done, He returns. So, v21, He’s back after His flying visit. And the crowds are there again. Mark says: ‘A large crowd gathered around Him.’
Mark really wants us to get a feel for this crushing crowd. And so Mark 5:24 says it again:
A large crowd followed and pressed around Him.
The disciples use the same word in verse 31:
You see the people pressing against you [literally]
This is a mini theme of Mark’s Gospel. The whole world flocks to Jesus in their need. And in the midst of that crush – healing, forgiveness, restoration, salvation, peace and new life flow out.
The woman in this story presses in – she’s part of this crush – but what she finds is that, in the crush, power comes out of Jesus and she is healed, freed, granted peace.
Now at the end of Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus praying in a garden called Gethsemane. Gethsemane mean oil press. It’s where the olives from the Mount of Olives were crushed. That’s where Jesus was oppressed like you and I would never understand, that’s where He contemplates the cross and He undertakes to die under the weight of a world’s need. And because Jesus was crushed the oil of His Spirit flows out for the salvation of the world. In that ultimate crush, that ultimate power was released for all who come to Him.
Mark 5 is giving a miniature picture of that truth. Here in this crush, power goes out from Jesus and healing, peace, freedom and ultimately resurrection results…
Whole sermon here