Calming of the Sea and Other Events
Matthew and Mark’s accounts place these events before the parables, which Luke places it afterwards. The order is not that important, but we continue to follow Luke’s ordering of events.
Accusation by the Scribes (Mark 3:20-30)
Returning to a home, most likely in Capernaum, the crowded gathered was so large that there wasn’t room or time to eat. Jesus’ own friends, or possibly his own family (Mark 3:31), took it upon themselves to rescue Jesus from himself. They thought Jesus had gotten carried away by the events and that it had gone to his head. A mere carpenter’s son from a small town shouldn’t be so sought after.
Scribes from Jerusalem took it upon themselves to tell people that Jesus’ power to do miracles was coming from Satan and not from God. The name Beelzebub means “lord of the flies” and harks back to the days of Babylon when people thought they could understand the minds of the gods by watching how the flies swarmed around a sacrifice. Since it was idolatry, the name became one of Satan’s many names.
Jesus points out that the accusation doesn’t make sense. Why would Satan work against himself by having Jesus cast out his own demons? If Satan was fighting against himself, he was too weak to stand.
Instead, if someone wanted to overcome a strong opponent, he first binds him, then he can plunder his house. Jesus is on the attack trying to bring people out of Satan’s dominion (see Matthew 16:18). To do this, Satan’s power must be hindered.
The accusation that Jesus was doing miracles by the power of Satan was blasphemous because it attributed a clear operation of God to Satan. Jesus warns that blasphemes can be forgiven, but when a person chooses to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, it won’t be forgiven. Not that God doesn’t want to forgive such a sin (II Peter 3:9), but because such a person has turned so far against God that he will never return (Hebrews 6:4-6).
Jesus’ Family (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21)
The crowds following Jesus had become so great that when Mary and her children approached, they were unable to get close to Jesus. Word was passed along to Jesus that they were waiting outside to see him.
Jesus responds in an interesting way. Taking a mundane event, he turns it into an opportunity to teach an important principle. He asks who is his mother and brothers? The seeming callousness of question would have grabbed everyone’s attention. He then responds that his family was already with him. His family are those who listen and do the will of God. It is the same point that he had made several times in the sermon on the mount. Merely knowing God’s Word is not enough. A person must apply it to his life to be pleasing to God.
These verses are difficult ones for Roman Catholics for they mention that Jesus had brothers. Mark 6:3 gives a list of their names and also mentions that Jesus had sisters as well. The common response is to claim that the Greek word for “brothers,” adelphos, can also mean “cousin.” The problem is that in Jesus’ closing statement he says, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). The word for “sister,” adelphe, is not used to indicate a cousin. The use of brother, sister, and mother together shows that Jesus is discussing near relations.
It is sometimes argued that these siblings were Joseph’s children from a prior marriage. However, to draw this conclusion, one must assume what is not said anywhere in the Scriptures. There is no mention of Joseph being married before, let alone having children before he married Mary. A second problem is that Jesus was only the adopted son of Joseph. If Joseph had children by another woman, they would not technically be Jesus’ brothers or sisters. But if these siblings shared the same mother, then they would be related.
Calming of the Sea (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25)
Jesus tells his disciples to depart for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. We know they eventually land in Gadarenes on the east side of Galilee. We cannot be certain from where he departed, but it is likely to have been Capernaum on the north. Jesus frequently crossed the sea to cut down on the number following him since travel by land was slower and not everyone had access to a boat.
A set of boats leave the town; and as they sailed across the lake, Jesus slept in the stern of the boat on a cushion. Given the demands placed on his time, these crossing gave him a rare opportunity to get some sleep. Though he was God in the flesh, the needs of the flesh must still be satisfied.
A large storm arose while Jesus slept. Because of the location of the Sea of Galilee, sudden squalls are quite common. The waves in this storm were large enough to pour water over the sides and cause the boat to swamp. Fearing that they would sink, the disciples woke Jesus and pleaded with him to save them. They could not believe that he had so little concern over their predicament. But he rebuked them for having too little faith.
Where was the lack of faith? After all, they did come to him for help. You see, the disciples knew and acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah. They knew that Jesus had a mission to accomplish. Did they think that God would allow the Christ to drown before that mission was completed? If they thought about it, they should have no cause to fear drowning in a storm-tossed sea.
Jesus then tells the storm to be still and it became so. It is not that the winds simply died down. They suddenly stopped. Even if the wind had stopped in a typical situation, the waves would still continue to churn for a while; but they did not. The sea suddenly became still. The disciples were already afraid, but this incredible display of power scared them even more. They had seen Jesus do many miracles in the past, but to see him control a storm with merely a rebuke was a sample of power they had never seen before – or heard of for that matter. No such power is mentioned being shown by the prophets in the Old Testament.
Healing a Demon Possessed Man (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39)
Jesus and his disciples landed in the region of Gergenses or Gardarenes, depending on which account is being read. The town of Gardara is not far from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is one of the ten cities of Decapolis (the region of ten cities). Gergesa is a town situated twelve miles southeast of Gadara. Both are located on the same plain, so the region is known by one or the other town. Some translations try to “fix” the problem but calling the region by only one name even though the accounts use different names. Of course, different translations pick different names for their consistent name.
Matthew’s account mentions that Jesus and the disciples were confronted by two demon possessed men. Mark and Luke’s accounts only mention one man. However, we should take care to note that neither Mark or Luke stated there was only one man. They focused on the man who was the leader and who interacted with Jesus the most. But their accounts don’t rule out that others might also be present.
These men lived in a graveyard and caused a lot of trouble for the people of the area. Matthew says they were very fierce or dangerous. Mark is more descriptive. People had attempted to chain up at least one of the men, but he managed to pull the chains apart and broke the shackles binding his legs. No one was able to calm him, so he wandered the graveyard and mountains yelling and cutting himself with stones. Luke tells us that it had been going on for a long while; and, not surprising, the man didn’t wear clothing.
The men blocked Jesus and the disciples’ way, but one approached Jesus and fell down in worship before him. The demons within him cried out, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” (Luke 8:28). It is interesting that these demons had been torturing this man for years, but when confronted by the Son of God, they feared that Jesus came to torture them.
Jesus told the demons to leave the man, but then asked the demons for their name and they replied “Legion” because they were many. This little fact tells us a number of things. Demons are beings who have identifying names. It also tells us that a person can be possessed by multiple demons at the same time (see also Matthew 12:45; Mark 16:9).
The demons pleaded with Jesus not to be sent into the abyss (Matthew 25:41; II Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Instead, they asked to be sent into a nearby herd of swine. Jesus permitted it. However, on entering the swine, the entire herd ran off a cliff and drown. Mark mentions that there were about two thousand pigs in this herd. J. W. McGarvey points out that there is only one place in that region where the mountains come close to the edge of the Sea of Galilee, about one mile south of Khersa; thus, pinpointing the location of this event.
These swine were not a wild herd, they were owned by one or more individuals. Thus, the destruction of the herd brings up the question of why these animals were destroyed. First, we need to note that Jesus gave the demons permission to enter the swine, but none of the accounts state what caused the herd to run off the cliff. It would not do to speculate that Jesus caused it. In fact, given the destructive nature of demons, it is more likely that they did it to themselves. Entering the swine probably drove the pigs mad and they ran in the direction they happened to be facing – right off the cliff. If such was the case, it gives the event a sort of ironic justice. The demons were trying to stay in this world and they managed to take themselves out of it anyway.
A second point is that swine are unclean animals. Though this is a Gentile region of the country, we still must wonder why such a large herd of unclean animals were being kept. It is perhaps because of the questionable nature of their business that caused the people to act as they did.
Those hired to care for the swine ran off to town, likely to report to the owners what happened to their herd. Word of what happened quickly spread through the town and the surrounding region. People came out to see for themselves, basically the whole town Matthew notes, and they found the man who was once demon possessed, clothed, in his right-mind, sitting with Jesus and his disciples.
Their reaction is a bit puzzling. The gospels tell us that they were afraid; not in awe of the power shown, but fearful of Jesus remaining in their area. One possibility is a fear that Jesus’ presence might damage other questionable business ventures in the area. Perhaps it was similar to Peter’s own fear mentioned in Luke 5:8. But where Peter continued to follow Jesus, despite his fears, these people wanted nothing more to do with Jesus.
Jesus did not force himself upon the people. He got into the boat to leave. The man so recently healed wanted to go with the Lord, but Jesus told him that he had other work for him to do. Jesus asked the man to go to his family and friends and tell them what God had done for him. Thus he became the first preacher of the good news. Where the people were too afraid of Jesus to have him in their region, this man wanders throughout the region of Decapolis telling people about the Lord. His work makes a great difference in Jesus’ reception the next time he comes to Decapolis.