Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mark 8. Who do you say that I am?

In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.’ His disciples replied, ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven.’ Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.*
 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’ And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
 Now the disciples* had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’* They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’

 They came to Bethsaida. Some people* brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man* looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus* laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’*

 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’* And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,* will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words* in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

Reflection Questions:

What do you think of Jesus?  What is he like?  How does he treat his disciples?  How does he relate to the other teachers and religious leaders (Pharisees)? 

Why does it take two tries to heal the blind man?  Why does Jesus feed a second crowd of 4,000 people after feeding a crowd of 5,000?

What does Jesus teach about his mission and future?  Why does he order their silence?  Why does he ask his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

Who is Jesus?   

Mark 7. Losing my Religion

The category, "spiritual but not religious" has been an emerging, growing trend among younger adults for about a decade now.  Much has been written about it and discussed.  Whole books have been dedicated to the subject. Just Google "Spiritual but not religious" to see what I mean.  The suggestion is that there is something wrong with organized religion, but that spirituality might define someone who is seeking a deeper connection with the invisible God.  We know that a deep skepticism toward institutions has infected the west, and that both government and the church have been affected by it.  Religion is about morality and rules that restrict and exclude.  Religion puts certain people on pedestals, only to have them abuse power by abusing the people they were called to serve.  Catholic priest sex scandals and evangelical pastors affairs merely confirmed what many westerners already thought of Christianity.  And we know from a recent Pew Research poll that about 25% of Americans consider themselves unaffiliated with any religious tradition or group.  They are called the "Nones", because of the category they checked next to their religious preference. 
What can we say about Jesus of Nazareth, 1st century Jewish Rabbi?  Though he worshiped in the synagogue, he flouted customs and rituals of purification specified in the Old Testament law.  he broke Sabbath law to heal the physically broken and to feed his hungry disciples.  Breaking cleanliness laws included association with notorious sinners---women, lepers, demon-possessed people, immoral men, the sick, and the disabled.  His contact with them and with the dead make him ritually unclean, according to Jewish law.  He became a religious outcast in order to be in community with religious outcasts.  His behavior excluded himself in order that he might include the excluded in his life and teaching.  He brought hope and healing from God to people who were told that God had rejected them.  He sees the hypocrisy of the religious elders in his community.  And he says that it is not what is outside a person that defiles, but what is in one's heart and mind. 
Jesus' own radical inclusion of religious outsiders is put to the test by a Syrophoenician woman---a gentile and former enemy of Israel.  (Think Lebanese woman).  Her daughter is demon-possessed.  (Must have been a teenager):) She challenges his reluctance to help her.  Why is he reluctant?  Because Jesus was raised within a context of prejudice and boundaries. Discrimination and segregation was a part of Jewish law, meant by God to demonstrate holiness, but used by people to divide and hate.  But his ministry of hospitality and inclusion expands over these 7 chapters of Mark. The circle of inclusion widens. This is the most radical inclusion scene yet.  A gentile woman whose daughter is demon-possessed.  This woman might as well be a Zombie!  And she is brave enough to challenge Jesus' prejudice and invite him into her suffering.  And he sees faith in her, faith enough to heal her daughter.  For Jesus, faith is not a religious category.  Being a Lutheran or a Christian or a jew does not make one faithful.  Faith is a relationship of trust between God and us. 
I think many people see Christianity as divisive, hateful, and prejudicial.  Moral issues divide Christians.  Homosexuality has been the moral issue of the last 30 years.  Jesus is silent about homosexuality.  But we cannot be.  Jesus abandons moral boundaries to walk in solidarity and love with marginalized people.  He looks at religious traditions that exclude as distortions of God's intentions.
"Spiritual but not religious" is a way that some people reject the prejudicial, exclusionary aspects of Christianity.  Unfortunately, they often throw the baby out with the bathwater.  How can we invite and challenge people back into gospel community, where the marginalized are welcome and all are loved back to life?  How do we embody Jesus' mission and embrace the "nones" or the "dones" (those who have left the church in protest)?  Perhaps we begin by examining and confessing our own prejudices or ways of excluding.  And then move toward authentic relationship one day and one person at a time. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mark 7. Losing My Religion

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands,* thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it;* and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.*) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live* according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
“This people honours me with their lips,
   but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
   teaching human precepts as doctrines.”
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’
 Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, “Honour your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God*)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’
 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’*
 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’

 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre.* He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir,* even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus* ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

Reflection Questions:

What were the exclusionary rules you learned as a child? What were you taught about gay people, the racial other, the mentally ill, law-breakers? 

Are there 'untouchables' in the U.S. today?  Who are they?  What are we taught about 'them'?  What keeps us away from 'them?'

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very open and accepting, and 1 being very cautious and selective about others where do you put yourself? 

What does it mean to be open to new things, to diverse relationships?  How inclusive ought Christians to be?  Are there good reasons to exclude people? 

Jesus rejects conventional religious behaviors  What religious behaviors have you rejected?  Why? 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Mark 6. Community Conflict and Multiplying Mission

I still remember the first time my dad let me mow the lawn on my own.  I guess I was 12.  I think I wanted to try it for about 2 years.  It was a riding mower.  I had seen him mow hundred of times.  He showed me how everything worked, talking to me about the gears and throttle, the mower deck and blade.  I knew how to be safe before I ever sat in the seat.  I had even driven it in his presence several times.  He corrected me more than once as I failed to turn off the blade or missed a spot of grass.   Then one day, he handed me the keys.   
Jesus' rejection in his hometown causes a shift in his ministry strategy.  Did  you see it?  First, he becomes more itinerant, traveling to more villages.  Second, he sends the twelve out to do what he has been doing.  They become spirit-filled practitioners of his gospel work.  He is not so interested in growing a single community of believers or followers.  He sends them out like a scattering of seeds in the rich soil of Galilee.  What they do in those villages and homes and communities brings life and hope to people that one man couldn't possibly accomplish alone.  His mission spreads like an infection.  It is passed on through person- to- person contact.  It seems like his rejection there motivates him to move in a new direction. Why?  His movement is bigger and broader in scope than he can build alone.  He is building a culture of disciples, a culture of shalom, of life and health and peace.  And he is not a one-man show.  He knows that the mission's long term sustainability must not depend on him.  Because he will die.  So, the movement must be passed on to others, who can learn to do what he does.        
Just when this new strategy unfolds, we hear the story of John the Baptist's death.  The significance of which we can begin to understand in retrospect.  John's movement in the wilderness, like the Essene community of desert dwelling ascetic Jews of which he was likely a part, dies with him.  There is no longstanding Jewish community observing baptism for the forgiveness of sins, even after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.  What does this teach us?  Jesus practiced a discipleship that apprenticed people into his ministry and mission.  John did not.  His mission was to identify Jesus and to prepare the way of the Lord.  Jesus mission is to change the world by making disciples who make disciples. When faith communities become leader dependent, they live or die with that leader.  When faith communities become leadership schools, the mission long outlives its founder. 
The story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is more than a feeding miracle.  The real miracle is that the disciples become agents of God's divine power and grace.  They get to become part of God's daily feeding miracle, as the creator provides food for the earth and all its creatures.  They get to be part of God's grace economy.  And, their work does not end with one day's feeding.  Twelve baskets of leftovers remind them that their work, the mission continues. They are invited and challenged to join the mission of God to take, bless, break, and feed, the hungry world.  They are called to bring the healing, to bring the peace, to bring the kingdom to a suffering world.  This whole chapter reveals the intention of discipleship---to multiply the mission, to feed more hungry people, and to strengthen our faith in Jesus.  He is not absent.  He is observing us to correct us.  He has not abandoned his followers.  He did not abandon them then.  He has not abandoned us now.  He has just given us the keys and said, "You do it.  Keep going.  It's your turn."    It may be that, like the 12, we fail to understand our role in God's just and peaceful rule.  But we have one.  We must discover it.  Our calling.  Our gifts.  Our tasks. The good news is that we get to discover together and see the Jesus movement unfold before us. 

Mark 6. Commnity conflict, Multiplying Mission

He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary* and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence* at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’* name had become known. Some were* saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’
 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod* had married her. For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed;* and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias* came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s* head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’ But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii* worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’ And he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
 When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

Invitation/Challenge Matrix.
What culture did Jesus experience in his hometown?  What did he do about it?  Why was he rendered powerless there?
Jesus sends the twelve out to multiply his ministry. When he does, we learn about the death of John the Baptist.  Why are these two stories connected?  How does John's death affect Jesus and the 12?
What culture does Jesus create with the hungry crowds?  With the disciples at the end of a long day?
Why does it matter that Jesus "walks on water"? 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Jesus goes there

The Gerasenes on the other side of the lake take Jesus and his disciples to new territory, gentile territory.  This is the first time Jesus intentionally crosses a boundary.  He has healed in synagogues and among the Jews, but now he extends his healing ministry beyond the borders.  He breaks Jewish holiness laws to do it.  He is found among the pig farmers, among the dead, with a demon-possessed outcast.  This scene would have turned the stomachs of the Jewish leaders in his day.  They would've been horrified that he, a rabbi, would enter this place.  Are there such places in our world?  Unsafe, unclean, dangerous, deadly places?  Places where you wouldn't take your children?  Jesus goes there.
He goes there with a singular mission:  To meet and heal this man.  One man.  Demon-possessed by 'legion'.  Everyone knew what a legion was---about 5,000 Roman soldiers.  As a people experiencing a powerful military occupation, the implications of this healing are more than personal.  It is political, too.  Driving a legion of demons out of the man is to drive a Roman legion out of Israel.  Its as if Mark is calling a legion of Roman soldiers "a bunch of pigs that we wish would fall into the sea and drown!"  Imagine how Roman soldiers would have taken this story!   Jesus' ministry has broader implications.  It calls into question the systems and structures that prevent people from thriving, that kill our bodies and souls.  This reveals that the confrontation Jesus brings goes from the bottom to the top of the food chain!  He's setting individuals free as a sign of God's intention to set all people free.
In our world, healing has become scientific and individual.  And yet, we see communities rally behind causes like breast cancer awareness.  People come together to find a cure, to support people who are suffering, and to encourage health.  Fundraising walks for Lupus, heart disease, cancer, and ALS bring communities together to fight illness.  The Race against Racism fights the disease of prejudice. This is what Jesus is doing when he brings his disciples to Gerasa.  He is exposing them to the dehumanizing effect of illness, mental and physical, and invites them to become part of the healing. 
Jesus is anti-incarceration! Because he sees that it does not work.  When the man is set free, he begins to tell others about Jesus.  A man others gave up on is a changed man because of Jesus.   He is the first evangelist, telling the public about Jesus.  Notice that Jesus encourages him to tell others what God has done for him and he tells others about Jesus?  This man experiences the power and presence of God in Jesus!  For people of faith, the work of Jesus is the activity of God in the world.

The next scene is a Markan sandwich, a writing method Mark employs to tell two stories at once.  The story of the daughter of Jairus and the bleeding woman are connected and must be interpreted together.  After all, the woman has been bleeding for 12 years and the girl is 12 years old. 
This story conjures up concern for sexual abuse of women and girls, human trafficking, child marriage, inadequate women's health care, and the unequal treatment of women.  Neither of these two people were afforded adequate and effective health care.  Doctors couldn't help them.  Rather than provide help, a community gathers to mourn.  Even before the child dies! 
There is empowerment in this story, too!  The woman approaches Jesus and touches him.  Her action immediately draws Jesus' power to heal, without his consent or choice.  He says that her faith has healed or saved her.  Salvation and healing are the same word in Greek! And she initiates it!  Go to Jesus and be healed/saved. Salvation is both physical and spiritual. 
The crowds laugh at Jesus when he suggests that Jairus' daughter, presumed dead, is sleeping.  Laughing mourners?  He is exposing their falseHe encourages Jairus to not doubt but believe.  When Jesus commands the girl to get up, she does!  He does not help her up.  She sits up and Jesus commands them to give her something to eat.  Eating is a sign of life! 
Jesus confronts the enemy, death.  It takes many forms.  Illness, isolation, imprisonment, misogyny, abuse, neglect, suffering, bleeding, dying.  Jesus confronts gender inequality.  In our world, 1 in 4 women experiences sexual abuse in their lifetime.  Jesus brings healing to them.  In so doing, he breaks cultural taboos.  He is touched and touches a woman and a girl---property of another man or household.  This was unlawful and exposes Jesus to public shame. 
In this chapter, Jesus joins a dirty, sick, dying, sinful world by becoming one of us.  He becomes a sinner by breaking cultural taboos, by breaking cleanliness laws, and by defying death itself.  He rejects the Roman military occupation, viewing it like demonic possession.  He goes where he is not supposed to go to bring God's goodness, mercy, and healing.
Notice how little the disciples do at this point.  They are learning by exposure, and likely shocked by his actions. 
If church follows this Jesus, where and to whom would we go?  What message would we send?  Anti-military occupation; pro-women's health, pro-girl; joining those who suffer with mental illness in isolation; anti-incarceration; defying death by providing people access to what they need to free them from their suffering.  He goes where others won't go.  And his disciples go with him.     


Monday, April 24, 2017

Gospel of Mark 5

They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes.* 2And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; 4for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; 7and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ 8For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ 9Then Jesus* asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ 10He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12and the unclean spirits* begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’ 13So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake.
14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. 17Then they began to beg Jesus* to leave their neighbourhood. 18As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19But Jesus* refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ 20And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.
21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat* to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ 24So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36But overhearing* what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Questions for reflection:

Jesus pushes boundaries.  Jew/Gentile; male/female; clean/unclean (moral/immoral); dead/alive.
Jesus increases the intensity of his actions---driving out 'legion'; raising the dead.

What is Jesus facing/confronting in this chapter?  What challenges must he overcome?  What are the barriers he has to cross, literally and figuratively?
What are the results, realized and suspected, of Jesus' actions? 
What does Jesus teach about healing and the power of faith?
What do we learn about Jesus' power?