I saw the desperate up close when we visited the inner city of San Paolo, Brazil. Our guide put a finger to his lips, his face tense. We stopped and silenced ourselves.
This Brazilian pastor, our host and leader, had promised to show us the people he loved, the desperate who needed Jesus. They lived in the worst of the world’s ghettos, favelas they call it.
“Stay close to me. When I tell you to stop, wait for the go ahead. I won’t know if it’s safe until I can see around the corner of each street.”
Stay close to me. Stop when I motion you to stop. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come.
“Why Paulo?” we wondered out loud. “What are you looking for?”
“Anything. Everything. Drug deals, prostitutes, murders. If we witness any of those by accident, we’re dead. Don’t worry, the boss of the street will give me the thumbs up.”
The Desperate Are Worth the Risk
“Is it worth the risk? What possible good can we do for these people? We’re just a bunch of white folks from the states….”
“Oh, it’s worth it. You’ve come to serve Jesus here, and there are people everywhere who need him. This week you’re going to teach their children. I want you to meet some of them.
There’s this one lady, in particular. I want you to meet her. Her husband is in jail and she has children to take care of. I want you to pray with her for her husband. I want you to hear her pray. Jesus is her only hope.
You‘ve never heard prayer like the prayers of the desperate.”
The Prayers of the Desperate
We’ve been studying the Gospel of Mark. In chapter 4 we looked at the necessity of parables and storms–the parables hid Jesus’ message from those who merely wanted to be entertained, and revealed it to those who wanted to understand. The storm revealed Jesus’ almighty power over the elements, and shocked the disciples into asking who is this???
Mark’s narrative slows down in chapter 5 and becomes much more descriptive. His focus now isn’t on the sheer volume of miracles or demands of the crowds or arguments of the Pharisees. His camera narrows to three desperate people who have run out of options. They simply need to be rescued. Period.
These three are alike in their hunger for deliverance, but there are differences between them, too. They’re distinguished not just by their social status, age, gender, and living conditions, but also by the cause of their misery. They differ in how they approach Jesus, what they ask (or don’t ask) for, and how they react to what follows.
Here is some background information from Kent Hughes’ commentary on Mark to help us see these differences more clearly. First, he characterizes the region Jesus was visiting:
“The region of the Gerasenes, on the other side of the lake from the strictly Jewish area, was a place where Gentiles and Jews co-mingled, an unsavory place according to Jewish thinking.”
Second, he distinguishes the types of people who live there:
“The display of God’s power in this text involved two contrasting segments of society. On the one hand it focused on an outcast woman who had been suffering a disastrous hemorrhage for twelve years. The hemorrhage rendered her ceremonially unclean in Jewish society (Leviticus 15:25-27) which meant that she was a transmitter of uncleanness to all who came in contact with her.
Third, he shows the enormous social gap between them:
“On the other hand there was the prominent family of Jairus, leader of the synagogue…he was president of the board of elders and responsible for the conduct of services. He was a man of wealth and prestige…Jairus had not been known to be friendly toward Jesus.”
Let’s consider these three lives this week. They’re laid out side by side for our instruction. Compare and contrast. Draw parallels to your life and other lives around you. Then see Jesus. He is a Savior for all types, all needs, every desperate life. Yet he doesn’t offer a generic salvation. His rescue is customized, personal, suited to each one who cries. He knows each of us by name.
This week’s questions
Day 1: Context–Review Mark 4:33-41 and read Mark 5:1-5
- What happened just prior to the events of Mark 5:1-20?
- Who did Jesus leave behind at this point?
- Which of his followers were with him?
- Who greeted him on his arrival?
- How does this fit with his purpose to seek and to save the lost?
Day 2: Observation–Read Mark 5 as two scenes shot on location in separate places.
- Contrast the settings of the two scenes.
- Describe the desperate circumstances of the man in scene 1. What other characters are in the scene?
- What do various people in this scene beg Jesus to do? How does he respond to each?
- Describe the desperate circumstances of Jairus and the woman in scene 2. What other characters are in the scene?
- What did each person ask or want Jesus to do? How did Jesus respond to them?
Day 3: Meaning–Read Mark 5 as three tales of deliverance.
- How does Jesus reveal himself to each one?
- What is he responding to? Faith? Or?
- What do his actions reveal about his authority in each case?
- What do his words instruct each of them in true faith?
Day 4: Application–Read Mark 5 as a word of hope for you and others
- How does this Jesus relate to your needs today?
- How does this Jesus relate to needs you know about in others?
- Is there someone you can strengthen with the truth from this chapter?
What a Savior we have! Enjoy seeing him better and showing him to others.