The chapter begins, yet again, with another healing episode (vv. 1-6). The rest of the chapter, pretty much of it anyways, has to do with Jesus’s identity. Although, the means by which Jesus’s identity is revealed is somewhat puzzling.
We see Jesus healing a multitude of people by the sea (vv. 7-12). When those demons are exorcised from the people, they shout out, “You are the Son of God” (v. 11)! Interesting that it is the demons who know who Jesus is. Yet this bold proclamation of Jesus’s identity by the demons is quickly silenced by Jesus who warns the demons not to “make him [i.e. Jesus] known” (v. 12). This is odd and yet here we see the two major themes Mark’s Gospel that we mentioned in the introduction: Sonship and Messianic Secret.
Let’s talk about this Messianic Secret thing a little. This is a common tactic of Jesus. He will enjoin this silence on his disciples too, several time, during the course of his public ministry. The question is why? Why command this silence on his true identity? Why keep it quiet? Scholars offer three theories:
1. Jesus wanted to avoid a sensationalist reputation- he’s a healer and nothing more. In reality his healings and miracles go hand-in-hand with his saving message or repentance and redemption.
2. He wanted to avoid the political and military expectations of the supposed Messiah.
3. He didn’t want to ignite the wrath of his enemies before the appointed time of his Passion.
In these short five verses we see Jesus’s Divine Sonship revealed, and then quickly covered over by this Messianic Secret. Jesus then reinforces, at least a little, this idea of identity by contrasting himself to the Evil One, Satan (vv. 19b-30). In this parable it’s important to remember that Jesus is NOT the strong man. The strong man is the Evil One and Jesus is the clever robber who breaks into the strong man’s house to steal back the souls that were never his [i.e. the strong man’s] to begin with. It’s a beautiful image, I think, of Jesus overpowering the strong man and rescuing us from the Evil One.
Point for Prayer
“Wise Jesus, your ways will sometimes seem like madness to others, and yes, to me. Divine methods do not always seem sensible in human terms. Yet your ways are the true paths to joy and fulfillment. Make me wise so I can be your true disciple” (from To Love and Be Loved by Jesus, by Rev. Alfred McBride, pg. 40).