by miriam berg


50. Crossing the Sea
51. The madman in Gergesa
52. Two healings at once
53. Two blind men
54. The visit to Nazareth
56. Mission of the disciples
60. Feeding 5000
61. Walking on the water
62. Jesus heals many
63. Disputes with Pharisees
(101.Herod wants to kill him)
64. The flight to Phoenicia
66. Healing a deaf mute
67. Feeding 4000
68. He refuses to give a sign
69. Remarks on leaven
70. Healing a blind man








At one point Jesus decided to cross over the Sea of Galilee to visit the other side. While they were sailing, a storm blew up, and the disciples panicked, and woke up Jesus, who was sleeping. Mark and the others report that Jesus said to the storm, Peace, be still; and to the disciples, Have you no faith in God? And the storm abated. It is not very believable that Jesus actually calmed the storm by speaking to it, but it makes sense that he said, Peace, be still, to the disciples because of their agitation, and not to the storm.


After they successfully crossed the sea and landed in Gergesa (the other towns mentioned in Mark and Matthew, Gerasa and Gadara, are not on the coast), they were accosted by a wild person who lived among the tombs and was considered a madman by the townsfolk. He "worshipped" Jesus, according to Mark, and begged Jesus not to "torment" him. Jesus is reported to have commanded the "unclean" spirit to come out of the man, and it did. Then Jesus has a little repartee with this spirit, which asks Jesus to please send "them" (a "legion" of devils) into a herd of swine that were feeding upon the mountainside. So Jesus told them to go, and they did, according to all three gospels; and the swine panicked, and rushed down the mountainside and were drowned in the sea. I suppose that the devils were also drowned; else they escaped from Jesus. After that, the people of Gergesa, who were frightened by Jesus, begged him to leave their city. Jesus did so, and the madman wanted to come along, but Jesus wouldn't let him.
This story is a myth on the face of it, because there are no such things as "devils" which can inhabit a person and make them mad, and the idea of Jesus "talking" with those "devils" is mythical. Whatever it was that happened, that explanation is not acceptable. I suspect that the herd of swine may indeed have panicked at the shrieking and screaming of the madman, and plunged down the hillside on their own, not because they were inhabited by some "devils".


After Jesus returned from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, he was met by a large crowd and a ruler of the synagogue named Jairus. Jairus explained that his daughter was ill and near death, and asked Jesus to come and save her. They went back to Jairus' house, including the crowd.
On the way, however, a woman who had been ill with an "issue of blood" for twelve years came behind Jesus and touched him, or his garment as the gospels all say. And the gospels all say that she immediately was healed of her condition. Jesus somehow was aware that he had been touched, and turned around and asked:
(Mark 5:25-34;Luke 8:43-48;Matt.9:20-22)
JESUS: Who touched me?

SIMON (incredulously): You are in a huge crowd, and you ask who touched you?

WOMAN (seeing that Jesus was looking through the crowd for her): Master, it was I who touched you.

JESUS: Daughter, your faith has cured you; be of good cheer, and go in peace.

Mark reports that he asks "Who touched my garment", but Luke reports that he twice said, "touched ME", so "my garment" looks like a later elaboration. Matthew says nothing about touching, but that the woman tells herself that, and Jesus turns around and tells her that her faith has healed her, in effect denying that touching him had anything to do with it.
So this is one healing where the person did not ask Jesus to be cured nor did Jesus say or do anything to her, and where Jesus does not tell her to tell no one. Even if it really happened, it does not tell us anything more about the kingdom of God or what Jesus was trying to teach. But of course we don't know how Jesus actually performed his cures. I feel certain it was not any magical power.
But now they were at Jairus' home, and the servants told them that the daughter was dead. However, Jesus took James and John and told no one else to come in, and went into the girl's room with her parents. He took her by the hand, the story says, and said to her, "Talitha cumi", which is Aramaic for "Damsel, get up." And the girl got up, and everyone was amazed; but Jesus told them to tell no one, and ordered her parents to give the girl something to eat.
This repeated emphasis on "telling no one" is one of the beacon lights in our efforts to understand the life of Jesus. It proves that whatever it was that happened to sick people and lame people and mentally ill folks in Jesus' presence, he attached no importance to it and did not want it to be noised about. This also proves that it was just John the evangelist's fancy when he tells us that Jesus claimed that his cures were signs.


Mark and Matthew at this point tell the story about how Jesus visited Nazareth, his home town. Luke tells a different version of the story, and places it as the first event after Jesus returns to Galilee; but that placement is unconvincing because it reports that "he went into the synagogue, as his custom was", which proves that he had been in other synagogues before that. Further, as Luke tells it, when Jesus has been sneered at by his home townsfolk, Luke tells us that he refers to "whatsoever they have heard done at Capernaum, do here also", so again the story itself proves that it was not the first event in Jesus' career after his baptism.
Mark's and Matthew's report is much simpler than Luke's. After his arrival in Nazareth, on the sabbath he went into the synagogue to teach. Then Mark says they were astonished, and started booing at him:
(Mark 6:2-3;Matt.13:54-57)
TOWNSFOLK: Who do you think you are? Are you trying to be a wise guy? What's all these tricks you've been performing on the crowds? Aren't you just the son of Joseph, the carpenter? Isn't Mary your mother? Aren't you the brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon, and of your sisters, whom we know?

And Mark and Matthew report that "they were offended in him." Luke reports that "they were filled with wrath" and "cast him forth" from the city, and were even about to roll him over a cliff. Jesus sadly makes his comment:
(Mark 6:4;Matt.13:57;Luke 4:23-24)
JESUS: A prophet is without honor in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

Luke states it more succinctly: No prophet is acceptable in his own country. We wish we had a report of what he actually said on this and many other occasions; but we can see from the fact that Luke reports that the people said, Is not this JOSEPH's son? that the idea of Mary being impregnated with the "holy ghost" is a myth. Even the gospel of John reports the people as saying, Is not this the son of Joseph, whose mother and father we know (John 6:42)?
Mark and Matthew also tell us that on this occasion, Jesus "could do there no mighty work, except to cure a few people". And again Matthew modifies this to say, "he DID NOT many mighty works there", once again showing Matthew's unwillingness to say anything critical or limiting of Jesus.


After his visit to Nazareth, according to Mark and copied by Luke verbatim and by Matthew with additions and abridgements, Jesus organizes the disciples and sends them on a mission throughout Galilee, although no place names are given. Matthew appears to have taken Mark's report and inserted passages from a similar story in document P where Jesus is also reported as sending the disciples on a mission. Here are the passages containing the instructions which are attributed to Jesus:
(Luke 10:2;Matt.9:37-38)
        And he said, The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray therefore that the lord of the harvest send forth laborers to work the harvest.
(Mark 6:7;Luke 9:1;Matt.10:1)
        And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out in pairs; and he gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
        Go not into any city of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
(Luke 9:2;Matt.10:7-8)
        And as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of God is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out devils; freely ye have received, freely give.
(Mark 6:8-9;Luke 9:3;Matt.10:9-10a)
        And he charged them to take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no bread, no wallet, no money in their purse; and to wear sandals only; and he said, Put not on two coats.
(Luke 10:7;Matt.10b)
        for the laborer is worthy of his hire.
(Mark 6:10;Luke 9:4;Matt.10:11)
        And he told them, when you go into a house, stay there until you leave that village.
(Luke 10:5-6;Matt.10:12-13)
        And whatever house you shall enter, you shall say, Peace be unto this house. And if a man of peace be there, good; but if not, you have not wasted your peace.
(Mark 10:11;Luke 9:5;Matt.10:14)
        And if a place will not receive you, nor listen to you, then when you go on your way, shake off the dust of your feet, as a testimony to them.

Matthew inserts a verse which is a curse on cities that won't receive them; but we can't be sure that that is from Jesus, even though it's also found in Document P. He then gives his final instruction:
(Luke 10:3;Matt.10:16)
        Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmess as doves.

Matthew inserts here many quotations from elsewhere in Mark and from document Q (or P), and I shall discuss these in the order in which Mark and Luke present them. Mark continues:
(Mark 6:12-13;Luke 9:6;Matt.11:1)
        And they went out, and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many devils, and healed many that were sick by anointing them with oil.

Luke has apparently copied this mission of the disciples from Mark, and later included also the subsequent mission found later in document P. Perhaps there were two missions sent out by Jesus; we cannot tell. Luke's report and what Jesus says about them I will discuss later in this booklet.
Mark reports the tale of the death of John the Baptizer next, but i shall not discuss it since it does not bear on the question of what Jesus said and what he did. We will just note that Jesus once more shows his affection for John by retreating into the desert for solitude and to pray (Mark 6:32; Matt.14:13), even though all three gospels attach the feeding of the five thousand to his sojourn in the desert.

(Mark 6:32-46;Luke 9:10b-17;Matt.14:13-23a)
The next event reported by the Synoptic gospels is the feeding of the five thousand persons. They had retreated into the desert, to mourn for John the Baptizer, but the crowds followed him there, and when he saw them, he preached for a long while, although Mark does not give the content. But when the evening was coming on, the disciples said to him, How shall we feed all this multitude? And Jesus answered, Bid them to sit down, and get out whatever you have. Then we are told that Jesus blessed the bread and fish they had, and the disciples passed it out among the people. And somehow, as if by a miracle, there was enough for all of them, with twelve baskets of leftovers. The number of the crowd was estimated at about 5,000. After dinner Jesus spoke to them all and told them to go home, and told the disciples to go in the boat back to Bethsaida, and then went himself up into the mountain, presumably to grieve over the death of John.
Did Jesus really do magic? Those who deny miracles prefer to believe that when people saw him handing out the little that the disciples had, they unpacked their own food that they had brought with them, and shared it around also, so that there seemed to be more than enough for all of them. In any case there are no words ascribed to Jesus on this occasion, and both this and the following event are found in the gospel of John as well (though not in Luke), and we might wonder whether the event was copied into Mark from John or vice versa. But I can't believe that Jesus used magic to increase the amount of food they had, certainly not after he has refused to turn stones into bread while he was alone in the desert.

(Mark 6:47-52;Matt.14:13-23a)
The next event reported by Mark, and copied by Matthew and also found in John, is one of the best known but probably fictional events in Jesus' life: the walking on the water. Matthew fluffs it up with a tale of how Peter tries to emulate him, but sinks into the water and Jesus has to pull him out. This is certainly a mythical story, conceived to impress the newcomer to the religion of Jesus with the supernatural nature of its founder. The most probable explanation, it seems to me, is that the disciples were on the boat on their way to Bethsaida, and they saw Jesus returning from the mountain after grieving over John, walking along the shore, and in the dim morning light they saw only the water between themselves and Jesus, and they imagined that they saw him walking on the water. But again, trying to walk on water would be just as idiotic as jumping off the roof of the temple, which Jesus refused to do in the 2nd temptation. The bit about Peter is probably pious invention by Matthew.
This event is followed by their arrival at Bethsaida (Mark says Gennesaret, but it must have been where Jesus told them to go), and the thronging of the crowd around Jesus where, it is reported, many were healed, even if they only touched the edge of his garment. Lacking details about who was cured of what, we can surely ignore this singular event told pompously by Mark and Matthew. It seems to have been missing from Luke's copy of Mark, as also is the report of his walking on the water; why else would Luke have omitted them?


Mark next reports another dispute with the Pharisees, copied by Luke and Matthew. This is worth looking at in some detail. We are told that there were gathered together some Pharisees, and certain scribes, who had come down from Jerusalem; and had seen that the disciples ate with unwashed hands.
(Mark 7:1-23;Matt.15:1-20)
PHARISEES: Why do your disciples break the law of Moses, and eat their food with unwashed hands?

JESUS: Well did Isaiah prophecy of you hypocrites, as it is written in the book of Isaiah:
        This people honors me with their lips,
        but their heart is far from me; they
        vainly worship me, teaching as their
        commandment the precepts of men. (Isa.20:13)
You ignore the commandment of God, and hang onto the tradition of men. For Moses said, Honor your father and mother; and he that speaks ill of his parents, let him die the death. But you say, If a man tell his mother and father, I can't support you in your old age because all my wealth I have given to the temple. Thus you violate with a sophistry the commandment of the law. And many suchlike things you do.

JESUS (turning to the crowds): Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing which goes into you that can defile you; but the things which come out of you can defile you.

PETER (puzzled): Please explain this saying to us.

JESUS: Are you also without understanding? don't you realize that what you eat goes into your belly, not your heart, and is excreted later; but what comes out of your heart can defile you? For what comes from men's hearts? evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, coveting, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, railing, pride, foolishness. All these things can come out of a man, and they are what will defile you.

Matthew copies this report, and rearranges it somewhat, but the content is the same. Matthew also inserts two sayings, one from document M and one from document P:
JESUS: Every plant which does not come from God shall be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides.
(Luke 6:39;Matt.15:14)
      Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the pit?

Luke is missing all of the events from Mark 6:45 through 8:26, as shown at the head of this chapter. This section therefore is known as "Luke's Great Omission."


At this point in his career Jesus makes a trip into Phoenicia to the northwest of Galilee. Why he did this, Mark doesn't say, but we can guess that it was because of a statement reported later in Luke (document P), when the Pharisees come to him and tell him to get out of Galilee, because Herod wants to kill him. I have taken that statement out of order to show it here as a probable reason for his flight to Phoenicia. The dialogue goes:

(Luke 13:31-33)
PHARISEES: Get going, and get out of Galilee; for Herod is seeking to kill you.

JESUS: Go and tell that fox, I will cast out devils and perform cures today and tomorrow[, and the third day I am perfected]; but I will continue on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for no prophet perishes unless he has been to Jerusalem.

The first sentence of this audacious response appears to have been tinkered with; the phrase "and the third day I am perfected" can only be an interpolation. The repetition of "today and tomorrow" with "perfected on the third day" instead of "the day following" looks plainly like a clumsy bit of duplication of the second sentence. What Jesus probably said was: "Go and tell that fox, that I will continue on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for no prophet perishes outside of Jerusalem." Whether he spoke of "casting out devils and performing cures" is doubtful at best, since he has so frequently told people not to tell anyone about being cured. I will explain in the next chapter how the references to "being perfected" and "rising" on the third day cannot come from Jesus. He continues, or Luke does, anyway, copied by Matthew:
(Luke 13:34-35;Matt.23:37-39)
JESUS (sorrowfully): O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! which kills the prophets, and stones them which are sent unto you! how often would I have gathered your children together, as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not let me! But now your house is left unto you desolate, and I tell you, You will not see me, until in the day you say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of God.

This is the first of his poignant laments over the coming fate of Jerusalem and the Jews, found in both Luke and Matthew. How his love for the people shows through this lament! but again, note that here he calls himself a "prophet", not a messiah. Matthew also takes this statement from document P and inserts it into the final discourse by Jesus on events of the future, rather than reporting it before his journey into Phoenicia.
But about this trip to Phoenicia, it is reported that he came into Tyre and Sidon and entered into a house, and would have no man know of it. This proves that he was fleeing out of Galilee, probably not so much out of fear but because he wanted to go to Jerusalem before he was killed. Later on we will hear his three predictions of his coming death.
But he could not be hid. A woman whose daughter was sick found him, and they had this little dialogue:
(Mark 7:25-30;Matt.15:22-28)
WOMAN: Please, I beg you, come and cure my daughter.

JESUS (wanting to be alone): Let the children first be filled, because it is not meet to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.

WOMAN (undaunted): Yes, Rabbi; but even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the children's table.

JESUS (moved by her repartee): O woman, great is your faith. Go your way; your child will be healed.

His first reply seems uncharacteristic of him; did Jesus really call the Phoenicians "dogs"? It's hard to believe, considering all the other occasions that people from all over Galilee and from Tyre and Sidon had come to hear him preach. The report does not say that Jesus visited the woman's home, so we have no way of knowing how the cure was done. But then, we don't know how any of the cures were done.
Mark reports that Jesus returned to Galilee after his visit to Phoenicia, and includes a brief report of the healing of a deaf and dumb man which is not reported in either Luke or Matthew. It is notable because Jesus is reported as having used saliva to effect the cure. And once again, Jesus tells the man to tell no one, which shows again that he did not want to be known as a wonder-worker.
Mark also tells another tale at this point about how Jesus fed 4,000 people, in the same manner as earlier when he fed 5,000 people. We don't know if this is just a re-telling of the first story with different numbers or not; but it doesn't improve our understanding of his teaching, so we will let it go by.


Following this Mark gives a report of how the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him to give a sign as evidence that his message was from God. He refuses, in one of the most important statements found in the gospels, in Mark, in Matthew, and in Thomas. It is important because it proves that Jesus did not consider himself a wonder-worker, and confirms that he felt his mission was teaching and preaching:
(Mark 8:11-13;Matt.16:1-4)
PHARISEES (challengingly): Show us a sign from heaven.

JESUS (sighing deeply): There shall no sign be given to this generation.

He says, There shall NO sign be given unto this generation, period. Not all of the gospel of John's proclamations of this sign and that sign performed by Jesus, nor similar strains in the other three gospels, can refute this absolute statement by Jesus that he would perform no sign. Matthew appends to this clear statement, "except for the sign of Jonah", probably copied from document P which also contains a passage where Jesus compares himself to the prophet Jonah. But the comparison is based on Jonah's preaching to the people of Nineveh about the coming destruction of THEIR city, not to the fanciful story about being swallowed by a whale.


After he refuses to give a sign, he gets into a boat and sails on to Bethsaida. On the way he utters a famous statement, warning them against the teaching of the Pharisees:
(Mark 8:14-17;Matt.16:5-8)
JESUS: Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod.

DISCIPLES (puzzled again): What's he talking about? Is it because we brought no bread with us?

Jesus' statement here seems clear enough; and it doesn't take much imagination to realize that Jesus meant the teachings and example of the Pharisees. Jesus was probably frustrated but went on:
(Mark 8:18-21;Matt.16:9-12)
JESUS: Why do you think that I was talking about bread? Don't you understand? Having ears, don't you hear? When I fed the 5,000, how many baskets of leftovers were there? And when I fed the 4,000 how many baskets of leftovers were there? Don't you understand yet?

This doesn't seem to clarify what he meant, but rather to make it more mysterious. Why is he talking about the numbers of baskets of leftovers? What's that got to do with leaven, Pharisees, or Herod, or anything else? It must be the most puzzling remark attributed to Jesus in the gospels, but we will not dwell on it further, moreover because there is no answer given.


One more healing is reported by Mark, which is not found in either Luke or Matthew. This time it's a blind man, and again Jesus uses saliva to effect the cure. Mark also says that he laid his hands on the man's eyes; so perhaps Jesus did use laying on of hands after all. But Jesus repeats his adjuration to the man to tell no one:
(Mark 8:22-26)
JESUS: Do not even enter into the village, but go straight home.

In the next chapter we will see how he finally begins to talk directly and emphatically about what his teachings are regarding his future actions and what they must do to be his disciple.