“Repent and Believe,” part 3 (Mark 5)

 Dr. Rachel Coleman

We’re continuing to track the call to “repent and believe” through Mark’s Gospel—and it is increasingly clear that this is no innocuous, “safe” invitation that Jesus is offering us! Mark 5 provides some more glimpses into the radically life-shaping invitation to repent and believe. Far more than mere intellectual assent to a set of beliefs about Jesus, this call requires hands, feet, head, and heart. (Click here to read Parts 1 and 2 of this series.)

Another gospel invitation that parallels “repent and believe” is “leave and follow.” Part 2 of this series finished with Jesus’ perplexed disciples following him across the stormy lake into a scary confrontation with a demon-possessed man (Mark 5:1–20). Now as we watch Jesus bring transformation and wholeness to that tormented soul, we see the healed man learning two necessary aspects of his new identity as a Jesus-follower. First, he sits with Jesus (v. 15)—the proper posture of one who has received powerful grace. In his gratitude and joy, he sits with the Joy-giver—can’t you just picture him seated at Jesus’ feet, leaning against his knee, gazing up into his face, listening intently to his words, quietly marveling at the peace that has eluded him for so long? But Jesus does not allow him to remain there indefinitely; he sends him out to tell his friends and family about the grace he has received (v. 19). Sitting with Jesus in grateful quiet and going out to tell of his goodness to us are inseparable parts of true repentance and belief.

Almost immediately in Mark’s narrative, we see that “repent and believe,” when put into action, sometimes involves following Jesus even when the route he sets is not straight and clear, but full of zig-zags and double-backs. What is up with all this criss-crossing of the lake (Mark 5:21), the disciples must have been wondering? It’s pretty obvious that the encounter on the far side of the lake was neither accidental nor incidental; Jesus had a plan for crossing the lake in the first place, and he left redemptive transformation in his wake. Sometimes “leaving and following” take us to places or along routes that make no human sense, but if Jesus is setting the course, there is absolute certainty that redemption will happen along the way.

Still in Mark 5 (what a chapter!), we discover that “repent and believe” means learning to see the situations of life through Jesus’ eyes. Here the “leave” in “leave and follow” means leaving behind common sense and reason as the only acceptable lenses through which to view life. Jesus takes his disciples into a scene of grief and asks this startling question: “Why all this commotion and wailing?” (v. 39). (Do you sometimes wonder if the disciples responded to Jesus’ odd questions by staring at him and muttering in embarrassment under their breath, “Well, duh, Jesus!”?) A little girl had just died; common sense and reason assessed this as a situation of irreversible tragedy, which led to weeping and wailing. And when Jesus challenged their perspective (“she is dead,” the observation of reason) with another (“she is asleep,” the declaration of hope rooted in power), they mocked him. When Jesus turned their understanding of reality on its head, everyone in the room—including, presumably, the three disciples—was “overcome by amazement” (v. 42).

Questions to consider:

  • Are you “sitting with Jesus” on a regular basis? And do those times of sweet fellowship spill over into “going to tell” about what he has done for you?
  • Is Jesus leading you on a zig-zagging path in this season of life? What glimpses of his redemptive purposes can you see along the way?
  • Where is Jesus calling you to lay aside reason and common sense as your primary lenses, and to put on a new way of seeing? Are you ready to be amazed by what you will see him do?
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