“Jesus Saves Us from Shame and Bestows Us with Honor” (Mark 5)

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As we continue reading the Gospel of Mark, I want to talk about how Jesus saves us from shame and bestows us with honor.

The ideas of honor and shame run deeply in many cultures. Let me give an example in Japan. For a few years, a hot topic in Japanese media was the story of Princess Mako’s engagement to a commoner. The young man was scrutinized from all angles. Was he worthy of marrying a member of the Imperial family? Many people opposed this marriage because the young man’s mother had an unresolved financial dispute. This tainted his reputation, or his honor, in people’s eyes. Surely the Imperial family should avoid such scandals, they thought.

Honor and shame influence our relationships and the way we live. We honor VIPs and successful people. We work hard to be praised. We feel shame, or at least embarrassment, when we make mistakes. We hide things we don’t want others to know about us. At the root of this, we want to be accepted—even celebrated—rather than rejected.

I believe the concept of honor and shame is relevant to today’s passage, Mark chapter 5. We’ll read about three people that Jesus helped. I want to show how Jesus saved them from a state of uncleanness or shame. Let’s pray before reading the passage.

[Read Mark 5]

Uncleanness and Shame

Each person that Jesus helped here was considered ritually unclean by Jewish law.

The demon-possessed man was unclean because of the spirit. He was also a Gentile and Jews considered Gentiles unclean. The woman with bleeding was also considered unclean, by the law recorded in Leviticus 15 (v19-33). Anything she touched would become unclean too and require a purification process. Lastly, the body of a deceased person is also unclean. Touching a corpse made a Jew unclean (Numbers 31:19).

Let me explain how their uncleanness is connected to shame.

Even if the possessed man wasn’t aware of himself, his family was probably grieved and shamed by his condition. As for the bleeding woman, not only was her body broken but she suffered the shame of using all her savings, needing to depend on others, and be shunned by people who knew she was unclean.

How about Jairus’ daughter? Well, societal shame may not be relevant here, but death itself is connected to our shame as human beings, as I’ll explain later.

In summary, uncleanness separated these characters from other people. Likewise shame creates rifts in relationships and fractures community. And death, of course, is the final separation.

Uncleanness is just a surface problem. There are ways to make ourselves clean. But shame is not so easily removed, is it?

Honor and Shame from the beginning of the world

Shame has been with humanity from almost the beginning. But when we were first created, we were in a place of honor.

The first humans, Adam and Eve, were described this way by Genesis 2:25: “The man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.” Psalm 8 says, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor (v4-5)”.

The Garden of Eden was a place without sin and shame. After Adam and Eve sinned, they quickly covered themselves with leaves and hid from God. Their sin and shame broke an intimate relationship with God and each other.

Because they were expelled from the garden and could no longer eat from the “tree of life,” death became the fate of every human being. No matter how great our status in this life, we eventually return to the dust we were made of. Compared to the glory we were created for, we now live in shame.

We continue to carry the shame of our ancestors Adam and Eve and the penalty of sin, which is death. That is, until Jesus comes to remove our shame and grant honor and life.

Jesus Removes Our Shame

In today’s chapter, we saw Jesus remove the uncleanness from three people and restore their ability to live in community again.

When the possessed man is healed, Jesus encourages him to go home to his people. When the bleeding woman is healed, Jesus restores her socially, pronouncing her “healed” and even praising her faith. The young girl was able to enjoy life with her family again.

Whoever society rejects, Jesus welcomes and grants dignity in a way they could never imagine. In other Gospel stories, we see him eating with social outcasts. Other Jews may have avoided getting close to these unclean characters, but Jesus wasn’t afraid. Instead of these characters’ uncleanness defiling Jesus, we see Jesus transferring to them his cleanness.

Jesus doesn’t just close one eye to our shame, pretending it’s not there. Instead he removes our shame, even carrying it on our behalf.

Dying on a Roman cross was one of the most shameful ways a person could die in Jesus’ time. The Romans invented this form of execution because it was not only very painful but also shamed the criminal publicly to curb crime and rebellion in the vast territories of the Roman empire.

On the cross, Jesus became one of us—someone who knows shame. But he was raised to life and honor again. As Hebrews 12:2 says, “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Death and the other effects of sin have no power over him. Through Jesus, God is taking the world back from the rule of Satan. He is reversing the curse of Adam’s sin. That is how, as the Son of God, Jesus is ushering the kingdom of God into our world.

Jesus Grants Us Honor

In this kingdom, we are given life, acceptance, and even honor. For example, the honor of being adopted as God’s children.

We often talk about how Jesus saves us from guilt and makes us righteous in God’s eyes. But we can also thank God saving us from shame and giving us honor, of being his children. 1 Peter 2:6 says that “whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Isaiah 61 gives us a beautiful picture of this honor. Elsewhere in the Gospel stories, Jesus read from this passage and told his audience that he was fulfilling this chapter. Please read this whole chapter when you have time, but let me just read two verses.

First, Isaiah 61:7:

“Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.”

Second, Isaiah 61:10, which tells us what it feels like to have honor:

“I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

It is like being clothed with beauty and glory.


I’m really comforted by the thought that my honor comes from God.

Whenever I visit Malaysia, my father mentions how my successful cousins are doing. “So-and-so is a doctor in the UK, and he bought property there for this much…” I feel I’ve never brought him honor as a son, because I’m not successful in the ways he hoped for. One time, my father even said about himself, “I’m a failure.” I was shocked to hear him talk so honestly about himself.

I really want my father to see reality through God’s eyes. In that moment, I wasn’t able to tell him everything I just told you about Jesus, shame, and honor. But I’m thankful that I could respond to him in a way that was not defensive and yet challenged his thinking.

I said, “Our family is not a failure. We have gone through many challenges as a family but not given up. We may not be rich, but we could be in a much worse situation. My brother and I are doing okay. As you have seen, it’s thanks to Jesus and the church.” I wanted my father to turn his focus away from comparing and competing. Instead, I hoped he could see what Jesus had done for our family.

The solution to being a failure in society is not to try harder to succeed. Rather, the greatest solution is to receive what we need from Jesus. In my case, I choose to receive honor from my heavenly Father and try to honor him in return, rather than chase the praises of men.

Much of this world is a competition. In a competition, there are prizes for only a few winners. But when God honors one person, it doesn’t exclude other persons from receiving honor too. When we experience being accepted by God, it makes us want to share this place of honor with other people, not fight to keep it for ourselves and be superior to them.


To wrap up this sermon:

The concepts of honor and shame are found throughout the Bible. I believe that the message of the Bible is so relevant to our lives in a harsh, competitive world. By looking at today’s passage through the concepts of honor and shame, I hope you were able to see the beauty of Jesus and the gospel.

Let me end by suggesting a few questions you can talk to God about:

1) In what part of life have you felt shame or “not good enough”? If society evaluated you, how would the report sound like?

2) What does Jesus say about you? What does he say about the areas where you feel inadequate?

3) Can you rest in knowing that God’s honor and favor are upon you? Do you spend a lot of time pursuing praise from other people?

The honor God gives us is lasting. It will outlast this world. I’ll close by praying from Psalm 31.

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. (Psalm 31:1-5)

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