Nov 18, 2012
Mark 5:1-20

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When it’s all said and done, the direction of your life (whether you live in the light of truth or continue in the blind ignorance rot by sin and rebellion) really does boil down to one key thing.... your position concerning Jesus! 

Since your position concerning Jesus means everything, following the parables of chapter 4, Mark provides 3 stories that should impact your view of Christ.

Last week we saw Jesus address the disciples lack of faith in His Word. He rebuked the wind and the waves and brought immediate calm to the raging storm. In the aftermath of this awesome miracle the disciples were left considering a very important question.... “What manner of man is this?” They were about to find out....

Mark 5:1-13 “Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit (Luke says he was naked), who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.”
“When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.”
“Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.”

Scene of Activity

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes....” Jesus and the disciples are traveling across the Sea of Galilee when an incredible storm arises. Jesus rebukes the storm, and they continue their journey arriving in a Gentile area known as Gadara. 

When Jesus told the disciples to board the boat and set sail “to the other side” I don’t believe “the other side” was initially Gadara. There is no way these Jewish disciples would have knowingly sailed to a region under Gentile control without voicing their objections (of which we have no record). 

We should consider this question.... Did the storm knock them off course, or was the storm intentionally used by Jesus to set their course? I believe the storm didn’t redirect them away from the intended destination, but was rather used by Jesus to direct them towards the intended destination. 

It’s not an uncommon perspective to have, but sometimes in the midst of our storms we can falsely conclude God’s will for our lives has been irrevocably effected.... that we’ve been knocked off course. This story demonstrated the opposite.... God was using the storm to get them where He wanted them to be!

So they arrive in Gadara and as soon as Jesus “had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.” 

The disciples are already freaked out by what had just happened on the trip over when a wild, naked, demon possessed man greets them on the shore. Not exactly the kind of welcoming party they were expecting. 

If Jesus had Gadara as His desired destination all along, think about what this means.... this encounter with the demoniac was premeditated. Jesus intentionally commanded the disciples to cross the sea because He had an intervention scheduled for this man.

Before we continue.... let’s work up a description of this man.... 

1. He was a demoniac. Mark tells us he was possessed with “an unclean spirit.” 

We don’t know how this man came to be possessed. We don’t know when the possession occurred, or what his life might have looked like before hand. But when Jesus asks the demon for his name he replies, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” We can surmise he was possessed by thousands of demons.  

Luke tells us he had been possessed “a long time.” At this point it’s clear his own psyche had become completely dominated by the demons possessing him. Whether consciously or unconsciously, this man had yielding himself to these forces of evil and had become a prisoner in his own mind.

2. He had been shunned by society. This man was an “outcast” in every sense of the word. Mark says he came “out of the tombs,” which were “his dwelling.” 

It’s clear this demonic possession had robbed him of all meaningful human relationships. These dark forces had driven away any positive influences (friends or family), and had forced him into a very dark and depressive environment. 

3. He was uncontrollable and insane. Mark says “he had often been bound with shackles and chains,” but in the end “no one could bind him.... or tame him.” 

Whether he had been bound in an attempt to provide aid or simply with the intention of protecting others, no human scheme provided this man help or brought relief to an otherwise horrible situation.

4. He was violent. And it seems his strength was superhuman. Mark says “the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces.” 

The only other mention of this kind of superhuman strength was the Old Testament judge, Samson. We know his supernatural strength came from the Holy Spirit. It seems similar physical strength can be imparted by demons. 

Matthew’s account of the story paints the picture a bit more extreme. He tells us this man was so “exceedingly fierce, that no one could pass that way.” 

5. He was self-destructive. Mark says the man was “crying out (literally shrieking) and cutting himself with stones.” 

The language used here describes a man in such mental anguish that his only psychological release was inflicting physical torment and pain upon himself.

Mark tells us this man “saw Jesus from afar, ran, and worshiped Him.” 

Jesus is possibly not even out of the boat as this scene is unfolding. Seeing the man  running towards Jesus, the disciples are probably going into defense mode when Jesus stops the man in his tracks and says to the demon, “come out of the man.” 

The demons respond by “crying out with a loud voice.... “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore (literally beg you) You by God that You do not torment me.” 

Mark continues by saying the demons were “begging Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.” But instead “send them into the swine.” We’re told “at once Jesus gave them permission. And the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.

Before we explore the significance of this story itself, there are a two questions concerning demons and demon possession that we should address....

Why did the demons in this story beg to be cast into the swine, when the demon encountered in Mark 1 didn’t make such a request?

In order to effectively answer this question, there are 5 we should keep in mind concerning demons and the nature of possession.

1. Demons were originally angels. They were created by God to serve His purposes as members of the angelic host. However, Scripture tells us when Satan rebelled against God (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28) one-third of the angelic host joined his insurrection (Revelation 12). These fallen angels now serve the will of Satan.

2. Hell was created for Satan and the demons (Matthew 25:41). The demons in our story beg Jesus not to “torment them.” Matthew’s account adds “before the time.” I believe these demons feared being sent to judgment prematurely. 

3. Demons (as former angelic beings) have the ability to take the form of human beings. We’re warned in Hebrews 13 “to not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

4. Demon possession is a tool used by Satan to insult and mock God and His creation. What Satan had done to the man in our story (a man you should note had been created in the “image and likeness of God”) served to ridicule God. 

Never forget.... Satan is in the business of destroying and defaming what God has created, mainly destroying the lives of men and women God desires to redeem and set free from sin. The fact the swine ran into the sea served to illustrate the true intentions of these demons.

5. Scripture seems to describe three categories of demons. 

A) There are demons free to roam the earth without restriction.

B) There are demons held in captivity, reserved for judgment.

In Jude 6 we’re told there are demons “bound with everlasting chains.” These are fallen angels who rebelled against the wishes of God in an additional way aside from joining in Satan’s rebellion. These demons have received punishment for their actions and are not allowed to roam the earth. 

What did they do to deserve this early judgment? Some scholars believe that in Genesis 6 when the “sons of God saw the daughters of man and took wives for themselves....” they produced half-man, half-demon offspring. This unholy, sexual act between demons and human women produced what Genesis describes as “giants on the earth.” Because these demons committed this sexual abomination, God revoked their freedom and placed them in everlasting chains.

C) There are demons who seem to need a biological dwelling. 

Once again.... why do some demons need biology while others do not? 

The best theory as to why we see this distinction is found once again in the events of Genesis 6.... some believe when the flood killed off humanity, it left the man/demon offspring (known as the Nephilim) as disembodied spirits desperately searching for flesh and blood to re-inhabit. 

Though this sounds crazy it does provide a reasonable explanation as to why some demons crave biological dwelling, while others seem fine without it. 

Who can be possessed?

The answer might surprise you.... Everyone can be possessed, either by unclean spirits or the Spirit of God. 

Understand, for the believer possessed by the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to be possessed by a demon. 

In 1 John 4 we’re reassured, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” In 2 Corinthians 6 we’re told, “for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what fellowship has Christ with Belial?” In James 4:7 we’re admonished to “resist the devil and he will flee from you.

However, for those who aren’t possessed by the H.S, there are no guarantees.

Unrelated Question: Why does Mark mention one man when Matthew mentions two?

In Matthew’s account of this story he mentions two men coming out of the tombs, but in Mark’s account we only have mention of one.... why the apparent contradiction? 

I believe the reason for this is simple.... according to Matthew, Jesus indeed casts the demons out of both men, but I think from Mark’s account we can conclude only one of the two men made the decision to follow Christ. 

Because Mark provides extended details about this man and his interactions with Jesus following the exorcism (details Matthew leaves out), Mark sees no need to mention this second man. An omission is not always a contradiction!

Mark 5:14-17 “So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. 
And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.”

You have to ask why.... in the presence of such an amazing miracle, why would these people prefer Jesus leave their town than stay? 

1. Could it have been greed? 

There are those who believe the hostility shown Jesus was on account of the herd of swine He had just sent off a cliff. You can imagine loosing the profit on a herd of 2000 pigs would have been a significant loss. 

Someone lost a lot of bacon, and I’m sure this someone wasn’t pleased with what had happened even if a life was saved in the process.

2. Could it have been conviction?

What a herd of swine was doing in Israel in the first place? 

Pigs were forbidden in the Jewish diet. Sure this region was dominated by Gentile communities who would use swine for pagan sacrifices, but it was also known to be a safe haven for apostate Jews (those who had rejected God for a life of paganism). Either way.... I’m sure it was simply easier to have Jesus leave town than allow Him to continue to poke around their affairs.

3. Could it have been misinformation? 

Don’t forget one of the lies that had been circulated against Jesus was that His power originated from Satan. Could it have been they simply believed the lie - failed to seek the truth - and found it easier to remain indifferent?

Regardless of the reason.... it’s an equally sad truth that some people today witness God transform the life of someone they know (in a way completely undeniable) and they react using similar logic. 

They reject Jesus out of greed.... maybe they fear accepting Jesus might end up costing them something they hold dear? 

They reject Jesus out of conviction.... who really likes feeling convicted all the time if I have no intention of changing my behavior. 

They reject Jesus simply because it’s easier go along with their preconceived prejudices than examine the truth with an open mind. 

Either way, the one inescapable and unavoidable reality we learn from this story is that if we ask Jesus to move on.... He obliges.  

Mark 5:18-20 “And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”

Consider the Power of Jesus’ Word

Three times we find this man called “He who had been demon-possessed....” You can’t help but notice the incredible transformation that took place in this man’s life following his encounter with Jesus.... 

In one day he goes from being an uncontrollable, insane, naked madman, possessed by a legion of demons - to a man freed from possession, liberated from affliction, clothed, under control, in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus. Once again we’re given a stark illustration as to the power of Jesus’ Word.

Mark tells us.... as Jesus boards the boat to head back across the Sea of Galilee, this man “begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him.” 

Consider the Particulars of this Man’s Commission

1. Jesus never send us out before making sure we’re ready to go!

Don’t assume by this exchange that this man was in some way not a true or genuine disciple of Jesus. I think this situation reveals he may have been more of a genuine disciple than the twelve men sitting in the boat wearing the name tags. 

It’s clear from the text that all Jesus did was expedite this man’s commission. Jesus told him to “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.

Don’t forget in about a year or so from this date Jesus was going to give all of His disciples the same commission. “I go to prepare a place for you. You can’t go with me. Instead go into all the world and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you.” 

I think it’s safe for us to conclude the men in that boat needed another year of preparation. In contrast, this man was already prepared.... all he needed were his marching orders. 

And when he received them we’re told he didn’t complain - he didn’t argue.... “he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis (10 Greek cities on the Eastern side of Galilee) all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.” 

It really is amazing to consider the first missionary sent out by Jesus wasn’t the disciples, it wasn’t Peter, not even Paul.... the first missionary was the man “who had been demon-possessed.”

Jesus sends us to the location of our greatest influence.

Go home to your friends....” “Witnessing” is not something you go out and do, but rather something you go out and are! You are a witness! 

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why his ministry was going to be more powerful around those who knew Him best.... these were the people with context. This man’s transformed life was to be a witness to the power of Jesus Christ.

“The first place to shine your light is with those who shared your darkness.”

Jesus equips us with a story.

Please note this man was commissioned by Jesus with a task, but he was equipped to accomplish the task with a story.... “tell them what great things the Lord has done for you.” 

Though his theology was only minutes old and his doctrinal knowledge was minuscule, this man had a personal experience He could share.