Scripture: Mark 5:1-20
Sometimes talking about evangelism can give people a knot in their stomach, but the bible is clear that the Gospel or good news is something that needs to be shared. Unbelievers need to hear the good news! Romans 10:17 says; “So faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” and in the great commission, Jesus told the 11 remaining Apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. We as the church and as individual believers, play an important part in sharing the good news with others.
This morning we are going to continue with our series, “The Crown and the Cross”, from the book of Mark. We will be in the 5th chapter, looking at versus 1 through 20. Parallel passages of this account of the demon possessed man can be found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as well. Let’s pray as we get into God’s word
This morning I would like to read through the whole passage to get a sweeping view of Jesus’ encounter with the demon possessed man. Then we will break the text down into four sections so that we can look at this account in greater detail.
This passage gives the most extensive account of Jesus’ interaction and casting out of a demon included in scripture. It shows his dominating power over the spiritual world.
As we heard last week, in the passage that proceeds today’s account, Jesus and his disciples after spending time teaching the crowds, he and his disciples took an evening cruise across the Sea of Galilee or known by its other names, the Lake Gennesaret or the Sea of Tiberius. During their trip they encountered a threatening storm which Jesus had to calm so that they could safely make it across. They set sail from the area of Capernaum in the evening and ended up on the eastern shore of the lake. The sun finally comes up as they make it to the other side of the lake and here is where our story starts.
Verse one says that where they landed on the eastern shore was in the country of the Gerasenes. This area was generally considered inhabited by gentiles. Luke 8:26 says that the country of the Gerasenes was opposite of Galilee. Having left Capernaum, it would have been over a 5 mile journey to arrive in that area. In the account found in the Gospel of Matthew, he says that they arrived in the country of the Gaderenes. Bible scholars explain this apparent contradiction by noting that Mark and Luke most likely use the term “country of the Gerasenes” because this story took place by the small town of Gerasa, while Matthew identified it as the “country of the Gaderenes” because the town of Gerasa was under the jurisdiction of the larger city of Gadera which was south east of the lake.
Just as we have seen throughout the earlier chapters of Mark, he says that when Jesus got out of the boat, Immediately, a man with an unclean spirit met him. Once again, we see what might be considered a discrepancy between the Gospel accounts of this story. Mark and Luke both describe the scene with one demon possessed man while Matthew’s account has two demon possessed men. In Matthew Henry’s commentary and others that I have read, he states, and I will paraphrase here, that “Mark does not say that there was only one man possessed with an unclean spirit; so that this difference alone cannot cause us any problem; it is probable that one of them was much more remarkable than the other, and they just called it as they saw it.” The “unclean spirit” that possessed the man as described in verse 2 can be interchanged with the word demon.
Verses 3 through 5 give us details on the condition of the demon possessed man. Luke says that he was not living in a house, he tells us that the man was naked, and that “he had not put on any clothing for a long time.” Mark in verse 3 said that he had his “dwelling among the tombs”. In biblical times tombs were outside the cities in generally desolate places. These tombs were either single or multi chambered rooms cut out of rock cliffs or hillsides. The tombs were used for primary burial which involved placing a newly deceased person’s body inside, on a slab or niche, until their body had decomposed. Then a secondary burial, where their bones would be collected and placed in a box called an “ossuary”, then stored within the tomb for permanent internment. I am not sure who had the final task, but they could have been featured on an episode of Dirty Jobs.
Just living among the tombs would cause a person to be defiled or unclean. In such a person a Jew would have no part. Ezekiel 44:25 says; “They shall not go to a dead person to defile themselves”. In Matthew 23:27, Jesus in speaking about this type of ceremonial uncleanliness says; “Woe to you. Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanliness.”
Mark begins to describe the man’s horrific state of being and speaks to the power that the demon physically has over him. The text says that the man was both violent and had supernatural strength, possibly physically harming or even trying to kill himself or others that passed by the tombs. Verse 4 says that the demon possessed man was so violent and out of control that over time the people of that area had tried, multiple times, to bind him.
Specifically, it says that “he had often been bound” with chains and shackles in an attempt to keep him from harming himself or others. The shackles would have been used to bind the feet and hands while chains were used to restrain the rest of the body. However, the demon that possessed this man manifested the physical strength that gave him the ability to tear apart the chains and break the shackles to pieces. Mark says that no one was strong enough to subdue him. Matthew says that in this final condition “that no one could pass by that way”. The people of the area basically gave up on trying to restrain this man.
Let’s take a quick detour here and think about how they tried to bind this man. When we hear the description of how this demon possessed man was chained and shackled, our first thought may be that we think of it with a negative connotation, like how this man was being held captive or bound by the demon. However, the chains and shackles used by the people of the area, were to benefit the man. It was an attempt to keep the man with the unclean spirit from hurting himself and others. At that point in his life being bound would have been beneficial to that man.
In a similar way, God gave us his moral law, along with its blessings and curses, for our benefit. They serve as a restraint for mankind, designed to keep us from harming ourselves and others. We, as unregenerate people, work to break away from the restraints of God’s law so that we can live our own way, potentially leading to the hurt of others and our own ultimate destruction.
Verse 5 says that he spent his days and nights “constantly” screaming among the tombs and mountains. This restlessness and insomnia that Mark describes shows us the frenzied mental state of this man, with his inability to rest or think clearly. It also says that in this constant state of mental turmoil he was “gashing himself with stones”. Perhaps this self-cutting was a ritualistic action of the demon like was done by the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:27-28; speaking of the Prophets of Baal it says, “It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened”. So they cried out in a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out of them. Possibly the demon possessed man was cutting himself as a form of self-harm such as we see today among some teens and young adults, where they cut themselves is an attempt to cope with frustration, anger, emotional turmoil or an effort to relieve pressure. Or maybe he was just trying to kill himself so that he could finally free himself from the demon forever. If this were the case, the demon would have kept the man from that final drastic action for fear that he would lose his host home.
Finally, in verse 6 the text says that the man; “Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before him.” So, imagine the scene, it’s a nightmare scenario, the stuff horror movies are made from; Jesus and his disciples, having traveled all night, through a “fierce storm”, in fear of perishing, land at the other side of the lake. Having retreated from the crowds and expecting a time of rest, Jesus steps out of the boat and immediately a naked, dirty, unkept and bloody man runs up to him. This man that Mark describes as screaming, violent and out of control, drops to the ground and bows down before him.
The New American Standard Bible says that the demon possessed man “bowed down before” Jesus. The Greek word used here is “proskuneo” (pro-scan-neo), which means to “do reverence to”, “worship”, or “show respect”. This may seem to be an odd thing for a demon to do when meeting Jesus, but as we will see in a minute, the demon is fully aware of who he is addressing. Luke says that the man shrieked or cried out as he fell down before him. In verse 7 of Mark, it says that the demon shouted in a loud voice; “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” The text says that the demon possessed man was “shouting with a loud voice” the Greek word used here for shouting is “krazo” (kra-zo) which means to scream or cry out.
The unclean spirit that possessed this man, as well as all such demons and unclean spirits, are eternal creatures. John Macarthur says that demons are orthodox in their theology, their Christology and their eschatology. They were created by God and have been around from the beginning. They have an orthodox theology, meaning that they know God to be who he is as a trinitarian, “Most High” God. They also have an Orthodox Christology because they are fully aware of Jesus’ place in that trinity, that he is the “Son of the Most High God ” They have an orthodox eschatology because the demons also know that their ultimate fate is to be thrown into hell and eternal fire. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus says, “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels”. The sense we get from the parallel passage in Matthew is that demons were perplexed by the timing of their judgement and not the judgement itself. Matthew 8:29 says; “Have you come to torment us before the time?” As we can see from the demons themselves, orthodoxy, or the correct knowledge of Jesus is not enough to save you or me from eternal judgement and hell.
We see in verse 8 that the reason the demon was crying out as he bowed down to Jesus was because he commanded him; “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”. Up to this point the man or the demon is referred to in a singular tense, but Jesus asks a question that brings the true nature of the possession into focus. In verse 9, Jesus asks; “What is your name?’. The unclean spirit answers, “My name is Legion; for we are many”
This declaration shows the magnitude and gravity of this man’s situation. In 1st century Palestine, the word “Legion” would be known in military terms as a Roman military unit with up to 6,000 men. This lead demon speaking for the “Legion” was saying that like a Roman Legion, there are a lot of us, we’re organized, we are unified, and we are ready to fight. This man was possessed with not just one unclean spirit but multitudes of them.
Having been commanded by Jesus to come out of the man, verse 10 says that demons “implored him earnestly no to send them out of the country”. John Trapp, a 17th century bible commentator says, “they did not want to become inactive, it is hell for the devil to be idle, or doing things other than evil possession of a human”. He also surmises that the demons knew the area and there were a lot of people that were open to demon possession.
In Luke’s account, we get an additional detail, it says; “They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss. They also knew that Jesus had the power to send them to the abyss, where they would be held for their final judgement. 2 Peter 2: says that “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgement.” Obviously, being bound and cast into the abyss would not allow the demons to actively work at thwarting the plan of God or work to torment men.
As a compromise, the demons begged to be sent to a herd of pigs that were feeding in the distance. We can assume that this was a way that the demons figured that they could stay in the area and might save them from being locked away until judgement. Verse 13 says that Jesus gave them permission, but the text does not give an explanation as to why he granted their request. It may be that Jesus knew that the time was not right to bring a total defeat to the enemy, or that he wanted the people of that area to visibly see the physical destruction of the demons. However, we do know that God is sovereign, and he has a plan for everything.
After Jesus gave the demons permission to enter the herd of pigs, we all know the story of what happened next. John MacArthur describes it eloquently, by saying; “The herd of pigs took a swine dive off the cliff and committed sueycide.” This act shows the evil intent and brutal behavior of the demons, just the act of entering the pigs caused them to go into a violent frenzy leading to their destruction. This scene would have been a visual lesson for the herdsmen as to the evil that had possessed the man and the awesome power of Jesus to make the man well.
This was jarring to the people that witnessed the casting out of the demons and the resulting drowning of the pigs, the herdsmen were scared by what they saw. Verse 14 says that the herdsman “ran away” to the city and country to report what had happened. The Greek word for run away is pheugo (fyoo-go) which means; to flee something, seek safety by flight, flee something abhorrent, or escape safely out of danger.
Having told people in the cities and surrounding areas what had happened, regarding the man and the pigs, the people came to see for themselves what had occurred. Matthew says that the herdsmen “reported everything” and that the “whole city” came out to see Jesus. A large group of people gathered at the scene, they wanted to see for themselves the 2000 pigs that drowned themselves after the demons came out of the notorious man of the tombs.
Verses 15 through 17 describe a scene where the people from the area have gathered by the side of the lake. When they arrive, they see Jesus and the formerly demon possessed man. However, this time instead of seeing him naked, violent, screaming and uncontrollable, they find him “sitting down, clothed and in his right mind”. Just seeing the change in this man frightened them.
It is interesting that we saw this same kind of reaction from the disciples, they were frightened, when Jesus calmed the storm in the passage that we studied last week. Being witness to Jesus’ awesome power over the natural or spiritual world must have been fear inducing. Then the eyewitnesses to the event begin to tell the whole story to the gathered crowd, about how it had happened to the demon possessed man and all about the swine. They go from being just afraid, to begging Jesus to leave their region.
As Jesus was getting into the boat to leave, verse 18 says that the man who had been demon possessed was begging to go with Jesus. However, Jesus did not let him go with him, instead in verse 19 Jesus says; “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.” This man was commissioned by Jesus to share the good news to his relatives and the people that lived in his neighborhood.
Jesus didn’t tell him that he needed to learn more theology, he didn’t first need to spend more time with other believers or attend the Jerusalem Bible College. All he needed was to be armed with the testimony of what his life was like when he was possessed by the legion of demons and how Jesus, the Lord, Son of the Most High God had delivered him. He was a man with a well-known past, that bore the scars of demon possession and was effective in reaching others. Just think, we don’t know this man by his name, Bill, Kevin, or Clarence, instead he is forever known as the demoniac. Verse 20 says that; He went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis the great things that Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.
Tell Your Friends
- People need to hear the Gospel!
There is a saying, falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, heard in many Christian circles that says: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary”. That saying is intended to say that proclaiming the Gospel by example is more virtuous, or easier, than actually proclaiming it with our voice. This is a saying that believers need to drop from their memory because it borders on heresy. While our actions as believers do reflect on our relationship with God, the bible is clear that the Gospel needs to be proclaimed with words. Romans 10:13 & 14 says, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher?”. And again, Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
- You are already equipped!
Just like we saw in the account of the demon possessed man, Jesus commissioned him without him having any special training. He was a man with a very sketchy past, a past that included violence, deviancy, self-harm, and lunacy. Jesus sent him out to share his story, armed only with his past and the account of his supernatural deliverance by Jesus. This man was well known in that area, notorious actually, and I can just imagine his excitement every time someone would come up to him and say; “aren’t you that lunatic that used to live in the tombs?”. It would just give him the opportunity to tell the story again.
We all have our story to tell! While I don’t think any of us were in as bad physical shape as the demon possessed man, we were all in the same spiritual shape. While not demon possessed, we were spiritually dead. If you are a Christian, you have received redemption from Christ and are a new creation. It says in 2 Corinthians 17; “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature; the old things passed away and the new things have come.
- The amount of time doesn’t matter!
The formerly demon possessed man had only been free of the demons for a matter of hours before Jesus commissioned him. As soon as Jesus left, he went away to the cities in that area and shared what had been done for him. The result was that “everyone was amazed”. You don’t need to be a “seasoned saint” before sharing about Jesus, you are ready now. Last week we heard Jake and Matt give their testimonies, their stories about how their lives were changed after Jesus redeemed them. They shared their stories with excitement just like the formerly demon possessed man must have. We all have our own stories of how we were redeemed through faith in Jesus. Share your story.
Do you Believe?
- Orthodoxy can’t save you
If you are listening today and profess to be a Christian, is it difficult to think of how your life has been transformed by your encounter with Jesus Christ? Are you afraid that the story you tell about your redemption or the life you live would not draw others to Christ? If this describes you today, examine yourself. 2 Corinthians 13:5; Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test?”
We saw that the demons that possessed this man, and all demons, were orthodox in their beliefs. They have a correct knowledge of the “Most High God”, they know that Jesus is the second person of the trinity, “Son of the Most High God” and they know that they have an ultimate place in the abyss and then hell. However, just knowing those things does not save them from that ultimate fate. James says it well in Chapter 2:19 when speaking of someone that professes faith in Jesus but shows no fruit; “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe that God is one.
- Sin will steal your story
The story of your redemption might be ineffective because of unconfessed sin in your life. Sin creates a distance between us and God which can affect our relationship and our story. In Psalm 38, David laments over his sin against God and it describes his physical and emotional state; “There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; There is no health in my bones because of my sin.” and then; “Yes, I am like a man who does not hear, And in whose mouth are no arguments.” Confess your sin, repent and ask the father for forgiveness so that you can be restored to a right relationship.
- Preach the Gospel to yourself
My friend, Dr. Bob, a brother in Christ, used to say that we needed to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. This was a common thing that he would say when we would meet in our small group. Preaching the Gospel to yourself involves remembering where you came from, our life before knowing Christ, the desperation of being separated from God and then the joy and excitement of being brought into a right relationship because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Remembering this every day, will always bring back the thankfulness and excitement of when we first believed.
Holly has heard me say this many times. God has done many great things in my life, saved me, comforted me in great sadness, and like Job, restored to me the things that the enemy had taken, to bring me great joy. I never wanted to be like the Israelites that were part of the exodus from Egypt. After seeing all the miracles that God had done, the plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna in the wilderness and so many more, they constantly grumbled and rebelled because they forgot what God had done for them.
If you love me
- Breaking the Restraints
Any loving father puts in place rules for his children because he knows what is best for them. This is even more true of God, he not only loves us, but knows us intimately because he created us. God has given us his moral law as a way of showing us how to conduct our lives in relation to him and others. He restrains us so that we won’t harm ourselves or others.
However, as human beings our sinful nature causes us to rebel against God and his law. Romans 3:23; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” We break the chains and shackles of the law that are meant to protect and restrain us because we think that we know better than our creator and want to go our own way.
- The consequences
By going our own way, we sin against a Holy God and deserve punishment. Romans 6:23; “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life”. Everyone will spend eternity somewhere, either in the presence of God or in the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- A Loving God – Good News
The good news is that God loves us just like he did the demon possessed man, while still in his desperate state Jesus came and saved him. The Father offers the same for us, Romans 5:8; “But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God put all our sins on his son so that Jesus could take our punishment on our behalf.
- The response
If you are here today or listening online and know that God is speaking to you, he does that because he is a personal God that draws men and women to himself, then I urge you to listen to his effectual call. Romans 10:9 says; “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. Making Jesus Lord puts him at the center of your life and changes your desires and priorities. It will give you your own story to share with your friends of how meeting Jesus changed your life. If you take that step today, I encourage you to tell someone and find other believers that can help you grow in your faith.