MAIN TEXT: MARK 5:1-20
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
As we continue our journey through the Gospel of Mark we come to a very peculiar story to say the least. The events that take place in our section are troubling to read and paint a vivid picture of the destructive intent of Satan, who is the enemy of our souls. However, we in light of this reality Mark puts on display the character and intention of God through the actions of Jesus.
We are in a war as Christ-followers. This war is not a national war or political war, but rather a spiritual war (Ephesians 6:12). This reality should echo in our minds as we see what takes place when Jesus meets a man who is tormented and in spiritual bondage.
There is a dual danger for the church today when thinking about the issue of the spirit world. C.S. Lewis spoke of this dynamic in his book The Screwtape Letters, where he says:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feed an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight. - C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
We ought to let the Bible guide our thinking concerning this subject and our story shows a picture of the reality of this world that we cannot see and who has ultimate authority over heaven and earth.
Jesus Confronts the Demonic
The Imago Dei is a Latin phrase meaning “the image of God” and is spoken of in reference to mankind. When God created us, he made us in his image. This is significant. This means that we were designed and created to image him–reflect his glory, show his character, point to his worth–to the world in which God placed us.
Satan was also a created being. However, before he rebelled against God and fell from heaven, he was a beautiful cherub that had a superior rank among the angels (see Ezekial 28:12-19 and Isaiah 14:12-15). He desired to establish a throne equal to God saying, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). This pride destroyed this angel and he was cast down from his position (along with a third of the angels) to earth.
The man in our passage was being tormented by and more accurately was in bondage to several demons (or fallen angels who went with Satan when he fell from heaven). In the moment when Jesus and his disciples land on the shore, this man comes to them who is being controlled by an unclean spirit. In this moment, we see Satan’s attack on the image of God, mankind.
First, Satan attempts to defile the image of God in man. The significance of him living among the tombs speaks to him not being accepted by Jewish society. The Jews viewed even the touching of a dead body as a great defilement, let alone living among dead bodies. His bondage had this man dwelling among death, showing that the only outcome Satan wishes for mankind is death.
Second, Satan attempts to deface the image of God in man. The state of this man is almost unrecognizable as a human being. He seems to act and live more like a wild animal. The very nature of this man seem to be altered, this is a reflection not of the beauty of the creation that God made but rather a perversion of what was created.
Third, Satan attempts to destroy the image of God in man. This man could not be bound by any shackles because no physical power could match the spiritual powers warring inside of him. In agony and torment, this man would go about the tombs at night crying aloud and cutting himself, likely in an effort to end his torment and pain–and his life. This is the despair that Satan desires to bring to mankind, because he has come to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).
Jesus Conquers the Destructive
When Jesus encounters this man, he begins to interact with him. Jesus’ own disciples don’t understand really who Jesus is, but this man declares who Jesus is. Demons had previously recognized Jesus (Mark 1:24 and 3:11). Here, this unclean spirit shouts through the man that Jesus is the “Son of the Most High God” (5:7). Demons have a comprehensive knowledge of Jesus (James 2:19). They also recognize real authority in Jesus. This is shown by the posture of this man as he approaches Jesus–he falls down before Jesus.
The curse of sin and death and the destructive power of the enemy will not exceed the redemption restorative work of God in Christ. This you can be sure. Satan will be punished for his deviance and the creation itself will be fully and finally restored to its intended order and design. We live in a time when we experience the reconciling power of God, which restores our original created design and makes us new, but yet, we live in a world that is marred and broken. This world is filled with sin–death, destruction, decay–and we know things aren’t the way they ought to be. You don’t have to be a Christ-follower to recognize the wrong in this world. The only lasting solution however, is Jesus.
Jesus is a liberator, as we see in this story. This man is deep in the throws of bondage and comes to Jesus in pain and torment. Jesus releases this man from his bondage, setting him free. The antagonist, Satan, seeks to put people into bondage and ultimately, to murder. Since Satan wants to destroy the image of God, he is hellbent on destroying the very life of those made in God’s image.
What we see in this story is a remarkable example that there are no impossible cases. You may think that you have someone in your life that will never accept Christ. They may have grown up in church, know all the lingo and be able to go through the motions of Christianity, but place their faith and trust in no one but themselves. Jesus, the liberator, can free even the most hardened person.
Jesus Commissions the Delivered
The church is filled with “impossible cases” or those people that didn’t seem like they would ever accept Jesus as their Savior. This is because Jesus changes people. He changes hearts and transforms minds to know and trust him. The man in our passage was powerless to change himself and Jesus comes and changes him to the point where people that knew him are taken aback at this man being in his right mind.
Jesus doesn’t just change us though, he commissions us and charges us to join him in his mission. God’s mission is for the creation to function as it was designed to function once again, and the first fruit of this cosmic change happens in the hearts of those whom Christ changes. Those who are redeemed from the bondage of sin, can worship God as they were designed. They can live in light of the glory of God, instead of hiding from it. They can know that they stand before God not in their own strength, but in Christ’s strength. They can truly be free.
Finally, Jesus consumes those who are His. This radical change mixed with the command given to us, causes Christ-followers to view all of life for Christ. No longer do you separate your life in small compartments–church time, work time, family time, me time–but instead you see all of life lived before the face of God. You start to see that everything you do, whether in word or deed is done for the glory of God. Like the demoniac that was freed in this story, you proclaim to everyone ‘how much Jesus has done for you.’
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 5:1-20
What were some of the ways the Devil debased this man? How do people these days end up being disgraced when they listen to the Devil’s lies?
Why does demonic activity ultimately lead to suicidal despair? Why is Jesus the only decisive answer to such despair?
In what ways can someone who has just been saved be a better evangelist than someone who has been a Christian and studied the Bible for a long time? How can the latter improve his/her message?