Mark 5:1-5… So they came to the other side of the lake, to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 Just as Jesus was getting out of the boat, a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For his hands and feet had often been bound with chains and shackles, but he had torn the chains apart and broken the shackles in pieces. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Each night and every day among the tombs and in the mountains, he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
After calming the storm on the sea and impressing upon the disciples his Lordship over nature, Jesus and the Twelve later arrived on the other side. The region of their arrival is called “the Gerasenes” (a.k.a. Gaderenes). This country, known both as Gerasa & Gergasa, was on the northeast shore of the sea, six miles from Capernaum. The town of Gadara is located farther south and is inland. The region, including Gerasa, was known as the “region of the Gerasenes.”
Though Mark and Luke’s account only mention one demon-possessed man who greets Jesus in v. 2, Matthew speaks of two men (Mark clearly is only focusing on the more dominant of the two men for his writing purposes). Now the man who approached Jesus is said to have had an unclean spirit (i.e., possessed by demons). This man was actually under the control of many demons as the story later reveals. Scripture gives many accounts of people being possessed by demons, but it never clearly distinguishes between obsession, possession, or oppression. Demon-possession may be defined as a state of being where a person is inhabited and/or controlled by a demon or demons which in turn attacks a person spiritually, physically, and mentally. Demon-possessed people promote false religion and attack biblical Christianity. Demon-possession in more civilized societies is often passed off as insanity. Just as it is relatively uncommon today to witness demon-possession, it was unheard of in Jerusalem – the city of God. It is more common today in pagan religions and in their accompanying fear and worship of evil spirits. Jesus never blamed demoniacs or disease-ridden people for their state of being but saw them as victims of a power greater than they. They were in need of deliverance, and he delivered them.
The demoniac lived among the tombs in v. 3. These were cave-like places where the dead were buried. If the man was a Jew then it’s likely that the demons were forcing him to live there as part of his torment, for it was the great defilement for a Jew to touch or go near a dead body. This man was physically powerful – so strong that that even the chains used to bind him by the townspeople were broken to pieces through the power of the demons which controlled him. No one could subdue him. As a result, he and his demon-possessed partner tormented the towns-people day and night through loud shrieks. He even cut himself with stones – an act that even today relates to demonic worship. This man was so involved in Satanic worship against his will, while being overpowered by the demons which controlled him, that he even maimed himself.
Food for Thought
Admittedly demon-possession today is a fantastic topic accompanied by much doubt. But many foreign missionaries share story after story about their encounters with demons in third world countries. Today in the USA demons are truly active, and they even possess people. It’s possible that, just like we’ve rationalized every other miraculous phenomenon of the past, we have also done so with demon-possession. They don’t possess everyone, but they clearly torment many – even Christians. We must wake up and intensify our walk with Christ, for if “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), we would do well to keep our guard up and ward off his attacks with a steady and daily walk with Christ.
Mark 5:6-9… And when the demoniac saw Jesus from afar, he ran and bowed down before him; 7 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.” 8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”
In Mark 5:1-5 Jesus and the disciples arrived on the other side of the sea to the country of the Gerasenes (modern-day Kersa or Koursi). Upon getting out of the boat a demon-possessed man who lived among the tombs came out to meet him. He cried out like a madman night and day among the tombs cutting and maiming himself with stones. We are not told if it was still nighttime, but if the events that transpire did occur prior to daylight it certainly makes this account all the more eerie. Imagine pulling up to the shore at night and being greeted by a raving lunatic possessed by demons. The disciples, however, were prepared. They had God with them.
The demoniac speaks to Jesus, but it will be clear as the story unfolds that it’s actually the demons (plural) speaking through the man. Now as Jesus approached, the demoniac ran to him and fell prostrate. This was not an act of worship but rather one of pleading and of defense. The demons knew they were in the presence of God as evidenced by the man’s cry, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” This “Son of the Most High God” designation reveals that the demons recognized Jesus as God, not simply as the Jewish Messiah (the demon in 1:24 also knew as much when he called Jesus “the Holy One of God”). But the demons also tried to make Jesus swear that he wouldn’t torment them. This seems very strange for demons to appeal to God’s name in order to command Jesus to do something. But the same account in Matthew 8:29 tells why: “Why have you come to torment us before the time?” In other words, even the demons knew that there was an appointed time that they would come before God’s judgment. Jesus’ presence frightened them because they perceived God was judging them before the appointed time – a time that they apparently understood to be in the distant future.
Verse 8 shows why the demoniac spoke with the fear he did, for Jesus had commanded the demons to come out of the man. He then asked the demon what his name was. The name he gave Jesus was “Legion” – a term that literally means “thousands.” William Lane says, “This response may be an appeal for compassion… a pathetic admission of the loss of all sense of identity” for the demon-possessed man. Lane also suggests, “On the other hand, the answer may be evasive, the demons desiring to withhold their true names from Jesus in a desperate attempt to thwart his power… It is also possible that the name may have been selected to invoke the fear of a powerful name… It is probable that the many demons can be referred to as a single being because they are in common possession of the same victim.” Many possibilities exist for interpretation, but one thing is clear: this man was possessed, but he cowers in God’s presence.
Food for Thought
Demon-possession has always been an enigma, but one thing is for sure: when the presence of Jesus Christ confronts a demoniac they go haywire in the presence of the Almighty God. The world we live in today is as evil as it’s ever been, and evil is always associated with Satan and his demonic hosts. They are powerful beings, but look at how they cower in the face of God’s presence. Remember, however, that the Holy Spirit dwells in you. So how do the forces of evil, which dwell in others, behave in your presence? Are they at ease, or do they cringe because of God in you? Make your walk with Christ so steady that they cower in your presence.
Mark 5:10-13… And he begged Jesus repeatedly not to send them out of the region. 11 Now a great herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; 12 and they begged him, “Send us to the swine, let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.
Jesus’ presence and the demons’ reaction to his presence proves His superiority over their realm of influence. Satan failed to tempt Jesus to sin in the wilderness, and now Jesus is exercising his authority over Satan’s realm. His demons put up no fight against him, and Satan himself did not come to their rescue. Instead, they “repeatedly begged” Jesus not to send them out of the country. They knew they were in his hands and at his mercy.
If the man is the subject of the verb in v. 10 then his pleas to not be sent out of the region are an appeal to not be driven off again as the townspeople had often done to him, but this is not likely. The more probable interpretation is that the demons are the subject of the verb, and their fear was to not be sent out of the region. Whereas Mark’s account has the demons wanting to stay in the region, Luke and Matthew both speak of what the demons wished to avoid in being sent out of the man. In Matthew 8:29 they wish to avoid being tormented. In Luke 8:31 they wish to avoid the “abyss” – a term that denotes the abode of the dead in the OT. Luke uses the term to designate the place where disobedient spirits are confined. But as Bock has suggested, “it may well be associated with their being cast into the depths of the sea.” This makes sense because as the story unfolds the demons find themselves in the depths of the Sea of Galilee – possibly the very place they begged Jesus to keep them from. In Luke 11:24 we see that when demons are expelled they are said to go through “waterless” places to find rest. Water appears to be upsetting to demons. And when they’re sent out they are in a wilderness without a body. Perhaps they must have a body in order to have an effective existence against God and His people.
When Jesus gave the demons permission to enter the herd of pigs upon their departure from the man he wasn’t being compassionate. It appears as if Jesus gave them what they wished for knowing that they were ignorant of the fact that the swine would subsequently venture down into the sea and give the demons exactly what they feared the most, namely, water – the abyss. The number of demons that came out of the man are said to be “about two-thousand” giving credence to the name the demons gave Jesus – “Legion” which means “thousands.”
There is no way to know why the demons asked to be sent into the herd of pigs. They already feared that God had changed His timetable and was going to judge them before their appointed time. Possibly they believed that inhabiting the pigs would be better than nothing. Whatever the reason, it is clear that Jesus would no longer allow them to possess the man. So he spoke, and the demons entered the swine. Then they rushed into the sea and died. It is unknown what happened to the demons themselves, but it’s clear the pigs died. Whatever the case, the lesson here is that Jesus has ultimate authority over the satanic realm. They not only fear him greatly, they obey his commands. James says, “Even the demons believe, and shudder!” (2:19).
Food for Thought
The final destination for the demons – the angels of the rebellion in heaven – is the Lake of Fire in Rev. 20:14-15. Matthew 25:41 calls this place “eternal fire,” a place prepared specially for the devil and his angels. But it will also be populated with people too – those who rejected Jesus Christ during their time on earth. Truly we must be about the task of sowing God’s Word.
Mark 5:14-20… The herdsmen fled, and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus, and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it told what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their neighborhood. 18 And as he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But he refused, and 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.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and all men marveled.
The men who had been tending the herd of swine that had just plunged into the sea of Galilee went immediately into the nearby city and told everyone they could about what had happened to them. They apparently made such a stir that many came to see for themselves what had happened (Matthew’s Gospel says that the whole city came out to meet Jesus upon hearing the report). When they arrived on the scene they found Jesus and the man who had been demon-possessed the night before sitting down on the ground. Not only was the man sitting (something the townspeople had not observed due to his former violent behavior), he was also clothed and in his right mind. In other words, the townspeople noticed a stark change in the demoniac that they had never observed before, and it scared them to death! Truly he had been changed. They were frightened by the man when he was insane, but now they seem more so once he’s sane.
There’s no doubt that the scene conjured up questions from the observers. Questions like, “What in the world happened to this man?” And in v. 16 the herdsmen, who witnessed the exorcism, explained the whole story. The story they told, however, apparently stunned and frightened the townspeople, so they begged Jesus to leave. There is no indication here that they were angry or frightened at their economic loss (i.e., the herd of pigs lost in the sea), for there is no mention of the owners of the pigs in any of the three Gospel accounts. They came to see Jesus, and his presence and his power frightened them. The issue with the townspeople wasn’t the demons, the pigs, or the demon-possessed men – it was Jesus, and he scared them. Therefore, they entreated him to leave their country. So Jesus obliged, got into his boat, and left.
In v. 18, as Jesus was getting back into his boat with the disciples, the man whose life had been transformed by Jesus approached him and asked him if he could follow. The text says that the man “begged” Jesus to let him be with him. But Jesus healed the man not so that he could follow him but so that he would go and tell the world what had happened to him. Jesus is said to have refused his request, told him to go home (likely a place he hadn’t been in years), and tell how much the Lord had done for him. God’s mercy had been great upon that man, and Jesus wanted him to tell his story. And that’s exactly what the man did. He went into the “Decapolis” – a reference to literally “ten towns” whose area was just across the Jordan River – and told his story of deliverance. So this unnamed man was one of the earliest missionaries to the Gentiles.
Food for Thought
Two kinds of people… those that hear about Jesus and reject him (the townspeople), and those who experience His grace and are transformed (the demoniac). The townspeople didn’t even show the reverence for Jesus that the demons did. They weren’t interested in Jesus, and they wanted nothing to do with him. The man delivered from sin, however, showed how much he loved Christ by sharing his story of deliverance to his world – a barometer of true salvation.
1. In 4:35-41 Jesus delivered from danger
2. In 5:1-20 Jesus delivered from demons…
· In the Bible we see that Satan is a true being, not simply the personification of evil.
· Satan’s ultimate plan is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10)
· Those who cultivate sinful practices are often the recipients of unclean spirits who either possess or oppress. Continual yielding to sin gives the devil a foothold (Eph. 4:27)
· The man in the passage had lost his home, family, friends, respect (ran around naked!), job, self-control, etc.
· He was completely hopeless until Jesus came to save him. There’s no doubt that this was Jesus’ plan from the time he got into that boat to cross.
· Satan seeks to devour (1 Pet. 5:8), and he is at work in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2).
· Because of what Satan had done to the man, society simply cast him out.
· Possibly Satan used the storm in Mark 4 to keep Jesus from saving the man in Mark 5.
I) The Ownership of the Demons (1-12)
A) The Reception by the demons (6-7a)
B) The Recognition by the demons (7b)
C) The Request of the demons (7c, 10, 12)
II) The Omnipotence of Jesus Christ (13)
III) The Outlook of the People (14-17)
IV) The Order of the Saved (18-20)
A) Verse 4: “No one had the strength to subdue him”
1) A foul-mouthed, overbearing, reprobate: God will render him gentle as a lamb
2) A coveting avaricious man: God will restore him to liberality
3) One who fears pain & death: God will make him as bold as a warrior
4) One given to gluttony & sex: God will make him sober, chaste, & abstinent
5) “The one who practices sin is of the devil who has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose: to destroy his works” (1 John 3:8)
B) When Christ saves there is evidence thereof
1) The swine rushed into the sea
2) The man was found in his right mind
3) He had a desire to follow Christ
4) He obeyed Christ by telling everyone what had happened
C) Not everyone can be an itinerate preacher. Starting at home is the best place.
1) Teach Christ to your children
2) Share the love of Christ with your family
3) Live out the Christian life for your neighbors to see
Conclusion: Satan’s forces are powerful, but Christ makes us alive… Ephesians 2:1-10