The Healing of the Demoniac – Mark 5:1-20
Good morning! If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. If you don’t have a Bible, there should be a Bible under the row of chairs in front of you. If you can turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to Mark, we are going to be looking at Mark 5:1-20, this morning.
I’m just going to read the passage for us and then we will dive in. Mark 5, beginning in verse 1: “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 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. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell 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 was saying 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.’ 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, ‘Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.’ 13 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.
“14 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 demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 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.’ 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.”
Last Sunday, we were at Garrington Community Church, where my parents were celebrating 25 years of pastoral ministry in their church. It was good to be able to celebrate with them, as someone who not only grew up in that church but who grew up as the pastor’s kid. And to see this church show love and appreciation to my parents for 25 years of ministry brought such joy to my heart.
And it made me realize how blessed we are to be the pastor couple of this church. We have been shown such love and grace over the years we’ve been here, and I know we would love to be able to celebrate 25 years of pastoral ministry here at Boyle Gospel Chapel.
I just want to thank the Leadership Team for allowing us to go. It meant a lot to me, but I know it also meant a lot to my parents to have us be there to celebrate with them. So, thank you for giving us that leave.
It’s good to be back with all of you, this morning. Two weeks ago, in our sermon series on Mark, we looked at Jesus calming the storm that He and His disciples were in. If you remember, Jesus had just finished a large teaching session on the kingdom of God, and He tells His disciples to set out to the other side of the sea, so that they can bring this gospel of the kingdom to the Gentiles in that region.
And so, the disciples do what Jesus tells them to do, but they suddenly find themselves in the biggest storm of their lives. The winds come up, the waves begin to break into the boat, and the boat begins to fill with water. And where is Jesus in all of this? He’s asleep in the boat.
So, the disciples wake Jesus up and the first words out of their mouths are, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” The disciples were just doing what Jesus was saying for them to do, but they now found themselves in trouble and they’re wondering what they did to deserve this.
And instead of rebuking His disciples, which is what Jesus could have done, Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves, and a great calm comes over the sea. And we discover that this was no ordinary storm, but that this was a demonic storm that was attempting to prevent Jesus and His disciples from taking the gospel of the kingdom into Satan’s domain.
Jesus shows Himself to be greater than any storm that Satan can throw at the people of God, and that though following Jesus might not take away the storms of life, we can have faith that Jesus will be with us through the storm.
I have mentioned a few times, how my second year at Nipawin Bible College was filled with spiritual warfare. I felt like I was under spiritual attack nearly every day of the school year.
Well, there was this one guy who was coming for his first year at NBC. And each one of us on Student Leadership could sense that there was just something off about this guy.
But I remember one night, one of the other guys on Student Leadership with me came into my room and woke me up. He said that he was waking up a few other guys, so that we could pray together over the men’s dorm, because he was feeling so spiritually-attacked that he felt this was something we needed to do.
So, I got up and our little group of guys began to pray over every room in the men’s dorm. We were all taking turns praying, but we got to the door of this guy’s room, and I began praying like I had never prayed before. Words were coming out of my mouth that I was not in control of. I was praying that God would cast out demons, and that He would show His power and might in this place, and things like that.
And I just remember, as soon as I said, “Amen,” this guy opened his door, came out of his room, and stood in front of us. And all of us just kind of stood there in shock, because we didn’t know whether or not this guy could hear what was happening outside of his door.
And it wasn’t until later that we found out that this guy was actually experiencing some serious demonic oppression during this time and that he was wrestling through more than we could have imagined, which made sense of my prayer.
Now, I have been keenly aware of spiritual warfare all my life, but I never thought that I would have been confronted with it as directly as I was in that moment.
And in our text for this morning, Jesus and His disciples are confronted by the most extreme encounter with the powers of supernatural wickedness anywhere in Scripture.
And what we are going to see in our text is that the power of Satan is real, but the power of Jesus is greater. And what Mark wants us to consider is how much the Lord has done for us and how God has shown mercy to us. That’s going to be our roadmap for our time together, this morning.
Our passage begins with Jesus and His disciples landing on the other side of the sea, and they step out of the boat, and immediately, they are confronted by a man with an unclean spirit.
This is now the third time that Mark has recorded Jesus encountering a man with an unclean spirit, so if you are one of Jesus’ disciples, you might be getting used to this by now, but this would have been the most terrifying encounter with a demon-possessed man, yet.
Look at how Mark describes this man, in verses 3-5. He says, “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.”
Here is a man living among the tombs—he’s more comfortable being around the dead than he was being around the living. If you’re a Jew, you’re not going anywhere near this guy. Numbers 19:11 says that “whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days.”
So, according to Jewish custom, this guy is perpetually unclean, because he’s around dead bodies all the time. The people of that region try binding him with chains, but he just breaks them in pieces. Anyone coming to the graveyard for a funeral would hear this guy shrieking in the background. In Luke’s account, in Luke 8, it says that “for a long time he had worn no clothes.” This guy is running around naked. This is not someone that anyone wants to be around.
But then, Jesus comes onto the scene. And you would expect Jesus, a Jew, to not even be there in the first place. This is a graveyard, after all, which would make one unclean, but this is also a graveyard in Gentile territory, which was also considered unclean. And this unclean individual had an unclean spirit inside of him. This guy has everything going against him. But what does Jesus do? Jesus sets out to free the guy from his demonic oppression.
The demon-possessed man comes running towards Jesus, but instead of attacking Jesus, what does he do? He falls at Jesus’ feet. He says to Jesus, in verse 7, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”
This doesn’t exactly look like the posture of someone with a whole lot of power. I mean, how terrifying is this guy really? But look at verse 9. Jesus asks him, “What is your name?” To which the man with the unclean spirit replies, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
This is not just someone with one demon in him; this is someone with multiple demons in him. “Legion” here is a military reference. One commentator said that a legion “was the largest unit of the Roman army and at full strength had 6,000 soldiers.” Now, we don’t know how many demons this man had inside of him, but we do know that he had many demons inside of him.
In other words, Satan has had his way with this man, as countless of his demons have come and possessed him, and Satan is now sending out the largest unit of his army—this man with all of these demons inside of him—in hopes that it will prevent Jesus from coming any further into his domain.
There are those who try to minimize what is going on here, saying that the man was simply insane or that he just had multiple personalities, so as to skirt around belief in the supernatural, but there is no doubt that this man was in fact inhabited by many demons.
And this might seem completely crazy to you, this story might not even make sense to you, but I hope that you don’t just dismiss this as legend. Satan is real and his power is real.
It is in Satan’s nature to harm and to kill and to destroy. It’s why the man is in isolation and crying out and cutting himself. Satan wants nothing more than to destroy those created in the image of God. And he will do whatever he can to distract you from believing that his power is real.
Turn over to Acts 19. Luke records, in verse 11, that God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul had touched were being carried away to the sick, and people were being healed. Crazy things were happening.
But there was a group of itinerant Jewish exorcists—the seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva—who were using the name of Jesus as a magic word, essentially. They would say to evil spirits, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” And they were apparently experiencing some success in casting out demons.
But one day, their ploy backfires. In Acts 19:15, they encounter a man with an evil spirit, and they say their phrase, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” But the evil spirit answers them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”
And it says that “the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.”
It’s not like they could tell people, “You should see the other guy.” If you had clothes on before the fight started, but did not have clothes on after the fight ended, it’s safe to say you lost the fight. It’s not like this was a close match.
Don’t miss this. The power of Satan is real. In our text, Satan sends out the largest unit in his army to confront Jesus. He is the most terrifying example of supernatural wickedness, yet. But notice that there is no fight.
In Matthew’s account, the demons say that the time of their destruction has not yet come. In Luke’s account, the demons beg Jesus to not send them to the abyss. Here in verse 10, the demons beg Jesus “not to send them out of the country.” In each one of these accounts, there is no fight; there is only submission to the power and authority of King Jesus.
The power of Satan is real. Ephesians 6:12 says that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” But this is not the greatest power there is. The power of Satan is real, but the power of Jesus is greater.
Look at verse 11. “Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, ‘Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.’ 13 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.”
Just pause here. Do we realize what Jesus has just done? Jesus has just given the authoritative word and the demons were immediately expelled from the man. We aren’t told how long the people of that region had tried binding this man, but it was quite likely a few years. And doesn’t that just show the futility of doing a God-thing in man’s way?
All that time they had tried to reform this guy, but Jesus comes along and changes his life by His Word. Jesus speaks authoritatively and the demons who had plagued this man for years were gone.
The herdsmen go into the city and tell the people what had happened, and they come and see Jesus and the demon-possessed man, “the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind.” If you are those people, are you not amazed at the complete 180 that Jesus has just done in this man? Are you not rejoicing that this man is finally restored?
But what’s their response? Look at verse 15. It says that “they were afraid.” It’s the same response that we see from Jesus’ disciples after He calmed the storm. They are afraid to be in the presence of Almighty God.
And after hearing what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs, it says that “they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.” And our initial response is, “Are you crazy? You have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in your presence. We’ve seen what He can do. We’ve heard the good news that He came to bring. How could you not want that?”
But what we need to recognize is that they were being faced with a decision about which was more important to them, the pigs or Jesus. You see, if you are a member of the SPCA, this story of Jesus is going to be horrifying to you. If you love characters like Piglet and Wilbur and Babe, this might not be the kind of outcome you were hoping for in this story.
This actually presents a kind of moral dilemma, because what happens when Jesus gives the demons permission to leave the man and go into the pigs which leads to the pigs going over the bank and into the sea, is that you actually have many herdsmen losing their livelihood.
If you are here this morning and you have cattle, I want you to imagine how crushing this would be to you. I don’t think there's anyone here with two-thousand head of cows, but just imagine what that would do to your life, if you had two-thousand head of cows, and then all of a sudden you lost it all.
This is the decision that the countrymen are being forced to make. What was more important to them, the pigs or Jesus? Is Jesus worth it? Is the rescue and restoration of one person worth the loss of the swineherds? Is the redemption of a human being worth losing your livelihood?
In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable about a father and his two sons—the youngest of whom asks for his share of the inheritance before his father is even dead. But his father gives it to his son, and he goes on a long journey and squanders it all. A severe famine hits, and with no other options, he goes home to his father, thinking that he can at least work for his father to make some kind of a living.
But the response he receives is not the response he was expecting. His father asks his servants to bring the best robe and to put it on him, and to put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet, and to kill the fattened calf, so that they can eat and celebrate, “for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
And everything seems to be going fine until the oldest son hears music coming from the house, so he goes to see what’s going on. But when he finds out that this party is for his brother, who had returned from squandering away his share of the inheritance, he becomes indignant. He is not pleased that his brother has returned. In his mind, his stuff is worth more than the redemption of his brother.
In our text, the countrymen make their decision about Jesus. They don’t rejoice that this man has been restored; they want Jesus to leave. In fact, they beg Jesus to leave. They don’t want Jesus to expose any more of their strongholds. They don’t want Jesus to reveal any more of their idols. They want to continue living under the power and domain of Satan. That’s the root of their decision.
But this former demoniac also makes his decision about Jesus. Verse 18 says that he begged Jesus to go with Him. His life is no longer the same. He wants to be with Jesus. He wants to go where Jesus is going. He wants to be where true life can be found.
This man is no longer a citizen of the kingdom of Satan; this man is a citizen of the kingdom of God. As the dead pigs washed up onto the beach, they would serve as a reminder to him that Satan no longer had control over him. He would be reminded from that day on, that there is a power greater than the power of Satan—a power that made him alive in Christ when he was formerly dead in the trespasses and sins, in which he once walked.
And do you know what Jesus says? He says no. He says yes to the angry mob who want Jesus to leave, but He says no to this man who wants to go with Him. And instead, Jesus says to the man, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
The healed demoniac becomes the first Village Missionary, as it were. Jesus sends this Gentile to minister to the Gentiles. And this man does what Jesus commanded him to do. He tells everyone how much Jesus had done for him, and it says that “everyone marveled.”
Jesus might not be welcome in that region, but the message of Jesus is being proclaimed, and people are believing in Jesus, regardless. The authoritative Word of God continues to be preached, today, and this is where it is so important, church, to recall how much the Lord has done for us. We need to constantly remind ourselves and others of how God has had mercy on us.
You see, Jesus didn’t come to this world for the best of the best. It’s not like God looked down on the world and saw something in us that was redeemable. No, each one of us falls short of the good that God requires. Each one of us is born with a disposition to disobey God. Each one of us is as needy and hopeless as the demon-possessed man in this story.
But the good news of the gospel, in Ephesians 2:4-5, says that “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”
We are coming up to a very important day this week, and I’m not talking about Halloween. I’m talking about All Saint’s Eve. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Castle Church, in an attempt to call the Roman Catholic Church to reform.
Out of that movement, which is called the Protestant Reformation, it was rediscovered that salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Christ alone—that this is not a result of works, but is a gift of God. We have been shown mercy, not because we deserved it or could have ever earned it, but because it was the privilege of God to save a people for Himself.
If you are here, this morning, and you are a follower of Jesus, then you have put your faith in a greater power than the power of Satan. You have put your faith in the power of Jesus Christ, who can restore the demon-oppressed with a Word.
But if you are here, this morning, and you are not a follower of Jesus, I just want you to know that you have been shown mercy, in that, you have not been given what you deserve.
We all deserve judgment as rebels against a holy God, but God in His mercy has given us the opportunity to repent of our sin and to believe in Jesus. You and I have that opportunity, now, but there will come a time when that mercy will no longer be extended to us, when we will no longer have the opportunity to repent and to believe in Jesus, so I beg you to make that decision, today.
What decision will we make about Jesus? Is Jesus worth it? Do we want to go where Jesus goes, or are we more likely to keep Jesus at a distance, lest He infringe on our idols? What will we do with King Jesus?
Jesus said to the former demoniac, “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 we find in here the appropriate response of those who have been shown mercy: They go and do likewise. May God give us such boldness. Let’s pray…