Mark-From Madman to Missionary
“Mark: From Madman to Missionary”
Today we're going to look at a situation that's unlike anything we've ever seen personally. At least I hope so, for if we had I'm sure it would've been a terrifying experience. Yet out of this situation that will seem so alien to us we will find comfort and encouragement from Christ. So without further ado, let's turn in our Bibles to Mark 5:1-20 (ESV)
5 1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.
They started the journey in the evening but were interrupted by a storm. It is very possible that they arrived at the other side of the Sea of Galilee at night. But the text is not specific on their arrival time. As to where they landed on the other side of the sea, there is much debate. So whether the place is Gerasenes, Gadarenes, or Gergasenes we know that it is on the east rim on the Sea of Galilee and is part of the Decapolis or Greek settled lands ruled by 10 cities. Let's continue on in verse two.
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.
There is no doubt that this man whom Jesus encountered is an outcast. Why else would he be living among the tombs? This would of course make him unclean to the Jews. There is also no doubt that he troubled people in the area because they had tried to chain him up repeatedly unsuccessfully. Further indication that he was host to evil spirits were his superhuman strength, living and moving among the tombs at night and the tendency to cut or gash himself with stones. He was likely a very wretched site not likely to be outdone by some of the ghoulish customs people wear around Halloween. Let's take a look at verse 6.
6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran...
Let's stop there just for a moment. Picture this frightening, wild, demon-possessed man running at you yelling and screaming. That's what the disciples were seeing. Perhaps the disciples were wondering, "This is what we get for coming to this pagan place, first a storm than a raving madman with a demon in him. We shouldn't have come here." Whatever their thoughts, one thing we must notice is the absence of anyone stepping forward to protect Jesus. There were no heroes in the crowd. I expect there was some surprise when this demon-possessed madman fell down before Jesus.
... 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!”
Get the picture of what is happening here. Jesus had already said to the demoniac as he was coming up into hearing range, "come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" With this a tormented spirit cried out from the man a last-ditch effort to keep from being cast out. He knew who was addressing him was Jesus Christ the Son of God. Then he appealed to the only one who was higher in authority over Jesus, God Himself to not cause him pain or torture in casting him out. It was a pointless appeal. God sent Jesus there for this very purpose.
Another thing to note very quickly is that Jesus did not forbid the spirit to speak his name as he had in previous encounters with demons. This is likely because he was a complete unknown among these people. Let's see further how this account unfolds in verse 9.
9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
Remember that the demon-possessed man is on his knees before Christ. Jesus asks the demon within him who He's dealing with. If the demon is accurate in equating himself with a legion and there could be as many as four to six, perhaps even closer to 7000 demons in this man. And so we see the dialogue continues in verse 10.
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 were drowned in the sea.
Just why Jesus allowed to demons to not be thrown into the abyss of hell as they feared, we do not know. Most likely, we should understand that the demons were not to be sent to Hell until the last judgment meaning that Jesus allowing them to enter the pigs was a statement that the last judgment had not yet come.
The fact that there were pigs nearby is another indication that we were not in Jewish territory, but Gentile. Such was the destructive nature of these demons that they ran without caution into the sea immediately upon entering the pigs. It's an interesting and ironic footnote that the unclean spirits in this unclean land among the unclean tombs enter unclean animals. Rather than these demon filled animals and go into the lake of fire at the last judgment they go into the lake of Galilee. However Jesus is also clearly saying to the entire spiritual realm that the kingdom has come in its power.
Jesus is also saying that the value of human life is worth more than 2000 pigs. He is also saying that this man's life is worth more than being ceremonially unclean. He's worth more than a few customs. He is saying that this man's worth going out of his way for even though he was an outcast of outcasts. Now let's take a look at the next few verses starting with verse 14.
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.
What a stark contrast in demeanor and description this man was before his encounter with Christ. So amazing was this change, so impossible was the concept that this man could be normal, they were afraid of the one who had the ability to make that change possible.
There are some who disbelieve anything that is supernatural and would say that this man was never demon-possessed, merely mentally ill. However this account would witness against that possibility. For it would seem strange that 2000 pigs would suddenly become mentally unstable and run off a cliff after having conversation with a man. We would also have to call Jesus a liar since he clearly stated that this man had an evil spirit within him and was having a conversation with that spirit or spirits.
However we are not to make the mistake and think that all mental illness or even physical illness is because of demons. While they may play a part in some illnesses, mental or physical, Jesus clearly exercises demons out of some few individuals and heals physical maladies of others in a very different way. Let's continue with verse 16.
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.
Notice that the people did not start bringing others to be healed by Jesus. It almost seems as if the loss of the pigs and the fear that he might cause further financial damage was greater than the prospect that he might bring healing to people in the 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.
Up to this point, Jesus had consistently requested people keep quiet who He was. But again, because Jesus was in a land that was completely unacquainted with who He was, He did not have to work covertly. So Jesus did not allow him to follow as was requested. Rather, Jesus had him become a missionary to the Decapolis.
A solitary, outcast soul is not unimportant to Christ. If we are to be the hands and feet of Christ this passage reminds us that we may have to go to some places that are scary to us. It also reminds us that there are some who we know that are outcasts. We must be mindful not to pass them by. Some of those outcasts may be in our own families, our workplaces, or wherever it is that we go. We should remember the importance of a person.
This encounter also reminds us of the larger context. There are demons or evil spirits that would seek to do us harm to though they cannot possess the Christian they can affect us not from the inside, but from the outside. This is both an encouragement and a warning to us. It is a warning in that we must be ever vigilant, “For 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.” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV)
It is an encouraging reminder that victory over evil has already been won by Jesus Christ. We remember that he has crushed the power of Satan, sin, and death. Now let us commemorate that victory as we celebrate the Lord's Supper.
This table is open to all who call Jesus Christ their Lord.
Scripture tells us to examine ourselves... so that we do not drink judgment upon ourselves.