When it comes to the subject of the supernatural and especially spiritual warfare, we tend to go to one of two extremes. We are either overly fascinated or in complete denial. We either see a demon under every rock or we believe that Satan is simply a metaphor.
The tension between these two opposites was popularized in the characters of Mulder and Scully in the television show, The X-Files. One saw a conspiracy of otherworldly proportions while the other sought a scientific, rational explanation for every phenomenon.
C. S. Lewis expressed this dichotomy in his preface to The Screwtape Letters,
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 feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
If your approach to the supernatural is to say, “I’ll believe in Satan and demons when pigs fly,” then Mark 5:1-20 is a passage of Scripture you should examine. Jesus’ encounter with a demon-possessed man results in the ultimate swine dive.
This is the second of four miracles that demonstrate the lordship of Jesus. He has power over nature (4:35-41), demons (5:1-20), disease (5:24-34), and death (5:21-23, 35-43).
Jesus travels to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He journeyed through a violent storm and encounters a man with a violent storm inside of him (2-5). The Gerasene demoniac was strong and untamable. He was a danger to himself and a terror to others. He knew exactly who Jesus was because he knelt before him, asked not to be punished, and addressed Jesus as the Son of the Most High God (6-7).
When Jesus confronted the demon and asked for his name, the demon responded, “Legion” (9). A Roman legion consisted of 6,000 soldiers, 120 horsemen, and several technical personnel. “Legion” spoke of great numbers, efficient organization, and relentless strength. Whether the man was possessed by 6,000 demons or not, it was certainly more than one.
Verses 11-13 are perhaps the most confusing in this passage. In a world where we are told that animals have rights and are treated with more value than a human being, we are puzzled why Jesus allowed the demons to enter into the pigs and destroy them. Perhaps it was to illustrate that violence done to a pig was better than violence done to a man. Maybe it demonstrated that the demons had truly left the man. Either way, it showed that the demons were ultimately focused on destruction.
At the same time he demonstrated his authority over the demons, Jesus restored his image in the life of a profoundly disfigured man (14-17). The ex-demoniac was now rational, controlled, at peace, and in communion with God.
The surprising outcome of the event is that the man’s healing terrified the townspeople more than his previous madness. It also impacted their economic future. Both of those reasons motivated them to ask Jesus to leave and not come back.
Rather than allow the ex-demoniac to accompany him back across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus encouraged him to go home and tell of his deliverance (18-20). The man obeyed and heralded the good news far and wide.
- God will go to any length to rescue someone in need. Jesus traveled across the sea through a raging storm to deliver one person. How far will he go for you and me?
- When God rescues a person, he transforms them completely. When Jesus cast out the demons, he transformed the man from untamed to controlled, from terrorizing to at peace, from naked to clothed, from a wild man to being in his right mind, from an outcast to going home.
- God can deliver us from anything is we will come to him. He can free us from a miserable past, from sins that plague us in the present, and from a hopeless future. The only thing that can stop him is if we send him like away like the Gerasene people.
Some years ago an ophthalmologist, just fresh from college, commenced business. Without friends, without money, and without patrons, he became discouraged, until one day he saw a blind man. Looking into his eyes, he said, “Why don’t you have your eyesight restored? Come to my office in the morning.” The blind man went. When an operation was performed and proved successful, the patient said, “I haven’t got a penny in the world. I can’t pay you.” “Oh, yes,” said the doctor, “you can pay me, and I expect you to do so. There is just one thing I want you to do, and it is very easy. Tell everybody you see that you were blind, and tell them who it was that healed you.”
What has God released you from? Who can you tell your story to?
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 22, 2015. It is part of series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.