This post is about a man who was an outsider and caused fear among the people. The man was possessed by numerous demons who were agents of the strong man (Satan). But when the man encountered Jesus (the Stronger Man), he was not only healed, but was given an assignment to share His great story about the great God who saved Him.
- The strong will fight, but becoming humble before Jesus makes us truly strong (2 Corinthians 12.10)
- Don’t count on a miracle of God to help you to believe! (Matthew 16.1)
- People often say, “I want to go to heaven.” Jesus wants us to go and serve Him first. (Acts 1.8)
- One life is worth far more to Jesus than we might imagine.
- People will talk about Jesus – either for the good or the bad. Which type of person will you be?
As humans we use many terms to describe people who either do things that are unexpected or behave unexpectedly. Many times these people might be our friends, and we might say something like, “He’s crazy.” Or “She’s lost her mind.” But, aside from the issues of Alzheimer’s Disease, what does it look like when someone really has lost their mind, their reason, or their ability to function at all? We may joke about someone going to the “funny farm” but mental illness is a real issue for many today.
And what if the issue isn’t just mental? What if the impact affects the entire body? What if a person has no control over their actions? We rightfully say, “That person needs help.” But what do we mean by that? Does the person need medical treatment? Emotional treatment? Spiritual treatment? What?
In last week’s post, I reflected on the raging storm on the Sea that Jesus calmed. This week, we are going to talk about a raging storm inside a man that Jesus calmed. Specifically, we are going to review the story of a man that was essentially treated as an animal, and had virtually no control over himself. However, when he had an encounter with Jesus, his life changed and served as a witness to the power of Jesus – not only then, but still to us today some 2000 years later.
An Old Testament Parallel
King Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebby for short) was the most powerful king the world had ever known. Nebby was proud of his stature as a great king, but he thought it was all his doing. So God provided a message to show who was really in control. In Daniel 4.30, Nebby says, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While he was still saying this, a voice from heaven shattered that thought and soon Nebby found himself in the field eating grass like an ox. It says that he remained there until his hair grew as a long as an eagle’s feather and his nails were like bird claws (4.33). Verse 36 explicitly states that his reason had left him.
If we saw someone like that it might make us look twice (at least). And we would think twice about associating with the person for many possible reasons. But Jesus was different. He knew He had an appointment with certain people and so He often sought them out whether they expected Him or not. Certainly, people came to Him at times, and we will see this twice next week, but Jesus made sure He was where He needed to be regardless of who might be there.
Our story today is of a man, like King Nebby, who lived more like an animal than as a human. He lived without clothing (Luke 8.27), among the tombs (Mark 5.3), and was so strong that he could not be bound with shackles or chains (Mark 5.4). He cried out loudly into the night like a wolf might howl at the moon (Mark 5.5).
What are your thoughts at this point? Frankly, if you lived in the area you were probably thankful that he chose to live among the tombs, and you likely wouldn’t go there often for your own safety concerns. But where is there?
Where is There?
|Map Showing the Cities of the Decapolis (and Israel)|
Matthew, Mark, and Luke each give a different name for the location. This kind of issue causes many to believe the Bible is full of errors. This is why when we say the Bible is without any error, we must mean in the original manuscript. The original authors, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, did not make any mistakes. Translators, though unintentional, might make a mistake for a variety of reasons. Let me give you a quick example using a Hebrew concept. Hebrew words rarely include vowels. So, to use English letters, consider possible words which might be formed from the following consonants: RDR. You might consider words such as rader, raider, reader, rider, rudder (one d doubled), etc. Or consider modern-day city (airport) codes. Some are fairly easy to deduce (STL, St Louis), but others may not make as much sense at first (CDG, Paris), until you do some research. The same is true for Bible translation. While most issues can be resolved by context, when it comes to locations, sometimes multiple possibilities exist. This is the likely cause of the confusion in Mark 5.1. Mark and Luke 8 say “in the country of the Garasenes” while Matthew says Gadarenes. And likely, the place may have been the home of the Gergeshenes.The place is important, but any of these places have one distinct aspect in common – they are on the other side of the Jordan/Sea – which means they are largely Gentile showing that Jesus has come for more than just Israel. Furthermore, it reveals that Jesus is concerned with far more than merely debating the religious leaders of the day. He came to do battle with the real enemy – not Rome (as most hoped Messiah would do), but Satan. Jesus is showing that God’s Kingdom is meant for anyone, if they will respond to His call to “Follow Me.”
The Demons Beg
Principle: The strong will fight, but becoming humble before Jesus makes us truly strong (2 Corinthians 12.10)
The idea of following Jesus leads us back to the man in the story today. The man is strong and at least some of that power comes from the demonic possession. He cannot be contained which would have instilled a great deal of fear in the people. You may recall the post from a few weeks ago when we looked at the passage where Jesus said that when the strong man is bound, the one who does so can plunder the house (Mark 3.27). Well, the strong man is not this man – it is Satan. Specifically, in this passage, verse 9 tells us that many demons possess this man. “Legion” is the name given, and a Roman legion consisted of nearly 6000 people. This many was possessed by MANY demons.
But despite the fact that other men were incapable of keeping this man in shackles, Jesus is able to bind the source of His strength. Jesus is the stronger man who came to bind the strong man and establish God’s Kingdom in the process (Mark 3.27). These demons may be powerful, but in the presence of Jesus all they can do is fall before Him (v6).
But notice, even though they (the demons) must bow before Jesus, they remain arrogant and challenge Jesus! The statement they make is to adjure Jesus by the power of God, not to torment. The idea here is really in the form of a curse. Basically, they are saying you will be punished if you torment me. This is ripe with irony. They are invoking the power of God against the Son of God. And yet, they proceed to bargain with Jesus on what will happen next. Now, some people struggle with the fact that the demons are bargaining. And all they are accomplishing is the delaying their doom. Truly, they aren’t really bargaining – for as it says, they were begging. Either way, their doom is certain. (Whether or not the demons “died” when the pigs plunged into the sea is a matter of debate, but we can be certain they were rendered harmless, at least for a while.)
As for the pigs, this creates quite a stir in our world today. Certainly, 2000 pigs are a lot of pigs and a very large financial investment which would have created a lot of economic gain for someone and employment for others. When the demons left the man, and entered the pigs, several people would have been affected financially. But, I believe, the key point Jesus is making is that one human is worth far more than 2000 pigs. Certainly, in that day, a Jew would have understood that to be so, except perhaps if that person was a Gentile, which this person almost certainly was. But because of the economic impact, notice how this string of events unfolds.
- The demons leave the man. Thus the man is free.
- The demons go to the pigs who then charge into the sea and drown.
- The swineherder (or pig farmer, as we would say), went to tell others.
- The others came and begged for Jesus to leave.
The People Beg
Principle: Don’t count on a miracle of God to help you to believe!
The people come begging Jesus to leave. Some probably did so because He ruined their economy. However, I think the bigger reason is they are fearful of Him. Remember last week’s message. Jesus said to the storm, “Peace. Be still.” In Mark 4.41, the text says that the disciples had great fear, meaning in they had more fear after the storm stopped than they did during the storm. A similar truth is found here. Jesus had just brought peace and stillness to this man who was now sitting calmly (in his right mind) and was clothed (Mark 5.15). And the people were afraid!
The people feared Jesus more than they did the demoniac and cared more for their pigs than they did a human being. Before Jesus arrived, they knew their fear. They feared the man whose strength was uncontrollable. He was a mad-man who might not be trusted, but they knew where he lived and could avoid him. But now, someone has come who has the power to not only control the crazy man, but to free him. Whatever they might have thought about Jesus (many likely thought Him to be a powerful magician, because magicians did travel freely in the area during that time period), He was more frightening to them then the man had been, so they didn’t just ask Jesus to leave – they begged Him to do so (v 17).
The Man Begs
Principle: People often say, “I want to go to heaven.” Jesus wants us to serve where we are.
At this point, the man begins to beg in order to go with Jesus. Jesus says, “No.” Jesus did not grant the man’s request to join Him. Many possible reasons including that the man a Gentile might make Jesus’ ministry in Israel even more difficult. BUT, a key factor is that by leaving the man there to proclaim Jesus, Jesus shows that you might get rid of the man, but you cannot get rid of the message!
The title of this series is to “Follow Me…In the Footsteps of Yeshua.” In this instance, to follow Jesus was not to actually follow Him, but to do His bidding. It wasn’t about following in His steps, but rather obeying what He said. Jesus wants the man to share his testimony with those who know him. And the man does.
The story is about a man who has an encounter with Jesus who calms the storm in the man’s life.
The sub-story is about three different instances of begging Jesus, because He is, indeed, in control.
- The demons begged and Jesus allowed their request.
- The people begged and Jesus complied with the request.
- The man begged and Jesus redirected his request.
Jesus again shows His power and was always in control in this situation. Our response, just like the man’s, is to worship and serve Him. The man began by sitting beside Jesus and later sharing the message throughout the Decapolis, which leads to our JOURNEY letter for the week.
The JOURNEY letter for this week is: E – Evoke.
Jesus sent the man to share what the Lord had done for Him. Verse 20 says that everyone marveled. This does not mean that they were saved, they were simply amazed. But sometimes, sometimes, that is a start! What began as fear became an opportunity of hope for all of the people in the Decapolis region.
Opportunity: When we begin to understand what Jesus is truly doing, our fears will subside, and we will follow Jesus in word and in deed.
Learn: Consider any fears which keep you from living for Jesus and sharing His message.
Live: What can you do this week to begin to overcome your fear to live for Jesus? Don’t just think about it. Do it!
Love: The Great Commandment is to love God and love others which requires us to share God’s message with others who need to know it. Will you overcome a fear to share God’s message with someone who does not know it this week?
Lead: Based upon your own experience, how might you help others overcome their fear to live for Jesus and share His message?