Grace For The Journey
Nearly every time we study something in the Bible about demons, I am reminded of CS Lewis’ little book, The Screwtape Letters. It really is one of the best books in imagining how Satan oversees the work of his demons who do his bidding. Lewis just does a masterful job, I think, in describing how it all happens. From the preface of that book comes this helpful little statement, a warning really, about how Christians should think – or not think – anytime our mind ponders the existence of demons. Lewis writes: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our [human] race can fall about the (demons). One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. [The demons] themselves are equally pleased by both errors . . .”
Certainly our Lord Jesus believed in the existence of demons and that really ought to settle it for us. Jesus is our Lord and King. We believe in Him and so what He believes, we believe. And the Bible is straightforward in its accounting of Satan and the demonic world. It stands to reason, then, that if there is a God – and there is – and this God is all-good – and He is – at the same time we live in a world in which there is evil – it just stands to reason that evil is real and the Bible tells us how Satan works his evil.
Now this is important to our study this morning. It would be entirely unhelpful if we were to read this encounter as a people somehow removed from event. It would be bad if we were to read of this demon-possessed man and say to ourselves, “Well, of course we are nothing like this man! We are not running around as a man unclothed and living among the tombs, full of demons, and cutting ourselves.” It is absolutely essential that we appreciate the depth and complexity of evil as we read of it in the Bible. Evil is systemic. Evil is part of the fabric comprising this fallen world system. Evil is all around us and the work of demons is ongoing. While no Christian can be under the absolute control of a demon – as though by possession – Christians can, however, yield control of their lives to demonic influence and so allow themselves temporarily to fall under the power of the evil one.
The Bible says in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It also says in Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” And Ephesians 6:10-12 says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
We may be tempted to read this encounter as people somewhat removed from the narrative, removed from the details and the events as though we were just standing on the outside looking in at something that seems so remotely fantastic, we must not separate ourselves from the very real possibility of falling under the influence of the enemy.
I want to share four words from Mark 5:1-20 that describe this encounter. These are easy words to remember . . . The first word is . . .
Isolation – Verses 1-5.
This man in the tombs is isolated and alienated from everyone. He is an outcast in the most extreme sense. It is a sad picture.
Verse 1 begins to tell us about it, “Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes.” Jesus is traveling by boat with His disciples. They have just crossed over from the Western side to the Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. They had just been through the storm. Remember that? Chapter 4 ends that way. Jesus calmed the storm and the disciples are like, “Who is this guy?!” And as soon as they get through the storm on the sea, there is another storm awaiting them on the shore. It is a different kind of storm. It is this demon-possessed man – a demoniac as he is often called.
Verse 2 says, “And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.” It is at times like these I wonder whether the disciples may have second-guessed their decision to follow Jesus! Did they ever wonder that? They have just come through the storm and no sooner than they climb out of the boat this crazy man comes running toward them. Mark describes him in verse 3 as a man, “Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains.” He lived there among the tombs, not a nice and neatly manicured cemetery as in our day, but tombs hewn out of the rock, a grotesque area of stench and uncleanness. And because he is dwelling among the tombs, he is isolated and alienated from everyone else. The tombs are located in an area located on the outskirts of the city. His condition was horrendous. He had been bound, we are told, with chains. Folks in the town had apparently tried to keep the man from hurting himself and others, but to no avail. He would eventually break the chains.
Verses 4 and 5 state, “Because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.” This is a sad picture, isn’t it? This man is like an animal. But we forget he was once a young mother’s child. He was once a father’s little boy. But the demons have gotten hold of him and he is reduced to a life of isolation insidious behavior. The enemy, Satan, the evil one, will do everything he can to harm us. Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that Satan has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan would love to see this demoniac destroy himself. This is why we read that he is “cutting himself with stones.”
Man is created in the image of God and Satan will do his level best to destroy the image of God in us. Satan wants us to harm our bodies, obsess over our bodies, abuse our bodies, and destroy our bodies. We may not harm our bodies by cutting, but we may destroy our bodies by drinking, by self-medicating, by overeating, or by defiling in any number of ways.
This man is isolated and alienated from God and others. And apart from Christ each of us is isolated and alienated from God and others. Isolation. The next word is . . .
Confrontation Verses 6-14.
This demon-possessed man is confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ. He encounters Christ and talks to Christ in a conversation that is hard to follow – it is hard to know whether we are reading of the man and his actions or whether we are reading of the demons and their actions. So closely tied together is evil with this man’s nature.
Verse 6 says, “When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.” The man literally falls before Jesus. He worship Him, and he falls before Him in an acknowledgment of the authority of Jesus.
That is the greater point Mark
Is making here in his Gospel.
He has shown at the end of chapter 4 how Jesus is Lord over the storm and danger. He will show here in the first part of chapter 5 how Jesus is Lord over Satan and demons. And in the following passage Mark shows how Jesus is Lord over sickness and death. The man falls before Jesus. Verse 7 states, “And he cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.’ For He said to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit!’” That phrase, “For He said” is in the imperfect tense, which is translated, “He was saying,” that is, Jesus had said this more than once, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”
Verse 9 says, “Then He asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he answered, saying, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’” In Roman terms a “legion” was the largest force of the Roman army and, in Jesus’ day, comprised some 6,000 men. Do you get the idea how much Satan is oppressing this poor soul? Note how closely tied to the man’s nature is the presence of evil. It is hard to tell exactly who is doing the talking in this encounter – is it the man or the demons within him? Verse 9 for example, when Jesus asked the man, “What is your name?” the Bible says he answered, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” “My” is singular pronoun; “we” is plural pronoun. Verse 10 says, “Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.” That is, the demons do not wish to be disembodied spirits. They wish to inhabit the body of someone else if they cannot inhabit this man’s body.
Verses 11 and 12 say, “Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, ‘Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.’” If demons can’t have you, they’ll have the swine. Pigs are choice number two for demons. They’d really rather have humans, but they settle for swine.
Verse 13 states, “And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.” Someone said this is the first “Bay of Pigs!” But . . . It is a memorable picture, isn’t it? Jesus’ authority is brought out at the beginning of verse 13, “And at once Jesus gave them permission.” Jesus gives permission. The unclean spirits enter some 2,000 pigs and the herd then ran violently down the steep place into the sea and drowned. I can imagine that were this to happen today, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) would have something to say about it what with the way our Western society humanizes nearly every animal. We have become conditioned to feel sorry for these nasty swine. You really have no argument if you had bacon or ham this morning with your eggs. As though pigs were more important than human souls! But even if you are tempted to feel that Jesus has done wrongly here by killing these pig, it is helpful to remember that Jesus did not kill them – The demons killed them. Remember that this is the objective of Satan and his demons – to steal, kill, and destroy.
Verse 14 says, “So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened.” That had to be quite a story to hear! These folks whose job it was to feed the pigs saw all of this and ran to tell the people in the city. The townsfolk hear about it and then they leave their jobs and their homes to come out to the tombs to see what happened. And what did they see? Verse 15 tells us, “Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.” He was, “sitting and clothed and in his right mind.” This brings us to our third word . . . It is a picture of . . .
Transformation – Verses 15-17.
This precious soul has been changed. He is transformed. He is in his right mind. What a contrast! To be saved is to be in our right minds. We once were under the influence of Satan and not thinking correctly – and God gets hold of us through the Lord Jesus Christ and He changes us. That is why Paul can write in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation.”
Verse 16 states, “And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine.” Here are the eyewitnesses again, telling the townsfolk what they had seen; how this man had been delivered. They also told the others “about the swine.”
And what was their response? Verse 17 tells us, “Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.” Now years ago when I first read this passage I concluded that these folks did not care much for the economic impact the Lord’s actions had upon the swine industry (2,000 pigs had just died. That’s a lot of ham and bacon) – and that this was likely why they pled with Jesus to depart from their region. I still think there is something to that. They are like, “Please leave us, Jesus. We have got to make a living here and you’re hurting the meat market. We don’t need your kind around here.”
It is also true that this passage shows that all the wealth in the world is not worth the inestimable value of a single human soul, a person made in the image of God. While the economic impact is likely a great concern for these folks, I really think there is more than that going on here in their pleading for Jesus to leave them. I think it may have more to do with their inability to fully understand all that has just happened – and with the inability to comprehend comes an inability to be in control.
I think fear exists anytime we are in a situation where we feel we have no control. If we are honest there is a fear in coming to Christ. There is loss of control. I am talking about really coming to Christ, coming to Him as Lord of our lives.
Remember . . .
We do not just add Jesus to our thinking
The way we add a side item to a combo meal.
Jesus has not come to just sort of “complement” our lives.
He is our life. He is Lord when we bow
Before Him and yield control to Him.
That can be a frightening thing when one
Is unwilling to relinquish control.
But that is what trust involves.
Living for Jesus is a trust issue. You are literally yielding yourself, trusting yourself, to His Lordship. At least that is what being a biblical Christian is all about. I am not talking about those who say they are Christians, but are not. I am talking about those who are genuinely saved, living under the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ. I am talking about those who allow Jesus to have complete control over all decisions, following Him according to the Bible, His Word, living for Him, yielding to Him. I think these townsfolk were frightened by Jesus. They had not seen this kind of thing before. When you encounter Christ for the first time, it may shake you up a bit. He is, after all, God in the flesh. There is a sense in which we ought to be shaken a bit.
But here is the beauty of our Lord! Though He is God wrapped in human flesh, He loves us and makes a way for us to be saved and delivered from the powers of darkness. He loves to bring about real transformation in our lives. He wants us to be “in our right minds.”
We have studied 3 of these 4 words. We have read about isolation, confrontation, and transformation. As we come to the last few verses of chapter 5, we will see the final word . . .
Proclamation – Verses 18-20.
This newly transformed man, this formerly demon-possessed man, has a story to tell! He has something to proclaim! He is changed! We read in verse 18, “And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him.” He wants to go with Jesus! A natural response to those who have been changed by the Gospel. Verse 19 states, “However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’” This man has a a truth to proclaim. The people want Jesus to leave so He is leaving this man as a witness. He can tell everyone what happened to him.
By the way, at its core . . .
This is what witnessing
Is all about, about telling others
“What great things the Lord has done for us,”
“How He has had compassion on us.”
That is at the very core of sharing the Gospel.
Verse 20 says, “And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis (the 10 cities) all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.” Imagine this fellow going through all these towns now, the town nearest the tombs first. He is clothed and in his right mind. People are like, “Look, isn’t that the demoniac?!” And he is like, “Not anymore. I once was lost but now am found, was bound but now I am free.”
With whom did you share your testimony last week? Did you proclaim the truth of the Gospel and how God transformed you through a personal encounter with Christ?
By the way, note the word “Lord” in verse 19 where Jesus tells the man, “Go…tell the great things the Lord has done” and then verse 20, “He departed and … proclaimed … all that Jesus had done.” See how those two words are used interchangeably – Lord and Jesus? Jesus is Lord. Jesus shares the very nature of God Himself.
There you have it: Isolation, Confrontation, Transformation, and Proclamation. Can you in any sense identify with the demoniac? Can you see yourself in any way in him? No, you may not be a guy running around the tombs demonized in a graveyard, but you may experience a different kind of alienation. Your chains and shackles may take a different form. Your separation and alienation may occur in an office with the door shut and the computer turned on. And website after website glows in your face as you look at things you do not want to see – and yet you do want to see – the influence of Satan is strong. It seems both to empower you and enslave you. And with every moment spend there, the influence grows stronger. Like the demoniac, you could once break free from the power, but its growing stronger. The demon possessed man could once be shackled but, no one could shackle him anymore. This was a gradual slide into evil.
And that is just how it works in your life and mine. We allow Satan to get a foothold. We open the door to evil just a little ways and Satan sticks his foot in the door and then, little-by-little, we allow him more and more room until he is finally welcome to come in and move freely about. No one suddenly falls into alcoholism. No one suddenly falls into drug addiction or suddenly falls into adultery. He slides. He cracks the door by flirtation. By an inappropriate smile or glance or embrace. One slip leads to another and, before we know it, our careers are over, our families shamed, and our influence lost.
It all starts by allowing just a little bit of uncleanness into our lives. Imagine you decide to stop cleaning your kitchen. You let the trash heap up. You let the dishes stack up in the sink. There is a spill on the floor. You just leave it there. There is a banana peel here, a half-eaten peach there. You did not finish your Chick-Fil-A sandwich and you just leave it out on the counter. You just decide to sort of leave everything where it is for a few days, maybe a few weeks. You have created an environment that is not going to smell so good, right? What is more, you are probably likely to have a bug problem of some kind, ants, flies, I don’t want to get too gross here, but probably a few roaches, too.
What happened? By failing to keep the kitchen clean, you have created an environment in which these unclean things are quite at home. By failing to keep the house regularly clean – a daily habit – you have got unclean things all over the place.
It is no different when you stop walking in spiritual purity and cleanliness. Let a little sin into your life and before you know it, more sin is in your life. A little habit grows into a bigger habit. You have created an environment where these impurities are at home – these little demons of sexual lust, anger, love of money, bitterness, unforgiveness, and even debilitating fear. Be wise and identify with this demoniac. You may not be that different from him as you think. And be encouraged that, just as he did, you too may experience transformation through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
The reason this man, and all men and women,
Can be healed is because – as we have noted
In previous encounters – Is because our precious Lord
Jesus exchanges places with us.
He Himself becomes the outcast.
Jesus exchanges places with us and
Takes upon Himself all of our wrongs,
All of our sins. He bears them. And He gives to us
All that is His – righteousness, perfect goodness, perfect obedience –
All of this is credited to our account and we are seen by God
As if all of this is actually done by us. God sees us as though
We ourselves are righteous, perfectly good, perfectly obedient.
All of this because Jesus exchanges places with outcasts – outcasts like the demonized man – and outcasts like you and me.
If you are experiencing a special kind of isolation. If you feel chained and in bondage to demons that trouble you – an addiction, an inwardly dark, a personal struggle, a battle of fear, an anxiety, or an impurity. Look to Jesus who comes sailing over to you as when He crossed the Sea of Galilee to come to just one person. Jesus will do that for you this morning. He gets off the boat and He is not disgusted by your sin and struggle. He does not condemn you in your chains of sin. He simply says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Surrender to Him today. Come to the One who will never cast you aside because He loves you and will forgive your sin.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”