The Servant King’s Power Over the Powers of Darkness – Mark 5:1-20
One of the themes of Mark, as Jiju mentioned last week, is to reveal to us the true identity of this Rabbi who has shown up. Throughout the book you will hear the refrain of “who are you?” (Mark 1:24; 4:41, for ex.)climaxing to Peter saying in Mark 8:29 that “You are the Christ.”
And slowly the veil is being taken off here as Jesus’ identity is being revealed. This is no mere rabbi. He is a King. He is a King with authority. Last week we saw that He has authority over the natural realm; He is Lord of the Storm. Today we will see that He also has authority over the supernatural realm; He is Lord and Overcomer of powers of darkness and the Deliverer of Captives. Whether there is chaos on the outside (the storm) or whether this is chaos on the inside (demoniac), Jesus is Lord over all. Let’s begin with this:
I. The debilitating and destructive powers of darkness (vv.1-5)
Let’s see what happens here.The disciples and Jesus just got out of one storm and no sooner that they feel the sensation of sand under their feet that encounter another violent storm. This time, we have a storm of a different kind. This is the longest, most graphic and most disturbing of all exorcisms in the Gospels. As they disembark from the boat,onto the country of the Gerasenes, Gentile territory, here comes a bloodstained, scarred, naked demonized manic running toward them. This is “one of the most lamentable stories of human wretchedness in the Bible.”
Now we love to read a narrative and go straight to this question: “What does it mean to me?” But that should never be our first question. The first question is: “What does this text mean?” Then, “Why is it here? What is Mark trying to convey? What did this story mean to Mark?” First of all, looking at the theme of Mark, he does not want us to be overly fascinated with this demoniac. This gospel is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Servant King and His in-breaking into History as the Savior of sinners (Mark 1:1).
C.S. Lewis says the devil loves two extremes about him: In the preface to his famous Screwtape Letters, he writes:
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 and magician with the same delight.
Do not ignore the Enemy’s hatred of you and desire for your destruction. At the same time, every single thing is not the devil. He is not behind every bush and every backache. The power is in the balance. Not every mental illness is demonic and not ever demon-possession is mental illness. Sometimes it’s both. It’s complicated and we must avoid reductionism.
Let’s look at how debilitating and destructive Satan’s power is here:
a) He’s a hopeless outcast
Notice he has an unclean spirit. Not only does he have a multitude of demons in him, he lives in the tombs, making him doubly unclean. The Jews said even if you touched a dead body you were unclean for seven days and had to go through purification rites (Num. 19:11-12). This guy doesn’t just touch dead bodies he also lives there.These tombs are like holes hewn on the hillside “furnished with dead men’s bones and carpeted with filth and vermin.”
Thirdly, he’s unclean because he’s living in Gentile territory. Fourthly, we see that he’s even more unclean because he is living near pigs, which are unclean animals that Jews didn’t eat (Lev. 11:7). This is an awful hopeless situation in our eyes.
This also means his family at some point couldn’t keep him at home. There are no hospitals for these kinds of people. No asylums. The family and townspeople tried to control him and shackle him but with herculean strength he breaks every chain you tried to put on him. He’s violent and uncontrollable. We find out his name is “legion.” There are about 6,000 troops in a Roman legion. I don’t think this guy had 6,000 demons, but the point is there are a lot of demons that are demonizing him.To the Jewish mind, “Legion” brought an image of great numbers, efficient organization, and relentless strength. So there is an inconceivable concentration of powerful demons residing in one individual.
No one could “subdue” him. The Greek word is used for taming a wild animal and is better translated, “no one was able to tame him.” People see him and treat him as an animal and he acts like one. Human effort was futile. His community lives in fear of him. Nobody wants him around. The family and townspeople have given up on him, so they drive him off to wander restlessly in the wild hill country and to dwell in the subterranean caves.Now his only companions are demons and dead men’s bones. He’s an outcast. He is condemned to live out his days alone amid the decaying bones of the dead, with no one who loves him and no one to love.
b) He’s in bondage
How did he get here? This was someone’s kid once. Ken Gire says, “Somehow, somewhere, in some time past, the forces of darkness gained a foothold in his life. How, we are not told. Or where. Or when. But some time ago, they sought him out like a pride of lions seeking prey. Somewhere he gave ground. Somehow he gave them an opening through which to attack. And he’s been a prisoner ever since.”Take note: The powers of darkness put us in bondage gradually. Tim Keller says, “…evil is gradual. The patterns of evil, the patterns of greater empowerment but enslavement … Of course, in the beginning you feel the power much more than the enslavement, but slowly, slowly, slowly over the years, things change. Evil is almost always something that doesn’t come after you frontally. It sneaks up on you.” Lust is adultery in a little ball. Anger is murder in a little ball. When you wake up and realize you are in the tombs alone hurting yourself and wonder how you got there, the answer is: gradually.
At intervals during the night and during the day you can see him among the tombs and he would be wildly shrieking and cutting himself. Cutting himself, in the imperfect tense, indicates that repeatedly the man lacerated his body with stones, sharp flints. Apparently his whole body was covered with the scars.
Take note: The powers of darkness put us in bondage by disintegrating our lives. God wants us whole. That is what holiness is, it is God making us whole because due to our sin, we are falling apart. God wants us to have relationships and community, but the Enemy works to isolate and disintegrate relationships and break them apart. He is out to destroy your marriage and pull it apart.
Notice that the Enemy also works in people to deface, distort, disintegrate and destroy the image of God in man by hurting their bodies.Satan hates our souls, but he also hates our bodies. They are interconnected. He will have you overly obsess over your body by constant weight checking, obsess over your clothes and looks or gluttony disguised as comfort. It tires us out, tears us apart and makes us lazy for Christ. The point: he thrives on disintegration—tearing apart what God tries to put together. This is bondage.
Reese Witherspoon, one of the most successful actresses in the world, had this to say about herself in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: “I don’t watch any movie I’m in. It’s horrifying. I’ll just focus on something stupid like, “I hate my laugh. Why did I smile?”
When she really wants to feel bad, she’ll Google herself. She says, “Only in very dark moments, moments of pure self-loathing, do I type my name into Google. You never read anything positive; you always go straight to where they say something nasty about you. You’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re tired, you’re worthless, you’re a bad actor and you don’t have a career anymore. It’s just an affirmation of every horrible feeling about yourself.”
I don’t think she’s a believer, but even as believers, the Enemy works hard with similar conversations to bring hopelessness and put us in bondage to ourselves. Watch out for isolation.It’s like he puts mirrors all around us and we hear the criminating tape of all of our failures and it’s horrifying and disgusting. As a result, we run to things to save us whether is food, porn or other self-destructive habits. All these false saviors leave us more empty than before and the cycle continues. It’s debilitating and destructive and this demoniac is an extreme case of all of us without Christ.
II. The decisive power and authority of Christ over the darkest darkness (vv. 6-13)
Here is a hopeless outcast, unclean in four different ways, isolated, unwanted, with no one able to help him, no one wanting to help him anymore, being increasingly destroyed by Satan and left to die with the dead, when on that day, he sees out in the water, a lone boat appearing and making it to shore. From that boat emerges the Lord. Bill Lane in his commentary says this story is not so much about a demoniac, but about Christ’s “…sovereign authority and the quality of the salvation that he brings….”
Maybe today you might feel a little bit like this demoniac. Maybe you feel like all efforts to walk in purity are futile and you have declared yourself unclean and unworthy. Maybe hopelessness has set in as you constantly live among these tombs of your addiction. Maybe it is self-hate. Maybe you are hurting yourself. Maybe you live in isolation tormented by your failures. Maybe hopelessness has set in your marriage, or your singleness or in your future.
Let this text encourage you this morning. There as we fall apart and disintegrate among the tombs of our lives, there is One who arrives at the shores with Sovereign authority and power in His hands.
There is One who is not too disgusted by our uncleanness who steps ashore to meet us. There is one with far more grace in His heart than sin in ours. There is one who would sail through the hardest storms just to find us and rescue us. Jesus who calmed the stormy seas also calms the storm-tossed soul.There is One who shows up with no sin that is too dark that He cannot dispel. There is One who is no match for the strongest bondage. There is One who has come to destroy the works of the Evil One and set the Captives free. HE goes where no one else wants to go. He delivers whom no one else wants to deliver. Nothing happens until He arrives. But when He arrives and steps onto the beachhead of our lives, there is nothing that can stop Him from bringing His reign and rule over our lives.
Notice that there is no mention of the demoniac asking for Jesus. He’s so lost and far gone. Jesus desires our deliverance far more than we want to be delivered! The demoniac sees Jesus and instead of falling on Him as he probably has done to others who show up, he ends up falling down before Him. The Greeks did this before their deified rulers. Slaves did it before their masters. And the demons now do it with fear and trembling in his presence.
When demoniac meets divine, it is a no-contest event.Comedically, the demons first start commanding Jesus and trying to exorcise Him. Whenever someone tries to cast out a demon, that person always calls upon a higher power. Notice the authoritative word of the Lord is enough to banish and dispel a multitude of demons.His word is deed. He is the higher power! He is power. He doesn’t say, “I adjure you.” He says, “Come out.”The man who could not be bound by anyone is tamed with a word. Notice also that while people don’t know who Jesus is, the demonic realm surely does.
Now the demons know that they cannot stay with the man and they start begging Jesus frantically to be sent into a herd of pigs. In other words, they don’t want to be ultimately vanquished. They got evicted, but they want to move somewhere else. They know they’re time was up. And Jesus agrees! There is no doubt that is the boss in this story is clearly Jesus. Then all of a sudden, the pigs go crazy, run down the bank, into the sea and drown. Notice the four summary facts: gave, came out of, went into, rushed down. It is as if he, in very rapid succession, showed us four snapshots. Then we are shown a slow-motion movie: one by one we see the (approximately) two thousand pigs choking to death in the sea, until all have drowned.
Now why does Jesus allow this? It’s not clear, but perhaps the time for ultimate vanquishing of evil had not yet come. The Kingdom is here already, but not yet in full. Therefore, Jesus allows the demons to continue their destructive work, but not upon a man.
Perhaps Jesus doesthis to encourage this man. It is as if Jesus is saying,“These demons will never hurt you again…look at what they would have done to you if I had not arrived. I have decisively delivered you and given you visible proof.” Mark 3:27 is happening right here. The strong man is here stronger than this strong man and He has now tied up and destroyed the enemy and saved a soul.
When Pastor Kyle Idleman’s daughter, Morgan,was young, she spilled red nail polish on their brand new white couch. Then she tried to hide it by flipping the cushion over. Then one day, when her mom was straightening up the room, the cushion got flipped for the inevitable reveal. Morgan was called, caught, was mortified, ran to her room and hid in the closet. Weeping and upon her parents finding her, she said, “Do you still love me?”
Pastor Kyle’s wife knelt down beside her on the floor, and she whispered to her daughter, “Morgan, you could never make a big enough stain to keep me from loving you.” There is no big enough stain to keep Him from loving us, pursuing us or showing up on the shores of our lives!
III. The deliverance of Christ is a call to declare His deliverance to others (vv.14-20)
Immediately, in v.14, word spreads like wildfire of the deliverance and the destruction of the swine through those who were tending the swine. Mark shows us the difference between the man pre-Christ and post-Christ in vv.15-16. Lane adds, “The man whom neither chains nor men could restrain was sitting in a docile manner before Jesus; he who had terrified others as he ran naked among the tombs was now clothed; the one who had shrieked wildly and behaved violently was now fully recovered. So radical was the transformation that the townspeople were stunned and frightened.”That is a picture of discipleship and salvation: a restored individual sitting at the feet of Jesus.What a contrast! What a Savior!
At this point, you would think: revival! Thousands turn to Christ right? Nope. In v.15, we find out they are freaking out. This is the same reaction as the disciples had followingthe storm in Mark 4:41. Why? Jesus was more unmanageable than the storm and more unmanageable than a demonized maniac. This shows that when you ask the real Jesus to show up, don’t you dare think you can manage Him and decide you know how He will defeat the evil in your life.When He shows up, the idols are revealed. He exposes the real demon here, which is their greed and love for the security of their wealth. That was worth more to them than Jesus.
So in v.17, they beg Jesus to leave. They seem more terrified over Jesus than they did with the demoniac. Why? They are afraid of him, but I wonder if they worried about Jesus possibly hurting their businesses.They were saying, “Those pigs! Pigs were more important to these people than a man’s soul.”
Today we might be like “Aww all those little piggies died. Those poor little piglets.” Jesus is saying here that all the wealth in this world is not worth one human soul.
The demons ask Jesus to send them to the pigs. He listens. The people ask Jesus to leave. He listens. The former demoniac asks Jesus to go with Him and Jesus says, “No.” Again, Jesus is unmanageable. Jesus has something better for him. I have pulled you in to push you out to pull others in. I have blessed you to be a blessing. I have delivered you to help deliver others. And so Jesus sends him as a missionary to the very people that rejected him. His mission: “Just tell your people how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” Help them see the reality of my touch in your life.
Is there anyone in your life who doesn’t know the Lord has done for you? That’s where the Lord calls you to obey Him and sends you as a missionary.
Right now you might be thinking, “Well I would share my story if it was like that guys! It’s incredible!” Well, our story is similar. C. S. Lewis recalls the imagery of this story in describing his life before his conversion as “a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.”This is us pre-conversion isn’t it? Paul says in Eph. 2 that we were dead in our sins, following the prince of the air, ruled by the prince of darkness and incapable of freeing ourselves.
We were lost and the devil fixed his attempt to destroy us, but the Son of God disembarked on the shores of our lives and rescued us. Praise God! We were legion and we even after sitting at the feet of Christ has left Him to go back to the tombs at times and He has still come for us. This is our story, but let me push it further. Let me suggest this morning that our story is even more incredible.
I mean, this demoniac is running around saying, “Do you know what Jesus did for me? He came all the way to my shores and reached down and rescued me. I was lost, crying in agony and with a word delivered me.” And everyone marveled. But do you know our story? Do you know our story that blows this story out of the water?
In our story, and by the end of Mark if you remember, Jesus actually is treated like this demoniac. He came further than the shores to love me. He disembarked from Heaven and headed straight to the tombs where I belonged. He ends up suspended between Heaven and earth, naked and humiliated, crucified outside the city near the city trash heap, crying out in agony, “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” and no one came for Him. He was excluded, treated as an outcast, worse than the pigs, worse than the demoniac to bear our sin and absorb our wrath for our sins.
He was sent to the tomb, so we can be rescued out. He was excluded and rejected, so we would be included and accepted in His family. He was stripped naked, so we would be clothed in His righteousness without shame. He was pinned down in chains, so we could be set free and sitting at His feet.
See, that’s our story. He had mercy on us. He can now come and meet us at our tombs because He went to the only tomb that could have ultimately destroyed us. He destroyed sin and the devil without destroying us. See the infinite cost that He bore to defeat evil in our life out of love for you and me?
To the degree we see it, He is power that will defeat the present evil we feel is defeating us.
It’s only when you see the cost of what he did, only when you see how much he loved you, only when you see him being driven into the tombs, him being stripped naked, him crying out, him bleeding … When you see him doing that for you, what that actually does is allow you to say, “I am loved.” If His love went that deep, there is no pit He can’t get me out of and no stain dark enough to keep Him from loving me. If His love went that deep, there is no idol worth my time, allegiance and devotion. If His love went that deep, we can now live in His freedom.
And if His love went that deep for me, how can I not go and tell everyone what He did for me, and to be a vehicle for His redemptive power in their lives. You can do that, just like the demoniac, not in spite of the fact that you’re such a mess but now you’ve been healed, but because you were such a mess.” No matter how messed up you are, plunge your messed-up-ness into the grace of Jesus Christ, and you can be a powerful tool for redemption in the world.
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