I have been a Christian for almost 34 years and have rarely heard a study or a sermon from Mark 5 because of the nature of the things that are mentioned. After a daylong ministry in Galilee followed by a tempestuous storm in the night, Jesus goes to the “other side,” which is characterized by cemeteries, pigs, gentiles, and a man with unclean spirits (Mark 5:1). For a Jew, all that are mentioned are unclean and Jesus goes to the other side to meet a person with many unclean spirits.
You can notice many abnormal situations in this passage:
1. Jesus goes to a place where He was not invited.
2. Wherever Jesus went, people were gathered, but you will not see that in this place.
3. The sick wanted Jesus to heal them, but here you will notice that the demoniac did not want to be healed (Mark 5: 6-7).
4. Jesus did not announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God, which He normally does wherever He went.
5. The disciples do not seem to play any role in the story.
6. The people who came to see this man were more concerned about the pigs that ran into the water than the one who was made clean (verses 14-17).
7. The people of the village were uncomfortable with Jesus (verses 14-17).
The Demoniac and his Helplessness
The demoniac was under the complete control of unclean spirits and was possessed by them. He was probably the most alienated, and a lonely man in that part of the world. Gedarene was part of the territory called Decapolis. There were 10 Greek cities on the eastern side of Galilee that goes all the way to Amman in Jordan and the people there maintained their Greek identity and knew each other well. But what you see in this passage that the demoniac was the most alienated, lonely man because he lived in the tombs. He was hurting himself and could not be restrained (verses 3-5). The demoniac had the strength of a legion. A legion consisted of 6,000 soldiers. But Jesus is stronger than this man because the demoniac fell at Jesus’ feet, obeyed Him, and left the man, which you will notice later on in the passage.
Most likely, today’s experts would interpret his problems as “chemical imbalance,” “bi-polar,” or “childhood abuse”. A lot of human deviant behaviours have their source in demons. We may not see people like this in a graveyard, but demon possession is real and people have different kind of issues like abuse, greed, addictions, quarrelsome, materialistic, promiscuity, and many more.
Though this passage does not focus on demon possession, it teaches about it. It takes the reality for granted that Mark’s readers came from the same worldview of the first century. However, when the Gospel is preached anywhere, the demons get disturbed. I have heard people saying that after they turned to Christ, they have stopped drinking, or doing drugs or watch pornography on television, or getting abusive. The Gospel has brought deliverance from their life of demon possession.
As soon as the demoniac saw Jesus, he rushed to Jesus (Mark 5:2). He did not come to be cured, but ran to Jesus in order to be protected from Him. The demoniac seems to be answering the disciples’ question “Who is this?” Then he cried out with a loud voice in verse 7, “Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by God—do not torment me!” This is the second time a demon is addressing Jesus as the Son of the Most High God!
Jesus also asks the demoniac, “What is your name?” in verse 9. That’s the way exorcism was done where as soon as the demon revealed its name, its power is diminished. And then Jesus tells the man who He is, i.e., “Lord”. The title “Lord” refers to Adonai and to the One who is above everything (Acts 2:36; 1 Cor 15:28, Phil 2:11; Eph 1:10). Jesus then cast off the demons into the swine and they run into the water. The man was healed! He was saved from his helplessness.
The healed Demoniac proclaims Jesus
The people came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man sitting there, clothed and in his right mind (verse 15). He was saved and it is the fruit of deliverance and salvation. He now asked if he could go with Jesus (verse 15), but Jesus asked him to go home to his village and proclaim how much the Lord has done for him (verse 19). He went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what Jesus had done for him, and all were amazed (verse 20). This man was able to articulate his faith encounter so well. Let’s ask some questions here:
- Is he the mustard seed of Mark 4:30-32? Or
- Is he the growing seed of Mark 4:26-29? Or
- Is he the lamp of Mark 4:21-25? Or
- Is he the seed fallen on the good ground (Mark 4:8)?
We can probably say yes to all of these. This passage which baffles most bible interpreters is a validation of what Jesus spoke in Mark 4.
Jesus asks the man to do one thing: “Go to your home and to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you, that he had mercy on you.” (verse 19). Jesus wanted him to be a proclaimer. The demoniac is the first missionary. I like to call him pre-resurrection Christian missionary. Just as Jesus did to the leper, the paralytic, the tax collector, He goes after a helpless, lonely, rejected man.
So, what do we learn about Jesus from the passage?
# Jesus is stronger than the Strong Man of Mark 3:27 to invade the territory of Satan. When we look at Matthew 4:1-10, we see Satan controls the world. He controls all the industries we can think of, economic, entertainment, and commerce. We see so much of corruption as he is the father of lies and all forms of deviant behaviours have their source in him. But wherever Jesus went, there was deliverance!
# Jesus is the Saviour of those who were in the fringes, which is an aspect of the Kingdom. Jesus went to Gadarene just for one person! Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, Lazarus, Simon, the leper, Zaccheus, the tax collector, and others were all on the fringes, and Jesus is the Saviour of such people.
# Jesus is the real Jonah. Most likely Jesus left from Nazareth, and went north about one kilometre to a place called Gath-hepher, which is Jonah’s birthplace (2 Kings 14:25). Jonah disobeyed God’s call but Jesus goes to challenging places and goes after those who had never even called upon the name of God.
The command “Go to your home and to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you, that he had mercy on you” (verse 19) seems to be the thrust of this passage! Jesus, the Lord shows mercy to the demoniac, heals and restores him. The demoniac in turn went back to his home and testified.
Many are hurting in this world. Most hurts that people have are spiritual in nature. A person with a deviant behaviour, or suffering from childhood issues, or an illness, which does not have any medication, all these have a spiritual background to it. That vacuum can only be filled by Jesus. Could we make an intentional effort to meet such people and proclaim Jesus to them? Let us also share what the Lord has done to us with others. We have experienced so much of God’s mercy; how can we stay quiet in light of all we have learned and experienced? Let us proclaim Jesus to the hurting world.
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