Like many of you, I enjoy sports, and I especially enjoy watching competition that is close. I love watching a duel between a great pitcher and a great hitter. I love watching a basketball final series that does to a game seven. When that happens, it’s the little things that often make the difference. A ball takes a strange bounce. A player has a slight cold. An official makes a controversial call. As I watch these games unfold, I love the uncertainty of the outcome.
Many people think of the relationship between Jesus and Satan as being a competition. If Jesus is slightly off his game, Satan might get the upper hand that day. If Satan miscalculates and deploys his demons incorrectly, then Jesus and the angels win the day. The viewpoint is that good and evil are opposing forces that are constantly in tension. The point of conflict is constantly changing. Sometimes evil wins and sometimes good wins.
An account like what we are looking at today - Jesus casting out demons - presents a different paradigm, one in which Jesus is sovereign over Satan. Jesus has authority over Satan. That is absolutely true, but we also need to consider the fact that authority and power are different.
Think about the last time you watched a football game. The oldest and most out of shape men on the field were the officials. The officials don’t have power over the players. A player could easily use his power to demolish an official. But the officials have authority. All they have to do is speak and the player is out of the game.
Satan does have power. His agents in Egypt could mimic the miracles of Moses. We see his power in what he did to Job. He had the power to transport Jesus to the top of the Temple and to show Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Satan is not to be trifled with.
What Satan doesn’t have is authority.
Jesus has both. Jesus is more powerful than Satan. Jesus created Satan. Any power Satan has, was given to him by Jesus and could be taken away by Jesus. Jesus has all the authority in the relationship. San can only do what Jesus allows him to do.
To me, that’s the real significance of this miracle. Jesus is certainly helping a man in great need. But, Jesus is clarifying the nature of his relationship with Satan, Demons and evil. Later on, at the cross, when it appears for a few days like Satan may have won, account like this remind us that it’s impossible for Satan to win.
Let’s take a look at one of the most memorable exorcisms Jesus performed:
Principle One: Jesus cared about the demoniac who was isolated from society. (Mark 5:1-8)
Mark 5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 As soon as he got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met him. 3 He lived in the tombs, and no one was able to restrain him anymore—not even with a chain— 4 because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had torn the chains apart and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you before God, don’t torment me! ” 8 For he had told him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit! ”
Can you imagine running into this guy?
The first time I encountered a man who wasn’t in his right mind was as a college student in Chicago. It was fairly common to encounter men who seemed to be hearing voices or something. They would shout at me when I walked by. They would talk to themselves. This man’s demon possession is mimicking the mentally ill people I saw in Chicago. Or perhaps I was seeing demon possessed people. It would be hard to tell the difference I think.
In my opinion, the handbook has made an unfair contrast between Jesus caring for this man and the people isolating this man. The handbook says that the people were afraid of him, and while that may be true, the Bible doesn’t tell us that. In fact, in part two, we’re going to see that it’s actually Jesus that the people are afraid of.
The handbook says that he lives in the tombs because the people had banished him,, but the Bible doesn’t say that. I think there would be some good reasons to try and restrain a man like this. In fact, trying to restrain him might have been an act of compassion. The Bible presents him as a threat to himself, but doesn’t say that he hurt others. Has he hurt others, Rome probably would have kllled him. I also think it’s possible that the demons wanted to live in the cemetery as opposed to the townsfolk making him live there.
My point is this - we need to be careful about reading things into the Bible that might be true, but might not be true.
What we know to be true is that Jesus engaged the man. Jesus boat lands on the shore, and this man comes out of the cemetary to meet Jesus. Jesus stayed there long enough to interact with him and deliver him.
This is in keeping with Jesus mission. In mark 2:17, Jesus said this: “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In Luke 19:10, Jesus said this: “I came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus cared about this demoniac because he saw a sick man, not just the demonic spirit that ravaged him.
There was nothing that the people in town could do to help this man. No amount of medicine could have helped him. Reading every self-help in the town library would have no effect.
Jesus knew what reading this account teaches us: He alone had the power and authority to change this man’s life forever. In this man, Jesus came face to face with the effects of the fall of man. In fact, every encounter Jesus has is with sinners - including us. His desire is to bring restoration!
As we seek to apply this, I think the principle for us to remember is that the answer to the world’s problems lies in disciple making. The world deals with the effects of the fall by trying to treat symptoms. We pursue things like peace treaties, nuclear arms deals, new medications, 12 step programs and incarceration. In the days of Jesus, they were trying chains. Had they succeeded in restraining the man, they might have kept him from cutting himself. But he would be just as troubled and just as needy as he had been.
As believers, we don’t ignore symptoms, but we get down to the cause. What people really need is an encounter with Jesus. Just like what this man is having. Just like what each of us had. We, as his representatives on earth, steward that message.
Principle Two: Jesus confronted the evil spirits in control of the demoniac. (Mark 5:9-17)
As the story continues, Jesus didn’t just show compassion to the man in distress. He demonstrated His power over evil. Watch how He confronted the evil spirits:
Mark 5:9 “What is your name? ” he asked him.
“My name is Legion,” he answered him, “because we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the region.
11 A large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. 12 The demons begged him, “Send us to the pigs, so that we may enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there.
14 The men who tended them ran off and reported it in the town and the countryside, and people went to see what had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon-possessed, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and told about the pigs. 17 Then they began to beg him to leave their region.
This is an amazing event. The Greek used in this passage means to ‘be demonized.’ It refers to the activities of demons in harassing, oppressing, and even possessing people. It doesn’t always mean possession by demons, but it clearly means that in this case - there are demons living in this man. Demons are angels that rebelled against God and aligned with Satan. When you read about the activities of angels - appearing to Mary, singing and appearing to the shepherds That’s the type of being we’re talking about.
“My name is Legion” indicated the strength and number of the demons. A Roman military legion was 6,000 soldiers. The name ‘Legion’ indicate a large number, and it explains this man’s supernatural strength. It also magnifies the fact that Jesus was the ‘more powerful’ one.
Jesus has this exchange with the demons, and allows them to enter the pigs. These demons are clearly subject to Jesus power and authority. Here’s the kind of language Mark uses: Verse 10: “They begged him earnestly” Verse 12: “The demons begged him” Verse 13: “He gave them permission”
There is no doubt who’s in charge here! James tells us that “Even the demons believe that God is one, and they shudder.” The evil spirits believe in the power of God and know that they are under His authority and are only permitted to do what He allows.
Then Mark presents this important contrast: The action of the demon-possessed pigs re emphasizes the self-destructive impulse caused by demon possession. On the other hand, the man, sitting, dressed and in his right mind proved the man’s healing.
What about today? Demons have not disappeared so demon possession is still possible. True Christians are susceptible to attack but not susceptible to possession. Ephesians tells us that we are already possessed. We have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. John reminded us that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Demonic spirits have no hope of possessing a person who is already possessed by an even greater Spirit—the Spirit of Christ.
At the top of page 105, there is this important reminder: The Bible also clearly delineates the difference, however, between demonic possession and demonic oppression. While a believer cannot be controlled by a demon to the point that they are unable to obey God, we are still encouraged to resist the Devil because our “adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Pet. 5:8; cf. Jas. 4:7).
From time to time, believers can be susceptible to demonic oppression (cf. Luke 13:16). There are seasons of heightened spiritual attack that challenge our faith in God. These seasons are often characterized by a lack of faith in the truth revealed to us in God’s Word. The key to fighting this spiritual battle is to expose the lies of the enemy to the truth of God and by faith believe and act on the truth.
In Mark 5, this man’s life has been completely changed. His loud, naked, unrestrained, and self-mutilating life has been replaced with a clothed, quiet and peaceful life. As soon as the people from town arrive - they know that everything has changed. The power of Jesus transformed his life forever.
However, as in the case of this miracle, change is not always met with celebration. Jesus changed this man’s life, immediately apparent in the former demoniac’s decent appearance and calm disposition. The people around that area completely missed it. They chose to be afraid of Jesus rather than impressed by Jesus.
Have you ever heard stories of Jesus’ followers experiencing opposition because they gave their lives to Christ? Sometimes people disassociate with the believer. Sometimes the believer experiences hostility. Christians are slowly becoming the minority in Western culture. The culture is becoming increasingly unfriendly to those of the Christian faith. Knowing that should strengthen our resolve to take the gospel to hard places so that God may get the glory.
As the story concludes, there’s an important application for us. When Jesus delivered this man, He had a much bigger plan for the man’s life than just to live out the rest of his days in peace. This man was commanded to testify to the goodness of God that he had experienced firsthand. The principle is that the gospel that saves and the gospel that sends. When God redeems you, He gives you a mandate and a mission.
Principle Three: Jesus called the man to testify to God’s goodness toward him. (Mark 5:18-20)
Mark 5:18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged him earnestly that he might remain with him. 19 Jesus did not let him but told him, “Go home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed.
The story concludes with the former demoniac asking to join the disciples and go with Jesus. That would be nice wouldn't it? After an experience like this, a fresh start would be great. Staying this this community, and dealing with the people he knew from his past, would be very hard.
The pig herd probably indicates that this is a Gentile community, and this man’s mission is to now be Gentile disciplemaker in this Gentile community. Jesus said: ‘Go home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.’ What’s great about this story is that this communities banishment of Jesus from their area does not rid them of Jesus. Jesus is present in the message of the gospel proclaimed by his followers. In the Gospel of Mark, the healed demoniac becomes the first missionary sent out by Jesus.
That’s our mission as well!
Deliverance from sin always—eventually—leads to a deployment into mission. Jesus calls us to leave the wrappings of sin to pursue the worship of Him among people who don’t know God at all. Through our own salvation, we come to realize that forgiveness leads to freedom. And freedom leads disciples of Jesus to go to the ends of the earth so that all people may know and fear Him. The reason why we can fearlessly forge ahead in the mission is because He has sovereign power and authority over all things, including evil spirits. God’s sovereignty doesn’t negate our going—it empowers it!