5 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
(Mark 5:1-13 NIV)
This story of Jesus and the demon-possessed man actually goes from verse 1 through verse 20. The story, while short, has so many layers and so much historical context that covering the entire story in one day is too much. We will examine this story in two parts.
In our last passage, Jesus had been teaching all day and asked the disciples to go to the other side of the lake in the evening. Jesus, exhausted from teaching all day, fell asleep in the boat while the disciples rowed across the lake. A storm suddenly came over the lake, bringing all the forces of hell with it. The disciples, fearful of losing their lives, wake Jesus to help them. Jesus calms the storm, telling the demonic forces spread over the wind and the waves to be muzzled, to be silent. Jesus questions the disciples’ faith; the disciples are terrified.
When Jesus and the disciples arrive at the other side of the lake, they are met with demonic forces again. This time, instead of the demonic forces spread out over the wind and the waves, they are concentrated in one person, a wild beast of a man. This man was an outcast of society, living among the tombs, unable to be bound or brought under control. The demonic forces in this man were constantly torturing him – he was not able to sleep or rest, and his cries of pain could be heard far and wide. The man was cutting himself with stones, hoping somehow to end his constant torture and endless pain. Death was the only option that he could imagine that would give him any relief from his pain.
When Jesus arrived, the demon-possessed man raced to meet Jesus. He confronted Jesus and called Him by name and by attribute (Son of the Most High God). In this moment, the forces of heaven and hell met head-on.
In Jesus’ day, to call a foe by name was to exert power over them. When the demons called Jesus by His name, they tried to claim their authority over Him. At the same time, the man begged Jesus not to torture him. The demon’s torture was unbearable; whatever Jesus might do to him was unthinkable. But Jesus’ authority was not shaken; His command for the demons to leave the man stood firm, and the demons would obey.
Instead of torturing the demons, Jesus chooses to dialog with them. Jesus asked them their name, and they replied, “Legion”. This was not an exact count, like a Roman army legion of 6,000 troops. Rather, the term was meant to intimidate Jesus, since there was only one of Him and many more of the demons.
In the end, the demons knew they were defeated and begged Jesus not to send them out of the region. Jesus allowed the demons to go into a herd of 2,000 pigs in a nearby field. The demons who were bent on destroying the man now destroyed the herd of pigs instead.
In the first part of this story, we see a microcosm of the greater story of evil and redemption, of sin and salvation. The demons wanted to take the man’s life; Jesus wanted to give the man life, both now and for eternity. The demons brought only pain and torture to the man’s body and soul; Jesus offered hope and peace and rest.
Jesus offers us the same thing – redemption for our brokenness and pain, and hope for our weary souls.
As followers of Christ, may we lay down our pain and burdens at the foot of the cross and receive the deep peace and acceptance that only He can offer, the only peace that can satisfy the deep longing of our souls.
If you have not made that choice to follow Jesus, what is stopping you from doing so right now? If you did make that choice today, let me or someone else know.