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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Jesus: Powerful Over the Forces of Evil!


This was recording was undertaken after the event

 

"As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”"

Mark 5:18-19


The disciples have played a pivotal role in the most recent chapter of Mark’s account but now, as we move into chapter 5, they get absolutely zero mention. For 20 verses we know nothing of what they think or feel.

But, as disciples of Jesus ourselves, I would like us to try to put ourselves in their shoes as they witness these events unfolding in this region of the Garasenes on the east side of the lake.

 

We mustn’t forget what the disciples have just experienced - namely the breathtaking power of Jesus over that mighty storm during their voyage across the lake. They had very truly feared for their lives as Jesus slept on the cushion in the stern of the boat just a few hours before.

 

And so, you can imagine that 6 or so hours later - the kind of time it would have taken them to sail across the lake - they might be very glad to arrive at shore. No doubt wet, no doubt tired, but absolutely mesmerised by the power and authority of Jesus.

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The region of the Gerasenes was on the Gentile side of the lake – to the north-east. There were herdsman there rearing pigs, which naturally no Jewish community would have done because their law regarded pigs as unclean animals - so this is a Gentile community.

 

But the animals are not the only unclean thing. The focus of Mark’s story now turns to a man who has an unclean spirit - verse 2 says an ‘impure spirit’. And what becomes apparent is that it’s not one spirit but many spirits.

When Jesus asks him his name in verse 9, he says ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’.

‘Legion’ was a word that was used at the time to describe a unit of Roman soldiers - somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 fighting men. So, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that this man was possessed by literally thousands of evil spirits – they are called ‘demons’ in verse 12.

 

The influence and effect of the demons on this man is harrowing. We can tell what he was like both from Mark’s description of him before the miracle and by his description of him after Jesus performed his miracle on him.

Mark says that he lived in the local tombs – that is to say, amongst the dead - presumably ostracised from his local community. In fact, the towns folk seemed to have been so troubled by his demonic behaviour that they had tried to bind him - even using chains to do so.

 

But the influence of the demon on this man’s physicality was sosignificant that he was able to break free of all the chains they tried to bind him with. Verse 4 says ‘he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him’.

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The influence of the demons is more than just physical though, it’s also mental. Verse 5 portrays a tormented man. The demons appear to afford him no sleep, whether by day or night. He’s a restless wanderer, constantly moving amongst the tombs and in the hills - Luke says he was actively ‘driven there by the demons’.

 

He’s so disturbed in fact, that he cries out and cuts himself with stones repeatedly. Mark tells us in verse 15, after Jesus set him free, that he was ‘dressed and his right mind’. That indicates to me that he had gone around naked. And Luke confirms that, saying that he had ‘not worn clothes for a long time’. He was, in short, regarded to be out of his mind. Driven out of his mind by these demons.

 

And, as we can see, Jesus had barely stepped out of the boat when this man, in this condition, met him. Verse 6 says, he saw Jesus from a distance and started running towards him - verse 7 says, he shouted at the top of his voice.

 

So, I imagine: the disciples, dragging the boat onto the shore only to hear loud shouting. And then looking around they see a naked, deranged man - who Matthew says ‘no one could pass because he was so violent’ - hurtling down the hill towards them, bleeding profusely, with open wounds, filthy dirty probably.

The disciples must have been terrified all over again. What might he do to them? Kill them? Maybe.

 

The impact of the demons on this man was clearly incredibly powerful. Demons are incredibly powerful. What does it even mean that this man had demons living in him? What are demons? How do they operate so as to so completely impact a man’s life as this account shows us they did?

 

Well, we can certainly say that demons are Satanic. In Mark 3, the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of being possessed. They said, ‘by the prince of demons, he is driving out demons’.

And Jesus showed them the logical stupidity of that statement by saying, ‘If Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand’.

So according to Jesus, demons belong to the ‘prince of demons’ who he identifies as Satan. So they are Satanic.

 

We know from various places that when Satan rebelled against God in heaven, he incited a huge number of the angelic host to follow him - and God threw them all out. So, it seems right to identify demons as Satanic fallen angels who do the bidding of their prince - the devil.

 

How they influence people is not so clear, but that they influence people is very clear. Satan is not like God, he is not omnipresent, therefore his scope of influence works via his servants who do his bidding.

Whilst we may not see the kind of extreme examples of demonic influence that this man encountered, we are certainly warned that we are in a ‘struggle against spiritual forces of evil’ (Ephesians 6:12) and that ‘in latter days some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spiritsand things taught by demons’ (1 Timothy 4:1). James says that bitter envy and selfish ambition, for example, are demonic.

 

So, there is a real, and powerful, and influential world of spiritual beings who are evil, and they are set against God, and they are set against us, his people. And they are set against all the people of the world because they want none to encounter Jesus and so be saved.

This is a mighty foe we’re talking about! And just because we don’t see this kind of extreme example today, it would be folly to think this evil spiritual world doesn’t exist. It does! And we need to take that seriously.

 

In the case we have here, their power is so complete that this man is not his own. The demons have the control. He can’t overcome them, and neither can the community at large. They are in control here.

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That is, until they encounter Jesus! Jesus had said to the spirit, ‘come out of this man’. And the man ‘fell on his knees in front of Jesus and 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!

I think these words are the words of the spirit and the spirit is using the man’s mouth to speak them.

 

Here’s a question: Who told the spirit - or the man for that matter - that this was Jesus? Nobody told them. James says, ‘demons believe there is one God - and shudder’. The demons know who Jesus is.

 

We saw last time that Jesus made everything. And that certainly included the angels. These demons know their maker when they see him. They know his name. They know his relationship to the one God that they believe exists. They know he is God’s Son.

And they know that God is ‘most high’ - above all other beings.

And, they know that their rebellion against God is going to result in judgment. They know ‘torture’ is their appointed end.

And they are constrained to acknowledge all this because of Jesus’ presence.

 

They never acknowledged any of this to the demoniac. Only now that they are presented with Jesus, they must acknowledge that he is ‘the one’. He alone is worthy, to receive honour and glory and might, and they know it and they must give it.

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Jesus is the one who will, at the appointed time, deal with all these demonic rebellious angels. He will bind them and dispatch them to the lake of fire forever.

The demons are so scared that Jesus might have come ahead of time to do that, that they are even prepared to plead in the name of God that he not do it.

That is desperation. Even with all their mighty power and influence, they know who is ultimately in control here.

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What does it mean folks, that the demons - who are so powerful so as to be able to completely control a human being - as they encounter Jesus, they beg in the name of their arch enemy not to be condemned and tortured by Jesus?

 

It tells us that it is simply hopeless to believe that you can win the favour of God having rejected his son Jesus for the whole of your life!

Even the demons who are thousands of times more powerful than you, don’t believe that they can persuade Jesus, when he comes in his might and in his just judgment to desist from sending them to hell.

Why do we? Our rebellion against Jesus will have its consequences. I said it last time and now again, we need Jesus to be for us and not against us otherwise we are hopeless.

 

Of course, these demons didn’t embrace Jesus - they hated Jesus. They just didn’t want him to torture them. Their time for punishment will come. Ours need not come, if we turn from our rebellion and cleave to Jesus.

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That was one kind of pleading - they pleaded with Jesus not to torture them - but then their attention turns to their purpose.

These demons have work to do in that area and they don’t want to leave. So, they plead with Jesus not to send them out of the area.

And then, looking for a way out of their predicament - because they know that Jesus will drive them out of this man - they plead to be sent into the pigs that are feeding on the hillside.

 

To be in the area - even if it is just in the pigs - is better than to be driven out of the area where they are so influential. That’s how demons operate - they are missional. They want to be as influential as they can possibly be.

 

And Jesus did it. He sent them into the pigs. The result is the same for all 2,000 of the pigs – indicating they all got at least one demon. They allrushed down the hillside and drowned in the lake.

 

That’s not normal behaviour for pigs. It certainly wasn’t for these pigs or else their herders wouldn’t have put them out to feed in that location. The influence of the demons on the pigs is like that on the man. They go out of their minds.

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So now it’s all about responses - it really is. How will everyone concerned respond to this remarkable morning of events? How will they feel about Jesus?

How will the man feel now that he’s been liberated from the unbelievably controlling power of 2,000 plus demons - and now sits ‘dressed and in his right mind’, Mark says in verse 15?

How will the herders who have witnessed the whole event and have lost all their pigs respond?

How will the towns people who the herders run off to tell, respond when they see the man who they tried repeatedly to bind, sat in his right mind and fully clothed?

And how will we respond?

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We have just seen, along with all these people: Jesus, by his awesome power, liberate a very troubled and tortured man from demonic bondage.

 

And maybe it reminded the disciples of the way in which God - ‘Most High’ - rescued the Israelites in ancient times from their bondage in Egypt.

In that chapter of their history God brought the Israelites out through the Red Sea with a tremendous display of his power over nature and his power over their enemies.

He led them out of Egypt, revealing himself as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night.

And when Pharaoh hardened his heart and decided that he had changed his mind and that he would chase the Israelites to prevent them from leaving, God drove back the Red Sea with a strong wind turning it into dry land and the Israelites went through.

 

The Egyptians followed them, chasing them into the sea. And the Lord looked down on them and threw them into confusion. And then he made the sea return to its place, and he drowned the Egyptians and their chariots and their horsemen in the sea.

The water flowed back and covered them and not one of them survived.

Why did he do it? Repeatedly God says he will do it to get ‘glory’ for himself.

Israel saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, and the people ‘feared the Lord and put their trust in him’, Moses says.

 

It is not a coincidence that Jesus miraculously stilled the storm and the waves on the boat in the night and then drove the enemies of this man out of him and drowned them in the sea the next morning.

Jesus is showing us his God-strength to free his people from oppression and tyranny and cruelty.

He is here to set people free!

He is here to drive our enemies from us and to drown them in the sea of his fury.

 

We are meant to look on and marvel at his God-like power and conclude he is God! And he has come for me! We are meant to fear him in his might and trust him in his power – that it is bent to meet our needs.

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What the demons were to this man, our sins our to us. Our sins drive us completely crazy. And I don’t doubt that demons are working today to make sin look so appealing to us.

 

Sin promises great reward, but it delivers death, because sin is our rejection of all that God is for us. And he will not accept that. It is a robbing of his glory.

 

As sin presents itself as more satisfying, more appealing, more precious than God, we make the trade. We trade the glory of God for the glory of created things. And we turn our backs on him and rebel against him, like our forefather Adam did.

 

Sin has its way with us, and we are its slaves. Sin is our master - our minds are governed by it. This is where Daniel is going to take us shortly in Romans: ‘Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? And then Paul says, ‘Thanks be to God…that you have been set free from sin’.

 

Jesus is the one who sets us free from the control of this mighty adversary called sin. He doesn’t just forgive us; he sets us free from the control of that evil impulse and gives us the power to overcome it and to be mastered by Jesus. To do his will, not the will of Satan.

That is why the Apostle Paul can say in Romans 8 which I quoted last time also, that not even demons or any evil powers can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

 

One of the ways they don’t separate us from his love is by the means of Ephesians 6 - that is, with the full armour of God which we are commanded to put on.

We put on the belt of truth; we put on the breastplate of righteousness; we put on the gospel of peace; we take up the shield of faith; we put on the helmet of salvation and take up the sword of the Spirit - the word of God.

Why? Because, with them, we make our stand against ‘the rulers and authorities, and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’. This is called ‘being strong in the Lord and in his mighty power’.

 

So, this must be our response. We must be those who live in the truthof our rescue, by fighting in the strength that God supplies against the powers of evil arrayed against us - sin, Satan and this seductive world.

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The town’s people and the herders were not drawn to Jesus by the display of his mighty power. They were ‘afraid’ of him verse 15 says. And verse 17 says, ‘they began to plead with Jesus to leave their region’.

 

Instead of saying, ‘Jesus must be for us or else we are finished’, their fear drove them away from Jesus. This is the effect Jesus has on most people. Most people encounter Jesus and want to get as far away from him as they can. They can’t abide his presence.

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Which is sadder: to be controlled by an evil demonic host or to be demonically rejecting of Jesus? I think it’s the latter.

There was hope for the demoniac because of Jesus. The town’s people, on the other hand, they don’t know it, but their only hope is Jesus too, and they reject him. Don’t be like them. Your only hope is Jesus too. Come to Jesus and he will not turn you away!

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There’s been a lot of pleading in this passage and all of it has been bad. The demons pleaded with Jesus three times. The towns people once. And none of them wanted him.

But now we see good pleading. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man ‘begged’ to go with him, Mark says in verse 18.

It’s as if he’s saying, ‘I am dead to everything here but I’m alive in you Jesus, take me with you. I want to be wherever you are’.

 

‘I long to be where Jesus is?’ I think that is a right response to Jesus. Maybe we need to pray for a more healthy sense of being dead to this world, and have a deeper desire to be with Jesus, face to face.

 

Jesus hasn’t saved us - rescued us - and taken us to be with him. He’s left us and ascended, and we are here.

Mark says, Jesus ‘wouldn’t let him go with them’. He told him: ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much [the magnitude of what] the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you’.

 

I’ve often said that I used to wonder why Jesus saves people and doesn’t take them to be with him there and then. This is the answer. This is the first-person Jesus sends out to evangelise.

 

We’re connecting the dots with last week’s message now - that Paul brought us. There he showed us the Apostle Paul’s template for evangelism in our daily lives - so useful!

Here Jesus gives the marching orders to the first evangelist - go and tell your story! Go tell the magnitude of the rescue you have received through Jesus!

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Verse 20 says he did it. He went to Decapolis (ten local towns) and told his story, and people were amazed! And look how effective his evangelism was: In Mark 7, Jesus is back in Decapolis and Mark says, ‘some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him’.

 

They had heard of Jesus, and now they are pleading with him in a good way. This is the power of evangelism. It’s what Jesus has commissioned us to do. And we must tread the footsteps of the demoniac.

 

I don’t doubt it would have been very scary for that man after everything that had happened. How would he be received? Would they tell him to leave their area as they had told his Lord to leave it?

But he was faithful, and Jesus calls us to be also. So that the glory of rescue would belong to Jesus and so that souls would be liberated from their bondage to sin and brought into the glorious light of the kingdom of Jesus!

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