Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A New Person

So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil (unclean, impure) spirit came out from a cemetery to meet Him. This man lived among the burial caves (tombs) and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles — as he often was — he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones. Mark 5:1-5 (NLT)

Mark 4:35-5:43 records four miracles that answer the question asked at Mark 4:41: “Who is this Man?” These four miracles demonstrate Jesus’ sovereignty and absolute power over nature (Mark 4:35-41), evil spirits (Mark 5:1-20), physical sickness (Mark 5:21-34), and death (Mark 5:35-43). Each of these miracles reveal Jesus as the all-powerful and sovereign Son of God and Messiah (Matthew 1:21-23; see also Mark 1:1).

Mark 5 continues Jesus’ Galilean ministry, located in northern Israel. Mark 5:1-20 shows Jesus now in the Gerasenes region (see also Matthew 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-39). Evil spirits inhabited the Gerasenes region (Mark 5:1-2, 10). Jesus goes to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 5:1) as Jesus’ Galilean ministry is a series of boat trips across the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:1). As Jesus gets out of the boat, a hopeless man meets Jesus and this man is probably the most hopeless man that Jesus’ meets. This man had many evil (unclean, impure) spirits living within him (Mark 5:9) and he dwelled among the tombs (Mark 5:2-3). In other words, this man was a living dead man and defiled (unclean) because he lived among corpses (Mark 5:3). Jews would consider this man permanently unclean since he lived among corpses (tombs) (see Leviticus 22:4; Numbers 5:2; Numbers 9:6-7, 11; Numbers 19:11-13, 22; Haggai 2:13). However, Jesus willingly entered this unclean place to rescue souls for God’s Kingdom. Moreover, this man had been chained and shackled (Mark 5:4). The man’s family chained him not for punishment but to stop him from hurting himself (Mark 5:3-4). The man had an unusual strength to break the chains and no one could “tame” him (Mark 5:3-4). But, Jesus’ power and authority was stronger (see Mark 5:6-13). Also, this man was treated like an animal! Even more, the man was probably suicidal because he was constantly cutting himself on rocks (Mark 5:5). This man was hopeless and everyone had given up on him and no Jew would come near this land.

When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw Him, ran to meet Him, and bowed low before Him. With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are You interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the Name of God, I beg you, do not torture me!” For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.” Mark 5:6-8 (NLT)

Then, this man sees Jesus! Jesus’ coming provided the man hope. Seeing Jesus, the man ran to Jesus, fell before Him, and worshipped Him (Mark 5:6). The unclean spirit shriek, screamed, and tried to resist Jesus’ authority and power (Mark 5:7). Amazingly, the man identified Jesus as “Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7; see also Matthew 8:29). The spirit world knew Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God (Matthew 4:3; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:33-34, 41). Evil spirits were speaking through the man’s voice as the man’s life was controlled by demons (Mark 5:8-10). With all-authority, Jesus speaks and said to the unclean spirits: “Come out of the man, you evil spirit” (Mark 5:8; see also Mark 1:23-26, 34).

Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” Then the evil spirits begged Jesus again and again not to send them to some distant place. There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.” So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water. Mark 5:9-13 (NLT)

Then, Jesus demanded and said to the demon-possessed man, “What is your name?” (Mark 5:9, NLT). The man replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man” (Mark 5:9, 15). The name “Legion” was plural because this man was possessed with multiple demonic spirits that invaded and controlled him. Now, these evil spirits confronted Jesus. The evil spirits begged Jesus again and again not to send them into a different region (Mark 5:10). Amazingly, these evil powers in the presence of Jesus begged and pleaded with Jesus (Mark 5:10). As God incarnate, Jesus was in charge and the evil (unclean) spirits obeyed Him (Mark 5:10-13). Obviously, the Gerasenes region is Gentile territory because there is a herd of pigs that lived in Gerasenes (Mark 5:11-12). Begging Jesus, the demonic forces came out of the man and entered into the large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby (Mark 5:11-12). Jesus gave the evil spirits permission to enter the pigs and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water (Mark 5:13).

The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. Mark 5:14-17 (NLT)

The keeper of the pigs (herdsmen) fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news about the demon-possessed man and the pigs (Mark 5:14, 15). People rushed out to see what had happened. Then, the people gathered around Jesus, and they saw the same man who had been possessed and controlled by the legion of demons fully clothed, perfectly sane, and in his right mind (Mark 5:15). The amazing difference between the former and the present condition of the man was a testimony of Jesus’ saving power (Mark 5:15-16). With his encounter with Jesus, this man was healed, changed, and a new person (see also Romans 6:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:4-5). The people were now afraid with fear and began pleading with Jesus to leave the region (Mark 5:15, 17). Fear and amazement were frequent responses to the mighty and miraculous acts of Jesus (e.g. see Mark 1:22, 27; Mark 4:41; Mark 6:50-51)

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with Him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful He has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them. Mark 5:18-20 (NLT)

As Jesus went to get back onto the boat, the man begged Jesus to go and be with Him (Mark 5:18). Unlike his neighbors (Mark 5:17), the man experienced firsthand God’s grace and mercy and he wanted to be with Jesus. This scene used a similar expression found at Mark 3:13-19 with the calling of the Twelve disciples by Jesus. To be one of the Twelve disciples means to “be with Jesus” or “be with Him” (Mark 3:14; see also Luke 8:35).  However, Jesus refused and said “No” to the healed man. Instead, Jesus told the man to go home to his family, relatives, and friends and tell them about the Lord’s grace and mercy (Mark 5:19; see also James 1:17). The normal understanding of the word “Lord” is God. Here, Jesus is clearly referring to Himself as God (Mark 5:19). This claim as Lord means that Jesus has the authority of God. Then, the healed man began to preach or proclaim publicly to goodness of Jesus in Decapolis, the region of the Ten Cities located southeast of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 5:20). The people marveled at the man’s preaching and amazed at the man’s deliverance by Jesus (Mark 5:20). The former demon-possessed man became a living example of Jesus' power! For the first time in Mark’s Gospel, a Gentile was the receiver of Jesus’ miraculous healing. This miracles proves that Jesus heals all people by faith in Him – Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) (see also Mark 7:24-30).

Many people have wondered why the people asked Jesus to leave their region after the miraculous healing and deliverance of the demon-possessed man. Some have focused on the monetary loss of the pigs (property). Undoubtedly, the people feared more financial losses if Jesus stayed. Throughout history, people have always tended to value financial gain above needy people. In fact, most wars have been fought to protect monetary interests. People are continually being sacrificed to the god of money (Matthew 6:24). When God’s Kingdom comes, His Kingdom will interrupt people’s finances. The Kingdom is costly and disrupts economic and political structures. Sadly, the people in this story begged Jesus to depart from their regions because they were more concerned with money than saving souls from evil. However, humans are created in God's image and have eternal value (Genesis 1:27). Jesus’ miraculous healing reveals His power over the demonic world and His compassion for human life. The salvation of people is always more important than money! God the Father graciously sent His Son, Jesus to deliver us from the forces of evil and darkness and deliver us into God’s glorious Kingdom by faith and belief in Him (John 1:12-13; John 8:12; John 12:35-36, 44-46).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ . . . . God made Him (Christ) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)

NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.

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