This is a great story of deliverance.
We have here before us an account of extreme demonic oppression.
As we go through this account, we are going to look at the condition of the demon-oppressed man, the condition of the evil spirits and the condition of those who observed the deliverance.
Jesus and His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee and came into the region of the Gerasenes (also known as Gergesenes or Gadarenes). This area was part of the Decapolis. The map below shows the area.
Decapolis literally means “ten cities.” This area was the center of Greek and Roman culture in an area otherwise dominated by the Jews and other Semitic speaking people. To the Jews, this was known as a Gentile area, and was generally southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The fact that this was a Gentile area would account for the large herd of pigs.
Living as they were in close proximity to the Jewish people, the people of this area would have had some influence from a Biblical culture, or at least would have had some familiarity with the ways of the Jews.
For our purposes today, we can assume that they are not that much different from the unbelieving world around us. People are aware of some of what the Bible teaches, but their knowledge is confused and mixed up at best. Often times their understanding of the Bible is completely misconstrued and full of errors, omissions and additions, not unlike the understanding of the Gerasenes of Jesus’s day.
As Jesus stepped out of the boat, He was met by a man with an unclean spirit.
Now, as to the condition of this man, we will start with the fact that no one could help this man, nor could anyone subdue or restrain him.
I will say more about the condition of this particular person, but first I want to talk in general about the condition of those who are lost, without Christ. Romans 6:19 explains to us that before redemption by Christ a person is a slave to sin. It says:
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. ESV[ii]
This slavery to sin is spoken of in different terms in Ephesians 2:1&2, which say:
1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience… ESV
Being slaves of sin or dead in our sins and following the course of this world, points out our inability to deliver ourselves. As much as humanity tries to solve our problems, there is only one way of deliverance. Acts 4:12 tells us:
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. ESV
Just as the demon possessed man could not be set free by anyone but Jesus, so also no person can be delivered from sin, the world and the devil except by Jesus.
However, the person in the account today was not typical. He represents a case of extreme demon possession. Let’s talk a little about the condition of the demons.
When Jesus asked the unclean spirit its name, it said, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” (Mark 5:9, ESV) A legion of soldiers consisted of six thousand men or more, even up to twelve thousand men. Here in this context it most likely means a very large number rather than a specific count. There was a large enough number to send two thousand pigs rushing to their deaths in the sea.
Whatever is in Scripture is for our instruction. While the case of this person having so many demons dwelling in him is exceptional, it points out that our enemies are many. Ephesians 6:11-12 says:
11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
This makes it clear that people are not our enemy, but evil spirits are. The legions that afflicted the man in Mark 5 are still around and there are many more legions besides. Few, if any of us, will ever deal directly with the devil, simply because, as the accuser of the believer, Scripture speaks of him as being in the heavenly realms. In Revelation 12:9, John saw Satan cast out of heaven:
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. ESV
This is something that has not happened yet. In addition to this reference in Revelation, we have examples like Job 1 where Satan is pictured as appearing before the Lord among the sons of God. (Job 1:6, Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. ESV)
Although it is unlikely that any of us will deal directly with Satan, it is not possible to go through life without dealing with his henchmen. This has already been made clear by Ephesians 6:11&12 where we are told who and what we struggle against. 1 John 5:19 tells us that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. In addition, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 says:
3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. ESV
In this passage, we see that the devil operates in the mind of every unbelieving person. He works by blinding them to the truth. It is important that we understand that demons work primarily in the mind. For example, in 1 Chronicles 21:1, Satan worked in the mind of David, causing David to take a census of Israel. (Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. ESV) This is the principal means by which Satan works. (When I say Satan, I am referring to his operations carried out through his subordinate demons. Since Satan is only one creature, he cannot be everywhere present working in every person’s life. However, he has many legions to do his work.) Satan works principally in the mind. This is why it is so important to follow the Scriptural principle of taking every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says:
3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, ESV
This battle for the mind is also reflected in the command to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” ESV)
Jesus told the Jews that believed in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31 ESV)
When the demon-possessed man was freed from the demons, he was said to be “in his right mind.” (Mark 5:15) A completely insane man was restored simply by having the demons cast out.
So far, we have seen that the demon-possessed man could not gain deliverance except through Jesus Christ, and we have seen that the forces of evil work principally in the mind. Next, let’s talk briefly about how those observing this deliverance reacted. What was their condition?
We see first, the herdsmen fled. Of course, they would have been terrified seeing their pigs suddenly run wildly into the sea.
These men ran and told everyone they met what had happened. And so, naturally, people went out to see for themselves. Mark 5:15 tells us that when they saw the man who had been possessed by demons clothed and in his right mind, they were afraid.
In Luke 8:37 it says:
Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.
Here it shows the depth of their fear. They were seized with great fear.
On more than one occasion, the disciples were overcome by fear when they saw the power of God displayed. For example, when Peter saw the great catch of fish in Luke 5:8, he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” ESV
Fear was also the reaction of Israel when God appeared to them at the Mount Sinai. Exodus 20:18-19 tells us:
18Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” ESV
When people see the power of God displayed, fear is the natural reaction. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but the kind of fear that we are speaking of keeps people from being delivered from the power of sin and from the power of the evil one. As Moses told the Israelites:
Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” Exodus 20:20, ESV
There is a difference between the fear of love and respect and this fear. Jesus told us not to let our hearts be troubled but to trust or believe in God. (John 14:1)
In the account before us, Jesus instructed the delivered man to remain in the area. He said:
“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19, ESV)
The world needs to see God’s mercy. The power of God, His holiness and justice seen next to our sins is frightening. Any person who enters the presence of God becomes terribly and frightfully aware of his sin and the righteous judgement of God against that sin. However, God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17) The world needs to see that God has come to deliver us. People need to see God’s mercy.
However, fear of judgment is not the only fear. For most, deliverance also means loss. For the Gerasenes, they saw the loss of the pigs as a threat. For many, deliverance seems frightening because it will mean the loss of their favorite sin. Where would the adulterer be without adultery? Where would the drunkard be without drink? We often fear being without our sin, and are not willing to give it up.
Jesus has come to deliver us and to set us free, and He is able to deliver even the most extreme cases. However, fear of judgment and fear of loss cause many to ask Him to go away, to insist that He goes away.
Although our condition may not be as bad as the demoniac’s, none of us can deliver our self.
We have an active and deceitful enemy. Every one of us must diligently fill our minds with truth.
Each one must go to Jesus to be delivered. We must accept His mercy, and be willing to part with our sins.
[i] Image copied from, http://www.bible-history.com/maps/decapolis_cities.html. Accessed August 11, 2017
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.