The Gospel of Mark - Part 15
John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Having crossed the storm-tossed lake at the end of the previous chapter, this one records the Lord’s dealings with three individuals – the Gadarene demoniac, the woman with the issue of blood and Jairus’ daughter. In chapter 5, we also have the sixth seaside scene recorded by Mark.
We might divide the chapter into three main sections:
- The demon possessed, vv. 1-20.
- The daughter of Jairus, vv. 21-24, 35-43.
- The deliverance of the woman, vv. 25-34.
The chapter opens with that simple statement, ‘And they came over unto the other side of the sea’, v. 1. How simple an end to such a traumatic journey! Yet that is what the Lord had said they would do – get to the other side.
The demon possessed, vv. 1-20
With such a simple opening it must be remembered that the background to this recorded event is the storm upon the Sea of Galilee. This man, possessed of Legion, is placed into that context. It tells us of the remarkable compassion of the Saviour. He took that journey and experienced the storm in order that He might meet this man and bring release and peace into his tormented life.
The condition of the man, vv. 1-5
Whilst Matthew tells us of two demoniacs, Mark concentrates his narrative upon the one we can only assume to be the most prominent. The starkness of the situation is clear from Mark’s description:
- His home, ‘who had his dwelling among the tombs’, v. 3. As he was possessed of an unclean spirit, so his dwelling was in a place associated with ceremonial uncleanness for the Jew.
- His hopelessness, ‘no man could bind him, no, not with chains’, v. 3. Numerous efforts had been made to restrain the man and to bring him under control, but all had failed. They had tried fetters upon his feet and chains upon his arms and body, but nothing had worked. The superhuman strength of the demons had rendered such attempts futile.
- His helplessness, ‘neither could any man tame him’, v. 4. Mark conveys the thought that this man’s behaviour placed him alongside the animals, those who needed to be tamed or brought under the control of man. All human efforts to subdue this man had failed.
- His heartache, ‘And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying’, v. 5. This is a graphic picture of this man’s misery. His grief was constant, for it was ‘always’. His unearthly and restless scream disturbed the people day and night.
- His harm, ‘cutting himself with stones’, v. 5. His body would bear the scars of his repeated attempts at serious self-harm. These were no surface marks but deep gashes in his body.
His plight was awful. He had lost everything – home, fellowship, self-control, peace, and purpose for living. How remarkable that such a person should be of interest to anyone!
The conversation and cure, vv. 6-14
It is difficult to imagine the sight of this man rushing headlong to meet the Saviour. The people of the district would have fled in terror at such a sight, knowing what they had witnessed in respect to this man’s actions in the past. We might note:
- The power, ‘he ran and worshipped him’, v. 6
We have seen the power of the Saviour when He stilled the storm upon the lake. Here, without a word, this demon-possessed man is found under the control of the Saviour. Others had tried, but all had failed. Here, however, there is an immediate recognition of the lordship of Christ and that due homage should be paid to Him at whose feet this man prostrates himself. It may not have been willing worship, but it was a demonstration of demonic impotence before the power of the Saviour.
- The pleas, ‘torment me not’, v. 7, and ‘he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country’, v. 10
The demoniac commences the conversation between himself and the Lord. Again, one demon would seem to speak on behalf of them all. In the conversation there is recognition of who the Lord is, ‘Jesus, thou Son of the most high God’, v. 7, and the power that He had – to send them to final judgement, to the abyss. There is also recognition of the fact that these demons cannot resist His power or fail to comply with His command. It would appear that this area, around Decapolis, was, for them, fruitful ground and one in which they wanted to stay, v. 10.
- The plight, ‘My name is Legion: for we are many’, v. 9
It is only here, in Mark and in Luke’s Gospel, that we appreciate the awful plight of the man. He was not possessed of one, or even seven demons, but a legion. An estimate of the extent of this possession is a figure of over 6,000 demons. It is a picture not just of vast numbers but also, through their conversation with the Lord, of complex organization. Apart from that invincible strength and relentless oppression that we have seen in earlier verses, all of this adds to the hopelessness of this man’s situation.
- The pigs, ‘a great herd of swine feeding’, v. 11, ‘Send us into the swine’, v. 12
We might have seen something of the plight of the man, but there is also a picture of the sinfulness of the people around Decapolis. Although there were more Gentiles in that area, yet this brought with it the presence of, and the trade in pigs, an animal that every Jew should have regarded as ceremonially unclean. Here, financial gain seems to have outweighed the claims of the law. It is these pigs that provide the legion of demons with an opportunity – to release the man, as the Lord had commanded, but not to be consigned to the abyss.
- The precipice, ‘the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea’, v. 13
There is, in this event, a graphic picture of the deliverance that the Saviour had wrought. No real picture of the extent of this man’s possession could have been gained without the question the Lord asked in verse 9, and the death of 2,000 pigs in verse 13. Every spectator would be left in no doubt as to the power of God at work in their midst. There was also a testimony to the man that his deliverance was complete – as the swine had perished, so he was free! Finally, to every Jew there was a reminder that unclean business should not be permitted or supported. As Wiersbe puts it, ‘To Satan, a pig is as good as a man! In fact, Satan will make a man into a pig’. 1
As a consequence of all that has happened, the men who kept the pigs flee into the city carrying their story with them. They would be quick to seek to absolve themselves from all blame in respect to the fate of the pigs.
The contrast and the consternation, vv. 15-17
There could be no greater contrast than between the man’s former condition and that in which he was now found: 2
- 'sitting’, v. 15. Once, he was cutting himself night and day, v. 5, in restless activity, now he was sitting. Once, he was a roving, raving maniac, but now he is at rest.
- 'clothed’, v. 15. Luke tells us that, for a long time, he had worn no clothes. His shame is now replaced with sobriety.
- 'in his right mind’, v. 15. Once possessed with legion and out of control, he is now subdued, rational, and committed to the service of Christ.
In the light of such a miraculous transformation evident before the enquiring crowd it would have seemed likely that there would have been interest in finding out more about the Lord and His power to deliver. Yet the centre of discussion was the account of the keepers of the swine. They were at pains to explain how their charges, the swine, had been destroyed in the act of bringing deliverance to the demoniac, v. 16. The focus was economic and not spiritual.
From that report of the keepers of the swine, ‘they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts’, v. 17. Luke tells us that this was the unanimous verdict of the people. They did not seem to want their settled manner of life disturbed by the Lord and His power to deliver and heal. It is remarkable that such a manifestation of divine power should leave them unmoved. They saw the act but did not wish to see the wonder of the person who could perform it.
Is it not deeply sad to note that the scriptures have no record that the Lord ever visited this part of the country again? Their opportunity was lost!
The command, vv. 18-20
Blessed by his remarkable deliverance, the demoniac seeks the company of the Saviour. He ‘prayed him that he might be with him’, v. 18. What a contrast! The common people did not want the presence or power of the Saviour in their part of the country. They would rather remain in darkness and sin. This man sought the fellowship of the Lord and His people.
However, the Lord saw what the man did not specifically see, and that was the opportunity for evangelization. This is equally remarkable. Humanly speaking, we would have thought this area of the country a fruitless ground for testimony and witness. They had asked the Saviour to leave. They had, effectively, rejected the greatest evidence of His ability to save that they could ever have had. Nevertheless, the Lord said to the man, ‘Go home . . . and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee’, v. 19.
It is worth noting where a young convert’s efforts should be directed. The Lord indicates to this man, ‘Return to thine own house’, Luke 8. 39. This should be the starting point to bear testimony. Those closest to us should be able to see a change and, from that, understand the basis of that change and who has wrought it. From that point this man ‘began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him’, v. 20. The message radiated out to the ten cities of the area.
There is, in Luke’s account, a testimony to the deity of Christ. The Lord’s command to this delivered demoniac was ‘shew how great things God hath done unto thee’, Luke 8. 39. The man is true to the Lord’s command, but Luke gives the detail as, ‘he went his way, and published . . . how great things Jesus had done unto him’!