‘And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes, and when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit’,.Mark 5. 1, 2.
The Lord had demonstrated His power over the elements of nature. He was now to display His power over human weakness, and more, over the spiritual forces of evil.
This is not to be dismissed as merely descriptive of a diseased mind. In our own times there are psychic phenomena which cannot be diagnosed by psychological examination or in some instances discarded as fraudulent trickery. Disease and demon-possession are clearly distinguished in Scripture, as in Mark 1. 32. Mary Magdalene had been possessed by seven demons, Mark 16. 9, and Luke describes a man whose last state is worse than the first through the entry of seven unclean spirits, Luke 11. 26.
Mark describes this Gadarene demoniac as being filled by a veritable brigade of militant demons, utterly bound by Satan as he had never been by chains and fetters.
As there are mighty ranks and companies of blessed spirits so there are of evil spirits. These are the ‘principalities and powers’ against whom the Christian wrestles, Eph. 6. 12. Even more dangerous than the ungarnished attacks of evil spirits are the counterfeit, seducing spirits controlled by the one who is himself ‘transformed into an angel of light’. John enjoins his readers, ‘Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world’, 1 John 4. 1. It must not therefore be supposed that demon-agency has ceased, for we are warned that ‘in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons’, 1 Tim. 4. 1. We are in no doubt that there are those who hold intercourse with such and are taught by them. In a day yet future, when God pours out His judgements on the earth, men will not repent but will worship demons and all sorts of idols, Rev. 9. 20. Mystic Babylon, or the apostate church, will become ‘the habitation of devils and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird’, Rev. 18. 2.
With one exception, that of the appearance of Samuel to Saul, there is no case in Scripture of men finding communion with spirits, neither is there any instance in the New Testament of ‘a spirit of good’ taking possession of an individual, for this is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit alone.
This subject has been treated at length since we consider any association with modern cults which profess to impart spiritual relief from the strains and stresses of modern life, to be not only dangerous but clearly forbidden. When ecstatic manifestations are claimed by some to be evidence of a deep, spiritual experience, the warning is even more pertinent. Scripture is clear, ‘when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits … should not a people seek unto their God? … to the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them’, Isa. 8. 19, 20.
The incident of the Gadarene demoniac is related in all the three Synoptic gospels but it is Mark who gives the more detailed account.
The man was, firstly
Luke records that he abode not ‘in any house, but in the tombs’, Luke 8. 27. In bondage to the ‘Legion’ spirits he had been driven from the joy, comforts and security of home. Sin is ever a destroyer of home and all that is best in it. Whether he had a wife and children we are not told but we know that he had a home and friends, 5. 19. Many homes are broken through the sinful behaviour of one of its members. When a man begins to neglect home, he is on the way to all possible evil.
Home is so desirable that it is used to signify heaven. Paul wrote that to be absent from the body is to be ‘at home’ with the Lord, 2 Cor. 5. 8. Dwelling in the tombs, he found his abode in places which were ‘unclean’ because of the dead bodies which were there, Num. 19. 11, 16; Matt. 23. 27; Luke 11. 44. W. E. Vine suggests that sitting among graves may have been a form of spiritism in an effort to hold intercourse with the dead. Lodging in the ‘secret vaults’, Isa. 65. 4, may represent the practice in crypts or caves of a form of idolatry accompanied by abominable sacrificial meals. Sin not only destroys but defiles, so that this man was, secondly, a
‘Exceedingly fierce, so that no man might pass by that way’, Matt. 8. 28.
Not only was he an enemy to home but a menace to society, being so violent that no one dared travel on that road. It is God’s will that people should live together domestically, socially and religiously. We do not preach a ‘social gospel’ for salvation, but we embrace a gospel which is social, following Christ’s example who ‘went about doing good’. History reveals that respect for human life, care for the sick, prison reform, freedom from slavery, child welfare and much more, have their roots in the Christian faith. Thirdly, this man was
He wore ‘no clothes … and always, night and day … cutting himself with stones’, Mark 5. 5; Luke 8. 27.
Sin is debasing in its effects, essentially depraved in its nature and destructive of human personality. Commenting on Romans 1. 21-32, one has written that this list is as accurate a description of life today as it was then … a sex-ridden mentality leading to promiscuity, infidelity, divorce and the moral muddle of present-day society … decency and chastity are almost regarded as signs of weakness and incomplete development. Everything is justified in terms of self-expression … the moral sense itself seems atrophied. Jeremiah wrote of his generation that they were not ashamed of their abominations, ‘neither could they blush’, Jer. 6. 15. What an indictment! Beyond blushing-sunk and wallowing in the mire!
It is the responsibility of every believer to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and the Tight of the world’, Matt. 5. 13, 14, not by compromise with worldly patterns but by contrast to worldly principles. Fourthly, the Gadarene was
‘No man could bind him, no, not with chains … neither could any man tame him’, Mark, 5. 3, 4.
Sin is ‘transgression of the law’ and an act of revolt, 1 John 3. 4. It was sin that changed cosmos into chaos and destroyed the peaceful harmony of Eden’s paradise. Christ asked him, ‘What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many’, 5. 9. ‘Legion’, a Latin word, represented the largest division of the Roman army and would suggest domination, strength and oppression, The alternating pronouns ‘my’ and ‘we’ indicate a divided personality. He was soon to know the peace and harmony of body, mind and spirit.
‘When he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, and cried … What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee … torment me not’, 5. 6, 7.
Christ’s presence filled the demons with fear; sin dreads sanctity. They said, literally, ‘What have we in common?’ Although they recited an excellent confession of faith, there was no salvation for them. Heaven, the home of purity, could only terrify the unpardoned sinner.
‘The unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea … and were choked’, 5. 13.
Luke records, ‘they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep’, Luke 8. 31. The word translated ‘deep’ is literally ‘the abyss’, as ‘bottomless pit’ in Revelation 9. 11; 20. 3. Christ destroys demons but delivers men.
‘They … see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid’, 5. 15.
His body is clothed, his mind is controlled and his spirit is calm. He desired to accompany the Saviour but was told to go home and tell what great things the Lord had done for him. Deliverance called for devotion. True religion must begin at home; let home be the centre, and the world, the circumference of our piety.
‘And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel’, 5. 20.
Decapolis, as the name implies, was a group of ten Greek cities, all except one being east of the lake. Here was the first seed which was to become a mighty harvest; the first contact with Greek civilisation was made in the Decapolis by a demon-possessed man who had been healed.
‘And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts’, 5. 17.
The man had prayed that ‘he might be with him’ but these people prayed Him ‘to depart out of their coasts’. The former prayer was not answered but the latter was granted. They had been delivered from a terrible plague but they treasured the swine more than the souls of men, and there appears to be no record that the Lord ever returned to them.