The Healing of the Hopeless Demoniac

The Healing of the Hopeless Demoniac

The Healing of the Hopeless Demoniac.

Please read Mark 5:1-20.

a. Parallel Passages. Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-39 offer other glimpses of this story. Matthew’s account has two demoniacs, not one. Either Matthew made an honest mistake, being human and all, and he didn’t get the story quite right. Or Mark and Luke only referred to the prominent demoniac who ended up doing the talking. This difference is a minor matter and should be held loosely. The Bible remains the inspired Word of God.

b. WHEN. This amazing miracle occurs right after Jesus’ dramatic calming of the storm with his disciples. After this healing of the demoniac, Jesus heals a bleeding woman and restores a young girl to life. Jesus would soon return to his home town of Nazareth, when the residents thought they knew Jesus and refused to believe in Him. They knew Him as a carpenter, and were offended by His heavenly wisdom and miraculous acts. Jesus was amazed, He “marveled,” at their unbelief.

c. WHERE. Jesus’ journey across the Sea of Galilee, which included His astounding calming of the storm, ended up at the direct opposite side of the Lake. Capernaum is on the northwest side of the Lake, and Gadara is on the southeast side. Gadara was an important city in that region, and a member of Ten Towns, or Decapolis. This entire collection of towns were mostly inhabited by Gentiles. This region of Greek cities was self-governing, and didn’t belong to a particular country or empire. Jesus easily embraced Gentiles and Samaritans and other non-Jews, and was pleased to teach and perform miracles in the presence of Gentiles. He considered His ministry to Gentiles to be an integral part of His ministry as Messiah, prophesied in the Hebrew Bible.

d. WHO. Jesus and His Disciples. All His disciples were amazed and perplexed at what had just occurred on the Lake. They are still underestimating Jesus’ power, and after Jesus calmed the fierce storm, they were muttering to themselves, “Who is this man, who commands the wind and the waves?” They are about to be confronted with more evidence of Jesus’ extraordinary power, for as soon as they climbed off the boat onto the shore near Gadara, they are met by a naked, insane demoniac. Jesus was unafraid to approach and heal this man, who was unclean in three ways: He was a Gentile; he was demon-possessed; and he was constantly in touch with death while living at the tombs. Jesus never seemed to let the matter of ritual uncleanness get in the way of showing mercy to needy people in their distress. He approached and touched the unclean during His whole ministry. Being utterly pure, He was unconcerned with being unclean.

The Raving Demoniac. This unfortunate man was literally filled with demons, he was fully given over to demonic possession. The evil spirits inside him had driven him to insanity, self-destruction, and somehow had given him extraordinary physical strength as well. He lived among the tombs, caves cut out of soft rock, away from society, and was so notorious in that region that no one would ever dare venture into that area. He was naked, and he would shriek, unable to speak. He would cut himself with sharp stones. The people would try to contain him by binding him with shackles and chains, but he was so strong that he just pulled apart those chains. The people were justifiably terrified, because this man  acted like a wild animal, and simply couldn’t be tamed. The demons had driven him away from home and family, into the wilderness surrounding the tombs, where he howled night and day. This deranged man was living a hopeless life, a constant danger to himself and all those in the region. The demons were out to destroy him, to make his life miserable, and they were succeeding.

The Demons. These unclean spirits are Satan’s messengers sent to torment people and destroy what is vulnerable to their powers. Demons are those fallen angels who rejected God in the Satanic rebellion, choosing to follow Satan into evil. Jesus spoke of this when He told the disciples, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18). And during this war in heaven, it is said that Satan took a third of the angels to his side. (Rev. 12:4). These evil spirits occupy and are active in the unseen world.

Christians, though, because they contain the Holy Spirit, need not fear demonic possession. Believers can be harassed and confronted by demonic activity, but Jesus said, to encourage us, “He who is in us in greater than he who is in the world.” Jesus nonetheless expects us to engage in spiritual warfare if it confronts us, wearing the whole armor of God. “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all the strategies of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-18). Evil spirits are a reality in our world, though invisible. There is more to the unseen world than we could ever imagine. But Jesus has defeated Satan once and for all, and the devil’s days are numbered. Do not by an means follow through on your curiosity about or involvement in the occult, the hidden demonic world. That has been off limits since Day One. “Do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.” (Deut. 18:10-12). Remember, with Jesus, if we resist the devil and his influences, he will flee from us. (James 4:7).

e. WHAT. An Exorcism.  The demoniac runs to Jesus as soon as He steps off the boat, and he shrieks at Him, falling down at His feet. Jesus immediately commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. But now the demon talks to Jesus, using the man’s voice, to scream at the overpowering Jesus, “Don’t interfere with me! Don’t torment me! I beg of you don’t torture me, Son of the Most High God! Are you here to judge us before our time?” Jesus engages in conversation with the unclean spirit possessing this man, asking what its name is. Jesus didn’t ask the name of the man, but of the spirit. Jesus focuses on the problem at hand, and wasn’t very personal with this man until after the exorcism. But what an interesting question for Jesus to ask. Do demons have names? And why would Jesus need to know the name of this demon? Speaking through this man, the evil spirit said that its name is “Legion… for we are many.” This poor man was possessed by many, many demons, for a Roman legion has 6,000 soldiers. We are not given the history of this man, and how he became so controlled and filled by this demonic horde. We don’t know how this happened to him, or if he himself invited them into his life at some point. Jesus doesn’t go into any of the history with this man, He didn’t pursue any of that background story by adding guilt or shame. This exorcism was done in the spirit of redemption and forgiveness.

The Pigs. Continuing the conversation, the demon pleaded with Jesus not to send all these evil spirts into their eventual destiny, the Abyss, the bottomless pit. This being Gentile territory, where pigs were not considered unclean and were instead a thriving industry, Jesus agreed to the demon’s request and sent them into the nearby herd of 2,000 pigs. The demons immediately came out of this man and entered the pigs. These evil spirits then drove the pigs to self-destruction, and they all plunged over the cliff into the Sea and drowned. That’s around 2,000 pigs destroyed! If that were done today, the loss would be as much as $250,000. Hog-farming was a huge business in that area, so the economic loss to this town was no doubt quite significant.

Composure. Isn’t it amazing how composed and calm Jesus was after being confronted by a naked, screaming, physically aggressive demoniac? Jesus didn’t panic, he wasn’t intimidated, he had everything under control. This is the type of man who was able to take a nap in the boat during a tempest on the Sea of Galilee. The composure of Jesus in the midst of this confrontation is mind-boggling. He seems to be fully at ease in a situation that would cause most people to panic and run in the other direction. Instead, Jesus calmly spoke with the demons and took care of business.

f. WHY. Jesus simply wanted to heal and restore this man to his right mind. This poor man’s status as a demoniac ran contrary to God’s original plan when He created man. Jesus wanted to see this man return to his senses, to flourish as someone made in God’s image. Jesus was being His merciful self, caring for a hopeless and extremely unfortunate person. Also, Jesus wanted to show who’s boss. He knew He had ultimate power over these demons, that these evil spirits had no choice but to obey Him. It was no contest. Jesus overpowered them. Jesus commanded, and the demons obeyed.

g. WHO. The Pig Farmers. They were aghast at what had happened. They just saw their thriving business go down the drain. They were certainly fearful of someone who had this much power. But they were undoubtedly also afraid this man could do this again, and again. What if this Jesus decided to walk through the Decapolis and destroy all the pigs, if not the sheep and the goats? What impact would that have on their way of making a living? The pig farmers were of one mind… Get this guy out of here, before he does something worse. They were obviously more concerned with their business than the fact this demoniac had been healed.

The Townspeople. After the herdsmen went into town and told everybody what had happened, the  whole town came out to the site to see for themselves. Sure enough, the whole herd of pigs was drowned, and sitting there with Jesus and His disciples was the demoniac, only now he was fully clothed and in his right mind. The townspeople were not impressed by the demoniac’s healing, but they were dumfounded at the apparent supernatural power of this visiting Jew. They begged Jesus to leave. They didn’t trust Him. They didn’t know what He would do next. They were plainly afraid of Jesus and His power. So Jesus left Decapolis, and as far as we can tell, He never returned.

The Healed Demoniac. The man of the tombs is now calmly talking with Jesus and His disciples. He is no longer deranged or self-destructive or a menace to society. Naturally, this man who is never named wants to be one of Jesus’ band of disciples, following Him wherever His ministry takes Him. This man is keenly aware of his life before Jesus and after Jesus. He wants to follow Him to the ends of the earth. But Jesus does something unexpected. He tells the healed man to return to his family and his town and tell everybody what has happened. Tell all the people how God had mercy on him. Preach His saving word to all who would listen. Spread the word about God’s mercy and compassion. Normally, if He was in Jewish territory, Jesus wanted His miracles to be kept secret. He didn’t want it to get around that He is the promised Messiah until the time is right. Jesus didn’t want the people to try to crown Him king or trumpet Him as Messiah. Jesus didn’t want anything to disrupt the divine timetable as He performs His ministry. Jesus knew when the time would be right to live out the Passion and the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus was usually rather secretive. But here Jesus tells the healed man to spread the word, tell everybody about what God has done for him. Jesus knew the Gentiles were a fertile mission field. He knew they would not try to claim Him as king or messiah, since they weren’t even looking for a messiah. He knows this particular man would be an effective witness, since everyone knew him as an insane and dangerous person. And now they could see him sane and speaking lucidly and a solid citizen. This man’s effective testimony would not hinder Jesus’ ministry in any way, which is what might happen if they were in Jewish territory. So that’s what the healed man did. He told everyone he knew about what Jesus had done. This man who was full of darkness is now a light in his corner of the world.

The Disciples. Can you imagine being a disciple at this point? You have just seen Jesus control the wind and Sea. Before the storm, they had seen him heal leprosy, paralysis, and even raise a widow’s son from the dead. (Luke 7:11-17). And here they witness a dramatic exorcism of multiple evil spirits from a crazed demoniac, with the demons being sent into  a herd of pigs, who then jump into the Lake and drown. Their heads must be spinning. Jesus is full of surprises, and powerful ones at that. Jesus, as they now must certainly see, is not your average traveling rabbi. Do they still remember Jesus’ simple words at the beginning of all this, “Follow me“? Little did they know what they were in for.

The Big Question: What did we learn about Jesus in this story?