SERMON: Out of Ashes | Mark 5:1–20

Out of Ashes | Mark 5:1–20
Shaun Marksbury | Quacco Baptist Church
Sunday Evening Service | 16 July, 2017

Thankfully, even though evil is around us, Jesus came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8).  This evening, we’re going to notice 1.) the destruction wrought from evil (vv. 1–5), 2.) the deliverance by Christ from evil (vv. 6–13), 3.) the depravity resulting from evil (vv. 14–17), and 4.) duty of the delivered from evil (vv. 18–20).

Sermon Notes

Out of Ashes | Mark 5:1–20
Shaun Marksbury | Quacco Baptist Church
Sunday Evening Service | 16 July, 2017

I.               Introduction

In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis famously said, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”[1]
So, on the one hand, in this era of science and logic, we might be tempted to disparage the account before us.  Some commentators have wondered if this man weren’t simply a mentally-ill individual, running and yelling and scaring pigs.  Incidentally, I sometimes wonder why someone would go to the trouble of writing a commentary on the Bible if they don’t believe what it says!
On the other hand, Christians shouldn’t be superstitious about the demonic.  The recent animated movie “Trolls” (2016) got me to thinking about a presentation I heard as a young Christian.  Among other things, the preacher said that if you bring troll dolls into your house, you were inviting demonic spirits.  He told stories of how one families heard noises in their houses and experiencing paranormal activity, and it was because people had brought cursed objects into their homes, like troll dolls. 
The truth is that, when you treat objects as though they have good and evil energies, you’re engaging in something more akin to New Age paganism than Christianity.  That kind of superstition and should have no place in the Christian life.  Christianity presents a world in which God is in control, and He has told us all we need to know in Scripture. 
Therefore, we can’t overemphasize Satan’s power (which is where a lot of superstitious practices originate), nor can we ignore it.  This is perhaps why Mark devotes so much space to this one account.  We have this vivid picture of the depths of evil in the world around us, and we need to see it for all its wickedness.
Thankfully, even though evil is around us, Jesus came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8).  This evening, we’re going to notice 1.) the destruction wrought from evil (vv. 1–5), 2.) the deliverance by Christ from evil (vv. 6–13), 3.) the depravity resulting from evil (vv. 14–17), and 4.) duty of the delivered from evil (vv. 18–20).

II.            Destruction Wrought from Evil (vv. 1–5)

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
They disembark into Gentile territory, if it’s not clear from the grazing pigs on the hillside.  This marks the first of many Gentiles cities where Jesus performed miracles.   Gergesa (modern day Khersa) is most likely the name of the town, while what we have is Mark designating the region “the land of the Gerasenes” (so named for the larger city to the southeast).  It’s in the Decapolis, a confederation of ten cities east of the Sea of Galilee.
This account follows the storm at sea, which itself came at the end of the Lord’s busy day of teaching in chapter four.  They’re just arriving at the eastern shore in Gentile territory.  Jesus had said that they needed to cross over (4:35), but He gave no reason.  They survived the storm at sea only because He had miraculously silenced it.  Even so, they still don’t know why they are there, and no reason is directly given in the text. 
The best guess is to help this man and plant a seed of ministry in Gentile territory.  Sometimes we don’t know why the Lord directs our lives as He does, but sometimes we can see that He helps and changes sinners because of it.  Even so, there will be no rest for the disciples, who are undoubtedly still reeling from the storm and the realization of how powerful Christ actually is.
This man had to live away from his family (v. 19) and others, considering his violent and uncontrollable behavior.  The hillside near Khersa has tombs carved into it, and that’s where he lived—an unclean place for these unclean spirits.  Matthew 8:28 points out a second man, but Mark focuses perhaps on the more vocal of the two.
Now, when we read that he “had” the unclean spirit, we are reading that he was possessed or controlled by it.  Luke 8:30 says that the demons had entered him.  This isn’t the way in which demons typically work—they deceive (cf. 1 Cor 10:20–21; 1 Tm 4:1).  Let’s be clear: he didn’t suffer from psychosis; he was demonized. 
We see this when v. 3 emphasizes his supernatural strength with a triple negative, which we could ackwardly translate, “and not even with a chain, no one was able no longer to bind him.”  He was often bound and could rub apart and crush his shackles (v. 4).  He also demonstrates supernatural knowledge in knowing Jesus’s name (v. 7).  Mark doesn’t tell us how he came to be so demonized, but what he says is heartbreaking.
The demonic activity made him an outcast.  Though people cared for him (v. 19), he could no longer live in civilized society.  The word in v. 4 could be translated “tame,” as one might tame a wild animal (Garland, Mark, 202).  No one can tame evil through personal effort—only the grace of God through Christ Jesus can deliver us from evil.  Though it’s not good for a man to be alone (Gn 2:18), he (and his co-suffering demoniac) lived isolated and naked, completely dehumanized. 
The demonic activity made him injure himself.  He spent his time shrieking and purposefully gashing himself—self-mutilation.  Luke adds, “For a long time he had worn no clothes” (Lk 8:27).  “The man’s nakedness not only indicated sexual perversion (cf. Lev. 18:16–19; 20:11, 17–21) and shame (cf. Gen. 3:7; Rev. 3:18), it also illustrated the physical torment he suffered at the hands of the demons who possessed him, since he was constantly exposed to the elements” (MacArthur, Mark 1–8, 242–43).  Evil is always self-destructive, and the demonic attack on man is an attack on the image of God.
One commentary points out, “He is a microcosm of the whole of creation, inarticulately groaning for redemption (Rom. 8:22)” (Garland, Mark, 203).  His story is dramatic, but the fact is that he pictures anyone under the control and influence of the prince of the power of the air.  He represents a life apart from Jesus Christ, and he bears the scars of Satan’s wicked influence.  Satan seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn 10:10), on the prowl to devour (1 Pt 5:8–9).  His demons likewise seek to slowly or quickly destroy (cf. Mk 9:22). 
It’s at this point that Jesus steps into this man’s life.  He wasn’t seeking the Lord.  Matthew 8:28 says that the demoniacs were “so fierce that no one could pass that way.”  However, as he screeches and run up to the boats, he meets the group, not with violence, but with prostration before Jesus Christ.  That brings us to the next point:

III.         Deliverance by Christ from Evil (vv. 6–13)

And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
The demoniac bows before the Lord and uses an honorific title, but that isn’t genuine worship.  Remember that terrifying passage from the Sermon on the Mount—Jesus doesn’t just say that He will cast out unbelievers, but also many calling Him “Lord, Lord” (Mt 7:21–23)!  The Roman soldiers would also bow down, but in mockery (15:19).  Assuming a physical position of kneeling or bowing before Jesus does not fool Him into thinking worship is occurring, and God isn’t obligated to hear the prayers of sinners (Jn 9:31; Js 4:3). 
It takes the Lord stepping into our sinful state.  Notice how quickly the demons realize that they’re outmatched!  MacArthur notes here, “What no human being could tame, even through the use of ropes and chains, Jesus restrained with nothing more than His presence” (MacArthur, Mark 1–8, 243). 
The demons have no advantage over Him.  They claim to be a legion in number, a Latin term for a military division of 6,000 men.  Only 2,000 pigs were possessed (v. 13), so it’s possible that this is meant in the metaphorical sense meaning a great host.  We can’t put it past demons to lie and exaggerate.  Still, only one man had this many demons.
Now, such a host would frighten any of us, but Jesus effortlessly holds this satanic army at bay.  Indeed, He didn’t need its name to gain footing in order to expel them; He cast other demons out without any such inquiry.  He only asks to demonstrate His authority over even such an amassed army of angelic creatures.
The demons are reduced to begging to Him.  Matthew 8:29 reveals that they know that a time of torture comes for them.  That’s why the demons shudder (Js 2:19).  They knew the Lord could cast them down into the abyss with but a word (Lk 8:31; cf. Rv 9:1ff).  Moreover, v. 10 reveals that they specifically wanted to remain in the country, and did not want to wander in in dry places (Mt 12:43; Lk 11:24).  The best option they contrive is to leave from the man into unreasoning animals—unclean pigs (cf. Lv 11:7–8) for these unclean spirits.  But they anxiously await Jesus’s permission to do even that. 
He allowed them an opportunity to cause such chaos to demonstrate just how powerful He is.  Don’t believe dualistic nonsense or fear the power of the devil.  Satan is not God’s all-powerful opposite, for his demonic dominion of darkness bows before the will of Jesus Christ.  Trust in the all-powerful Lord of Scripture.  As stated in the third verse of Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God:”
And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo! his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
What else do we see about Christ’s deliverance here?
First, Jesus cared more for the demonized man than the swine.  It’s not that Jesus didn’t care for this expensive herd of animals.  God notices all His creatures, and Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Mt 10:29).  Even so, God knows the number of hairs on a man’s head because he’s “of more value than many sparrows” (vv. 30–31).  This man endured torment from these demons—and Jesus came to set him free, even at the cost of a couple thousand pigs.
Know the love of God and how He values you—He laid down His life for you (not an animal).  That should motivate you to do the same (1 Jn 3:16–18), and you can know you’ve been converted by the love of God because of your love for fellow believers (v. 14).   Jesus values human life so much that He came to set those captive to sin and Satan free, for God is love (1 Jn 4:8).
Second, Jesus completely transforms the demonized man.  Down in v. 15, we see that He Who brought peace to the raging storm and sea (4:39) transformed this violent, irrational individual.  Remember that the demonic forces tormented both his mind and body.  He had no dignity before Jesus set him free, lacking the simple principles of humanity such as reason, modesty, and self-control.  All people without Christ live below their created worth, bearing the image of God while ultimately ignoring and rejecting Him.  Even so, we see that Christ can completely transform even what, from a human perspective, we would call the hard cases.  He can justify and sanctify a person who’s even under the control of a legion of demons!
Well, the townspeople witness the power and peace of the Person of Christ.  However, they don’t react as you might suspect.  That brings us to our next point:

IV.         Depravity Resulting from Evil (vv. 14–17)

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.  16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.
News of this was bound to spread, especially with the loss of the herd.  One study Bible notes here that “Jesus bears no responsibility for the action the demons took; He did not direct them to run the swine into the sea. Even today, two thousand hogs is a very large herd. Their monetary value could easily have been worth a quarter of a million dollars in today’s economy—a sizable loss for the owners.”[2]
Those who were feeding the pigs explained everything, including that Jesus had been involved in the loss of the herd.  The townsfolk come to see what happened to the herd, and they’re stricken with fear.  Even though the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Pv 1:7), unfortunately, they didn’t move forward in knowledge. 
Interestingly, the same word in v. 10, parakaleo, is used of the townspeople here.  The demons in the man begged Jesus to have their leave of Him, and the people now beg Jesus to leave away from them.  A similar situation occurred years later in Philippi—Paul commanded the demon out of the slave girl, and her owners sought to silence their message because of their loss of profit (Acts 16:16–24).  Fear at the work of God is not a sign of true faith.
All people without Christ live below their created worth, bearing the image of God while ultimately ignoring and rejecting Him.  This was obviously true of demoniac before Christ stepped in and changed his life.  Even so, the town people also live in an unregenerate state. 
They see Jesus as bad for business, meaning that they would rather the man remain as he was.  The entire town was comprised of people who didn’t worship and live for the Most High God.  So, when they saw that Jesus was destroying the works of darkness, they grew in fear.  May it never be that we are satisfied with evil, where we might tell Jesus to leave. 

V.            Duty of the Delivered from Evil (vv. 18–20)

18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
By contrast, the demoniac, now set free, develops an instant affection for the Lord.  He wanted to stay with the Lord.  When Jesus instead gives him a task, he spreads the truth about the work and mercy of the Lord.  This complements the healing of the leper in the chapter one; the leper was to announce his cleansing to the priests, and this man is to go and announce his cleansing from the demons to the people.
He had information the leper didn’t.  Jesus refers to His work as the work of the Lord.  In case there’s any doubt as to what He means by “Lord” here, the parallel account reads “God” here (Lk 8:39), and in both places, the work of God is understood to be the work of Jesus.  How fully he understood this is debatable, but his obedience meant that Jesus’s next journey into Decapolis was welcome (7:31ff). 
How have you responded to the Lord?  Do you fear the Lord, having also a genuine admiration for Him and a desire to follow His commands?

VI.         Final Thoughts

Christians, as you read this passage, you should arrive at the conclusion that you need not fear the demonic, and certainly not demon possession.  Ephesians 1:21 says that Jesus Christ is seated “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”  He sent His Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to indwell believers as a temple (1 Cor 6:19­–20).  And when we are warned about false spirits, we read, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4).
Don’t think that Christ isn’t powerful enough to overcome your personal sin, either.  He conquers all the powers of Hell, and He can conquer that lust, that addiction, that pride, that gluttony, that laziness.  He can overcome the sin nature that wars against His Spirit.  He will destroy the works of darkness in your life, saving your soul from Hell.  Call upon the name of the Lord.
Or would you rather the evil remain and Jesus depart?  Some love their sin more than they fear the Lord.  Indeed, they fear what God might take away from them.  Don’t do what these people did—allow Christ to confront the wickedness in your life.  He seeks to save and deliver.   

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Harper Collins, 1996), ix.
[2] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1997), Mk 5:12–13.

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