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Mark 5:1-21 Jesus Faces a Legion of Demons

Posted by adventbiblestudy on December 18, 2012


Mark 5:1-21 NLTse So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. (2) When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from a cemetery to meet him. (3) This man lived among the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. (4) Whenever he was put into chains and shackles–as he often was–he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shacklesNo one was strong enough to subdue him. (5) Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones. (6) When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. (7) With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” (8) For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.” (9) Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” (10) Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place. (11) There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. (12) “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.” (13) So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water. (14) The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. (15) A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. (16) Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. (17) And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. (18) As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. (19) But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” (20) So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them. (21) Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore.

 

As a new believer I wonder why Jesus had a meeting with such a man. Was it because the man needed help and Jesus was the only one able to overcome such a large number of demons? How did the man become possessed by so many demons? Was it something he did, or was it all for the glory of God? How does this relate to the trials we face?

 

Can you imagine getting out of a boat with Jesus to face the gruesome site of a man possessed by hundreds of demons? The man lived among graves. The torment showed not only in his face, but every part of his body. Separated from all human contact he had no reason to bath or groom. The smell was almost as bad as the lepers they encountered. Broken chains hanging from each wrist told the disciples this man had a power they did not understand. Ignorance gripped each disciple in fear as they retreated to the safely of the boat. Even John, the large, muscular master of the sea, and Peter, the man with all the answers hid behind Jesus.

 

No one was around except for a few people herding pigs. No one of any significance would notice if they left. They wondered what Jesus would do next. They stayed close to the boat as Jesus approached the hideous man. Neither showed fear. The disciples wondered what the out come would be.

 

Reading over the story, I notice a number of words repeated in the texts. The most obvious are chains and spirit, referring to the evil demons. There is an obvious connection between the two on the surface, but what is the deeper spiritual meaning? Looking back we see an obvious sequence. The beginning of chapter 5 has two distinct connections to the end of chapter 4. “So they arrived at the other side of the lake,” and, “Jesus climbed out of the boat,” both show the relationship between the beginning of chapter 5 and the end of chapter 4.

 

What happens once a connection has been made? What does it mean? Where do we go from there? The connection shows the beginning of chapter 5 is part of the sequence that began in chapter 4, which also began in a boat with Jesus teaching lessons on the lake. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: (Mark 4:1-2 NLTse). These chapters, a collection of stories in Jesus’ ministry were inspired by the Holy Spirit in a particular sequence for a reason.

 

The sequence begins with Jesus telling a story about a farmer sowing seed. Why would Jesus tell this story from a boat with all eyes trained on Him, the boat and nothing but water around? Jesus used the scene to emphasize the point, everyone needed to concentrate on the details in His words, every single word. As seen in chapter 4, Jesus repeated certain words to draw attention to the heart of the lesson.

 

When asked what the parable meant, Jesus explained the sower was spreading God’s Word. No one was ever better at spreading God’s Word than Jesus. The sower first and foremost represented Jesus, the great Teacher. Seed represented this and all His parables, along with every word given through the prophets. Jesus also explained how Satan comes to take away the seed, God’s Word. It begins with their own stony hearts where the Word will not grow. Next Satan will use problems, persecution whatever he can to give people, something to worry about, distracting them from the Word. If that doesn’t work, he will lure people away with wealth and other attractions, anything to keep them from understanding God’s Word.

 

Once Jesus was certain His disciples understood the spiritual meaning of seed, like every good teacher He quizzed them. Not with another parable about seed, He introduced a new symbol in a parable about light from a lamp. Jesus wanted to know if His disciples could make the connection between seed, God’s Word and light.

 

To understand this ourselves we must first understand the parable of the sower and how Jesus knew what seed represented. If Jesus is spreading God’s Word, He must have gained the knowledge from the source He is teaching about, God’s Word, the scriptures. “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11 NLTse).

 

The spiritual meaning for light is found the same way. “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.” (Psalms 119:105, 130 NLTse).

 

Jesus built one lesson upon another, adding detail after detail. The seed needs good ground to grow just like God’s Word needs understanding to flourish, Jesus pointed out the vicious competition Satan will use to take it away. Satan’s goal is to take away time to understand God’s Word. Jesus explained this when He revealed the meaning of the parable about the light.

 

Mark 4:23-25 NLTse Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” (24) Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given–and you will receive even more. (25) To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

 

What does Jesus want His disciples to understand, God’s Word, the ability to teach it, or both? How do we understand what Jesus is teaching? By understanding the sequence. How is that accomplished? By going back and reviewing.

 

Before Jesus explained the parable of the sower, He quoted scripture to show where to locate the answers. Jesus also showed us we have to listen. In other words, study the details. Jesus did not use a new method to teach. He used a proven method practised long before He visited this world. He built one detail upon another. First He pointed us to scripture. Next Jesus explained seed represents God’s Word. Then He told us how Satan will try to steal away time to study God’s Word. The most important point is taking the time to listen, study and understand every detail. One of those details is found at the end of Jesus’ explanation. “And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Mark 4:20 NLTse). Notice the missing detail. Jesus intentionally jumped from seed planted in the ground to a mature plant. The sequence of growth is missing. This is what Jesus was preparing to explain. Why did Jesus use this sequence? It is a common writing method used throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. First the overall story is given, including the conclusion. The writer later returns to fill in the details. Jesus revealed this method of writing and teaching in His next parable about the farmer planting seed in his field. This time Jesus includes details describing steps between planting and harvest.

 

“The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.” (Mark 4:26-29 NLTse).

 

One of the key points is the farmer does not understand how the seed grows. What do we lean from this? We cannot rely on our own wisdom. We do not understand how God’s Word grows. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit to water and produce light for the spiritual seed planted in the heart. We do not produce the seed, water, or light. We can never produce our own understanding.

 

Jesus’ last parable in this sequence involved a tiny mustard seed which grew into a large plant, sending out branches in all directions, which provided security for birds, which of course represent people. Based on the way this parable is commonly taught shows why Jesus emphasized understanding. This parable is commonly pulled out of the chapter and taught as an individual lesson without studying context. This may be why the mustard seed is the most misunderstood parable in the gospels. Little is learned when separated from the eloquent sequence established by the Holy Spirit. People hear an explanation, and when the word is planted in good soil, they look for more. They know there is more to the tiny mustard seed than what people tell them They want the seed, or word to grow in their heart. They do not want it to lay dormant and die.

 

This is where Jesus begins His journey. Jesus moves from parables people easily recognize to a series of acted parables, lessons requiring grerater attention. Another detail in the sequence Jesus followed. Since we know Jesus is teaching in a sequence, we have to pay attention to the details linking one lesson to the next.

 

Once the parables were finished, Jesus entered a boat with His disciples to cross to the other side of the lake. This is the same lake He began teaching the sequence of lessons. During the trip they encountered a storm. The disciples were afraid, even the four fishermen Jesus called to follow him. As wind blew waves crashing over the side of the boat, Jesus slept. The disciples woke him up shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Of course Jesus cared. He wanted to see if they were ready to apply what they learned during the day. Jesus told them Satan would do anything to stop God’s Word from growing in their hearts. Forcing a storm on them in the middle of the lake was not beyond him. When Satan asked to torment Job, he used wind to test him. Now the enemy was testing Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Silence! Be still!” Was Jesus illustrating the power of His word, or are there other lessons involved? One of them showed the disciples a taste of the road ahead. Satan would continue to throw everything at them he could. Lessons could only be explained by scripture, which was one of the main themes Jesus taught. One example is found in the word wind, repeated in the texts. Another point in the lesson is the rule of repetition. Words repeated in the texts point to key words with a deeper meaning. Check Mark 4:37-41 where the word wind is repeated. The spiritual meaning is found by comparing other scripture.

 

Job 8:2 NLTse “How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind.

Job 15:2 KJV Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?

Ephesians 4:14 KJV That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

 

We see wind can represent people and the doctrines they create. This lesson builds upon previous lessons by showing how Satan uses people to stop God’s Word from growing in their hearts. Jesus showed how the physical storm Satan used to threaten the disciples also taught a deeper spiritual lesson. Once they reached the other side of the lake the lesson continued.

 

Based on the words repeated when Jesus faced the man possessed by a legion of demons on the other side of the lake we can see the connection to the acted parable about the wind Jesus rebuked. Chains and shackles show us Satan’s intent. Burial caves reveal Satan’s goal. One proof text for wind reveals the connection between the two acted parables.

 

“These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness. They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception. They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.” (2 Peter 2:17-19 NLTse).

 

This shows how comparing and reviewing scripture within each chapter, and related stories in following chapters reveals the vast range of understanding Jesus taught His disciples. The disciples exhibited the use of this knowledge in the letters written to the early churches. Not only did Peter learn how to understand the parables Jesus taught, he also wrote using the same sequence, teaching others how to understand. The message also centers around Jesus’ salvation. “This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen. So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.” (1 Peter 1:10-13 NLTse).

 

The end of this story teaches one more lesson. Jesus healed the demon possessed man by transferring the evil spirits to swine. As soon as the swine were possessed they ran off a cliff into the water Jesus come from. The same lake Satan tried to use to destroy Jesus and His disciples. The people making a living from the swine asked Jesus to leave. Did Jesus abandon them? “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demonpossessed begged to go with him.” Jesus had a plan. His plan included looking after the people rejecting Him while beginning a new sequence of related lessons to teach. Jesus told the man, “No, go home to your family, andtell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” The man began his new ministry at home, and spread out to the entire region. The man, once possessed by a great number of demons became one of the greatest evangelists mentioned in the Gospels. How did he do this? He had no training. His only testimony was what Jesus did for him. This is a review of a previous lesson Jesus taught His disciples. “Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.” (Mark 4:27 NLTse).

 

Can you explain how a man, once rejected and feared by the entire town was able to lead them to Jesus? The lesson is, let the Holy Spirit and scriptures do their job. Follow the word of Jesus’ Spirit even when you don’t understand the entire plan. Deliver the message He gives you to share. Don’t worry about how the seed is growing in others. You have your own pace, others grow at a different pace. “And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Mark 4:20 NLTse). Jesus doesn’t expect us to be exactly the same.

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