Brad Libolt speaking on Mark 5:1-20. He spoke about Jesus’ great power and how he healed a man with a demon. He then asked us how we respond to Jesus’ power. Do we beg to go with Jesus like the healed man, or do we respond with fear, like those who witnessed his healing?
You all know that I like superheroes and superhero movies. One of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the first Avengers. It was the culmination of all the movies leading up to that point, and it was a big deal. Plus it had some pretty awesome scenes. One of my favorite scenes is during the big battle scene at the end, when Loki and the aliens are wreaking havoc on New York City. At one point the Hulk smashes into the Avengers Tower and Loki is there and he throws Loki across the room, then Loki gets all mad and starts to talk about how he is a god and can’t be bullied by a stupid creature. Then the Hulk just grabs Loki by the leg and smashes him on the ground a bunch of times. Then he walks away and says, “puny god.” It’s a super funny scene, but it illustrates a point. Loki was really powerful. He brought this massive alien army to earth, can control people with his staff, super strong, but he has no control over the Hulk. The Hulk is uncontrollable, and just destroys Loki. The Hulk is an uncontrollable force.
Last week we looked at the uncontrollable force of a storm, and how Jesus could control it. This week, we are going to look at the uncontrollable force of a man possessed by an army of demons. And again, Jesus has control over it. In this section of Mark we keep seeing these forces that are out of human control, we would have no way of stopping them at all. But every time, Jesus displays his power and controls the uncontrollable force.
Last week Jesus displayed his power over circumstances, this week he displays his power over evil, and next week we will see him display his power over death. But let’s look at what he does in this story.
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 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. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
After Jesus calms the storm in the boat they get to the other side and get out of the boat. It says immediately a man came out of the tombs and met them. This man had an unclean spirit, which is Bible talk for being possessed.
Look at what this possession did to him. No one could bind him. He had been bound with chains and shackles but he would break them in pieces and escape. It says no one had the strength to subdue him, so he lived among the tombs and night and day he cried out and cut himself with stones. This man was in extreme pain, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He was so tormented by this unclean spirit that he couldn’t even live in town. The strength this spirit gave him was uncontrollable. People had tried to chain him and bind him but were unable. He was like the Hulk, smashing Loki like a rag doll. Uncontrollable strength.
But look what happens next. No one can subdue this man, no one had the strength to subdue him, yet he falls down at the feet of Jesus.
6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 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.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 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.
So this man that nobody could control because of the power of the evil inside of him sees Jesus, he runs and falls down before him. This man had probably not fallen down before another person since he had become possessed, and he falls down before Jesus. Then, notice what he says. We should be used to hearing this kind of thing from unexpected people. He cries out, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” He knows Jesus, and he knows that he is the Son of God. Then he asks Jesus not to torment him.
Jesus then commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man, but he asks what his name was. This is very interesting, it says in the first person, “My name is Legion,” then in the second person, “for we are many.” The control that this unclean spirit had on this man was so great that when he spoke, it was the demons speaking through him. And they say that their name is Legion. In the Roman military, they had groups of soldiers called Legions. These groups would contain around 3,000-5,000 troops. So essentially, this is an army of demons. We have seen individual demons inside people in the story so far, but this is a whole army of them. Again, this is a very great power, a very great evil. But they have fallen down at the feet of Jesus and are now begging him not to send them out of the country, but instead to enter into a herd of pigs nearby. They are professing him as the son of God. Jesus grants them permission, they obey Jesus, and they come out of the man and enter into the pigs. Then all two thousand pigs just take off and jump into the sea and drown.
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. 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.
So meanwhile, the people in charge of the herd of pigs are watching this, and just imagine what they are thinking. They are watching all two thousand of their pigs just take off into the sea. They are freaking out, so they run away and start telling everyone. Many people come to see what was going on. And when they get there, they see Jesus, and they see a man that they all knew as being possessed by an army of demons. Remember their image of this guy is like the Hulk, with uncontrollable strength and incredibly tormented. They see him sitting there fully clothed and in his right mind. They can tell that the demons are gone. He is a normal person. Like when the Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner. And what is their response? Fear. Why fear? Because the man before them was the most powerful thing they had ever seen. It was so powerful that they drove this guy out of town and tried to chain him up. But now, the power they knew was inside this man had been overcome. By who? Jesus. Whoever this Jesus guy was, he was the new power in town. He had controlled the uncontrollable. They thought the demon possessed man was scary, but this is nothing compared to the one who the demon possessed man bowed down to.
Imagine you’re a goldfish. Then a bigger fish comes that you know can eat you. You would be pretty scared right? Now imagine an even bigger fish came and ate the fish you were already afraid of. You would be even more afraid now right? That’s what is going on here. They were afraid of the power of the demons inside this man, but a new power came along that was greater than the demons, and now they are afraid of that.
When everything has been explained to them, look what they do. They beg Jesus to leave. They beg him to get out of town, to leave the country. They don’t want anything to do with this power. They beg him to leave. So he does. but as he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed comes up, and he has some begging of his own to do. But instead of begging Jesus to leave, he begs him to let him come along. Jesus doesn’t let him, but instead tells him to go to his friends and family and tell them how much the Lord did for him, and how he had mercy on him. And so he does just that. But who does he talk about? The Lord or Jesus? Well both. He is to tell everyone what God did for him, so he does. He is attributing the power of the Lord to Jesus. He is identifying Jesus as the Lord. Another unexpected character who gets who Jesus is.
So what does this all mean for us? It’s a crazy story, and can even be a scary one, but it shows us a couple things.
First, it is another display of Jesus’ power. Last week Jesus controlled the uncontrollable situation threatening the disciples. This week he controls an uncontrollable evil that has a hold on a man. Jesus continues to display his power to show people who he is. And today, Jesus’ power is no different. It is foolish for us as Christians to not think that evil exists. There is an enemy, and he is out to steal, kill, and destroy. And it’s not secret that this enemy has power. Great power. But the power of Jesus is greater. So while we should acknowledge evil for what it is, we have no reason to be afraid, because no matter how great the power of that evil may seem, our God’s power is greater. Jesus single handily defeated an army of demons, with just his words and his presence. Our God’s power is greater than any power of the enemy.
Also, we get to see two different responses to the power of Jesus. There are two instances of people begging Jesus to do something. The first is the townspeople. They see what Jesus has done, are afraid, and beg him to leave. The other is the man, who experienced Jesus’ power firsthand and begs Jesus to let him go with him. So what is your response when you see the power of Jesus? Do you want him to get away from you, beg him to go as far away as possible because you know he has power over you and your life? Or do you desire to follow him, submit to his power, and beg to go with him?
This is why I believe we should all beg to go with Jesus, not for him to go away. Because even though Jesus has the power to overcome all evil, on the cross he allowed evil and sin to overcome and kill him. Why? He did it for you and for me. He knew that we could never defeat the evil and sin in the world or in our hearts, so he chose to do it for us. In order to do that, he had to let it kill him. Even though evil killed him, it didn’t win, because Jesus rose from the dead. And in rising from the dead, he actually defeated evil once and for all. The worst thing evil could do to Jesus happened, it killed him, but even that was not powerful enough to defeat Jesus. Jesus didn’t stay dead, but rose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of the Father, where he sits now interceding on our behalf.
Jesus defeated evil, but it is still around. We know that, we can see it around us and even inside of us. Even though it is still around, it has been defeated. We have no reason to fear because Jesus’ power is greater. Jesus’ death and resurrection has overcome evil, and one day Jesus will return and get rid of it forever. Until that day comes, we have a choice to follow Jesus or reject him. When we reject him, we are allowing that evil to win in our lives. We are submitting to it. But when we choose to follow Jesus, we are accepting what Jesus did on the cross when he was defeated by evil. Because Jesus died, we don’t have to. So the evil around us and the sin that is still inside of us we don’t have to worry about, because Jesus has power over it. He has power over the evil in the world, and one day will come and do away with all of it. And he has power over the evil and sin inside of us, meaning it no longer affects our relationship with God. The Father doesn’t see it, because he sees Jesus. And on that same day when Jesus returns, we will sin no more, have no more wrong thoughts or words, no more tears or pain.
So choose today to follow Jesus and let him take care of the evil and sin in your heart. Put your hope in his return, and the day that he comes back to get rid of all evil forever.