If you study the gospel of Mark, you will quickly realize that Jesus’ presence provoked the Kingdom of Darkness. Jesus preached that the reign of God was now present in Him. In Mark 1, Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” The good news was that Jesus was invading enemy territory and “plundering the kingdom of Satan.” The reign of God on earth had come in Christ, and it was advancing; yet, the Kingdom of Darkness would not go quietly. In Mark 5, as we read of Jesus getting out of the boat, He finds himself confronted by a tormented, demon-possessed man.
Verses 3-5 are simply heartbreaking. We are not told how long this man had lived in this state, but we are told in verse 19 that he had a home and people who were consider “his,” so I don’t think it is too much to assume that this man had a family in the region. Yet, because of his state, he was unable to see them. He spent his days in oppressed agony, cutting himself, screaming in a blood-curdling way. The only attention he received from those in his areas was their unsuccessful attempts to subdue him. I’m sure there was little compassion for this man. I’m sure there were attempts made on his life. His life and the circumstances around him were simply awful. As one singing theologian put it, “He lived the life of a bad dream; With his own voice he was pleading; A Darker voice, Threatened, Deceiving; He sought impossible freedom, there at His feet.”
So here this man comes and falls at Jesus’ feet. The demons address Jesus saying, “What do You have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You before God, don’t torment me!” It is interesting to note how the demons beg Jesus “before God” not to be tormented. The demons plead for mercy, which is ironic, because they have shown the man no mercy in their possession of him. The demons recognize the power and authority of Jesus to destroy them, yet they plead to be spared for now. In verse 9, we find that this man is possessed by multiple demons. The term “legion” is a Roman military term that refers to “six thousand foot soldiers.” It is fair to assume at this point that this comment is both a fact and a threat. The demons were letting Jesus know that not only were thousands of demons in the man, but they were ready to cause a great disruption. So how does Jesus respond to this seemingly hopeless situation? Does Jesus look the tormented man in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry, man. I can’t help you. You are just too far-gone. If I delivered you, do you realize the mess that people would have to deal with?”
In verse 11, we are clued into the presence of a great herd of pigs (about 2,000). The demons, who were apparently territorial, pleaded with Jesus not to send them out of the region. Jesus grants them permission to enter into the herd of pigs, which subsequently resulted in the pigs destroying themselves in the sea. As you would imagine, the men herding the pigs ran to tell others about the astonishing event. 2,000 pigs were no small matter. This represented the livelihood of many people; most likely, a people that were wealthy. Once news arrived in the region, the people came out to see the spectacle. In verse 15, we read “They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon-possessed by the legion, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.” This should immediately make us think how Jesus exercised his authority and power over nature. Just a few verses above we encounter disciples who were frightened by Jesus’ power. Now, the people of the region of Gerasenes were afraid. Why were they afraid? Because the man that they had attempted to subdue so many times by assault and chains had now been subdued by a man through His word! There he was: sitting, dressed, and in his right mind!
So beyond being afraid, how did the people respond? They responded by pleading for Jesus to leave! They wanted him out of there! They would have rather had their pigs back than for the demon-possessed man to have been delivered. Admittedly, the modern reader is confronted with the fact that while Jesus’ mercy is transformative, it is often disruptive as well. In this case, the salvation of one man was worth the destruction of another man’s livelihood. This should tell us something about what God values. God values the salvation of humanity more than he values humanity’s accumulation of wealth.
But what about the man who had been possessed? How did he respond? He begged Jesus to let him come with Him. He begged Jesus to let him be a disciple. Can you imagine the crowds that would have gathered to see this man? What a great addition to Jesus’ itinerant preaching ministry! Right? So what does Jesus tell him? Verse 19 says, “He would not let him; instead, He told him, “Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” In other words, go tell your family about God’s mercy! Go be restored to your loved ones and tell them about what has happened! And what does the man do? “So he went out and began to proclaim how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed.” He goes from demon-possessed man in one minute to a missionary in the next. Can you imagine the look on those people’s face? They were beholding a trophy of God’s mercy! His very presence among them declared the mercy of Christ!
The story of the demoniac should cause us to think deeply about the great mercy of Jesus! When…
The mercy of Jesus meets us in our self-injury and our self-destruction…
The mercy of Jesus meets us in our bondage to sin and death…
The mercy of Jesus meets us in our addiction, our isolation, our rejection, and our uncleanness…
We find that the transformation is great and often disruptive!
In Mark 5, we encounter a man who was the definition of a hopeless case. He was a man controlled by an unclean spirit, living in isolation as a societal outcast in unclean tombs, surrounded by an unclean people that feared him. Yet, Jesus was able to subdue and change him! Jesus was able to make him clean and whole again! None of you are in this man’s shoes, and most likely, none of you know anyone that is in this man’s shoes. Yet, this man’s transformative encounter with Jesus is an everlasting testimony to us this morning to the indomitable power of Jesus to save to the uttermost! Do you feel hopeless when you consider your own situation? Do you feel hopeless when you consider the situation of others this morning?
Just as this story testifies to Jesus driving out the demons that possessed this man, let your hopelessness be driven out as you behold the power of Christ to overcome misery with His mercy! Think about what the Lord Jesus did for this man, and recognize that He can and will do it for you and others! If this story teaches you anything, it teaches you that you are not beyond the mercy of Jesus! In fact, no one is beyond the mercy of Jesus! There are no lost causes! Only people in need of Christ’s mercy! A mercy that we need to experience! A mercy that we need to share with others. A mercy that meets us in our misery!