May 15, 2016
This morning, we’re going to finish the story we began last week – the exorcism of legion from the naked, disfigured, strong, crazy, demon-possessed man. Now, you’re perhaps surprised to hear that – you’re thinking, what more could you possibly have to say – last week was just a bunch of hogwash anyway. Well, let me review the message from last week to remind you of the context, and Mark’s purpose in this exciting story in the fifth chapter of his gospel.
You’ll remember Jesus and His disciples had just arrived to the southeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee after a rather harrowing night on the sea. As they climbed out of the boat, a naked, disfigured, demon-possessed man came streaking toward them. We found this man had lived in the cemetery for some time, and there was nothing he nor the townspeople could do about his condition. He was helpless and hopeless. But on that fateful day, as he approached this landing party, the demons possessing the man immediately recognized who Jesus was – the Son of the Most High God.
In His compassion for the man, Jesus drove out the legion of demons, permitting them to enter the pigs on the hillside by the sea. The pigs then flew headlong into the waters, drowning themselves as the demons continued their pattern of destruction.
I suggested the intent of the passage was to impress upon us the magnitude of Jesus’ power which clearly demonstrates His deity – He is the Son of the Most High God. He had displayed His power over nature in chapter 4 when He calmed the storm. Now, in chapter 5, He displays His power over demons, disease, and even death. As we read the gospel of Mark, we, like the disciples, are to begin realizing Jesus is not only different, but He is something other.
This brings us to the text for this week. You see, there were three distinct responses when Jesus healed this man, which form our outline. We’ll see:
- The Response of the People (14-17)
- The Response of the Man (18)
- The Response of Jesus (19-20)
You’ll remember my stated purpose last week was to ask you the question, “Do you know Jesus, do you know Him as the Son of the Most High God?” My purpose this week then, if you know Him, is to answer this question, “Do you know what He expects of you?”
Let’s begin by reading verses 14-17 to see The Response of the People.
Those who had been tending the pigs immediately ran and told everyone what happened. After all, this was not an everyday occurrence, and since they were responsible for the pigs, they wanted everyone to know just who was responsible for their destruction. Once they heard this unbelievable report, the people wanted to see things for themselves, so they ran out to see Jesus, the demon-possessed man, and their dead pigs. But, when they arrived, while they did see Jesus, while they did see 2,000 drowned pigs, there was no demon-possessed man. Actually, verse 15 is quite interesting in the Greek – Mark writes, literally, “They came to Jesus and observed the demon-possessed man”- present tense. They knew him – they knew he was the demon-possessed dude.
But instead of a roving, raving lunatic, they found the man calmly sitting at the feet of Jesus. Instead of disfigured nudity, they found him clothed. And instead of uncontrolled, insane, inarticulate shrieks, they found him in his right mind, rational and self-controlled. They hadn’t seen him like this in years. Jesus’ healing had been complete! He had been touched inside and out, physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually – the same way Jesus touches people today. So, what did the people think? I see two responses here:
First, they were frightened. Isn’t it interesting Jesus evoked that response from everyone; first from the disciples, then the legion of demons, and now the townspeople. It’s a natural initial response when that which is created comes face to face with the Creator. It’s natural to have a sense of fear, a sense of dread, in the presence of God.
But why specifically were they afraid? Notice the text says when they observed the man, they were frightened. Here was a man who had terrorized them for years, here was a man they had been physically unable to control. Not even chains could keep him bound. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Modern medical science had proven ineffective. Even religion had proven ineffective. Was this real? Could he really be healed? They seemed to be as afraid of the sane man as they were the insane man. This didn’t make sense – and now they found themselves standing in front of a different of man, who had merely spoken a word and brought under control a man they had been unable to control even with chains. And they were afraid – they were afraid of a man who had power they neither knew nor understood. And they begged Him to leave.
Which is interesting. I’ve been suggesting with all these miracles that perhaps some people wish today – if only I’d been alive when Jesus walked the earth. If only I’d seen some of these amazing miracles – then I’d believe. These people didn’t. Most, in fact, didn’t. The truth is, most people love their sin and rebellion more than the Savior and the demands His gospel places on your lives. You see, seeing is not believing – believing is seeing. Believe, and allow God to open your eyes to the truth and reality of His greatness. If you won’t believe now, you wouldn’t believe then, even if He dealt with pigs, because they’d likely be your pigs.
Which brings us to the people’s second response – I’m going to suggest is anger. Look at verse 16. Most feel, as I do, that the phrase “and all about the swine” tells us the people were at least a little put out, if not angry by the events of the day. So, when they saw the man, they were afraid. But when they saw the pigs, they were mad.
Now, you may remember last week we asked the question, why would Jesus, as the all-knowing God, allow the demons to go into the pigs? Why would He allow the demons to destroy the pigs, perhaps destroying the livelihood of the people?
One thing I think we can rule out is that as a Jew, Jesus didn’t like bacon. We can also rule out the possibility He made a mistake, as if He didn’t know what was going to happen. Frankly, I think we can safely say since Jesus was God, everything He did had a purpose. So what was His purpose here? I think there are three strong possibilities, and maybe all three:
- First, since the possession of the man was undeniable, Jesus wanted the exorcism to be indisputable as well, both to the man and to the people. I mean, would you welcome this man into your home to be with your family if you didn’t know for sure he was cured? Jesus wanted to show them that there had been a radical change in this man.
- Second, He wanted to visibly demonstrate the power of the miracle He had just performed. He wanted them to know, this was no small miracle. One thing we need to be aware of is God wants us to be impressed with Him, to be in awe of Him – and we should be. You say, that sounds a little selfish to me – a little prideful – isn’t that wrong? The answer is no. You see, God is the most powerful, the most glorious, the most awesome person in the universe. And for Him to give His glory to another would be an act of idolatry – His glorious power must be displayed and marveled at – anything less would be an act of insurrection. (Rom. 1)
- And third, it is possible Jesus wanted to teach the townspeople a lesson about their own possession – their sin of materialism. You see, these people were more concerned about their pigs than they were the healing of this crazy, demon-possessed man. They were more concerned about their possessions than his possession. I ask you, who was more possessed, the man possessed by demons, or the people possessed by materialism? When Jesus departed, He left one man cured of his problem, and a town full of people clinging to their sin. Rather than recognizing who Jesus was and what He could do to heal them, they pleaded with Him to leave their region.
Now, much of so-called Christianity in America today is much more sophisticated than these people – or so we think. You see, at least these people were honest enough to tell Jesus to get lost. But many who call themselves Christians today have it all figured out. They don’t ask Jesus to leave. No, they want Him to stay – they invite Him to stay. But, they also tell Him to leave their pigs alone. Yes, Jesus, I want you to stick around – take your place right alongside my pigs – my career, education, my possessions, my toys, my relationships, my girlfriend, my boyfriend, my spouse, my kids – whatever it is that we put on the same level with God. I wonder to how many of us today Jesus would say, sell all that you have and then come – then, you can be my disciple.
What is an idol? Usually we think of an idol as a little golden or stone statue of a man with a fat belly that we burn incense to, bow down to. And it is true – that would be an idol in the form of a graven image. But that’s not the kind of idol most of us struggle with today – most of us haven’t burned incense since the 60’s. An idol has been defined this way – it is something that establishes one’s self worth, becomes the controlling center of one’s life, and is the last in a series of priorities to go. Oh, now that hits a little more closely to home. You see – if that something is anything but God, than it’s an idol. What idols, what pigs, do you struggle with? It’s whatever is most important in your life.
Let’s turn our attention now to the Response of the Man in verse 18 – read.
Now, don’t miss the man’s first response back in verse 15 – in fact, Luke tells us he was sitting at the feet of Jesus. When Jesus heals you of that which plagues you, you want to sit as His feet in worship. Now, in contrast to the people, this man wanted to be with Jesus. The people begged Him to leave, the man begged to go with Jesus.
Notice how this ties in with previous story – we’re supposed to notice. There was a storm outside the boat, Jesus brought peace, and there was fear – what kind of man is this? There was a storm inside a man, Jesus brought peace, and there was fear – and the people begged Jesus to leave. But here, the man wanted to be with Jesus. There’s the question – what will you do with Jesus? What will your response be this Man? The man healed had a noble response, it could even be said a right response. The same is true today – believers want to be with Jesus, to sit at His feet, while unbelievers want nothing to do with Him. Now, why would this man want to be with Jesus? Several reasons:
- Can you imagine what it was like for him, living in a cemetery with a bunch of demons? For years he had been tormented by this evil, physically and spiritually abused by these would-be destroyers. There had been a bitter battle for his soul for years which he had lost. He had been unable to rid himself of the demons. He had been unable to control them. Others had tried, and been unsuccessful. But now, this Jesus, Son of the Most High God, spoke, and he was cured. Jesus had set him free. Perhaps he was concerned that if Jesus left, the demons might return. So he wanted to be with Him.
- Secondly, it’s possible he didn’t feel accepted where he was. Let’s face it, these people had tried to chain him for years. No doubt they vented their fear and anger upon him as they tried to chain him. Would they accept him with open arms now? Would you? How do you respond to someone who has been a sinner – I mean a real sinner – who has been changed – who has been renewed, who has been made your brother or sister? Would a former convict, drug offender, alcoholic, homosexual feel welcome here as a family member? Would you invite him into your home like you would the local banker or librarian? It’s been said, if the people who should accept you don’t accept you, you’ll go to anyone who will accept you.
- Thirdly, and related to this second issue, He found acceptance with Jesus. The people of the area had shown their unconcern for him by their futile attempts at restraining him rather than helping him, healing him. Now, rather than rejoicing over his healing, they were angry about their losses. But here was a man who loved him – who had healed him and clothed him. Jesus had cared for him when no one else had. And he wanted to be with Jesus. Can you blame him?
- Finally, I’m sure he felt a deep gratitude to Jesus. He wanted to go with Jesus to serve Him. Jesus had given him back his life, and now he wanted to give his life to Jesus. And this was a proper and right response. When Jesus rescues you, you want to give everything to Him. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be with Jesus and His people. But if that’s all we want, then we’re missing it – you see, there’s more that Jesus expects of us. Jesus had another plan for this man, which brings us to our final point,
- The Response of Jesus (19-20)
As Jesus started to leave, the man began to climb into the boat, pleading to be with Jesus. But Jesus shared some final instructions. I want you to notice first what Jesus did not say. He did not say, “I want you to stay and raise your own herd of pigs. I want you to go and see how big a herd of pigs you can raise, how nice a pig you can drive, how big your piggy bank can get, and how beautiful a pig pen you can live in, complete with a two pig garage.” No, Jesus doesn’t say that. He left him there with a single purpose in mind – that he might go and tell others how much the Lord had done for him, how merciful the Lord had been.
Isn’t it interesting that we have three requests of Jesus in the story. First, the demons plead with Him to enter the pigs, and Jesus granted their request. Second, the people plead with Him to leave their area, and He granted their request. But third, this man pleads to go with Jesus, and Jesus said no. I want you to stay and share your story with these people.
These were the people that had been begging for Jesus to leave. Jesus knew they needed to hear again how merciful He had been to this demoniac. That tells me an initial rejection of the good news about Jesus is not necessarily a final rejection. Think about that – how many times in His mercy did He bear with you, until you responded, by His grace, to His call? These people did not recognize their need, but Jesus did. And He left the man as a witness to His mercy.
And we see the man was obedient. Who wouldn’t be? Jesus had done so much for him, he was eager to share this news, not only with his family, but the text says that he shared it throughout the Decapolis. He went to the cities proclaiming this good news about what Jesus had done for him. Don’t miss that – Jesus told the man – go tell what the Lord has done for you. God tell what God has done for you. And the man went and told what Jesus had done – this is another way Mark wants us to understand – Jesus is the Son of God – He is God Himself.
Do you think the man recognized the magnitude of the grace of God in his life? We are told the people were amazed. This was the crazy man who had lived in the tombs, and now, he was a changed man. They could see it for themselves. He was living proof of Christ’s transforming power. He had been radically changed. We never read of him returning to the tombs. Before he lived in the tombs, now he lived in Christ, and once you’re in Christ, you never return to the old way of life. The people could see His changed life – which made his testimony that much more effective.
Three different responses to this healing of the demoniac of the Gerasenes. The people? They just wanted Jesus to leave their region. In coming face to face with God, they shook their fists in His face and said, we want nothing to do with you. Then there was the man. He just wanted to be with his Lord. But Jesus had a different response. He wanted others to know His mercy. While others looked at this man as a raving lunatic worthy only of disdain, Jesus saw one of His own. And so He gave him a commission to go share the good news.
In conclusion, allow me to return to the analogy with which I concluded last week. You see, there are many other similarities between this man’s condition and our own.
Last week we saw that if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, if you don’t know Who He is and what He has done to remove the stain and guilt of sin, then you too are under the influences of evil. You, too are a slave to sin.
We saw that you too, like this man, are self-destructive. Every evil act you perform, like scars are permanent records making you guilty before God. Third, there is nothing you or anyone else can do about your condition. Only Jesus is able to help. We saw fourth that you also need to fall at the feet of Jesus, recognizing Who He is, the Son of the Most High God, confessing your sin to Him, seeking His cleansing and forgiveness, and confessing Him as your Lord.
And if you have done that, we see from the story this week that there are some other things that happened. Jesus gave you a right mind – the mind of Christ. He changed you – He took out that heart of stone and gave you a heart of flesh. The love of God now flows through you. You think differently.
He clothed you when you were naked – when you had no righteousness of your own, all your righteousness were as filthy rags. He gave you the imputed righteousness of Christ, which means not only has he wiped away your sin, but He’s given you the righteousness of His Son. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. And without the imputed righteousness of Christ, you were naked and without hope. But He has clothed you.
And as a result, your conversion has perhaps amazement for people who used to know you. You see, people should be able to look at your life and see a radical transformation – proof of the power of the living God Who has changed your life. You are no longer what you used to be. You don’t sound like a raving lunatic anymore. You don’t scream with the howling of one out of touch with reality. You are no longer covered with the emotional scars of your sin, you have been forgiven. And they are amazed. They knew what you were like, and perhaps, and maybe they don’t like the changes they see. They don’t like the Jesus in you. And they shake their fists in the face of God and say, I want nothing to do with it – I want nothing to do with you.
And as a result of all this, you want to spend time with Jesus, the One who showed you more love and compassion than anyone else. And that’s a good and noble desire. But, we too are expected to tell others what Jesus has done for us. What does Jesus expect of His disciples, His followers? We have been commissioned to tell others how merciful He has been.
Think about that. How many of us, like this man, would rather be with Jesus than with the people to whom Jesus has sent us? We can’t physically be with Jesus, but we can effectively remove ourselves from the world. We spend all our Christian lives in Christian surroundings, and the outworking of our faith is within and toward those who already know Jesus. And yet Jesus has other plans for us. To share what the Lord has done for us – to share His mercy with them. It’s why He hasn’t taken you to be with Him, yet.