Chapter 5:1-13 (ESV) - 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. 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.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 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.
Question to consider: How do we deal with those who are demon possessed today?
If you’ve been through my Luke study, I wrote about this scene in Chapter 8:26-39. I’m sure this view of demon possession has been the inspiration for many horror stories through the ages. Since this is a descriptive text, I don’t think we should establish it as a pattern to recognize demonic possession, nor do I think this is meant as an exorcist’s instruction manual. Do we have people possessed by demonic spirits today? Definitely. Should we command them to state their name before casting them into a herd of animals? Definitely not. Jesus is reigning from on high and has given us the Holy Spirit. Our ongoing command from Jesus is to make disciples which we do through the preaching of Law and Gospel and baptism. Demons don’t flee because of our spiritual prowess. They flee at the preaching of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also worth noting that because Christians have the Holy Spirit living in us, we will not be possessed in this way. Demons may persecute us, oppress us or even try to destroy us, but we belong to the Lord and find our rest and security through Him.
So why would Mark write about it? First of all, it is an event which probably had a big impact on Peter, especially after Jesus had just calmed the wind and the waves. The man lived among the dead which would have been repulsive to Peter, and the man was tormented night and day to the point where he was forced to cut himself with stones. Maybe Peter told Mark of this to emphasize the devil’s hatred for us, for as Peter wrote in his letter, “...the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) They’d seen Jesus cast out demons before, but this was a special circumstance. Jesus kept telling the demon to come out of Him, but he was still possessed. It is then that the truth came out that in fact the man was possessed by many demons.
The text doesn’t tell us why Jesus agreed to cast them into the pigs, but it does tell us by the death toll that the man had been possessed by about 2,000 demons.
Dear heavenly father, we thank You that the gates of hell cannot hold back the work of the gospel in the world. Please give us courage in the knowledge that we are indwelt with Your Holy Spirit, and that demons have no power over us. May our homes be strongholds for the gospel and may demons flee from the sound of our praise to You. Amen.