I Am Legion, Mark 5:1-20

Jesus calmed the stormy sea, and, now He’s going to calm a stormy man.

The Tormented Man (1-5)

What an eerie story.  Can you imagine living in the town that this man lives just outside of?  Would you ever really get used to hearing his screams from the hills? Could you ever feel it safe to let your kids go out and play?  If you had to travel for business or visit family in another town would you avoid roads that go through his territory? Would he be the scary tale told to travelers and around camp-fires?  


We must take this moment again to emphasize that demon possession is real.  The Bible reveals to us that real spiritual beings called demons, unclean spirits, evil spirits do in fact exist, and, they are active.  They oppress, harass, and even possess people.  


I’ll point out three things about this man:  his solitude, his strength and his self-destruction.


First, he was in solitude.  Verse 3 says, “This man lived in the tombs”.  The man came out from the tombs. In other words, he lived among the dead, not among the living.  He was not fit to be among the living. His demonic-possession was very public – and very dangerous to the public.  It contrasts with the man in chapter 1 in the synagogue who seemingly was possessed “under the radar”, somehow able to function in public without really being detected.  Not the Mark 5 guy though. This guy had to be alone and away from other people because he was hopelessly a threat to others. He was banished to live with the dead, which included the thousands of demons possessing him.


Application:  Before Jesus, we also are unfit to be among the living.  We could not be in the presence of the Living God. But, Jesus gives us life and He brings us into the world of the living.  He gave His life and went among the dead for us, so that now we can enter into eternal life.  


Second, his strength.  Verses 3-4 say, “….”  He had superhuman strength:  he couldn’t be chained. They tried, but, his demons gave him Samson-like strength to break chains, fetters, and anything else they tried to bind him up with.  As I’m reading this it presses on me that he is beyond human help.  


Third, his self-destruction.  Read verse 5.  Cutting himself we see a man in great torment.  In the great OT showdown between Elijah the prophet of God and the 400+ priests of Baal we saw the pagan priests cut themselves ritualistically.  Here however it is not ritualistic, but, the self-destructive behavior of someone possessed by thousands of demons. A more terrible condition than this man’s would be hard to find in the Gospels.  This is how the kingdom of darkness works – keeping men in ever-increasing ruin. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus said (Jn. 10:10). Demons work destruction and ruin in a person’s life.  They ruin their God-created humanity by instigating all sorts of self-destructive behavior.  


Here’s what we see in this man’s extreme condition:  a man beyond help. A man who could not help himself, and, a man whom no one else could help.  This is the setup to see that Jesus was the only solution. Unless Jesus did something this man would go on tormented miserably and die in misery.  


The Terrified Demons (6-10)

If the man gave us the creeps, get ready now for the demons.  Read verse 6-10, “….”


First, He runs to Jesus.  Verse 6, “….”  Again, I’m astonished that throughout the Gospels the demon-possessed are coming to Jesus.  The man in the synagogue in chapter 1 didn’t flee the synagogue when he found Jesus there (1:23); the demon possessed were “brought” to Jesus and didn’t resist (1:32); many demon-possessed went and fell down in front of Jesus (3:11); and now this guy sprints to Jesus from a long way off after seeing Him. 


It seems to me that they would force their human-possessions to run as far away as possible.  Perhaps it is the gravitational pull the Creator has on His creatures – evil though they are they are forced by the power of His presence to come and fall before Him.  We may even be getting a small sample of what Philippians talks about, “every knee shall bow, every tongue confess”.  


Second, He knows Jesus.  There is a strange irony here:  Demons are responsible for all the false ideas in the world about Jesus, yet, when you read the Gospels you receive from their mouths a strong Christology.  What I mean is that you can learn a lot about who Jesus is by listening to what the demons say when they are in front of Him.  


You learn first that Jesus is known.  Not one demon is unaware of who Jesus is.


You learn second that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God.  They know that Jesus is the 2nd Person of the Triune God.  They know that He is the eternal Word who came down in the flesh and they were now looking at Him in the flesh.  They know He is God’s Son. “Whenever the evil spirits saw Jesus,” Mark 3:11 says, “they fell down before Him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God!’”  


You learn thirdly that Jesus is the Divine Judge.  “Swear to me that you won’t torture me!” the demon screamed. Why would the demons be concerned about being tortured by Jesus?  Because they know that He will. They know He is their Divine Judge. Matthew records their words like this, “Jesus, have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Mt. 8:29).   

Thirdly, he identifies himself to Jesus.  Jesus asks the demon his name.  The demon knows Jesus, but, it seems Jesus doesn’t know the demon.  Wouldn’t it seem strange? After all, Jesus is God and therefore is all-knowing.  He knew what was in the Pharisees hearts (2:8), he knows the number of hairs on each person’s head, He knew how He was going to feed the 5,000 before He asked Philip about it.  Didn’t He know the identity of this demon? Of course He did. He was forcing the demon to identify himself. It was an act of authority over the demon to make the demon answer Him.  


The demons answer is bizzarre, and makes this scene even more eerie.  “My name is legion, for we are many.” Notice it, “My”, singular, “we” plural.  In the Roman Army a legion was a unit of 3,000 – 6,000 soldiers. The one demon speaking seemed to represent thousands of demons that had come to live inside of this man.  This man was beyond any human help. Only God could save him.  


He is terrified of Jesus.  By “he”, I mean the demons inside the man.  Notice that their numbers didn’t give them any confidence against Jesus.  Their terror is bursting out in everything they say, “What do you want with me!” and “Swear you won’t torture me!”  Luke records the demons saying, “I beg you don’t torture me!” (Lk. 8:28). They know He rules them, 

  • “For He is the head over every power and authority” (Col. 2:10); 
  • Ephesians 1:21 says that God raised Jesus up from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the one to come.”  
  • Colossians 1:16 declares, “whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.”  
  • He is “superior to the angels” Hebrews 1:4 says, and 
  • Philippians 2:9-11 announce “that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.” 


In the boat, when the sea settled down from Jesus’ command, the disciples asked, “Who is this?  He even commands the sea and the storm and they obey!” With that same marvel we have to ask, “Who is this that strikes such terror into the hearts of demons?”  James touched on this when he said, “You believe that there is one God? Good for you. Even the demons believe that – and they shudder with fear” (Js. 2:19)


These demons did not want to be sent out of the area.   Luke records them specifically begging Jesus not to send them to the Abyss, the bottomless pit, which is referenced in Revelation and Luke 8.  They were terrified of going there, and, they were terrified of being tortured by Jesus. Perhaps the instrument of torture available to Jesus was the Abyss, as they were terrified of being sent there Luke 8:31 says.  


Application:  We need to recover a fear of God within ourselves.  Could it be that we are inundated with a God of “love” who is only concerned with helping us?  I want to say that each of us, in knowing God, should have something deep down within us that says, “Be careful around Him, watch yourself”.  Such awe, respect, and yes, fear, is proper for those who know that God is good, but not safe.    


The Trampling of the Pigs (11-13)

Why would they want to go in the pigs?  Why would they want to go in the pigs if all they were going to do was drown them?  Wouldn’t that mean they couldn’t inhabit the swine anymore? Did the demons enter the water then?  Is there some special attraction to water that demons have? If so, why wouldn’t they have asked Jesus to be sent into the water directly?  Why the drama of killing 2,000 pigs? This is strange. I have some speculations but nothing I know for sure.  


(For instance, I know God forbade the Jews from eating pigs and they were to be considered unclean animals.  So perhaps we could see here the final judgment of all unclean. Or maybe we could see that all men are like “pigs” and are as unclean as the “unclean spirits”  in this passage who will share the same fate in another lake: the “lake” of fire. But I don’t really know for sure, and, it does gnaw at me!)


Application:  Strange though it may be, it tells me there are supernatural things that are not within my ability to understand.  Things revealed by God may not always be fully understood by man. It keeps me humble, and, reminds me that God and the reality of both the visible and invisible world are much greater than my little mind.


Notice what I think is even more important:  they had to get Jesus’ permission. They could do nothing without divine permission.  Here is an affirmation of Jesus’ deity, and, the submission of demonic creatures to their Creator.  Jesus permitted the storm, and, here, He permits their entrance into the pigs. He granted their request.  Interesting, as it may be interpreted as an act of mercy to those demons.  


Application:  nothing happens outside of God’s will.  Whether God actively will something, or, He passively permits it.  Nothing happens. Job wasn’t tormented outside of God’s will. Peter wasn’t sifted outside of God’s will.  The storm did not come upon the sea outside of God’s will. God set the limits.  

We ought to be afraid.  Our lives are in God’s hands.  He does with us whatever He wills.


The  Crowds (14-17)

  • The word spread fast and pretty soon a familiar scene appears:  crowds of people flocking to Jesus. Only this time people were very nervous.  They knew the guy who was possessed, and, they could see he was no longer possessed.  After reviewing the report of what had happened they ask Jesus to leave. This is amazing.  They don’t invite Him to their towns to have dinner and stay with them several days. They don’t inquire more about who He is.  They just want Him gone. Maybe they’re upset at the economic loss they suffered with the pigs, maybe the kind of power they sensed He had scared the wits out of them and they just wanted that crazy Jew to go back into His own land.  Either way They are standing in front of a guy who just commanded thousands of demons to leave the guy that haunted their towns and rather than


Conclusion:  The Transformed Evangelist (18-20) 

  • His response to Jesus is the opposite of the crowds:  they wanted Jesus to go away from them, the man wanted to go with Him.  
    • Here’s what we see in the NT:  If Jesus changes someone that person wants to be with Jesus.  The demoniac here, the 10th leper, the scandalous woman, Mary Magdelene after Jesus cast out her demons.  When someone is touched by the power of Jesus, it creates a love for Him and desire to be with Him.  
  • Jesus tells the man He can’t go with Him.  
    • You may be wondering why Jesus prevented this guy from following Him.  You’ll notice in the Gospels that Jesus focused His ministry in Israel.  He came specifically to call the Jews to follow Him. This guy was a Gentile, and the official call for Gentiles would come with the Great Commission, which would be given after Jesus was raised from the dead.  The pattern of God is to go to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles.  
  • He tells him instead to go back to his own people and declare everything Jesus did for him.  The man is one of the first evangelists, even before the Apostles were sent, this man was sent to go and proclaim Jesus.  
  • Another pattern is seen here:  while we are away from Jesus we are to declare Him to the world.  This man couldn’t be with Jesus, but, Jesus commanded him to speak to others about what the Lord did for him.  We can’t be with Jesus right now while we’re on the earth, but, He commands us to go to the world and tell of our Savior.  

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