Questions Jesus Asked – What Is Your Name? Mark 5:1-20

06 Dec

By any standard, the value Jesus places on each one of us cannot be measured. He did not hesitate to present his own life in exchange for our salvation. The story about the herd of pigs dramatically contrasts the purposes of God and the purposes of Satan for people. To Jesus, the crazed man was worth saving. To Satan, he was a soul targeted for destruction. Upon entering the pigs, the demons immediately revealed the destructive objective of their master. They accomplished in the pigs what they had been doing in the man.

5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.NRSV As Jesus had planned, he and the disciples arrived on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. These ten cities with independent governments were largely inhabited by Gentiles, which would explain the herd of pigs (5:11). The Jews did not raise pigs because, according to Jewish law, pigs were unclean and thus unfit to eat.

Whatever the exact location of their landing, the point is that Jesus had planned to go there. This was Gentile territory, revealing a new direction for his ministry.

5:2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.NIV After they landed and Jesus got out of the boat, they saw a horrible sight. A man with an evil spirit came from the tombs. Most people have difficulty picturing the awful sight of this man, with an evil spirit, bloody (5:5), out of control, and apparently strong and frightening (5:4). The disciples, having just been through a terrifying storm at sea (4:37), were certainly terrified again by the sight of this man.

We have encountered demon possession before. Mark stressed the man’s pitiful and hopeless condition, as detailed in the eyewitness description given in the following verses.

This man cut himself with stones (5:5) and lived in the tombs. In those days it was common for cemeteries to have many tombs carved into the hillside, making cavelike mausoleums. Thus, there was enough room for a person to actually live in such tombs.

According to Jewish ceremonial laws, the man whom Jesus encountered was unclean in three ways: He was a Gentile (non-Jew), he was demon possessed, and he lived in “the tombs.” But Jesus helped him anyway.

The demon-possessed man came . . . to meet Jesus. The man may have rushed out to see who was coming ashore, or perhaps even to apply for mercy. We simply do not know. Mark stresses the confrontation between the demons and Jesus, and in 5:6-7 portrays the defensive nature of the demons’ behavior.

5:3 He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain.NRSV This demon-possessed man’s condition was clearly hopeless without Christ. He no longer had contact with society, but lived among the tombs. This could refer to a type of graveyard—an area in the low hills that surrounded the Sea of Galilee with caves hewn into the rock. The caves served as tombs for the dead. Such graveyards were often in remote areas. People with hopeless conditions, such as this man, could find shelter in the caves.

The man had also been through the basic “treatment” given to people considered to be insane or demon possessed. People had tried to restrain his violent acts by chaining him up, but the evil power of the demons within gave him almost superhuman strength. Mark brought out the severity of the man’s situation. No one could restrain him or stop him, not even with iron chains (5:4). No one was strong enough.

5:4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.NIV To protect him from hurting himself and others, the man had been chained hand and foot. The verb indicates a job completed and done well. He had been thoroughly chained, with chains around his wrists and irons (fetters) on his ankles. But he tore the chains apart and broke the irons, indicating power not his own, but derived from the demons that held him. In fact, this man was so strong that no one could subdue (or overpower) him. The word for “subdue” (damazo) is used for taming a wild animal. This man probably seemed more like an animal than a human being. The fact that no one was strong enough to restrain him sets the scene for Jesus, the one who had God’s power and authority.

5:5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.NKJV Sent away from civilization off in the mountains and in the tombs, the man’s violence turned in on himself. His crying out was more of a shrieking scream—the voices of the demons (see also 1:26). The cutting of his skin with sharp stones refers to gashing and hacking at his body, leaving him bloody and covered with scars. This may have been either an attempt at suicide or a primitive form of demon worship common in ancient times (see 1 Kings 18:28). These horrible actions occurred always, night and day without stop. He was indeed a frightening creature.

l Satan’s hatred of us. When sent to the pigs, the demons destroyed the entire herd. Satan’s purpose is to destroy. He would love to destroy each of us.
l Satan’s power. The man was possessed with many powerful demons. When we ignore the power of Christ, Satan has free rein.
l Satan’s cruelty. Satan didn’t bring the man greater power and sophistication so he could live a wilder lifestyle as is so often portrayed. Instead, he caused the man to try to kill himself.

5:6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.NIV The man ran to Jesus from a distance, displaying the range of the demons’ power. The man did not run to escape Jesus, but ran to confront Jesus and scare him away as he would do to anyone else who ventured into his territory.

When he came close to Jesus, the man fell on his knees, not in worship, but in grudging submission to Jesus’ superior power. The demons immediately recognized Jesus and his authority. They knew who Jesus was and what his great power could do.

5:7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”NIV These words of the demon were in response to Jesus’ demand that the demons depart.

The demon’s first question, “What do you want with me?” is a request that Jesus leave them alone. A more literal translation would be, “What to you and to me?” or “What do we have in common?” In other words, the demon asked Jesus to leave them alone, for they had nothing to do with each other.

Such a question and statement show the demons’ ultimate rebellion. Jesus and the demons were as far separated as anything could be. Jesus’ purpose was to heal and give life; the demons’, to kill and destroy. But Jesus would not leave this man in such a condition.

Then the demon had the audacity to ask for Jesus’ mercy! The statement “Swear to God” comes from the verb meaning to put under oath. Ironically, the demon appealed to God as it requested that Jesus promise not to torture it. The word for “torture” is graphic and correct.

The characteristics of demons other than the ones given in the outline above are said to be as follows:

  1. They are spirits (Matthew 12:43-45).
  2. They are Satan’s emissaries (Matthew 12:26-27).
  3. They know their fate is to be eternal doom (Matthew 8:29; Luke 8:31).
  4. They affect man’s health (Matthew 12:22; Matthew 17:15-18; Luke 13:16). Apparently, demon-possession is to be distinguished from mental illness.
  5. They seduce men to a false religion of asceticism (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
  6. They seduce men to depart from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1).
  7. They are cast out of people (exorcism) in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 16:18).

First, we see what Satan can do to people.

Satan is a thief whose ultimate purpose is to destroy (John 10:10; and see Rev. 9:11). We are not told how the demons entered these men and took control.

Because of Satan, the thief, these two men lost everything! They lost their homes and the fellowship of their families and friends. They lost their decency as they ran around in the tombs naked. They lost their self-control and lived like wild animals, screaming, cutting themselves, and frightening the citizens. They lost their peace and their purpose for living, and they would have remained in that plight had Jesus not come through a storm to rescue them.

The second force at work on these men was society, but society was not able to accomplish very much.

The man was cut off from society. He did not live among the living; he lived among the dead. He represents the living dead; that is, all men without Christ are “dead in their sins” and are cut off from the society of God.

  • We know what it’s like to rebel against God. We know what it’s like to feel unclean, unworthy of association with good people, to feel as if our life contaminates others.
  • We know what it’s like to be isolated, to try to have relationships with other people and have them retreat from us.
  • We know what it’s like to be out of control, to have habits and pressures and thoughts that make us want to do what we hate doing, and whatever chains we use to use to stop ourselves prove inadequate.
  • We know what it’s like to be tormented and self-destructive. The Gerasene demoniac experienced in the extreme what all of us experience in some degree.

5:8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”NIV Jesus’ first command was to one evil spirit. When that one did not obey, Jesus commanded the demon to give him its name. The demon’s answer revealed that there were many demons.

5:9 Then He asked him, “What is your name?”NKJV The demons attempted but failed in using Jesus’ name in 5:7. Jesus gained mastery over the demon by finding out its name. The demon’s self-disclosure meant it had to submit to Jesus.

And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”NKJV A legion was the largest unit of the Roman army; it consisted of three thousand to six thousand soldiers. This man was possessed by not one, but many demons. There may have been a legion of demons, or this name may be a reference to the telos, a force numbering 2,048 men (thus accounting for the loss of two thousand swine, see 5:13).

5:10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.NIV Mark often highlighted the supernatural struggle between Jesus and Satan. The demons’ goal was to control the humans they inhabited; Jesus’ goal was to give people freedom from sin and Satan’s control. Mark was pointing out that the demons wanted to be with people (in the area) and begged not to be sent into lonely exile where they could not torment people.

5:11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.NIV According to Old Testament law (Leviticus 11:7), pigs were “unclean” animals. This meant that they could not be eaten or even touched by a Jew. This incident took place southeast of the Sea of Galilee in the region of the Gerasenes (5:1), a Gentile area. Pigs were used by Romans for the sacrifices their religions required. Romans also ate pigs. A normal herd of pigs would be 150 to 300 head.

5:12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”NKJV One demon had spoken for all the demons in 5:10; here all the demons chimed in, begging Jesus not to send them away, but to send them to the swine.

5:13 He gave them permission.NIV “Gave them permission” has theological thrust. Satan has no final authority but can do only what God “permits” for the short time he is allowed to be “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4 nrsv).

Jesus stopped their destructive work in people, and particularly the man they had possessed.

And the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.NIV The sight must have been amazing. A rather peaceful herd of pigs feeding on the hillside suddenly became a stampeding horde that ran straight to its own destruction. One after another, the pigs kept running into the lake and drowning.

The demons’ action proves their destructive intent—if they could not destroy the men, they would destroy the pigs. Jesus’ action, in contrast to the demons’, shows the value he places on each human life. Some people might have difficulty with the fact that all the pigs died, but Jesus considered the man to be more important than the pigs.

5:14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.NIV When Jesus performed this miracle, he again gained immediate publicity. Those tending the pigs, astonished at what had happened, ran off and told the amazing story.

5:15 Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.NKJV

The people might have responded in several ways. They may have been overjoyed to see Jesus on their own shore—many people hunted Jesus down and longed to be with him. This popular preacher and miracle worker was available to them. They also may have responded with joy that the demon-possessed man had been healed and would no longer bother them. They may have just been thrilled to have seen a healing of such magnitude with their own eyes. However, Mark used one word for the people’s response: afraid.

What were they afraid of? Perhaps such supernatural power as Jesus had displayed frightened them. Perhaps they thought Jesus would be bad for their economy (losing two thousand pigs in one day certainly cost someone).

 5:16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well.NIV Mark emphasized the eyewitness nature of those telling the story to confirm its reliability.

 5:17 Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.NKJV Why did the people ask Jesus to leave? They would rather give up Jesus than lose their source of income and security. Unfortunately for them, Jesus did as they asked. And there is no biblical record that he ever returned.

5:18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.NIV The people asked Jesus to leave their region, so Jesus and the disciples got back into the boat. The miracle of healing was lost on the crowd; instead, they saw only the destruction of the pigs. The only one who truly understood what had transpired was the formerly possessed man himself. Having been freed, he begged to go with Jesus. Jesus had other plans for him.

 5:19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”NIV

Often Jesus asked those he healed to be quiet about the healing (1:43-45; 5:43), but he urged this man to go . . . and tell what the Lord had done for him. Why the difference? This man was returning to his home in a Gentile region. Jesus knew the man would be an effective witness to those who remembered his previous condition and could attest to the miraculous healing. Through him, Jesus could expand his ministry into this Gentile area.

This is the beginning of the “universal mission” theme in Mark’s Gospel. Here Jesus prepared the way for the movement of the gospel to the Gentiles after Pentecost. This is illustrated in 5:20 where “all the people [meaning the Gentiles] were amazed” at Jesus’ power.

Mark 5:20 (ESV)  And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

The man knew that “the Lord” had shown great mercy to him (5:19), that Jesus had freed him from the demons, and that the Lord and Jesus were one and the same. Though not versed in Scripture or trained in preaching and teaching, the man realized that he had looked into the face of the one true God and had received divine mercy. His heartfelt response was to go and tell others about Jesus.  These sentences spoken together are the doctrine of hell. To have such clear knowledge of the person and status of Jesus, yet believe he’s a torturer-one come to hurt and condemn-is the worst condition of all.

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Posted by on December 6, 2018 in Mark


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