“When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him. Then he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by God – do not torment me!’ (For Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of that man, you unclean spirit!’) Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’” (Mark 5:6-9 NET).
It isn’t strange to us that a man saw Jesus, ran up, and bowed down before him. We can read about this happening quite often while Jesus was teaching and healing. What makes this man different is that he was not in his right mind.
This is a man who had “an unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2) and is identified as a “demon-possessed man” (Mark 5:15). And it wasn’t just one demon but many had entered into him and possessed him.
Demon possession seems to have been quite prevalent at the time Jesus was on the earth and the years that followed. Although the reason for this is never given we can probably surmise that this had something to do with the devil and his trying to defeat Jesus. As followers of Jesus this is not something we need to worry about; remember that James wrote, “So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Jesus is greater than the devil or any demonic power.
The demons inhabiting this man had taken over his mind. He lived among the tombs (the other gospels record that he no longer wore clothing). He had extraordinary strength so that no one could bind him, even with a chain. He seems to have been in turmoil because “he would cry out and cut himself with stones” (Mark 5:1-5).
Jesus came to defeat the devil in any way possible. He ordered the unclean spirit to come out. That Jesus had power to do this was acknowledged by the unclean spirit. Not only did it bow down to Jesus, being in control of the man, but tried to plead with Jesus not to “send them out of the region” (Mark 5:10). Jesus permitted them to enter a large herd of pigs, resulting in the pigs, in essence, going crazy – they rushed down the steep slope into the lake and about 2,000 were drowned.
When the people received news of what had happened they came out to see Jesus. They saw the formerly demon-possessed man sitting fully clothed and in his right mind. Although the man must have frightened them while he was possessed, Mark recorded that when they saw him they were afraid. They asked Jesus to leave their region.
It would seem their concern was more about the loss of the pigs than a man who had been restored to his right mind. We might well ask, providing these were Jews (and there is nothing to indicate otherwise), why they were keeping pigs, an unclean animal at that! Perhaps the market among the Romans for pigs to eat was too much profit to pass by.
The formerly demon-possessed man became a proclaimer of Jesus. He wanted to go with Jesus when he left but Jesus told him to go home and tell everyone what had been done for him. “So he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him, and all were amazed” (Mark 5:20).
What is our reaction to Jesus? Do we accept him and tell others he has changed our lives? Or do we reject him, not wanting him to be part of what we do?
Following Jesus can’t be just one day a week – he must be part of our lives every day.
Photo by Jon Galloway: the region of the Gerasenes from the Sea of Galilee.
Readings for next week:
11 February – Mark 1
12 February – Mark 2
13 February – Mark 3
14 February – Mark 4
15 February – Mark 5