When Pigs Fly - Mark 5:1-20
In the introduction to his classic work “The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to be believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight”
We live in an age where the demonic is called the paranormal, and the evil is portrayed for the sake of entertainment. We can forget that demons are very real. We can dismiss their current activity. We can chalk up stories of the paranormal to drug abuse, hallucination, imagination, or some other reasonable and logical explanation other than evil Spirits.
On the other hand there are those that are unhealthily drawn in and show a fascination with such things that lead them into the darkness. A pastor friend of mine recently posted pictures on his facebook of some screen shots taken from a “Christian Witches” facebook group. Individuals who claim to believe in Jesus, but are also so caught up in the occult that they call themselves “witches”.
There are also those who are Satanists, who intentionally worship the devil.
There are those who seek out encounters with the spiritual realm, no realizing what they are dabbling with.
There is a teaching from Jesus where he states that when a demon is cast out of someone it wanders around for a while and if it decides to re-enter the original host it will take seven more spirits and the latter case is worse than the first.
On the basis of that passage, a while back I heard the story of a man seeking an exorcism specifically so that the demon would leave and then return with seven more, because he was interested in the power that might come with such possession.
The Bible talks a lot about the demonic and spiritual realm. In a world where the demonic is either dismissed or obsessed over, we would do well to have a biblical worldview concerning the demonic realm.
In our text today we have another account of one of Jesus’ encounters with the demonic realm. This case is a bit of an extreme case. In fact, this chapter contains three accounts of extreme circumstances and Jesus’ response to them.
In the flow of the book these cases represent Jesus taking on the hardest cases as He continues to demonstrate his power and nature.
Jesus’ power is not limited to calming water, but he takes on the most daunting case of demonic possession in the region.
My outline today is framed around contrasting desires that are present within the text.
First we see the implicit desires of the demons and that of Christ contrasted
Then we see the stated desires of the people and that of Christ contrasted.
The first thing we see is that Demons Desire Destruction
Demons Desire Destruction
Demons Desire Destruction
1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 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. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
There are few things that would be helpful to point out from this text. This region that is mentioned is difficult to identify exactly where it is. But from the context we know it is on the eastern side of the sea of Galilee and that it is almost certainly a gentile region.
Immediately we are struck with the description of the man.
He has an unclean spirit. This language of unclean speaks to the defilement that exist when demonic presence controls a man. This man is defiled. Internally he is host to a demonic hoard. Externally he lives among the tombs, where only further uncleaness exists.
Him living among the tombs is a sign not only of defilement, but also of the utter isolation in which he was living. Mankind was created to live in community so they those communities could build and flourish together, and here this man, under the control of these demons is driven away. All attempts to bind him and control him have failed. Under the influence of these demons he seems to have a super-human strength.
He is defiled, isolated, and doing a lot of self harm. The end of verse five says he is cutting himself with stones. If spiritual affliction and isolation weren’t enough, this man is physically abusing himself under the influence of the demonic presence.
This is a serious case of demonic oppression. Not every case of demonic oppression is this severe. But this was the case for this man.
Sometimes churches like ours don’t seem to put much weight or stock in the demonic realm today. Some churches and individuals go overboard. There are some who go looking for demons behind every bush and around every corner and say things like “we gotta drive the demon of lust, or the demon of greed out of this person” I’m not that way. I tend to believe that because of our own fallen natures and the sinfulness of our own hearts we are plenty capable on our own to sin in some pretty rotten ways.
But at the same time, I can fall into the ditch of acting like the demonic realm isn’t real, even though Scripture and my own experience can tell me otherwise.
Here is a text that shows us that Demons love destruction. They love to defile a person. Demons desire to defile everyone and everything. One time I was meeting with a man for one-on-one Bible Study and we started working through the Gospel of John. We met two times. After that he told he had to stop. Why? Because the voices told him in no uncertain terms: “no more Bible Study with Kenn.” This man lived a very self-destructive life.
But demonic influence can take so many other forms.
15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
When we think about the way that the NT talks about the defiling nature of the passions of our flesh, it’s a sobering reality. Did you know that James calls bitter jealousy and selfish ambition 1) earthly, 2) spiritual, and 3) demonic in James 3:15-16? And he goes on to say that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. Which is exactly what demons love. There is an insidiousness to how they operate.
They love disorder. They love every vile practice. They love to destroy families, households, churches, and communities. And that’s exactly what they have done to this man in our text.
He is defiled, internally and externally, he is isolated from his loved ones and anything constructive, and is harming himself with stones.
All these descriptions are meant to communicate the magnitude of what Jesus is about to do for this man. This is not a standard case of exorcism. This man has been so afflicted that he is utterly and complete beyond any hope of human intervention. No earthly power can restore this man.
But Jesus does not come with mere earthly power, amen? Jesus comes with power and authority from on high, as even the demons themselves recognize.
As much as the demons desire destruction, Jesus desires to see a restoration of this man.
Jesus Desires Restoration
Jesus Desires Restoration
6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 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.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 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. 14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
The demons fear Jesus, and notice that it is indeed demonS plural and not demon singular. My name is Legion, for we are many. A roman Legion was six thousand soldiers. There may not have been exactly 6k demons, but there were enough to wreck a herd of two thousand pigs, so its safe to say there were a lot.
This further underscores the gravity of the situation for this man. Here he is, not just oppressed to the point of isolation and self harm, but so thoroughly demonized that he is host to potentially thousands of demons.
But no demon or amount of demons is too great for Jesus to overcome.
Immediately they are begging for mercy. What have you to do with me? I like how the NASB translates this phrase: What business do we have with each other? This is the same thing that the demon said back in chapter one in Jesus’ first encounter with an unclean spirit. It’s as though the demon is saying “You have no right to interfere here, not now”
The demons request in verse 10 not to be sent out of the region, but be allowed to enter the herd of pigs nearby. This is a rather curious detail. It is not clear why this would be preferred. Some have suggested the demons are territorial, and thus to be banished from their region would cause them distress. This is possible, but we aren’t given a clear indication of that. Others have suggested that their fate in the pigs is ironic, since it drove the pigs into the sea, where they await judgement in the gloomy depths of darkness.
Ultimately we don’t need to know why pigs to understand what this represents. Legion was indeed a massive horde of demons. To cast two thousand pigs into the sea demonstrates the incredible nature of the deliverance.
Jesus is not deterred by the number or power of any demonic force. Jesus cannot be outmatched or overpowered. Here was a man that humanity could not contain or restrain due to the demons. Here is a man who was host to enough demons to cause a herd of 2000 pigs to careen to their deaths in the sea.
But here is a Man who can bind the strongman, deliver the captives, restore the oppressed. Here is a Man who comes in the name of the Lord God Almighty and is able to make all things new. Here is Jesus Christ.
The totality of the restoration is described in verse 15:
15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
He was sitting. Previous he was unrestrainable.
He was clothed. Previously he was naked
He was in his right mind. Previously he was not as we was controlled by the demonic spirits.
Jesus can take even the most extreme cases and transform them. He isn’t limited by any spiritual forces of darkness.
Notice the response of the people:
They are afraid. At the end of verse 15 it says the people were afraid when they saw the man. In verse 17 they begged Jesus to leave their region. This is the same word for begging that was used of the demons begging for mercy.
Why are they so afraid? Some have suggested that it is because they lost a fortune that the herd of pigs represented and that they feared greater losses.
One commentator I was reading put it this way, and I think this is right:
“Jesus is seen as a dangerous disruption to their peaceful lives. The inbreaking power of the Kingdom of God does not bring a comfortable life and the status quo but rather a radical transformation of individuals and societies.”
There is some irony here. How peaceful could life be with a demoniac on the loose? But those who live in chaos and know nothing else, any change is going to feel like chaos, even if that change is what brings true peace.
But when the status quo is challenged, that is a fearful thing. And so they ask him to leave.
The man who was delivered, he wants to go with Jesus. Verse 18.
He was begging Jesus. Same word again. An earnest plea. But Jesus says no. Read verses 16-20 with me.
Jesus Desires Proclamation
Jesus Desires Proclamation
16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Here Jesus desires proclamation.
Now this is interesting. Previously Jesus had commanded others who were delivered to remain silent and not to spread the news around. He was interested in proclaiming the Kingdom and setting the agenda for how the message of the Messiah was spread. Here he says, yeah go tell everyone.
Later in this same chapter, Jesus is going to tell someone else NOT to spread the news of what was done, and he is going to say the same things in chapters 7 and 8. Why that change here?
I believe there are contextual reasons for this change in Jesus’ approach.
1) they are in a gentile area, and not a Jewish area. Jesus’ message has primarily been to the Jews, and he has been controlling how he reveals Himself as the Messiah. The Jews had preconceived ideas of who and what the Messiah was to be and do. He reveals himself very intentionally so as to avoid misconceptions concerning his mission.
With a gentile audience those concerns are minimal or non-existent.
2) The people are afraid and want nothing to do with Jesus. It seems all the talk is around what happened to the pigs. Jesus wants the man to go back into the town to make the narrative on what the narrative should be on: this man was isolated, naked, and violent to himself and others. Now he can return to his community, be clothes, and is in his right mind! That’s what should be the focus! Jesus restored this man’s life!
So Jesus sent him to tell them how much the Lord has done for him.
And so he does!
He began to proclaim how much Jesus had done for Him and everyone marveled.
In this text we learn about the destructive desires of demons. They are real. They hate humanity. And they will do whatever they can to bring destruction. Paul wrote that we wrestle not with flesh and blood but with but against the rulers, the powers, the spiritual forces of darkness and evil.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
This does not mean we should be going out looking for demons behind every bush, but it does mean we should think seriously and carefully about the spiritual warfare that exists. We must not be lulled into thinking that demons are not active, or that they are only active in the most severe cases.
But in this text we also learn how great and powerful Jesus is and how He desires our restoration more than the demons desire our destruction. There is no case too hard for Christ, there are no demons Jesus cannot overpower. If we surrender our hearts and lives to Him Jesus can do the impossible in such a way that all would marvel to see the change that he brings about!
Finally, in this text we are reminded of the responsibility to tell others what Christ has done. Have you seen Christ work changes in your life? When was the last time you told someone about that? Our personal testimonies are a powerful way to get to gospel conversations. Who is Christ calling you to share your testimony with today?
I’m reminded of the classic hymn
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was Blind, but now I see”
How great a savior we serve.