Mark 5:1-20

07 Jan 2024

Mark 5:1-20

Passage Mark 5:1-20

Speaker Ben Tanner

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This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

The observant among you will notice that this isn't in fact Nicky Robertson. Bless her. She's ill. And so Phil, who led our prayers, is going to read the Bible passage. He's not.

Somebody else is going to read our Bible passage for us. Excellent. David is going to read our Bible passage for us. Thanks.

Thanks. Finally doing this here at Saint all saints are lost.

Mark 5120.

The healing of a demon possessed man. They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasnes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain, 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. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills, he would cry out and cut himself with the stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 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. For Jesus had said to him, come out of this man, you evil spirit.

Then Jesus asked him, what is your name? He replied, my name is legion, for we are many. And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on a nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, send us among the pigs.

Allow us to go into them. He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about 2000 in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and the countryside. And the people who, when people went out to see what had happened, when they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons sitting there dressed in his right mind, and they were afraid.

Those who had seen it told the people who had happened to the demon possessed man and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave the region. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. 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 mercy on you. So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.

And all the people were amazed this is the word of the Lord.

Lead us in a prayer as we look at that passage, Father, I pray that we might meet Jesus this morning. Father, some of the stuff in this passage is tricky, and so I need your spirit to direct my words, and we need your spirit to open our hearts and our minds to understand Christ and to fall before him. So, Father, would you do that? I pray. Amen.

Well, we're at the start of a new year, and we're back in Mark's gospel, where we're towards the start of a new series. We kicked it off last week. You can go back and listen to that online if you weren't with us. And we're immediately confronted by a massive question as we come to this Bible passage. And it's a big question, which is, what do we do with the problem of evil?

What do we do about the problem of evil? We see it there, mark five one, they went across the lake, that's Jesus and his disciples, to the region of the gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat with an impure spirit, came from the tombs to meet him. Here we start one of the, in fact, the longest explanation of an exorcism that happens in the scriptures, certainly in Mark. I think it's in all of the scriptures.

And for some of us, immediately, that's where we kind of get off. Some of you guys are like, okay, I'm fairly new here. I was okay with the Christmas stuff. Jesus, angels. Yeah, that's fine.

Demons, devils. Really, I'm not okay with that. Others of us, perhaps, we just kind of feel a little bit awkward when the Bible goes to places like this. Demons, really? Personal forces of evil.

Are we sure? Surely not. Some of us look at this and we go, actually, do you know what? That's the very reason why I can't believe any of this stuff. If that's you, please, thank you so much for coming and listening.

But for some of us, we go, do you know what? They were so naive back then. Here is a man who's evidently mentally ill, got all sorts of sociopolitical problems, and what do they do? They lump it all in with demon possession. That's the problem, actually, with these Bible types.

They just go straight to the easy answer. Not the scientific answer. No, it's just demonstrating naive. We think, and we have to say that there have been times in history where people have naively attributed all sorts of illness and situations to demons. But that's not actually the worldview of the scriptures.

The scriptures are far more nuanced actually with this than we might. Than we might think. On first reckoning, just the gospel before in Matthew it says this in Matthew 424, news about Jesus spread all over Syria and they brought him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures and the paralysed and he healed them. Now actually that verse contains the greek word from which we get lunatic. And it's not the demon possessed that we get that word from.

It's actually there from the verse that's talking about those who suffer with seizures. Now I'm not saying that we should use the word lunatic, it's a pretty negative word. But what I'm saying here is that the scriptures, they attribute all sorts of reasons to all sorts of behaviours. The scriptures have categories for physically unwell, for mentally unwell, societal reasons. But also they've got this category for spiritually oppressed.

The scriptures have got those different categories. It's not that they write off medically unwell or those who have seizures or those who are epileptic or they don't. They see them, but they also see a spiritual element that is going on here. Now some of us might need a little bit more explanation. It might be that we can say, hey yeah, I see that the scriptures have got that category, but I don't.

What's going on with devils or demons? How can I possibly believe that? Well, think with me. Very few of us would say that there is no evil, right? There are things that we look at and we say that is evil, that act or that cooperation is doing things that are obviously evil.

Now it might be actually that you're here and you don't believe that and you believe we are simply the result of time and chance and evolution and there is no God and no spiritual reality. If that's you, then I recognise that for you it's quite hard in some ways to call something evil evil, because actually the strong do take advantage of the weak. That's what evolution is, survival of the fittest. Right? And so it's quite difficult to nuance that.

But for most people they would say no, there is such a thing as evil. And then the question comes, where does that come from? And of course there are lots of answers to that. Sometimes people have got things that have happened in their past that mean that they do awful things. Evil breeds evil.

Other times we might say that somebody is ignorant, they don't understand what they are doing is evil. And so what they need is education. Sometimes we might look at somewhere we might say actually the culture or the society or that area breeds evil in people. Now, we need to be very careful about that, actually, don't we? Because that kind of justification has caused all sorts of horrendous things in human history.

But there are times, aren't there, when we look at things and we say, that is an evil that isn't fully explained by background or education or societal pressures. It seems that this is particularly evil. We look at things that have happened in history and we say there is an evilness about that which feels bigger or stronger.

Ask yourself, could those evil things in your history or in our history be completely. Could they have been solved by the right medication, the right therapy, the right societal pressures at the time? And if your answer is no, then maybe you're getting to a point of saying that there might be something more that is sometimes using some of those other things, but that is a force of evil in this world. The scriptures speak of a personal God. It's not surprising that therefore there would be personal evil as well.

And what we see in this passage is an extreme example of that personal evil being at play. Now, I've laboured that point, and I'm sorry I've laboured that point. But the reason for doing that is if we don't get this, then we don't really realise the extent of the problem here. You see, if evil is something that we can sort out ourselves, then there's not really too much of a problem. But actually, if evil is a bigger issue, then we rightly feel uncomfortable, because it's something that we cannot combat ourselves.

And here is a man who is in just that place.

Verse three. A man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. This is a man who is beyond hope.

The language this is written in is a triple negative. It literally says, not no longer. No one could bind. This is somebody who is beyond. He is literally and figuratively living in the grave.

Aside from society, people scared of him. He is beyond hope.

For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and he broke the irons on his feet, and no one was strong enough to subdue him night and day. And this verse, when we think about it, makes us weep night and day among the tombs and in the hills, he would cry out and cut himself with stones. Here is a man who is utterly trapped, beyond help and is deeply distressed by it. Now, this is an extreme example, and we see kind of this sort of demonic activity in the gospels, more so than we see it anywhere else. And again, just bear with me on this.

Imagine if there is a personal power of evil then when he sees God walking on earth, he's going to bring his a game, right? He's going to bring the, bring out the big guns. And here we see the big guns coming out.

And yet what we see here is something of how evil works.

See this man? He is supernaturally strong, but he's not always been that way. Verse four. For he had often been chained hand and foot, or verse three, anymore, that word anymore, they couldn't bind him anymore. It was as if there was a time when he was bindable, when he was able to be with society if bound now he can't even be bound anymore.

He has this supernatural strength. What's going on there? Well, this is what evil does all the time. Evil rewards obedience to it. What do I mean?

Well let's take it on a really small scale. The banker who can choose to invest in that company that oppresses the poor is often rewarded for at least in the short term, right? You get bigger dividends from it because you're not paying your workers as you should. And so there are rewards there or that temptation to trample on others on your way up the career ladder. It brings some reward getting up the career ladder quickly.

But what evil does is it offers this reward with one hand and it takes with the other, slowly taking from us. The banker who's getting those big dividends gets harder and harder hearted towards the poor. He's oppressing the one who's shooting up the career ladder, standing on others may get to the place that she's wanting, but does so to the detriment of friends, relationships, you see, evil will often offer with one hand and take with the other. And here that's happened again and again and again until this man is in a place of complete hopelessness.

And so what does he do? Well, Jesus comes and he throws himself at this man's feet. And if this so far has been utterly depressing to you, I understand why it might be. This is a ray of hope, isn't it? Here is an extreme example.

A man who later on we'll find out, has enough demons to fill 2000 pigs. I mean this is an extreme example.

Still cannot help but fall at the feet of Jesus. He falls at the feet of Jesus. He begs him, what do you want with me? Don't torture me, please, please send me into those pigs, says the many demons. He begged Jesus again and again.

And so Jesus allows them to go into the pigs and the whole herd, verse 13, about 2000 in number, rushed down the steep bank and into the lake and were drowned. What's the demon's intent? What do they want? They want to drag those under their influence to the very depths. He takes those 2000 pigs and down they go.

Now, at this stage a number of us are thinking, ok, what's with the pigs? What's going on with these pigs? And there are a few things just to say on these pigs because it's really quite helpful at this point to pause on that. The first thing to say is, this is a gentile area, not a jewish area. You can tell that because they've got pigs.

Jews aren't mad keen on eating pigs because God tells them not to in the Old Testament. And so this is a gentile area. Okay? Also, this is weird. Like, this doesn't happen elsewhere.

When you're reading the other sort of exorcism accounts from this sort of time, demons going to pigs is a weird thing, which actually probably is a reason why we can believe it happened. Like, Mark's not going to include it unless it actually happened because it's just weird, like a bit odd. People are like, what? Mark's not going to include it unless it happened. But how is it that the people there see these pigs?

We're told that pig owners pig, sorry, Shepherdy pig people, do Shepherds look after pigs? Shepherdy Pig, Pig looker after us run off and they run to the local area and they bring back the crowds and the people from the area, they come back and what do they see? They see the man in his right mind. That's wonderful. And then they're told about the man and told about the pigs and they asked Jesus to leave.

And that's in part because 2000 pigs is a fairly major operation even today. Like in those days, 2000 pigs is a heck of a lot of bacon. It's a lot of money. This would be like Jesus coming in, saving a guy at the cost of a multinational cooperation. This is a major business that's just gone down into the lake.

This is a lot of money that's gone down the hill.

And they think, I'm not sure we can afford to have this Jesus guy around much longer. They look at the pigs, they see pound signs. We look at the pigs now and we go, poor pigs. Like poor cute little pigs. This feels like animal cruelty, doesn't it?

2000 pigs, I mean, that would be a disaster. And just think of the smell as they began to. It's just horrible. And rightly so. We look at the pigs.

And we think, that's not nice. But what does Jesus think at this moment? Jesus looks. He's got this man who is in bondage to the personal powers of evil.

And he looks at him and he says, one human soul is worth all the money of those 2000 pigs and more. One human soul is worth all of those 2000 pigs and many, many more. The price of a human soul is infinitely more than those pigs. The price of the human soul is infinitely more than the cost of that organisation. Jesus values the human soul more.

If you are shocked by the idea of these pigs, be all the more shocked that your soul is infinitely more valuable to Jesus than those 2000 pigs.

So Jesus sets this man free.

But I haven't answered the question, how does Jesus deal with evil? Let's dive very quickly back and just look at that exchange with the demon and we see something odd. And maybe some of you will have thought, what on earth is that about? You see verse seven. He shouted at the top of his voice.

What do you want with me, Jesus, son of God. Sorry, Jesus, son of the most high God. In other words, the demon knows exactly who Jesus is. But then his next sentence to God incarnate is in God's name, don't torture me or swear to God that you don't torture me. Or on oath before God, you should not torture me.

Now why on earth would a demon who knows who Jesus is call on the God who he's just said is his dad to defend the demon against Jesus? Like surely God, the one he's calling to, is going to be on Jesus side, isn't he? What's going on there? Lots of different people have got all sorts of different ideas. I think the best one is actually Matthew, the gospel writer, who in his account he tells us a bit more about what this demon is saying.

He says, the time for torturing me has not yet come. Have you come to torture me before the time? In other words, the demon, personal force of evil knows the law, right? How often is this the case? Evil knows and understands the law.

So often the case. He understands the law. He says, I know God has got to do what is just and right. And I know that there is a day when I will no longer have this power. I know there is a day when I will no longer have power.

But that day is not yet Jesus. You can't torture me yet. You can't punish me yet. Jesus, he knows the law and so Jesus allows him to go into the pigs.

But then how is it that Jesus is going to bring about that day? Well, the God who is just at this point is just once more. You see, Jesus knows that in order for this demon to be destroyed, and indeed all demons to be destroyed, he knows that in order for there to be a day when there is no physical or mental or psychological or demonic pain anymore, there must be justice.

He needs to take the place of those who will accept that deal. I'll take good things or things that I think are good in response for doing evil. He needs to take the punishment for them. He needs to change places. In fact, with this man, did you see how the man was described in verse five?

In the tombs crying out, bloody bound, we could add naked, because he's clothed in verse ten and he meets with Jesus and then what is he doing? He's sitting with God with Jesus clothed and in his right mind. And Jesus knows in order for that to happen, he's got to go to the end of Mark's gospel. And at the end of Mark's gospel, what do we see there? We see Jesus, the one who is clothed and on high in the very presence of God.

And what has he done? He has found himself in the grave. He has put himself in the grave there, bloody and broken, having cried out, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? There as he was bound and nailed to a cross. There we see Jesus having taken our place, having disarmed the rulers of authorities, having triumphed over them by the cross.

There we see one who can bring about the end of all evil. Why? Because he has endured it. And on resurrection Sunday he rose again. There is one that we can flee to when we feel tempted.

We can run and throw ourselves at his feet knowing that he has defeated evil. There is one that we can trust in even when this world feels broken and scary. Because we know that he has done everything requisite to bring about a day. The day when there is no mourning or crying or pain, where there is no demon possession or demon influence, where there is no evil, where there is no brokenness in our bodies or in our world, where there is no corporate corruption. Because sin and death will be no more.

So what? May we be those who throw ourselves before Jesus willingly. May we be those who call upon him. And then may we be those who, like this man, stand and proclaim what God has done for us to our friends and to our neighbours. Your soul is infinitely more valuable to Jesus.

Not just than 2000 pigs or all the money in the world, but is even more valuable to him than his blood and his life.

Let's pray. Father, we praise you. We thank you so much for Jesus, Father. Without him, we are without hope. We have no chance.

We have no chance against our culture. We have no chance against our own brokenness. We have no chance against our own sickness. And we have certainly no chance against the spiritual powers of evil. And yet with him, he has defeated those things.

Help us to throw ourselves at him, to call on him, and to point others to him. I pray. Amen. We're going to sing. We're going to sing a song that starts at Christmas that goes through to that final day.