JESUS RESTORES A DEMON POSSESSED MAN
Key Verse: 5:19
“Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”
In the previous passage, we saw that Jesus and His disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. As they did so, a violent storm swept down on them and the disciples feared for their lives while Jesus peacefully slept in the back of the boat. The disciples, many of whom were experienced fishermen, knew that they could do nothing to save themselves from this storm, so they did the only thing they could; they turned to Jesus to save them. Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and they waves telling them to be still. At Jesus command, the violent storm stopped. This event showed that Jesus was no ordinary man. The disciples began to realize this as we can see by their response – Mark 4:41 says “They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” Up to this point Jesus had shown His disciples and those around him that He had extraordinary powers to heal people and drive out demons, but there were prophets and holy men throughout Israel’s history who were able to do these things. The disciples, like many of the other people probably thought that Jesus was just another of these prophets or holy men of Israel. However, this was different. Jesus commanded the wind and the waves of the sea and they obeyed him. Suddenly His disciples realized that Jesus was not just an ordinary man. He was something much more. Of course, we know that the elements of nature had to obey Jesus because He was the one who created them, but just image what they disciples must have felt. They were beginning to learn the truth that Jesus is God.
In today’s passage we have further confirmation of Jesus’ true identity. Jesus and His disciples reached the other side of the lake and were greeted by a demon possessed man. Other people tried to avoid this man at all costs, but it appears that Jesus crossed the lake just to see him because Jesus did nothing else but restore this man while He was on the east side of the lake. Once again, we see that Jesus is no ordinary man. Ordinary men wanted to bind this man and cast him out of their society. Jesus wanted to free this man and restore him to that society. Ordinary men were afraid of this man because of the demons that possessed him. On the other hand, the demons that possessed this man were afraid of what Jesus might do to them. Truly, Jesus is no ordinary man and I pray that God may open our spiritual eyes and ears to see and hear this through this passage.
First, Jesus and the disciples are greeted by a demon possessed man (1-13). Loom at verses 1 & 2. “They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him.” The region of the Garasenes was also known as the region of the Gadarenes and referred to a region on the east side of the sea of Galilee. Although it was technically a part of the traditional state of Israel, it was inhabited by both Jewish and Gentile people in Jesus’ time. In the three synoptic gospels it is not explained why Jesus wanted to cross the lake to go to this region, but if you carefully look at all three accounts, the only thing Jesus did while He was there was drive out the evil spirits from this man. Then, at the request of the people of the region, Jesus left there and returned to Capernaum. To me it seems that Jesus wanted to cross the lake for few reasons. First, He wanted to teach His disciples that they needed to overcome fear by living by faith in Him. The situation they encountered as they were crossing the lake filled their hearts with fear, but when they turned to Jesus for help, peace was restored, not only in nature, but also in their hearts. Second, Jesus wanted to remind His disciples that He also had absolute authority over evil spirits. Finally, and most importantly for this message, Jesus wanted to restore this useless, terrifying man and make Him a child of God who could proclaim the good news of the Gospel to the people who once lived in fear of him.
When Jesus and His disciples made it to the other side of the lake a man came from the tombs to greet them. What kind of person would live in a graveyard? To say the least, it would be a person that was an outcast from society. If this man were Jewish (which is very likely), it would mean that he was living in a state of constant uncleanness because being in the presence of the dead made a person unclean according to Jewish law. Verses 3, 4, & 5 describe this man. He was a man that people feared. They tried time and again to bind him up – to imprison him – but their binds couldn’t control him. He would just break free and carry on terrorizing the people. Finally, the society had enough of him, and they kicked him out. He lived among the tombs and he cried out night and day cutting himself with stones because of the agony he experienced from the demons that possessed him. In short, he was a man nobody, not even himself, could love.
It is very interesting to see what he did when he saw Jesus and His disciples come ashore. Look at verses 6 & 7. “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? In God’s name don’t torture me!’” If Jesus had been an ordinary man, it is likely that this man would have jumped on Him and began beating Him severely. However, Jesus was no ordinary man, and the demons living inside of this man recognized this. The man ran to Jesus, but instead of jumping on him, he fell on his knees in front of Jesus. When a person falls on his/her knees in front of another, it is a sign of deep respect for the person still standing and show of humility on the part of the one who falls on their knees. The man himself probably had no idea who Jesus was, but the demons living in him knew exactly who Jesus was – the Son of the Most High God. They couldn’t jump on Jesus and beat Him because Jesus had absolute authority over them. All they could do is force the man to fall on his knees and beg Jesus for mercy.
Remember, just a few moments before, Jesus’s disciples had been asking themselves “Who is this man that even the wind and the waves obey Him?” and here they see this man falling on his knees before Jesus and shouting at the top of his voice that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God. Gradually, the disciples’ eyes were being opened to see exactly who Jesus really is. As we prayerfully read and study the Bible our eyes need to be opened as well to see Jesus for who He really is. He is not just some great man in the history of the world, He is the Son of the Most High God, the creator, who has all authority in heaven and on earth.
How did Jesus answer this man? Verse 9 tells us that Jesus asked for His name. Of course, it was the demons who answered Jesus and not the man, but this shows that Jesus is a personal God. John tells us that Jesus calls His sheep by name and they listen to Him because they know their masters voice. These demons knew Jesus’s voice but not in a good way as one of His sheep. They also knew that Jesus had complete authority over them. They couldn’t do anything to Jesus except beg Him to have mercy on them. They knew that Jesus had the authority to cast them back into their father’s house - e.g. the lake of burning sulfur where their suffering would never end -, but they begged Him to send them into a herd of pigs who were peacefully relaxing on the top of a hill overlooking the lake. Jesus consented to their request and drove them out of the man and into the herd of pigs. When the pigs felt the presence of the demons among them, they became so distressed that they ran down the hill and committed mass suicide in the lake below. This gives us some indication of just how much this man must have been suffering being possessed by these demons. No one could love him because he was suffering so badly. Everyone cast him out and had given up on him, but Jesus came to save him and set him free from his suffering. Likewise, Jesus came to save each of us and to set us free from the demons that hold us in bondage and torture us day and night. Praise Jesus who loves even the most unlovable people.
Second, two different reactions (14-20). Verse 14 tells us that the disciples were not the only witnesses to these events. There were people taking care of the pigs who saw it all. When they saw what happened they ran off to tell others in the area what had happened. When the people of the region heard about it, they went out to see for themselves what was going on. When they got to the beach, they saw something I am sure none of them ever expected to see; they saw the demon possessed man dressed and in his right mind sitting at Jesus feet. We might expect them to be full of joy and thanksgiving that the man who had once terrified and tormented their community was completely cured and would cause them no more problems. But that is not how they reacted. In his gospel, Luke tells us that the people became afraid, but in all three of the synoptic gospels it tells us that the people pleaded with Jesus to leave their area. They couldn’t explain how Jesus could heal a man that they couldn’t control and, perhaps more importantly, they couldn’t understand why Jesus had permitted the loss of their livestock. In short, these people cared more for their own well-being than discovering who Jesus was and how He could completely restore this demon possessed crazy man to a normal human being again. They were witnesses to a great miracle of God, and yet they rejected the gift that Jesus wanted to give them. We must be very careful not to miss the work of God in our lives because we are so concerned with our own idea what will make us happy. We must also be able to see the work of God in others and be willing to rejoice with them and ask God to stay and work in us as well.
The man that Jesus healed had a much different reaction. He wanted to be with Jesus forever. He wanted to go where Jesus was going and learn from Jesus. In short, he wanted to become a disciple of Jesus. We might expect that Jesus would be happy to have such a willing disciple, but that is not why Jesus healed him. Jesus healed him so that could tell these other people who were begging Jesus to leave how much God had done for him. Jesus healed this man so that he could help others come to Jesus. This is why Jesus heals demon possessed people even today. Jesus healed each of us so that we can tell others how much God has done for us and help them to come to Jesus so they can be healed as well. One of my favorite verses in the Bible comes from Zachariah’s song recorded in Luke’s Gospel. In it, Zachariah plainly tells us why God sent His Messiah to us. Luke 1:68-75 say, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn[c] of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” God Saves us, HE frees us from our bondage to sin and Satan so that we can serve Him by telling others just how much He has done for us. May God help us to always remember this and faithfully carry out the mission He has given us.