The Gadarene Demoniac

April 29, 2001 / No. 3043

Dear radio friends,

Our Scripture lesson today is taken from Mark 5:1-20. If you have your Bible available, I would ask you to open it to that passage. This is the portion of God’s Word which tells us of the marvelous healing of the Gadarene demoniac – when Jesus cast a thousand demons out of one man. It is a very beautiful picture, first of all, of the powerful and sovereign love of God both to find and then to deliver its object.

In Mark 4:35 we read of the ministry of the Lord: “And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.” Apparently out of the blue, after a very busy time of instruction in parables, the Lord, at even, when we would think that it was time for rest, says to His disciples, “Let us go over the sea to the land of the Gadarenes.” Why? We read in II Timothy 2:19, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” And again the Savior would say in John 10, “I know my sheep; my Father has given them to me.” You see, the deliverance of this man from awful demon possession was not hit and miss, or a happy coincidence. It was not chance. But it was Jesus, the very Son of God, sent out of the eternal love of God, the marvelous love of God, knowing the names of all of His own, seeking them, and bringing to them His marvelous salvation. That is the way of salvation. The way of salvation is of God. It is not entrusted to the hit and miss of the human will. It is not entrusted to the fickleness of the human heart. It is entrusted to the true One, to Jesus Christ. And by His powerful love, He comes and He works in the hearts of His own.

We should take a look at the wretched condition of the man who was possessed of demons as the Lord met him when He came to the land of the Gadarenes. We must not get lost today in the idea of demon possession. If we begin to speculate what demon possession was and get all hung up on that, we are going to miss a very important truth of Scripture. That truth of Scripture is that demon possession is a picture of the sin which wars in our members. We must see that sin, from which Jesus alone can set us free, is a mighty power to hold us in its dominion. Therefore, we want to look at this as a picture of the power of Jesus Christ to deliver us from the power of sin.

The Lord came to the land of the Gadarenes, which was a mountainous area. We read that the moment our Lord was come out of the ship, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He was a man, literally, in an unclean spirit. And we learn from the passage that this was no ordinary case. There was not just one unclean spirit. We remember that the Lord cast out of Mary Magdalene seven demons. But when the Lord asked this one what was his name, the demon answered saying, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” A legion, which is a Roman term in the army, refers to six thousand soldiers. The presence, then, of a legion spoke of formidable power and might. Later on we will read that these demons enter into a herd of swine and the swine run violently down into the sea and there were two thousand swine (or pigs) that were choked in the sea. The number of demons in this man was frightening! A legion of demons was in this man, so that they infested his heart and his soul with the world of their filth.

We are given in this passage an awful description of the man’s condition. First of all, his place of dwelling. We read “immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains.” He was dwelling in the tombs. His living quarters were in the cemetery. He had not always lived there. Luke 8:27 tells us that at one time he had lived in the city, he had mingled in city life, he had had social communication with other people. But now, as a result of this possession, he lived among the dead – a morbid, ghoulish life. He was at home among bones and embalmed bodies. Remember, if he were a Jew, he could not touch a dead body because that was a sign of defilement. So he had shrunk down low. He lived among death, a sign of God’s curse upon sin. He called this home.

Still more, we are told of his activity and his appearance. He was fearful in his strength. No man could bind him, no, not with chains. We read that the chains that had been put around him he plucked asunder, and the fetters he broke in pieces. He could not be tamed of any man. He possessed fearful strength. Apparently early on, when these demons would come upon him, he could be bound. But no more. He burst the bonds.

Still more, he was frightening in his bellowing. In verse 5 we read, “And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.” You know how sound carries over the water. You know how sound carries among mountain peaks. This man would bellow and howl day and night.

And he was engaged in frenzied self-destruction. He would cut himself with stones. Literally, he continued to cut himself with stones. He would find sharp stones and he would gouge himself. You can only imagine how this man must have looked – old wounds, wounds freshly scabbed over, and new gashes bloody and festering.

Finally, we read that he was in shameful nakedness. He was unclothed. He had no sense of embarrassment that other people would see him naked. All sense of modesty and propriety were gone. And there was no hope of change. “Neither could any man tame him.” No man had any strength to help him. On the level of human resources, on the level of human skill, influence, counsel, persuasion, no man could reach him. All human efforts to deliver from this bondage were worthless and helpless. Picture the condition of this man. He lived among the tombs. With broken chains dangling from his wrists, naked, cut up and bloody, howling throughout the night.

There are some practical lessons here. Behold the true nature and the true intention of sin and the devil. Not one of us is as frightened as a child of God of our sin as we ought to be, and by nature (our sinful nature) we do not have fear of sin at all. We are like a dumb ox brought to the slaughter. But our nature, our sins against which we are called to struggle as children of God, that sinful nature is always telling us that sin is not sinful, that sin is not foul, that sin is not strong in today’s terms. Instead of the dominion and bondage of sin, we hear of inappropriate behavior, unwise choice, perhaps serious repercussions. These are ways to soft-pedal the reality of sin. So God’s Word strips away the covering and shows us what sin is, shows us, in this man, of its bondage and its power.

And with that, this Word of God, as it works in us by the Holy Spirit, reminds us of the seriousness of the battle against sin. The devil’s intention is to bind you in chains and have you live in death among the bones, among that which is perverse and evil. That is his intention. Now he may come to you today with a bouquet of flowers and a banquet of sweet meats. He may come to you as an unchurched young man at the office who shows attention to you and says, “You are very attractive.” Maybe he will come to you in a speedboat on Lake Michigan, or some other way of flattery or appeal to your flesh. But here is his intention: He would have you in the realm of the dead. He would make you a mad beast to bellow. He would destroy your body and your life. He would make you have hell on earth. Jesus said, “He is a murderer from the beginning.” Jesus said in John 10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” Rather than that you should walk in the light of the glorious God, rather than that your heart should sing in praise to God, rather than that your body and your heart be pure before Him, the devil and sin would have you turned into his image, black, death, gore, empty, weeping, gnashing, tormented in your soul. That is true of the world of unbelief in which we are placed as God’s children to glorify Him.

No, not all of the world is necessarily demon possessed, but it is under the control of sin. We read in Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world.” What is the course of this world? “… according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past.” The Bible is telling us that grace makes a difference, a profound difference. The grace of God frees us. The Christian is not simply one who has learned to make better decisions. He is not simply one who uses Christ to handle his stress. But he has been brought out of the darkness and bondage of sin into the light of God and walks as a child of the light. It is not so that man in sin is free to choose, free to decide what is appropriate. But the world, says the Word of God, lies in darkness and abideth in sin. The difference between the child of God, saved by grace, and the unbelieving world is not the result of a decision that the child of God made. But the difference is, first of all, because of a ransom that the Son of God made. The blood of Jesus Christ was given to purchase the people of God out of the shackles of their sin. Then the difference is a renewal of their life, not that the child of God made by his strength, but by the life of Christ given to him in his heart. That is the first lesson.

Take note and shudder in holy fear over the power of sin. This is where sin goes. If you want to know what sin is, then look at that man’s life in the tombs. This is where the world is at, apart from God’s grace.

Let us apply this a little bit. Here are some of the lessons of application. I would like to apply this specifically to our day, to the rock music scene, to the videos, to the black trench coats, to the preoccupation with death as the demons which possessed this man are active today.

The rock music scene. Now I am not about to debate theories of music here. The rock music scene to which I am referring, as it comes to expression in videos, is demonic in every respect. There is an obsession with skeletons, with the dead, with the tombs. It is even found in their names. Frenzied bellowings. Is there an appeal to sensible thought? No. There is throbbing, pumping, tunes with resentment, anger, hatred, lust, murder, destruction. What do you listen to? Do you know the names of these different groups? Do you hear the admonition of Christ to come out of the world? I have no intention of bringing my own opinion. The rock groups, as they stand naked and look like demons and are painted like demons and the lyrics are filled with filth, and as they whip up the crowd in frenzy – it is all of the devil. Listen to it, the words, the cuss words, the attitudes, the sexual impurity. It is not an innocent phase of life. It is not an expression of musical development. It is part of the torment and spiritual insanity of sin.

There is also much wickedness that is found on the Internet and the video scene today. There is much that is used of the devil to sink his claws of death into people. Parents, do not allow the Internet to be unsupervised by your children and youth. Do not make a family night of watching a bunch of videos. If you have access to the Internet at your home or work, videos and TV programs, you know what is available. I ask you, do you, as a parent struggle to keep yourself in a good conscience before these things? Do you know that there are sites on the Internet and places, video stores, where you dare not go because of your sinful flesh? Do you struggle with these things?

What about your children, undeveloped, not stable in faith, growing up as a tender plant? Do you allow them in a room off by themselves, unsupervised, moving around through the Internet, access to videos, TV in their own rooms, so they can watch what they want? You say, “I trust them.” That is good. That is wonderful that there is trust between young people and parents. Amen to that! Trust them, but do not tempt them. Sometimes young people, and especially children, want a leash, they want a cage, they want you as a father to pull them back. A godly young son needs that. Remember yourself, father, when you went through that age.

Then there is the drinking and the drugs. That is the power of sin, too. And the nakedness and the bellowing and the abuse of the body that goes along with that. Then there is the pornography. This is not a fad. This is sin. The porno-videos, the pornography that is abundant in our society is the bondage of sin. No man can tame this. You cannot tame it, either. You cannot put it in a cage and take it out when you want. If you think so, then you read the book of Proverbs right now (the last part of chapter 5 and all of chapter 7). Read it. No man can tame this.

It was out of this dominion that Jesus Christ came to set this man free. “But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,” we read. That was the irresistible love of God. Six thousand demons could not hold this man when Jesus, by His power, summoned him to His feet, when Jesus said in this man’s soul, “Come to Me.” That is the power of God’s grace, first of all, the power of grace to choose, the power of grace to know, and the power of grace to seek and to find. The Lord knew this man. He knew all about him. He knew him long before He ever set His eyes upon him. Eternally He knew him, of grace alone. God chose him for Himself, ordained him unto His glory. That is the love of Jesus. Long before we loved Him, while we were yet dead in our sins, He loved us and He called us.

This man did not willy-nilly decide to come to Jesus. Jesus summoned him by mighty grace. Jesus Christ came to save him. For, he said, “For this reason have I come into the world. I am the good Shepherd who will come and seek and save His own.”

This man was drawn to Jesus in humility. He was drawn irresistibly, but he was drawn humbly to Jesus’ feet. This man worshiped Him. That was a heartfelt recognition that Jesus is the Son of God, and a recognition of his own unworthiness. It was by the power of grace in him that he knew he must bow and he must confess that Jesus is the Savior. That is the work of grace. Do you experience it in your heart? The proud heart of sin is then smashed, the idol gods broken down, and you fall on your knees before the King.

Jesus had the power to cast out. The Lord said, “Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” The devils knew His power. They tremble before the power of the Lord. They cower before the Lord Jesus Christ. With their raging lust, their blinding jealousy, their consuming greed, they cower before Christ. They cry out, “What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? I adjure Thee that Thou torment me not.” They cannot move apart from His will. And the Lord says, “Go into the herd of pigs where you belong.” The man of Gadara knew the power of Jesus to cast out the demon, to deliver him from the bondage of sin.

Thank God for this Scripture, for this Scripture declares that there is no child of God beyond the power of Christ. No man could tame this sin. But Jesus did, by His Word. For He is the living Lord Jesus Christ. By His Spirit He works and calls us to repentance, working in us both to will and to do of the good pleasure of God. Salvation is not by the consent of the sinner. Salvation is by the conquest of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not despair. You say concerning your sin: “I have wept, I have prayed.” Pray on. The Master will come and He delivers us from our sin. He brings us into a right mind, to know God, to hate and fight our sins, to repent from our sins.

Now no longer slaves of sin, we become the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ under the dominion of grace. This man began the day in chains, oh, woeful chains, tormented. But they were broken and replaced with other chains, chains that were right and good – the yoke of Jesus Christ. This man was brought out of the tombs of death. And today he follows the Lamb of God withersoever he goeth.

That is the mighty grace of God.

Let us pray.

Father, bring Thy Word unto our hearts. Amen.