Mark 5

1.  Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes.

We should not confuse this event with the similar miracle that was recorded in Matthew 8.  There (in Matthew 8:28,) they landed at the country of the Gergesenes, which was an entirely different location than the country of the Gadarenes.  Notice that this was their country, but this event did not take place in the actual city of Gadara.

2.  And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,

The storm they had just passed through may have been Satanic in origin as an attempt to harm the Lord.  If so, the attack continues as He reaches the other side, as this demon-possessed man is waiting for Him.  Notice that in Matthew, there were two demon-possessed men, again showing that this is a separate event.

Notice that the demon here is called an unclean spirit.  Apparently, there are different types of evil spirits.  Why this one is labeled as an “unclean” spirit is hard to say, but certainly we can tell that this was a spirit who was in rebellion against God.

3.  Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains,

The miserable state of the possessed man is described in chilling detail in these verses.  The pathetic life of this man demonstrates for us the horror of demon possession as it was experienced in that day.

4.  Because he had often been bound with shackles and chains.  And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.

Clearly, this was not just a mental condition on his part, but a supernatural curse he was under, for no mere man could break his shackles merely because he was mad.

5.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.

It is hard to say how many of his actions were his own, and how many were inspired by the unclean spirit within him.  It may be that the unclean spirit, in spite of its desire to possess a body, nevertheless despised the body it was possessing.  Certainly, spirits were not created to have a body.  At any rate, this action could have been the loathing of the spirits for a physical form even as they possessed it.  Or it could be that these were the man’s actions.  He might have realized the terrible and cursed state he was in, and this cutting of himself could have been an expression of his own self-loathing and desire for release.  At any rate, he was in an awful condition, and one from which none up to this time had been able to save him.

6.  When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.

This was not worshipping as a result of faith or love, as a believer might worship before the Lord.  Rather the Greek word merely means that he prostrated himself on the ground before the Lord Jesus.

7.  And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”

The unclean spirit prays to Him that he should not be tormented.  This word “torment” deserves the time for a full study, but suffice it to say here that the word is related to metal being tested by a touchstone, and indicates a severe questioning or interrogating.  In other words, this demon was afraid that Jesus was going to judge him right at that very moment, rather than at the appointed future day of judgment.

8.  For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”

We learn now why the unclean spirit had begged the Lord not to test him.  He had done so because the Lord Jesus had commanded him to come out of the man.

9.  Then He asked him, “What is your name?”  And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”

It seems that this poor man was not just possessed by one unclean spirit, but rather by many.  In fact, a Roman legion was made up of more than six thousand men!  That would mean this man was possessed by a great many spirits indeed.

10.  Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.

Here, we have the prayer of the man, who fears that the Lord will send them (himself and the demons possessing him) out of the country.  No doubt this man was used to no one being able or willing to help him, and of everyone’s solution being to drive him away.  That was probably part of the reason he had taken up his residence in the tombs, where there was no one living who could drive him away.  It seems that this man in his sorry state had no concept of the Lord actually being able to help him or to remove him from the terrible curse he was under.

Notice that in the parallel account of this event in Luke 8:31, the demons spoke to Him, and begged him not to send them into the abyss.  This is what the demons feared, and the prayer they made through the man.  He, of course, had no such fear, but only prayed that the Lord would not send him away from his miserable home, as he had been sent away from his former home by the men of that country.  Thus, it seems that both the unclean spirits and the man were making use of his same body.  Sometimes the man’s body would speak and it would be the man speaking, and sometimes it would speak and it would be the unclean spirits talking.  What a terrible condition in which to exist!

11.  Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains.

Of course, the raising of swine was forbidden to the Israelites by the law.  It is interesting that we find this sort of disobedience in the same territory as we find a possessed man.

12.  So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”

The demons, perhaps knowing that the Lord would wish to remove the pigs as much as He would wish to remove them, request that they might enter the herd of pigs rather than Him sending them out with no place to go, or else sending them to the abyss where their place of future, righteous punishment will be.

13.  And at once Jesus gave them permission.  Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.

It is interested that Mark reports that Jesus IMMEDIATELY granted the demons’ request.  As I suggested earlier, it seems that the destruction of the pigs was part of His purpose.  Indeed, that the pigs were there at all was almost as shameful a thing as the demons being there, as pigs were unclean animals and a herd of them should not have been kept in Israel.  Whether the demons wanted the pigs to go mad and drown themselves or whether that was an unforeseen outcome is also a mystery.  Why drowning some pigs should have been more desirable to these unclean spirits than merely being driven straight out of the man is something I cannot guess.  Perhaps some day the ways of evil spirits will be made known to us, but for now we can only speculate as to these things.

14.  So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country.  And they went out to see what it was that had happened.

As we can imagine, these swineherds were quite upset by the possession and destruction of their unlawful herd.  They run away and tell both in the city of Gadara and in the surrounding country what had happened.

15.  Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind.  And they were afraid.

In Luke 8:27, we learn that this man when he was possessed wore no clothing, so his wearing clothes now is significant.  It is interesting that these people are afraid when they see this man well.  I think I would have found it far more alarming to find him in his accursed state as a possessed man.  To find him whole and sane would have been rather a reason for rejoicing.  But it seems almost as if these people were more comfortable having a possessed man living in their tombs than they were with having a Man from God in their region Who could heal a possessed man.  This is enough to tell us that something was very wrong indeed in this country!

16.  And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine.

Those who had been present at this healing tell the others what had happened.  Most likely those telling the tale were the swineherds, for it is unlikely that there were many other people gathered there in the country at the foot of the mountains, and near the tombs where a possessed man dwelt!

17.  Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.

In spite of the great and powerful miracle that the Lord Jesus had just performed, these people did not wish to follow Him or see more of His power.  This again would seem strange to us, but we realize in examining the situation that the reason is selfish.  Just as the five thousand who were fed wished to make Jesus king because He filled their bellies (John 6:15&26), so these men wished to see Jesus leave because His actions in destroying the pigs had emptied their pocketbooks.  The motivation of money seems to have produced unbelief in these men just as surely as it produced belief in those who were fed in the feeding of the five thousand.  No wonder Jesus did not commit Himself to those who only believed on Him because of the miracles He did!  They only cared about the miracles because they benefited them.  But when these men found themselves hurt by the Lord’s miracle, they were all too ready to see Him on His way.  This should not surprise us, as a similar attitude may be seen in many today, who seem to follow Jesus Christ only as long as they feel they are receiving some personal benefit.  But if there is ever a price to pay for their allegiance to Him, they are no longer to be found.  Let us be careful that we are not of this sort.

18.  And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him.

The Lord granted the request of the people of the region and prepared to depart.  The formerly-possessed man has a request now for Him too.  He wishes to be with the One Who had saved him from his terrible curse and who had done so much for him.  The Lord had been the only one to care or to help him, and so it is quite understandable why he would wish to remain with Him.

19.  However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”

The Lord Jesus, having granted the prayer of the demons and of the residents of the city and the region, now refuses the request of this man to be able to follow Him.  He instead commands him to tell his friends about what the Lord has done for him.  This is in direct contrast to what He had commanded the blind man to do in chapter 1 verse 45.  This gives us a glimpse of dispensational differences taking place within a very short period of time.  For the healed blind man speaking was a sin and lack of faith, whereas here for the formerly demon-possessed man speaking and spreading the news about the Lord Jesus is obedience and an act of faith.  Remember, this man, although he has been healed, has up until now had no opportunity to show faith since he has had no command from the Lord.  Now he has a command, and it is faith for the man to speak and tell others of what the Lord has done.

20.  And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.

We see that this man responds to the Lord’s command with obedience and faith.  He publishes the news, not just to his friends, but also in the ten-city region round about, for that is the meaning of the word “Decapolis”…ten cities.  Perhaps his original request was partially out of fear that if he wasn’t with the Lord the spirits might return and harm him once again.  Once he responds in faith, however, and shows that he is willing to trust the Lord and obey His command, we can see that a change has taken place indeed in this man’s life.  He is now willing to place his faith in the One Who spared Him from such a terrible life, and by placing that faith in Him we know that he received far more than deliverance in this life.  He also received the eternal reward that comes to all of those who respond to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith.