Jesus Heals a Demon Possessed Man
During His earthly ministry Jesus healed many people, demonstrating His power over disease and death. Huge crowds followed Jesus everywhere He went, to listen to His teachings and to be healed by His touch. There are many stories in Scripture of desperately sick people being instantly healed by Jesus! Today let’s review one of these healing stories – the dramatic story of Jesus casting demons out of a man. This story has a surprising ending.
Our story begins with Jesus and His disciples sailing across the
Sea of Galilee
to the area where the Gadarenes lived.
The Gadarenes were Gentiles with some Jewish people living among them
and Jesus had wanted to visit them that day.
As soon as Jesus and his disciples landed and climbed out of the boat the Bible says that a demon possessed man started screaming wildly and rushing toward them. The disciples must have been frightened since this crazed man was naked and dirty with bloody wounds all over his body. Scripture says that he lived alone in the hills among the tombs and ran around cutting himself with sharp objects and shrieking and howling like an animal. His family and friends had tried to bind him with chains, but each time he would break the chains with his super human strength.
Here is how Scripture describes it: “The 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 stones.” (Matthew 5:3-5) I wonder if the Gadarene people who lived in the villages nearby were afraid that this tortured man with such physical strength might come into town and cause them harm.
This wild man had once been someone’s baby. He had played at his mother’s knee and helped feed the pigs. We can only imagine how his parents must have felt, having to watch helplessly as their precious son over time slowly lost his mind. Once he had been their chatty child with bright laughing eyes. But now his eyes were glazed over and his laughter had turned to howls and animal sounds. So heartbreaking for the family to have to sit by and watch as their sweet little boy moved deeper into this terrible darkness. A darkness that drove him to this lonely miserable life among the tombs.
As Jesus and his disciples got out of the boat the desperate man fell in front of Jesus and worshiped Him. And he (or the demon inside him) begged Jesus not to torture him. Jesus spoke to the demon inside of the man and commanded: “Come out of this man, you unclean spirit!” ((Mark 5:8) And then Jesus asked: “What is your name?” And the demons answered: “My name is Legion: for we are many.” (Mark 5:9)
There was a large herd of about 2,000 pigs feeding on the hill nearby and since the demons had been ordered to come out of the man, they asked Jesus if they could enter the pigs nearby. Jesus said yes and gave the demons permission, so the evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs. This upset the pigs so much that they all rushed down the steep bank of the hill into the lake and drowned. And the shocked people who were tending the pigs were very upset and ran off to report all that had happened to the nearby townspeople.(Mark 5:11-14)
The man who had been demon possessed was now completely healed and in his right mind, finally free from his torment. Scripture says: “If the Son has made you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Jesus had truly set this enslaved man free from his demons and He can set us free from our demons too. The man washed and dressed and came and sat at Jesus’ feet worshipping Him and listening to His teachings.
He begged Jesus to let him get in the boat and go back with Him and His disciples. But Jesus lovingly told the man to go back home and tell his friends and relatives about the great things that He had done to heal him. And that is what the man who had been possessed did. We are not given salvation just for our own enjoyment but to also give testimony to others concerning the divine Deliverer, Jesus.
When the Gadarenes in the nearby villages heard the news that the demon possessed man had been healed and that they had lost a herd of pigs, they all ran down to the shore to see for themselves. Here is how Scripture tells it. “When they came to Jesus they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man – and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” (Mark 5:15-17)
Did we read that right? The relatives and neighbors of the demon possessed man asked Jesus to go away – leave them and get out!? These village folks had known the demon possessed man all of his life. They had helped raise him as a child, watched him grow up and had been there when he had slowly deteriorated! He had been one of their neighbors, one of their friends. Some were related to him and were his family. Shouldn’t they be thrilled that one of their own had been healed and freed from all of his demons? That he could come back and be part of their lives again? Wouldn’t they be excited and invite Jesus to their village? They would want to know more about this Jesus who had the power to heal people and cast out demons, wouldn’t they? Maybe He could have healed more folk in their towns who were sick or lame or blind? Maybe He could have brought them closer to God? Didn’t they want to find out?
But no, the Scriptures say that the Gadarene villagers pleaded and begged Jesus - the source of potential blessing and salvation - to leave! They wanted Jesus out of their lives even after He had healed their loved one! The Bible says that they were “afraid” of Him! Were they afraid of Jesus because they had lost a herd of pigs? In losing the herd of 2,000 pigs they must have been set back financially. Could they have been afraid that if they invited Jesus to their homes – if they got to know Jesus – it might cost them even more money? Were their finances more important to them than possibly healing their sick? If Jesus had healed more of their sick neighbors, they might have lost even more financially? Maybe they didn’t want to take that chance! Maybe just play it safe!
Is there a cost in following Jesus? Is there a price to pay- a chance to take- when we invite Him into our lives? Do we ever do the same thing those villagers did and ask Jesus to leave? Do we want to play it safe? Be conservative? It seemed that Jesus valued the welfare of people over money. Do we? When we follow Him sometimes He takes us places we would rather not go! He may ask us to minister to people we would rather leave alone. Do we miss out on being with Jesus because our pocketbook is more important to us than the welfare of the sick folk- the demon possessed- in our world?
Scripture says that indeed there is a cost and a price in following Jesus. If we count the cost and refuse to pay the price, are we following from a distance? Telling Him not to come too close? Sending Him away? Are we willing not to count the cost- to take the chance –to go all out - to pay the price? Are we willing to invite Jesus into our lives all the way and be followers no matter what it takes?