A Free Online Commentary of the Bible.
The Man of Gadara
5:1 So they came to the other side of the lake, to the region of the Gerasenes.
After the stilling of the storm, Jesus and his disciples arrived safely on the other side of the lake; in the region of the Gerasenes (or Gadara). Here they faced a storm of a different kind. In our Christian experience we find that no sooner are we delivered from one situation that we are faced with another.
5:2 Just as Jesus was getting out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came from the tombs and met him.
As soon as the boat reached the shore a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit came charging out of the nearby graveyard heading straight for Jesus.
5:3 He lived among the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.
This man’s dwelling was among the dead; even as all outside of Christ are dead in their trespasses and sins (Prov. 21:16). Such was our condition in times past when we were bound by sin and the devil (Eph. 2:2-3). No one could control the forces of evil that drove this man; he could not even be restrained with chains.
5:4 For his hands and feet had often been bound with chains and shackles, but he had torn the chains apart and broken the shackles in pieces. No one was strong enough to subdue him.
The people had no answer to this man's bound spiritual condition, only a physical one and that was to try and restrain him with chains and fetters that proved to be useless. They were trying to fight the spiritual powers of darkness with the natural and found it was an impossible task (Eph. 6:12) They were trying to find a physical cure for a spiritual sickness and it did not work. The powers of darkness can only be fought by putting on the whole armour of God and by the spiritual weapons provided for us by the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:11-17). Only he is able to deliver and save.
5:5 Each night and every day among the tombs and in the mountains, he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
This man was not able to control himself because he was completely taken over by the unclean spirit who drove him into the mountains and among the graves as a restless tormented soul, “always shrieking, screaming, beating, bruising and cutting himself with stones.” (Amp. N. T.) He would have eventually been driven to his death.
5:6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him.
Here is one of those all-important “buts” of the Bible, because Jesus came! As Jesus drew near the light of his glory and his power drew the man to him, in spite of the powers of darkness that possessed the man, and he fell down and worshiped him.
5:7 Then he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by God — do not torment me!’
From this verse to verse 12 the conversation is between Jesus and the chief demon that possessed the man. This demon confesses and acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God for he could do none other for he knew that all power and authority had been given into the Lord's hand (Matt. 28:18). The demon asks “what is there in common between us?” The answer is nothing for they were entirely two opposites. The demon was unclean, unholy, darkness, and was of the Devil. Jesus is pure, holy, light, and is the Son of God and he did not need a demon to confess this. Surprisingly perhaps, this demon implores Jesus in the name of God not to torment him. The very presence of the Holy One caused him great distress and pain.
5:8 (For Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of that man, you unclean spirit!’)
In Mark's account the demon cries out as Jesus is casting him out of the man but according to the following verses he did not leave until his request was granted. However in Matthew's account (Matt. 8:29-32) Jesus did not command that they leave the man until after their request. At the command of the Lord they had to obey.
5:9 Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘My name is Legion, for we are many.’
For some reason Jesus questions this chief demon and asks his name which was Legion because he was the leader of the many demons who possessed the man. In the Roman army a legion comprised of anything between three to six thousand men.
5:10 He begged Jesus repeatedly not to send them out of the region.
The demon knew that he along with his many companions had to leave the man but they did not want to leave the region. This says quite a lot about this area as being a place of darkness where Satan's forces were very much at home and perhaps made to feel very much at home. So they kept on begging Jesus not to send them away from the area.
5:11-12 There on the hillside, a great herd of pigs was feeding. And the demonic spirits begged him, ‘Send us into the pigs. Let us enter them.’
And as there was a large herd of swine at hand, that should not have been there because the pig was classed as an unclean animal in the law of God (Lev. 11:7). This fact again speaks of the nature of the people of the area. (There are two suggestions given regarding the keeping of the pigs in Israel: that it was an area that Gentiles lived in and thus it was these who owned the pigs; and that they belong to Jews who bred them to sell to the Gentiles. Whichever may be correct, they should not have been there). As children of God we should make sure that we keep nothing in our homes that could be used as channels or instruments for the devil to use.
5:13 Jesus gave them permission. So the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs. Then the herd rushed down the steep slope into the lake, and about two thousand were drowned in the lake.
No demon when faced with the power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ can do what it chooses; he has to give them permission. They knew this and so does their master the Devil who is a defeated foe (Heb. 2:14). So he permits them to go into the herd of swine that they immediately send charging to their death in the lake. This incident seems to suggest that demons need to possess living things in order to carry out their destructive purposes therefore when the pigs died the demons would have been bound in the dead pigs and therefore could do no more harm.
5:14 Now the herdsmen ran off and spread the news in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.
The swineherds who saw all this happening fled in fear telling everybody they met what had occurred.
5:15 They came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man sitting there, clothed and in his right mind — the one who had the ‘Legion’ — and they were afraid.
On hearing this the people go to where Jesus and the man is and to their astonishment they find the man whom they could not hold with fetters and chains sat meekly at the feet of Jesus. He, who had gone about naked, was now fully clothed; he whom the demons had tormented and driven to wander in the mountains among the graves was now sitting peacefully in his right mind talking with Jesus. This man was in fact a “new man”, a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). We cannot fail to see in this event the similarity of experience of the sinner who is bound by the world, the flesh and the devil, being set free and clothed in robes of righteousness by the Lord Jesus Christ. The people became afraid of what they saw, they could not understand it.
5:16-17 Those who had seen what had happened to the demon-possessed man reported it, and they also told about the pigs. Then they asked Jesus to leave their region.
When they had heard the full story from the swineherds their reaction was to beg Jesus, not to stay and show them the mighty works of God or to set them free, but to leave their area!
5:18 As he was getting into the boat the man who had been demon-possessed asked if he could go with him.
Which he did for he never forces his presence on anyone. The man who had been delivered naturally wanted to go with Jesus after all that he had done for him.
5:19 But Jesus did not permit him to do so. Instead, he said to him, ‘Go to your home and to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you, that he had mercy on you.’
But Jesus would not allow him to for he had other work for him to do. Although the people had begged him to leave them, he did not completely abandon them for he told the man to go back to his friends and tell them how much the Lord had done for him and how he had compassion and mercy upon him.
5:20 So he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him, and all were amazed.
And the man did as the Lord commanded him. We are told that the people were amazed and marvelled at the man's testimony but it does not say that they believed and received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
To view commentary for each chapter, click desired chapter number.
Copyright (2009-2015) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark