Mark 5:1–3, 6–13a, 15–20comment (0)
October 20, 2011
By Eric Mathis
Related Scripture: Mark 5:1–3, 6–13a, 15–20
Bible Studies for Life
Instructor of Church Music and Worship Leadership, School of the Arts, Samford University
Mark 5:1–3, 6–13a, 15–20
This month, we are examining accounts of the miracles Jesus Christ enacted during His earthly ministry. Last week, we examined two stories of healing from Luke’s Gospel: the healing of the centurion’s slave and the raising of the widow’s dead son. This week, we look at another account of healing: Christ’s restoration of the Gerasene demoniac.
The Gerasene demoniac’s story in Mark 5:1–20 is part of a series of miracles described in Mark’s Gospel. The connection between each miracle is its geographical closeness to the Sea of Galilee. In this particular story, we see Christ’s power to cast out demons and restore individuals to wholeness. We are called to reflect on the ways we might draw unfair boundaries between individuals different from us and consider how we might share Christ’s work with others.
Jesus Conquers Evil (1–3, 6–13a)
Mark 5:1–3 describes the Gerasene demoniac and builds anticipation for Christ’s power to be displayed. The country of Gerasenes is difficult to locate on a modern-day map, but it is clear that this region was Gentile country. Such geographical information suggests that territories typically separating the Jews and Gentiles were of little consequence to Jesus. This also suggests that Jesus was not tied to classifications Jews may have used for locations or people: “clean” and “unclean.” Jesus was willing to go wherever He needed to go and interact with whomever He needed to interact to bring restoration, even those places and people deemed unacceptable in society.
Civilians in Gerasenes would have considered the Gerasene demoniac “unclean.” He was an outcast from society who lived among the tombs (3) as an asocial creature that behaved more like an animal than a human (5). In other words, the man did not fit in with the otherwise civilized society in the Gerasene region. Despite his outcast status, the man still approached Jesus and bowed prostrate, indicating that perhaps even he recognized the Messiah’s authority (6). He begged Jesus to refrain from tormenting him (7–8), identified himself as Legion and bargained with Him about his fate (10–11).
In Mark’s culture, the name Legion referred to a military force that could be as large as a battalion of 2,048, the number of swine (13). Thus it is not surprising that when Jesus commanded the unclean spirits to leave the man, they destroyed the swine herd as a militaristic force would an enemy — drowning it in the nearby sea (13). Jesus proved that no force of evil was too great for His authority and power. That includes those dark voices that live inside all of us as well as the militaristic forces that oppress people with their authority.
Jesus Makes Us Whole (15–17)
As Mark’s account of the healing unfolds, we find the Gerasene demoniac dressed and in his right mind. Understandably frightened, the townspeople talked about it among themselves and asked Jesus to leave their neighborhood. They did not fully recognize or comprehend Christ’s work. Just as we might respond skeptically to accounts of healing and restoration, the local residents were not prepared to fully accept the man now restored to fullness of life by Christ. However, these verses provide a reminder that after anyone encounters Christ’s work, an unexplainable and unexpected transformation will occur. We should never be afraid of what God might do in an individual’s life.
Jesus Gives Us Responsibility (18–20)
Though the people responded in fear, the man recognized Christ’s work in his life. Christ commanded him to go home to his people and tell them about His work in his life and he obeyed. The transformation that had occurred through Christ gave him a new perspective on life, and he became one of the first missionaries to his Gentile people. Here we are all reminded that Christ’s transforming work in our life bears immense responsibility. No matter how great or small our story of Christ’s transforming work, we have a responsibility to proclaim His good works in our life, trusting that people today will be just as amazed as those in the Decapolis.