Jesus & the Oppressed (Geresene Demoniac)
Jesus & the Oppressed: Gerasene Demoniac
We are continuing to look at people who had a close, life-changing encounter with Jesus.
One of the most dramatic changes happened in the life of a man whom Jesus encountered along the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
This is a longer reading, but it forms one of the greatest stories of deliverance from evil.
Mark 5:1-20. NIV
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This 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.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"
Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 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.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
What an amazing story.
Let’s look at a couple of truths from this account. Then we will look at a couple big ideas for us in the 21st century as it relates to the Christian and the spiritual realm
The Spirit Realm is Real
One of the legacies of the modern era has been this idea that if you can’t touch it, taste it, smell it or see it, then it probably doesn’t exist. This worldview takes the approach that there has to be a logical, scientific reason for everything that happens and thus rules out the existence of beings in the unseen, or spirit, realm. To the modernist, spirits do not exist. They are the figments of overactive imaginations.
I came across an online discussion on the topic of exorcism or the casting out of demons. Most of those in the discussion thought that any idea of malevolent spirits was preposterous and so was any thought of expelling those spirits. All they could focus on were the extreme attempts of some misguided people to expel demons by harsh treatment of the victim.
Jesus had no trouble believing in the existence of the spirit realm or of evil spirits.
The Bible tells about a rebellion in heaven in which the archangel Lucifer tried to exalt himself over God. He was kicked out of heaven.
Isaiah 14:12-15. NKJV
How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
Revelation 12:3-4 is translated by some to say that Lucifer was joined by a third of the angels in his rebellion.
Revelation 12:3-4 NLT
Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth.
The spirit realm that is described in the Bible is that realm of the angels or the spiritual beings. The angels who remain obedient to God are commonly called angels. The angels who joined Lucifer in his rebellion are what the Bible refers to as unclean spirits or demons.
In this account, Jesus encountered this guy who was being afflicted by several of these unclean spirits. I wonder how those who refuse to believe in spiritual beings would tell this poor guy that angels and demons don’t exist.
One source I read gave six classic manifestations of demonization which this poor guy displayed.
1. Severe personality change. Those who experience in dealing with demonic oppression tell us that each demon has a distinct personality or character - lust, or power, or anger, and so on. In the case of multiple demonic spirits, there can be multiple manifestations, is depends on which is “out front” at the time.
2. Anti-social behaviour. This guy had been driven out of the community and into the graveyard.
3. Spiritual insight. Some who are being harassed by a demon will demonstrate knowledge about things they wouldn’t ordinarily know about. Just as this guy knew who Jesus was barely before his feet were out of the boat.
4. Super-human strength. This guy had the strength to break whatever chains or shackles were put on him. This is not uncommon for someone infested with demons.
5. Torment. Demonic spirits are not our friends. There have been stories about people who have made some agreement with the devil, or one of his cronies, only to later find that spirit come back to torment them. This guy was no exception.
6. Self-destructive behaviour. Self-destruction can be either because the demon is driving the person towards destruction or because the person is in such torment. Either way, it’s not a good scenario.
Those symptoms do not mean that someone has a demon afflicting them. There are also psychological and chemical explanations for these symptoms. But an afflicting demon can also cause these symptoms.
If you see these things in someone’s life, don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that it’s a demon. On the other hand, don’t automatically rule it out either.
Jesus has authority over unclean spirits
One of the most intriguing parts of this account is what happened the moment Jesus showed up on the scene. He just stepped out of the boat and he’s confronted by this wild man. Matthew, Mark and Luke give us some idea of what this guy was like. I don’t know if you can get some kind of mental image of what this guy looked like. He lived in the caves where dead people were buried. We’re told that day and night he could be heard screaming out as he slashed and cut himself with jagged stones. He was most likely stark naked, because later the townspeople observed that he was clothed and in his right mind. He had some kind of supernatural strength, because when people had tried to subdue him (either for his own protection or because he had done something to someone else), he broke the shackles and got away. It’s hard to imagine a more strange and tormented individual.
But when Jesus gets out of the boat, this guy runs up and first of all falls at Jesus’ feet in worship. Then he shrieks out, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Have you come to torture me?”
It seems that both the man and the demons who are tormenting him realise who Jesus is. The man bows down to worship, but the demons are scared to death. They both know who he is, and they both know his power and authority.
The rest of the story is really interesting, but we’re not going to spend a lot of time there.
· The demons beg to be cast into a herd of pigs nearby. Jesus agrees.
· The pigs self-destruct.
· The townspeople see the mad man sitting there fully clothed and in his right mind.
· In their fear, they ask Jesus to please go somewhere else.
People may not be able to work out who Jesus is, but this guy knew right away. The man knelt to worship, while the demons inside were screaming out in fear.
Ultimately, the authority of Jesus prevails. A man who has been bound and oppressed by malicious spirits is released.
James 2:19. NCV
You believe there is one God. Good! But the demons believe that, too, and they tremble with fear.
BIG IDEA NO. 1
TRUST IN THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS
How do you think you would have reacted if you were one of the twelve disciples that day? This stark naked mad man comes screaming down out of the tombs, running right for you. How many think you might just jump back in the boat and put some distance between yourselves and this maniac?
How would you react if someone phoned you in the middle of the night saying that they thought there was an evil spirit in their house and wanting you to get out of bed and come?
A lot of people, when you start to talk about spirits, and especially evil spirits, become so frightened that they don’t want to continue. They want to put some distance between themselves and any presence of evil.
There are some good reasons for a healthy sense of apprehension.
There is some good reason for apprehension, except when you’re walking with Jesus.
Those demons who were messing with this poor guy knew who Jesus was. They knew he is the Son of God. They knew he had the authority to cause them a whole lot of bother. They knew Jesus had the power to send them wherever he wanted to send them.
Demons submit to the authority of Jesus. And, when you are walking in your rightful place as a child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ, they will submit to you too.
In Luke 10, Jesus sends his disciples out to do the same things he had been doing. They came back ecstatic.
Luke 10:17-20. NLT
When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, "Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!"
"Yes," he told them, "I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don't rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven."
Jesus’ authority is passed on to those who are his followers. As the demons obeyed Jesus when he cast them out of the poor guy by Galilee, they will submit to the one who is walking with Jesus.
It’s not our authority. It’s his. But it’s also real.
There’s a whole lot more that could be said here. We don’t have time to get to it all. I just want to emphasise this – make sure you are walking with Jesus. Do not attempt to take on these forces of darkness unless you are in submission to Jesus. The authority is not yours. It’s his.
In Acts 19, there’s an interesting story about the seven sons of Sceva. Sceva was a Jewish priest. His sons had seen Paul cast out demons in the name of Jesus. So, they thought they’d try it.
They came upon a guy who had an evil spirit and said, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, come out.”
The demon inside the guy replied, “I know Jesus and I know Paul, but who are you?” That super-human strength came upon him and the seven sons of Sceva were beaten up and fled, according to the Bible, naked.
Don’t try this unless you are walking close to Jesus. But as you walk close to Jesus, there is no need to be afraid. The demons recognise the supremacy of Jesus and the authority of those who are Christ followers.
The other thing I would warn against is an unhealthy obsession with evil spirits.
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. C.S. Lewis
(The Screwtape Letters (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1971, p. 3).
BIG IDEA NO. 2
TRUST IN THE TRANSFORMATIONAL POWER OF JESUS
It would have been really easy to write this guy off as a crackpot, as someone who needed to be pushed out to the fringes of society – out of sight and out of mind. People like this make us uncomfortable. They frighten us. We don’t want them around. We fear they will either do something to harm us, or they will do something to harm themselves. Either way, we don’t want to be around when it happens.
Jesus looked at this fellow with completely different eyes. We would see him as a menace, a freak, a crackpot, a nuisance. Jesus saw him as a victim of the most severe torture at the hands of a cruel enemy.
Don’t you love how Jesus does that? Some of the very people we might be tempted to write off as hopeless, Jesus reaches out and delivers from torment.
I went to Bible college with a guy named David. He had a most incredible story. David was a druggie. He used to use whatever money he had to feed his drug habit, which meant he had no money to eat. So, he would hang around restaurants and fast food places. As someone left a table, he would swoop in and eat whatever scraps they left. He would go through the bins and eat food others had thrown out. Then one night he saw a light on in a little church building in a small town in Oregon. He was cold and hungry, so he went in. The youth group happened to be meeting that night. I’m told that the kids were scared when David walked in. His hair was long and unwashed. His clothes were dirty. His face was unshaven. But the kids and the youth leaders got around him and showed him unconditional love. It wasn’t long before David showed up at church. Shortly after that, he surrendered his life to Jesus. Within a few months, he was in Bible college.
Today, David is a successful artist and art teacher. He was transformed by the love of Jesus.
The challenge is for us to begin to look beyond the person and the way they behave and begin to see what that person can become if they only have the touch of Jesus in their lives.
As Christians, we believe in the transformational power of the gospel. We believe that Jesus can:
· Deliver people from the oppression of demons
· Heal people from the hurts of an abused life
· Take hopeless crackpots and transform them into valuable and priceless works of divine art
This week, we have people who will begin as mentors in the Kids Hope program at a local school. I know some of you are scared that the child you are assigned will be some little terror who will tie you up and torture you without mercy (or something similarly traumatic). I want to challenge you to look on these kids with a view to what they can become and not what they are.
Learn to look at people through the eyes of love and the power of Jesus to turn lives around.
Not everyone will accept the offer of Jesus to change. Some people will hold on to their pride and resist the love of God. But some will. And doesn’t everyone deserve the chance?
Paul, when writing to the Corinthians gave testimony to the transforming power of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11.NCV
Do not be fooled. Those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, those who are male prostitutes, or men who have sexual relations with other men, those who steal, are greedy, get drunk, lie about others, or rob — these people will not inherit God's kingdom. In the past, some of you were like that, but you were washed clean. You were made holy, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
IDEA NO. 3
DON’T KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!
The delivered man wants to join with Jesus in his entourage. He tells him instead to go back to home to his family and tell them everything the Lord had done for him.
There is nothing quite so powerful as your own story of what Jesus has done in your life.
People like stories
They can’t argue with personal experience.
Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. When he was questioned by the religious nazi’s, he had a very simple testimony.
John 9:25. NCV
One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see."
Your story doesn’t need to be dramatic. It just has to be real.
We’re going to finish with a commitment to the authority of Jesus Christ.
James 4:7-10. NIV
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
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