Today, we’re continuing our message series entitled “Jesus Offers Hope.” Jesus offers hope for the hopeless. In fact, unless you’re hopeless, you won’t come to Jesus. As long as a person thinks they can run their lives on their own, they won’t accept Jesus offer of hope. Jesus offers hope for those who seem too far gone, too far away from God, too addicted to sin. No one is too far gone that Jesus can’t save and set free.
Today, my message is entitled “Set Free” from Mark 5. We’re going to be looking at one of the most dramatic stories in Jesus’ ministry. A story in which He sets a man free of thousands of demons. We’re going to learn how Jesus can set a person free from sin and Satan today. Sometimes we see a person enslaved in sin as our enemy. Yet our true enemy is the evil one, Satan and his host of unseen evil spirits.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Our warfare as believers is not directly with other people, even though people may be attacking us in various ways. Our warfare, our wrestling is against evil spiritual beings that reside in darkness and fight against the kingdom of light. Today, we’re going to learn how we can be more effective in spiritual warfare.
This week, many will celebrate Halloween. My understanding is that Halloween’s origins come from the Catholic All Hallow’s Eve. This Eve was dedicated to remembering the dead, especially saints or hallows that have died. Over time, part of our culture has taken Halloween as an opportunity to celebrate the demonic, the dead, evil, darkness and horror. Many today, no longer believe in demons or evil spirits. Yet, the Bible frankly talks both about angels and demons in many places as real spiritual beings. Spiritual reality has not changed in the past 2000 years, so demons are very real. Yet, they are not something we should be afraid or nor celebrate. Jesus has complete power over them. Rather than celebrating Halloween, this evening we will be celebrating a Fall Festival. The theme of the night is “God Lights Our Way.” And the theme verse is:
Psalm 27:1a (ESV) The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The light of Jesus dispels the darkness. We have nothing to fear, for the Lord is our strong hold and protection. So, let’s dive into our passage today from Mark 5.
As our story begins, Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee to visit the Gentile country of the Gerasenes.
Mark 5:2 (ESV) And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.
As Jesus steps onto dry land, he becomes engaged in a confrontation with a man who has serious issues. The man has an unclean spirit or a demon. Later in our passage, it will refer to him as demon-possessed. The Greek word for demon-possessed is daimonizomai or literally translated demonized. This man lives outside of society among the tombs, caves where people buried their dead. Demons have an attachment to death and tombs.
Mark 5:3-4 (ESV) He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.
The man has super-human strength. People had tried to restrain him, but he broke even metal shackles and chains apart. No normal person had the strength to subdue him. Actually in the Greek, the word for subdue is normally used of taming an animal. This man was like a wild animal that could not be tamed.
Mark 5:5 (ESV) Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
The man was in torment from the demonic invaders in his life. Luke tells us that he went around naked, screaming in agony and cutting himself with stones. This was not a mental disorder, this was not a psychiatric problem, this was an extreme case of demons afflicting and demonizing a person. Just as there are angels today, as in the days of the Bible, so there are demons today, just as in the days of the Bible. Culture has changed, technology has increased in the past 2000 years, but spiritual realities are still the same. We must understand the reality of evil.
Where do demons come from? All beings are created by God, only God is uncreated. At some time in the past, God created angels of various rank and powers. Satan, a high-ranking angel, rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven with 1/3 of the angels who joined him. These fallen angels, now serve Satan as demons, his spiritual army that is in conflict with the kingdom of God, God’s angels and God’s church.
Satan and his demons hate God and they hate man, created in God’s image. They seek to keep people from a relationship with God and seek to mar and destroy the image of God in people. In our story, we see a man, created in God’s image, living like an animal because of the demons. The ultimate goal of demons is to kill people before they commit their lives to Jesus Christ. So, demons encourage and tempt to all forms of self-harm, in this case cutting with stones. We don’t know what caused this man to be demonized. But in his present state, he was helpless to deliver himself from the evil within. Once we begin to understand the reality of evil and demons in our world today, we need to …
Back to our story. Jesus lands on the beach and what appears to be a naked madman, body streaked with blood from cutting himself runs toward Jesus. Just as he gets to Jesus, he falls down before him, though not in worship.
Mark 5:7 (ESV) And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”
As we’ll see as the story develops, this is not the man speaking, but demons speaking through him. The demons know who Jesus is and seek to gain power over Him by addressing Him by His name. They understand Jesus’ power and undoubtedly were not able to attack Jesus as they would have liked. Why did they request that Jesus not torment them? The next verse holds the answer.
Mark 5:8 (ESV) For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
Jesus had been addressing the unclean spirit or demon in the man and commanding it to come out, but it had not yet come out. Jesus’ efforts to deliver the man were tormenting the demons.
Mark 5:9 (ESV) And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
The man was demonized not just with one, but many demons who went by the common name Legion. A Roman legion had 6000 foot soldiers, so there were thousands of demons tormenting the man. So we are seeing Jesus in spiritual warfare with a legion of demons through the power of the Holy Spirit.
How does spiritual warfare affect our lives today? The Bible clearly teaches that Satan and his demons are behind temptations in our lives. We are to pray in the Lord’s prayer “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” When someone gives into temptation and sins, they give Satan and his demons a foothold in their lives. Increased and habitual sin gives the enemy more control.
Jesus taught that there are degrees of demonic oppression. In the case of the man who had the Legion of demons, it is apparent that he had lost the ability to control himself, the demons were completely in control. He needed deliverance. Habitual sin has a demonic component, as it destroys lives. We see this in sexual addictions, drug and alcohol addiction and many others. Jesus can and does set people free, through prayer, obedience and the support of other believers. Being set free is not just a matter of trying harder, we must …
As Jesus is casting the demons out of the man, they demons are begging him not to send the out of the country. Rather …
Mark 5:11-12 (ESV) Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.”
In other teaching, Jesus taught that demons do not like to be out of a body. They prefer to possess people, but second best is animals. So, yes it is possible to have a demon-possessed pet. The demon’s objective in animals is the same as in people. They seek to steal, kill and destroy.
Mark 5:13 (ESV) So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
People wonder why Jesus gave the demon’s permission to enter the pigs. The answer is that Jesus knew what was going to happen. Once the demons, at least 2000 of them, entered the pigs, the pigs were in torment and ran off a cliff into the sea. The end result was that the demons had no living thing to inhabit and were left wandering, looking for another target. In the entire episode, we see the absolute power of Jesus. They demons fall at his feet and obey Jesus’ command to leave the man.
As believers, we do not need to fear Satan or his demons. Although they can indeed cause much destruction and even death, Jesus protects us as we follow Him. We see Jesus setting people free throughout the Gospels. The church in the book of Acts continues to set people free from demons and we can do the same today. As there are many levels of demonization, God can lead us in dealing with each individual case through prayer and faith.
One of the gifts of the Spirit is discerning of spirits, which gives a believer the ability to discern the type of spirit involved in a person’s life. A few people may err on the side of seeing demons everywhere. But it is my observation that most people today don’t even think of demons as a problem at all. A biblical view is that demons are at work today, but God will give us the wisdom to set people free.
Jesus did a lot of teaching on demons. In one such teaching in Matthew 12, Jesus taught that when a person is set free from a demon, it leaves an empty space in their life. If that space is not filled and protected by the Holy Spirit, the demon will return with others and the person will be worse off than before. The best and really only protection against demonic oppression is to be filled with the Spirit and walking close to Jesus.
The report went out that Jesus had healed the demoniac and people came from all around to see what had happened.
Mark 5:15 (ESV) And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
As they came, they saw a profound change had occurred in the man. He was calmly sitting at Jesus feet, undoubtedly listening to Jesus teach. No longer naked, he was clothed and his mind was now functioning normally. Why were the townspeople afraid? They had seen the results of a power greater than anything they had ever seen. They didn’t know what Jesus might do next. They were also afraid because the loss of 2000 pigs meant the loss of a lot of money for some of them.
Mark 5:17 (ESV) And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.
Their fear caused them to beg Jesus to depart and go away, lest anything else happen. The people of the town didn’t have much regard that a demoniac madman had been completely healed. They were only interested in their themselves and their pocketbooks.
Mark 5:18-19 (ESV) As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
As Jesus is preparing to leave, the man who had been delivered now begs Jesus to let him go with him. Jesus did not grant his request. Jesus told the healed man to go to his friends and be a witness of what the Lord had done in his life. This man didn’t know much about Jesus. But he did know that Jesus had delivered him from a life of torment.
Mark 5:20 (ESV) And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
The man obeyed Jesus and began to tell everyone he saw what Jesus had done for him. His words had an impact in that Gentile region, for everyone was amazed at the transformation that had happened in his life. If Jesus could set this man free, Jesus can set anyone free.
No one is beyond hope. That’s true for each one of us, that’s true for everyone we may know of. Never give up on anyone, even if they seem resistant to the Gospel. Jesus can set them free. We need faith, prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit to set people free.
For some people, as this man, freedom comes in an instant. But to maintain that freedom, he had to obey Jesus and tell others what Jesus had done for him. For many people, freedom comes in stages. It begins by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Freedom grows as people choose to follow and obey Jesus, being accountable to other believers. Freedom is maintained by daily diligence in following Jesus through prayer, His Word and being part of the church family. May each of us walk in freedom and lead others to freedom in Christ as well.