Mark Bible Study (The King's Cross)

Mark 5:1-20, Failing Faith


In Mark 4:35-41 we have recorded for us an amazing scene that revealed who Jesus is. Jesus and his disciples are in a boat going across the Sea of Galilee. But a great windstorm hits and the boat is filling with water. Jesus simply rebukes the wind and tells the sea to be quiet. At the word of Jesus the storm stops and the sea is calm. This brings fear into the disciples because they are realizing that they are in the presence of the Lord. We noted in that lesson that there is the need for fear which is intended to move us to faith. But now Mark will record for us another response to the power and presence of God in Jesus which is recorded in Mark 5:1-20. I want to remind us again as we read this account that we are not merely to see the miracles of Jesus as proving he is God. This is true but it is a shallow view of his miracles. The miracles of Jesus are intended to show us something about who Jesus is. We are learning about Jesus through the power he reveals.

The Cleansing (5:1-13)

The scene that we are presented with is staggering. They come to the other side of the sea and no sooner than Jesus has stepped out of the boat that a man with an unclean spirit comes out of the tombs to him. Mark explains to us the situation about this man in verses 3-5. This man lives around the tombs and no one could bind him. People had repeatedly used shackles and chains, but he tore apart the chains and broke the shackles. He is always crying out and cutting himself with stones. But the key to the picture is at the end of verse 4. “No one was strong enough to subdue him.”

The picture is of a person with great power and yet it is a picture of hopelessness. No one can do anything. The unclean spirit is too strong. No one can help him. People have tried. He is in such a pitiable condition that he is living in the tombs day and night, living in the hills, and constantly crying out while cutting himself with stones. His behavior is self-destructive. No one is strong enough to subdue or help this man.

But notice what happens when Jesus steps out of the boat. This man sees Jesus from afar, runs to him, and fell down before him (5:6). Then he starts crying out, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” (5:7). Now, why does this happen? Verse 8 tells us that Jesus was simply saying, “Come out of this man, you unclean spirit!” The presence of Jesus compels a shocking response. This man who has great power to destroy shackles and chains falls down at the feet of Jesus. Further, he confesses Jesus as the Son of the Most High God. Finally, he is begging for Jesus to leave him alone. No one could stop this powerful unclean spirit but Jesus. The unclean spirit knows it, begging to not be tormented by Jesus. The intense power of the unclean spirit is nothing before Jesus. He has no power over his fate or his future before Jesus. All that he can do is beg. All that he can do is ask permission. We see this even more in verses 9-10. It turns out that this man had many unclean spirits such that his name is Legion “for we are many.” The begging continues in verse 12 asking to be sent to the pigs. Look at the words of verse 13. “So he gave them permission.” Jesus has the power. Jesus is in control. This powerful unclean spirit called Legion because they are many are nothing before Jesus. They needed permission from Jesus. So they entered a herd of pigs numbering about 2000 which then rushed down a steep bank into the sea and drowned.

Think about what we are seeing in Jesus at this moment. About 2000 unclean spirits that had such intense power that no one could stop him are brought to their sudden demise by a mere sentence from Jesus’ lips. Jesus shows no concern, strain, or effort when casting out these demons and the demons show no power in the presence of Jesus. The power of Jesus stills the storming sea and casts out the most powerful of unclean spirits. Nothing can challenge or overthrow Jesus.

The Common Response (5:14-17)

So now we will see what is going to happen now that Jesus has rescued this man from these unclean spirits. The herdsmen told the city and the countryside about what happened and people came to see it for themselves. They came to Jesus and saw this one who had been demon-possessed sitting there, clothed, and in his right mind (5:15). It is time for a celebration regarding what Jesus was done, right? But look at the people’s response in verse 15. “And they were afraid.” The people of the area experience fear. But what will they do with their fear? Remember that we saw the fear of the disciples in the boat and that fear is to lead to faith. Now these people are afraid because of the power they have just witnessed in Jesus. Look at their response in verse 17: “And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.”

The people beg Jesus to leave. They go up to Jesus and ask him to leave. They are pleading for Jesus to go away. Please leave us alone. Please leave. Now what do think Jesus is going to do with this response? Do you think he is going to perform another miracle to try to win them over? Do you think he is going to preach at them their condemnation? Will Jesus strike them dead for their selfish and faithless response? Look at verse 18. Jesus gets back in the boat. Jesus is going to leave. Jesus gives these people what they ask for. Jesus does not force himself on them. Jesus does not make them obey him or become disciples of him. If you do not want Jesus in your life, Jesus will leave you to your own condemned life. Fear has led to rejection. Seeing God in the person of Jesus has caused these people to turn Jesus away. Jesus will let you live your life in rejection and in the darkness of futility. So many people choose this path just like this town. The apostle Paul made a similar point about people in Romans 1.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:21–25 ESV)

God gave them up to the lusts of their heart. If people want to follow their own path in life, God will give you up to that path. God is not going to stop you. If you tell God to leave, he will leave. If you tell Jesus to please leave, that is exactly what he will do. He will leave you in your darkness. The apostle Paul states three times that God gave them up (1:24,26,28). But know this: the wrath of God has been revealed against this response (Romans 1:18). This decision shows that we are worthy of judgment (Romans 1:32). You can push Jesus away and you know that your condemnation is certain.

The Rare Response (5:18-20)

But this scene is not over. Look again at Mark 5:18 and notice what else happens because there is another response. The man who had been demon-possessed begs to go with Jesus. Previously, the unclean spirits were begging Jesus to be left alone and to be cast into the pigs. Now the man, being free of unclean spirits, now begs to follow Jesus. He seems to be requesting to belong as one of his twelve apostles. The wording is the same as in Mark 3:14 when Jesus appointed the twelve “so that they might be with him.” So Jesus does not let him do this but does give him an instruction in verse 19.

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19 ESV)

Jesus tells the man to stay here where you are and tell people what the Lord has done for you. Tell people how the Lord has shown you mercy. In verse 20 this is exactly what the man does, telling everyone in the region how much Jesus has done for him. Can you do that? Can you simple stay where you are and tell people how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you? Sometimes we get the idea that the only way to serve the Lord is to be a preacher or travel the world as an evangelist or some other idea of what it means to teach the world. Jesus’ call is not for grand acts of evangelism or massive church programs. A disciple of Jesus has a very simple mission: tell your friends how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you. Think about the number of friends you have. Have we taken advantage of the opportunity to tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you?

The connection to Isaiah is clear. Jesus is showing who he is and the nature of his kingdom. Jesus has come to restore people from their corrupted and defiled way. Jesus is on a restoration mission (Isaiah 29:18-21; 42:1-4; 44:1-5; 49:8-12; 61:1-3; 65:17-19). In this great picture we see the victory of Jesus over evil forces and liberating power of the kingdom of God. Capture the image of this miracle: here is a man that no one can help that is completely consumed by evil. The power is very great and no one can do anything, except Jesus. Jesus has the power and the ability to rescue this man who has been consumed by a powerful great evil so that now he is in his right mind and it is his desire to follow Jesus. He tells all his friends about the mercy Jesus has shown him and how he had been rescued from this evil condition. Only Jesus has the power to rescue.

We have two choices before us. Jesus has come to rescue you from evil. We can either tell him to please go away or we have tell him that we want to follow him and tell others what Jesus has done for us. Please do not tell Jesus to leave your life because he will. But you will be held accountable on the day of judgment. Please tell Jesus to stay in your life and tell people what the Lord has done for you and showed you mercy.

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