Today’s Story of Faith comes from Bryan LeMasters, one of the ministers at the Madison Church of Christ in Madison, Alabama. I’ve known Bryan for many years. I’ve watched him grow from a young student in high school and college to a great minister. I’m thankful we were able to work together on this project.
Our story, the healing of the Demon-Possessed Man of Mark 5, is immediately preceded by Jesus being awoken on a boat by his disciples due to a storm they believed would take their lives (see Mark 4:33-41). That intense situation continued to be an emotional one as they were overcome with fear witnessing the power Jesus had over the storm. Following this story, Jesus not only healed a woman with the constant discharge of blood (see 5:21-34) but also raised the deceased daughter of the ruler of the synagogue (see 5:35-43). These moments display Christ’s power over three of the greatest powers of nature – storms, sickness, and death. Our story, stuck between them, shows Jesus is greater than another great power of this world – demons. As we now take time to explore this story, please notice there are three individuals or groups that offer insight into faith.
Mark 5:1-7 says, “Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”
Although demons would not be included in the physical realm like the other three issues in the immediate literary context (i.e., storm, sickness, and death), this demon-possessed individual had superhuman strength (see 5:4). A demon also offered an additional element of power from the spiritual realm that was unique from the other issues at hand. Notice that Jesus showed no fear with conversing with the demon-possessed man. On the contrary, the demons displayed fear of Jesus by, “crying out with a loud voice, and saying, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me’” (see 5:7). The demons had been tormenting that man but wanted mercy from Jesus. In this little interaction, the demon broke the two greatest commandments (see Matthew 22:36–40).
Their interaction continued as so in Mark 5:8-13:
Jesus said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Also, he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand), and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea and drowned in the sea.
The Town Folk
As the story continues, it says in Mark 5:14-17, “those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. Then they came to Jesus and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.”
Observing the scene, what emotions do you assume the herdsmen and townspeople felt as they saw the man restored? Should they not have felt joy, appreciation, and compassion? Instead, they were afraid when they saw him in his right mind and their fear motivated them to beg Jesus to leave their region (see 5:17).
The Demon-Possessed Man
The story finishes with the healed man coming to Jesus, it says in Mark 5: 18-20, “when Jesus got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’ And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him, and all marveled.”
The man requested an opportunity to continue with Jesus, but Jesus instead sent him on his own journey. One of uncharted territory in familiar places. He would walk similar streets but with a new purpose. He would talk with familiar people but see them differently.
In 2018, Christianity has been redefined from the outside in. In America, to ask if one is a Christian is to ask if someone believes in the existence of God. However, in Scripture, to follow Christ and to be a Christian, the belief in the existence of God is assumed. The question asked is, “Are you willing to make him your Lord?” As James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder.”
The demons recognized who Christ was but were unwilling to submit to him. The town folk feared him, and, in their discomfort, begged him to leave. But the demon-possessed man recognized who Christ was and was willing to do anything. That is faith.
This story matters to me because it counters the watered-down definition of faith that the world tries to pin on the Lord’s disciples. Faith is not limited to an idea or a fact. Like love, in its truest essence, it requires action. Like love, faith requires a response, because faith is a response to a relationship and our interaction with God.
Do that today. Spend time in God’s Word and then have faith. Go on a journey of uncharted territory in familiar places. Walk similar streets but with a new purpose. Talk with familiar people but see them differently and pray, that people will marvel at Jesus just like the man He healed (see 5:20). Pray they will marvel at Jesus like we do.
All Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.