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Jun 02, 2024

Welcome Party

Passage: Mark 5:1-20

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Gospel of Mark

Keywords: demons, spiritual warfare, satan, spirits, authority of christ, surprises


Welcome Party

Mark 5:1-20

June 2, 2024

Fellowship Question:  Have you ever felt like you have run into, observed or encountered demonic activity at some time in your life?  If so, in what way?   

Read Mark 5:1-20—As we read this passage, ask yourself, “What happens here that I find a bit surprising?”

1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, 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? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure 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.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 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. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 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.

We left the disciples and Jesus last week on the Sea of Galilee in their boat, having just weathered what those seasoned-sailor disciples were convinced was a storm that was going to sink their boat and take their lives.  I’m sure the disciples were a bit stunned and still trying to process what had just happened as they sailed (or rowed) up to the eastern shore of that large lake. They were probably thinking, “Boy, I’m glad that’s over and things have calmed down.”

            But Jesus was not done demonstrating to his closest followers just how far his authority extends in this universe.  Having proved that he could command the very forces of nature (wind and water), he is about to demonstrate that the unseen forces of the demonic realm are also absolutely subject to his authority.  But he’s going to do so in the context of also demonstrating that human beings are one of the few entities in the entire universe that God will not, at least yet, force to submit to him against their will. Nature?  Yes, at times.  Demons?  Yes, at times. 

            At this time in Israel’s history, the east side of the Sea of Galilee was populated predominantly with Gentiles.  In ancient times, God had given that area to the half-tribe of Manasseh. So, undoubtedly, some Jews had both stayed and resettled there after the captivity.  It is territory that is currently called the Golan Heights that was captured from Jordan and Syria in the 1967 War. 

            As we’ll see later, Jesus returns here in Mark 7 to heal a deaf man.  But it appears from this story that Jesus made the entire perilous trip across the Sea of Galilee that day for two people—two very marginalized, avoided, strange, crazy and deeply afflicted men. 

            But before we talk about them, notice how this scene is unfolding.  You could look at it from 3 different perspectives:

  • The Disciples: just pulling up to the shore.  Looking forward to stretching their legs.  Jesus steps out of the boat.  And just as they are about to disembark.  They see a crazed, naked, clearly deranged man sprinting down the hill towards their boat.  What would you have done?  “Hey Jesus.  Get back in the boat…now!”  But by this time Jesus is several yards in. 
  • The pig-herders: They’re very familiar with the area, with the demoniacs and with how uncontrollable they are.  I can see them talking among themselves:  “Oh, look what’s happening on the shore there.  This should be fun to watch.  I’ll get the popcorn.” 
  • The demon possessed men: Mark and Luke only talk about the one demoniac.  But Matthew, the shortest account of the 3, includes a second demon-afflicted man.  As Jesus and the disciples approached, the demons in these men became very agitated.  In fact, they began to panic.  They knew what nobody else in the area knew—that the Son of God Almighty had just stepped onto their turf…and they were no longer in charge.  In fact, the men they had commandeered were somehow being drawn to the presence of Jesus…and they were just along for the ride.

This is pretty much like most of life when it comes to Jesus:  you’re either a disciple following Him into unexpected places…or you are a passive bystander watching from a distance…or you are someone Jesus is going to deal with directly who may be ‘under the influence’ of something or someone from whom you need freedom.  But when Jesus shows up and goes to work, everyone has some decisions to make. 

APP: That’s why our greatest need in this church…or our families… or this city is that the presence of Jesus Christ be manifested.  Lord Jesus, please show up…in your church, in this city, in our families and most resistant relationships. 

So, Jesus steps right out into the chaos of the place while I’m pretty sure his disciples sort of hung back.  All 3 Gospels say “he” stepped out of the safety of the boat.  None of them mention the disciples doing so. 

APP:  Following Jesus will take us into chaotic, less-than-calm places.  I was tempted to say “dangerous” places.  That may be true (as we saw last week with the young couple in Haiti).  But being with Jesus, even in apparently dangerous places, is, in the long-run, the safest place to be in the universe.  I’d rather have lived a shorter life and been with Jesus than tried to save my own life by not following Him where he wants to take me.  As the old saying goes, “The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will.” 

APP:  We not only need the presence of Jesus to show up.  We need the chaos of people we would normally avoid from time to time, too.  It’s only as we find ourselves with Jesus in situations beyond our control that we’ll actually find ourself experiencing greater miracles. 

Think of people God has placed in your life that fit that bill.  Who do you try to avoid in this town?  Who actually makes you feel unsafe?  Who do you look at and think, “This person is unstable, unhealthy and unsafe.”   Fear of them or that situation can rob us of seeing some of the greatest miracles God may want to perform in our lifetime.  Let’s not let fear of people limit what God wants to do in us and them.

This was quite a “greeting party” that showed up on the shore there.  The only people interested in the arrival of this boat of Jewish men was a couple of literally crazy men.  The pig-herders weren’t interested.  The country-folk in the area weren’t interested.  The only two people interested in Jesus’ arrival were two total messes. 

APP:  That tells me something about how God works verses how I tend to want to work.  Jesus was never after crowds of people; he was consistently focused on the individual.  This is why THE most important thing any of us do at the Haven Family Days in a few weeks will probably be the personal conversations and interactions with individuals—moms, dads, staff and kids.

So, barreling down the hill, directly at Jesus, is this crazed, naked, wild, dirty, tough, muscular, out-of-control man.  Jesus probably just kept walking.  Like David with Goliath, he waded into the battle rather than shrinking back to the boat.  Just as the disciples are sure this madman is going to mow Jesus over, he falls to his knees at Jesus’ feet.  Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus’ first words to him were.  But he does tell us that early on, Jesus spoke directly to the demon and told him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit.”   That term “impure” can refer to either ceremonially unclean or morally impure—thoughts and a life that is lewd, foul, and immoral.  It’s what is overtaking people nowadays.  Between the sexual confusion, lewdness and debauchery and the verbally profane language even children are manifesting in public these days, I think it’s safe to say that many a person today is under the influence of “an impure spirit.”  Let’s now “get used to” that.  Let’s see it for what it is and not invite it into our homes or entertainment or speech.

Something else here:

            This man didn’t ask for help.

            This man didn’t look like he wanted help.

            Every indication was that he was in the mess he was in because of things he had done or chosen or been open to in his life. 

            But Jesus saw a man in desperate need.  He looked past the presentation and saw the heart of a future disciple.  So he told the impure spirit in him to come out. 

APP:  I pray for eyes to see people that way.  I’m so easily overwhelmed or fixated on what I see in the flesh that I can completely miss the real spiritual dynamic that has people in complete bondage and darkness. 

PRAY asking God for eyes to see the true and deep spiritual needs of people we would rather avoid.  

Next this man SHOUTS “at the top of his voice,” “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard someone possessed by a load of demons shouting at the top of their lungs but I’m sure it was quite memorable for the disciples.   

APP:  When we let Jesus tackle the demons in our lives, it may get a bit messy before it gets more peaceful and quiet.  That is often the process of bringing things captive to the authority of Jesus.  What hasn’t been under His control often doesn’t do so voluntarily. 

            There are lots of things to learn from this passage about demons and how they operate in this world. 

  • Being spiritual beings without bodies, they are invisible to our physical sight. Their effects are evident, but not their essence. So don’t expect demons to manifest themselves to you apart from some body they have commandeered. 
  • They are violent and destructive. Given the permission and opportunity, they will destroy their hosts through self-mutilation and self-abuse.
  • They love to cause harm, hurt, damage and destruction to whomever they can.
  • They are profane, vile, and loud.
  • They love to strip their victims of clothes, of their dignity, of friendships, healthy relationships and family.
  • They love to make them homeless, isolated, violent, sleepless, disoriented, dirty and homeless.
  • Their victims prefer death to life, to being around the dead rather than the living.

Do you see any similarities to what we see unfolding around us today?  From our young people to our old, these characteristics are showing up in spades in our culture today.  As we are going to see in a moment, it isn’t happening just because that individual invited that spirit to take charge.  It’s happening because a whole community would rather live with the presence of demons than the presence of God.  A whole community would rather get used to the craziness that descends on people who don’t know Jesus than the sanity and peace that comes when they submit to Him.  But I’m getting ahead of myself!  Back to demons.

            Several things are clear from how the demons interact with Jesus. 

  • Demons must get permission to inhabit or afflict beings with bodies. Jesus had to give them permission to move from the man to the swine.  APP:  we have the right, by the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit in us, to deny the demonic realm access to ourselves and those under our authority (young children, spouses).  Don’t be hesitant or slow to tell the forces of darkness to leave your loved one alone, to be silent, to stop afflicting them, stop giving them bad dreams, stop speaking lies to them, etc.
  • Demons see banishment from destroying people as ‘torture.’ To have no host to afflict is torture for demons.  Their norm is to do evil and torture others.  When they are restricted from that, they become the tortured ones.  The account in Luke 8 adds an interesting aspect to this when we are told that They begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss,” (vs. 31).  Other passages of Scripture tell us that there are times or instances in which certain evil spirits and principalities are consigned to “the Abyss.” 
    • Revelation 20—Satan is thrown into the Abyss for 1,000 years so he cannot deceive the nations. At the end of that he is released to again engage in what he does best—deceive, lie, kill and destroy.
    • 2 Peter 2:4—the place where some evil spirits are held in chains of darkness for the day of judgment.

When Jesus cast out demons, they knew that He could also have assigned them to the Abyss…or he could allow them to continue to operate in this world.  Why would he do that?  Let me try and answer that with another question:  What possible good came to this man afflicted by a horde of demons?  (Met Christ, delivered by Christ, commissioned by Christ, etc.)  Even the demons play a part in God’s working in people and human history. 

  • They seem to be attached to or prefer to reside in particular geographic regions. Mark 5:10—And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.  As we’ll see, there might be reasons for that.  It’s not real clear whether they attach to certain regions because they may be assigned there or because they are invited there.  (See Daniel 10 & Rev. 16:14.)
  • They like to congregate and do their work in groups. More than one demon can inhabit one body.  When Jesus asked the unclean spirit what his name was, the response was “Legion.”  This term was used in Jesus’ day of the largest company of Roman soldiers, usually numbering 6,000.  I don’t think there were exactly 6,000 demons in this man.  Could have been.  But the point of the name is simple “a whole bunch”…”many.”  That is reinforced when the pigs…2,000 of them…commit suicide when they are inhabited by these demons.  NOTE:  can you imagine that kind of destructive force living in this one poor man for so many years?  How horribly afflicted he must have been!


How this all played out is pretty obvious. The demons were forced to leave this man.  They chose to go into the pigs…and they utterly destroyed their recent and short-lived new hosts. 

            There is probably some symbolism here in what transpired, too.  Pigs were, as you’re probably well aware, unclean animals for Jews.  They were forbidden to eat.  Whether this herd of pigs is owned, managed, or tended by Jews doesn’t matter.  What matters is that they chose something God said not to eat.  The unclean spirit chose another unclean host.  But this time that possession resulted in massive animal deaths. 

            So, the pig herders head into town to share the news.  Next the town heads out to see it all for themselves.  At this point, we’re left a little in the dark about what was the bigger attraction:  the delivered man or the bobbing pigs. All Mark tells us is that it was the formerly possessed man sitting with Jesus that really turned their heads and struck fear into their hearts (vs. 15).  While the hired hands do recount the story about the pig stampede into the lake, the end of this story really focuses upon the man. 

            It’s very possible that this loss of pigs, of their financial capital, and of the food they represented for the region could have had something to do with the populace not wanting Jesus to stick around.  You can imagine how many other herders and ranchers were doing a mental inventory of other demon-possessed people in the community and wondering what might happen to their herds if Jesus kept delivering people of demons.  It wasn’t the first time…and wouldn’t be the last… that getting people right with God produced economic fallout in a community (see Acts 16—demon possessed girl whose masters lost their profit when she was delivered by Paul; resulting riot in Philippi.)

ILL:  Julio & Ruth Ruibal—evangelist who met Christ in L.A.  Married his American wife, Ruth.  Returned to La Paz, Bolivia to start a ministry.  5,000 came to Jesus in a short period.  The President of Bolivia gave him use of all the stadiums in the country and asked mayors to declare a city holiday whenever he came to town so people could attend his evangelistic campaigns.  Hundreds of thousands of people came to Christ.  11% of Bolivia claimed to be evangelical Christians.

            Up until that time, Bolivia had had more presidents than years of presidency.  One day saw 4 different Presidents sworn in.  But with this change, the born-again President stayed in office for 8 years!  Bolivia experienced its first economic boom.

            When Julio held an evangelistic campaign in La Paz, people came and slept in the stadium the night before to get a seat.  By the time of the crusade, 40,000 people were outside the stadium wanting to join in.  The police feared a riot.  But Julio just preached first to those in the stadium and next he went outside and preached to those on the outside. 

            They eventually moved to Cali, Colombia, the drug capital of the world.  Thousands responded to the Gospel.  Again, stadiums were filled with hungry people.  It started to cut into the drug trade.  On December 13, 1995, Julio was gunned down in the streets by drug lords of Cali on his way to a meeting with evangelical pastors.  There is often push-back when Christ starts to transform people and communities with the Gospel.

            After his assassination, the church in Cali started to have all-night prayer meetings in the stadium.  First 20,000 in March, then 40,000 in September, then 45,000 in November.  6 of the 7 leading drug lords were captured and imprisoned.  The 7th turned himself in 9 months later.  Most of the churches came together and pledged to live in loving unity towards each other.  That’s what happens in a region where people embrace the presence of Jesus.  And there is often a great price that someone must pay.

            But that wasn’t what happened in the Decapolis.  People who had been perfectly content to let this demoniac live a wretched, pitiful life were afraid of what his deliverance might mean.  People who had been perfectly fine trying to shackle and imprison the violence of the demons in this man preferred to give him free reign and control over their coastal area rather than do the hard spiritual work of figuring out how to get rid of the demons and get back a lost soul.  They allowed fear of Jesus’ kindness to this man to override the possibility of personal faith in Jesus. 

            I have to wonder, where did the demons go after they destroyed the pigs?  They clearly had a very fertile field for their work in a place that seemed to hate to see Jesus’ presence as much as they did. 

One of the primary works of demons to strike fear in people, both those they inhabit and those who see the effects of their work.  All the text tells us (vs. 15) is that seeing the now-sane man sitting there and in his right mind “they were afraid.”  So “the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region,” (vs. 17).  I’ve got a hunch that legion of demons didn’t go anywhere.  They just decided to engage with different targets—the people who wanted their presence in the community more than they wanted the presence of God!  The people who were fine having a crazed demoniac in their region but were scared to death when he was delivered, clothed, calm and in his right mind.

APP:  This has sobering implications for our community…and anyone who is more afraid of what Jesus might do in their life than what Satan and his hordes are up to.  Don’t think that this isn’t unfolding every day in our city.

            We’re facing an unprecedented epidemic of drug overdoses and mental illness in our city.  Yet our city continues to ignore the Christ-centered recovery programs and ministries that have the highest success rate right here, right now.  They’d rather try and solve the problem without God, thank you.  If ever there was a social problem that had the fingerprints of Satan and demonic involvement on it, it is the drug and mental health crisis today.  Yet most of leaders want God to stay out of the equation.  Is it any wonder that, since our Governor declared churches and our ministries “non-essential” during Covid just 3 years ago (though pot-shops were considered “essential”), that we’ve had THE worst educational, mental health and suicide outcomes among our youth in the history of our state?!!! 

God will not restrict evil by demanding acceptance of his lordship.  He will not force his presence…or his deliverance… on anyone. But to those who want deliverance from the demons that assault our souls, Jesus stands ready to travel anywhere against any storm to set us free. 

So let’s end where we started:  What are the surprises in this story?   

  • It’s surprising that Jesus goes all the way across the Sea of Galilee to deliver two men everyone had written off.
  • It’s surprising that demoniacs come to meet him and that the demons in them declare the truth about Jesus.
  • It’s surprising that the demons choose to destroy their newest hosts, the pigs.
  • It’s surprising that the residents are more afraid of Jesus than the demons.
  • It’s surprising that they ask Him to leave.
  • But the biggest surprise to me is what Jesus asks the now-delivered man to do when the man asks if he can follow Him.

Mark 5:19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 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.

            I find it surprising that Jesus would send a recently delivered demoniac right back to the very people who had been so calloused to him in his afflicted state.  But this man was definitely one tough hombre.  He had had and now certainly didn’t need people’s acceptance.  What he needed was to simply tell his story of salvation and transformation from His encounter with Jesus.  And what that region needed was to see the power of a life-encounter with Jesus. 

APP:  Times haven’t changed.  That is, I think, what is most needed in our community where the presence and work of Jesus scares people more than the demonic death and destruction being visiting on our community. 

            Maybe you’re thinking, “Yah, but I haven’t had that kind of dramatic encounter with Jesus.  If I told my story of meeting Christ, no one would think it very amazing.” 

  1. We will never know unless we tell our story. If you’ve genuinely met Jesus as your Redeemer, Deliverer and Lord, you have something to talk about—"what He has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  Just talk about that.
  2. If you’re still coming up empty, dare to ask God to change that—to give you such a life-altering encounter with Him that you will have a story to tell. He could do that today…or he could answer your prayer at any point in the future that He determines is the right timing for you to experience a radical encounter.  Just don’t pray that prayer unless you want more of Christ than you want more of your present condition.


  • Do you want Jesus to transform you today? Deliver you from the past—your sin, Satan’s strongholds in your life?  He’s come all the way from heaven to find us.  Come and kneel before Him just as this man did and invite Him to take up residence in you by His Holy Spirit.
  • Is there some “demon” in your life…something that you can’t control…that you need…and want… Jesus to deliver you from? Come bow before Him and ask Him to deliver you from that.  Then find someone in God’s family who is willing to “give you a set of clothes”…help you find the new life God wants you to lead.
  • Is there someone in your life that you’d rather avoid but who desperately needs to encounter Jesus. Ask God for opportunities to share your story and the story of Jesus with them…soon.