Sea of Galilea – Healing of two maniacs
The preceding day Jesus had delivered the Sermon by the Sea, which consisted largely of parables (see Matt. 13), somewhere along my shore of Galilee bordering on the Plain of Gennesaret (see on Matt. 13:1).
The distance across the lake at this point was about 11 kilometres It was upon this crossing that Jesus had stilled the storm (see on Matt. 8:18).
His purpose in crossing to the less densely populated eastern shore at this time was to enjoy a brief respite from the throngs of people who were now pressing upon Him to the extent that He often had little or no time even to eat and sleep (see Mark 3:20).
Mark 5:2 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
A short distance to the south of the village of Kursī (see on v. 1) is a steep bluff that descends abruptly to a narrow shore (see on v. 13). Jesus and the disciples may well have disembarked to the south of this bluff, where the beach widens and the hills recede from the lake.
Tombs. The limestone hills in the region about Kursī abound in caverns and rock-hewn chambers. Dug out of the comparatively soft limestone, chambers such as these were commonly used as burial places in ancient Palestine.
Mark 5:3 who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains,
According to Levitical law a corpse was unclean (see on Lev. 21:2), and this uncleanness would attach also to the place of burial. Obviously such considerations were of no concern to the demoniacs.
No man could bind him. Matthew’s statement that no one could pass “that way” (ch. 8:28) implies that the haunt of these demon-possessed men was not far from a thoroughfare, probably one leading along the eastern shore of the lake (cf. DA 338).
Chains. Gr. halusis, “a chain,” or “a bond,” often used specifically to designate a manacle, or handcuff.
The disciples and their companions fled in terror; but presently they noticed that Jesus was not with them, and they turned to look for Him. He was standing where they had left Him. He who had stilled the tempest, who had before met Satan and conquered him, did not flee before these demons. When the men, gnashing their teeth, and foaming at the mouth, approached Him, Jesus raised that hand which had beckoned the waves to rest, and the men could come no nearer. They stood raging but helpless before Him.
Mark 5:4 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.
Fetters. Gr. pedē, “a shackle for the feet,” from a word meaning “foot,” or “instep.” “Fetters” is from the Anglo-Saxon “feter,” a device designed for the feet.
Mark 5:5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.
In fury he often gashed his body, and was probably a mass of scars and sores.
Mark 5:6 When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.
He and his companion may have been on the lower slopes of the hill that dropped off precipitously into the sea, and thus they may have observed the boats approaching.
He ran. Probably with the intention of attacking Jesus and those who accompanied Him, no doubt screaming wildly while coming down the beach.
Worshipped him. By the time the demoniacs came to the place where Jesus stood, the disciples had fled in terror, and the Saviour was alone with the two demon-possessed men (DA 337).
Somehow they seemed to perceive dimly that here was a Friend, not a foe (see DA 337, 338), and they prostrated themselves on the ground at Jesus’ feet. His very presence often seemed to impress deeply even His worst enemies (see Matt. 21:12, 13; John 2:15).
Mark 5:7 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.”
Jesus asked, “What is your name?” And the answer was, “My name is Legion: for we are many.” Using the afflicted men as mediums of communication, they besought Jesus not to send them out of the country. Upon a mountainside not far distant a great herd of swine was feeding.
Into these the demons asked to be allowed to enter, and Jesus suffered them. Immediately a panic seized the herd. They rushed madly down the cliff, and, unable to check themselves upon the shore, plunged into the lake, and perished.
With authority He bade the unclean spirits come out of them. His words penetrated the darkened minds of the unfortunate men. They realized dimly that One was near who could save them from the tormenting demons. They fell at the Saviour’s feet to worship Him; but when their lips were opened to entreat His mercy, the demons spoke through them, crying vehemently, “What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God most high? I beseech Thee, torment me not.”
The challenge to Jesus’ authority (see ch. 1:27; see on ch. 2:10) really meant, “What right have you to interfere with me?” See on John 2:4.
Son. See Luke 1:35; John 1:1–3.
Most high God. See Acts 16:17; see on Gen. 14:18, 22. It would seem that the evil spirits were speaking directly through one of the demoniacs of Gadara to Christ, for Jesus addresses the “unclean spirit” rather than the man himself (see Mark 5:8). Accordingly, the recognition of Jesus as the “Son of the most high God” represents knowledge the spirits possessed, not the demoniacs.
I adjure. Gr. horkizō, “to administer an oath to.” The wording of Luke’s account is less graphic, “I beseech” (ch. 8:28).
Torment. Gr. basanizō, originally meaning “to test [metals] by the touchstone.” In the NT basanizō is used in the sense of inflicting pain or torture.
Mark 5:8 For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”
He said. Rather, “He was saying.” As Jesus was in the very process of commanding the spirit to come out of the man, the spirit startlingly interrupted and challenged Him.
Mark 5:9 Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”
Why Christ asked the name of the spirit possessing the man, or rather the spokesman for the legion of spirits, is not clear.
It has been suggested that this was for the benefit of the disciples, in order that they might appreciate more fully the magnitude of the miracle, and better realize the nature and power of the forces against which they must contend.
Legion. A Roman army division, which, at full strength, consisted of approximately 6,000 footmen and 700 horsemen, or a total of about 6,700. Commonly, however, as with modern armies, the legion was not maintained at full strength. Though the demon’s use of the name Legion may be taken literally, there is no way of determining the precise number. The expression is best understood in the general sense that there were many demons (see Luke 8:30).
Mark 5:10 Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.
The defiant demon now took the attitude of a suppliant begging Jesus for mercy. Possibly he was fearful for his life (see on ch. 1:24).
Listen to Luke’s account:
Luke 8:31 And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.
The Greek word is abussos. In Hebrew it is called tehom, “depths” of the earth.
In Romans “deep,” abussos, is used to describe the place of “the dead,” particularly with reference to Christ’s death.
Romans 10:7 ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
In Revelation 9:2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3 abussos is translated “bottomless pit.”
When used with reference to intelligent beings, abussos seems to imply isolation from other beings and the inability to escape from the situation—as of a man in death or confined alone in a dungeon.
Mark 5:11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains.
That is, on the hillside, at some distance from where Christ and the demoniacs stood on the beach.
Matthew 8:30 Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding.
Whenever in that region the swineherds were undoubtedly always on the alert for the demon-possessed men, and thus saw them as they raced toward Christ, heard their unearthly shrieks, and witnessed the glorious transformation in their appearance that had occurred.
Mark 5:12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”
Send us. It was Satan’s purpose to turn the people of this region against the Saviour by making it appear that He was responsible for the destruction of their property.
The immediate result seemed to justify the devil’s evil expectations. But the ministry of the transformed men who previously had been known throughout the district as demoniacs, together with news of the herd of swine that perished in the sea to confirm their story, served as nothing else could possibly have done to turn the people of the region to Jesus
Meanwhile a marvelous change had come over the demoniacs. Light had shone into their minds. Their eyes beamed with intelligence. The countenances, so long deformed into the image of Satan, became suddenly mild, the bloodstained hands were quiet, and with glad voices the men praised God for their deliverance.
From the cliff the keepers of the swine had seen all that had occurred, and they hurried away to publish the news to their employers and to all the people. In fear and amazement the whole population flocked to meet Jesus. The two demoniacs had been the terror of the country. No one had been safe to pass the place where they were; for they would rush upon every traveler with the fury of demons. Now these men were clothed and in their right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words, and glorifying the name of Him who had made them whole. But the people who beheld this wonderful scene did not rejoice. The loss of the swine seemed to them of greater moment than the deliverance of these captives of Satan.
It was in mercy to the owners of the swine that this loss had been permitted to come upon them. They were absorbed in earthly things, and cared not for the great interests of spiritual life. Jesus desired to break the spell of selfish indifference, that they might accept His grace. But regret and indignation for their temporal loss blinded their eyes to the Saviour’s mercy.
Mark 5:13 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.
Down a steep place. Literally, “down the precipice.” A short distance south of the village of Kursī, thought to be the ancient Gergesa (see on v. 1), there is a steep bluff, where the hills come down close to the water’s edge, the only place on the entire coast where this is true.
The declivity is so steep that it might be called a cliff, though not of the overhanging type. At the foot of this precipice the beach is so narrow that the swine could not possibly have halted their headlong race
Mark 5:14 So 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
On their way to the village of Gergesa, probably a short distance to the north of the precipice (see on v. 13), the swineherds might be expected to announce to all they met what had happened.
Mark 5:15 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.
Evidently composed, relaxed, and at rest—a great contrast to the excited state in which they had come to Jesus shortly before.
Where did the clothes come from? Did Jesus buy it before leaving his previous place of ministry?
In harmony with the principle commonly referred to as “the economy of miracle,” which simply means that God usually does not perform miracles where the result can be secured by more natural means, and usually does not do Himself what may be accomplished by human effort, it is improbable that the clothing these men now wore had been provided miraculously.
Mark 5:15 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
Thoughts of the loss of the swine tended, for the time being, to dominate the thinking of most of the people of that region.
They no doubt wondered what the next demonstration of supernatural power might produce, and apparently they feared that greater material loss might result.
Mark 5:16 And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine.
Probably both the swineherds, who had already told their version of the incident (see v. 14), and the disciples. The latter also related the experience of the stilling of the storm on the lake the previous night, but their words fell on deaf ears (see DA 339).
The manifestation of supernatural power aroused the superstitions of the people, and excited their fears. Further calamities might follow from having this Stranger among them. They apprehended financial ruin, and determined to be freed from His presence.
Those who had crossed the lake with Jesus told of all that had happened on the preceding night, of their peril in the tempest, and how the wind and the sea had been stilled. But their words were without effect. In terror the people thronged about Jesus, beseeching Him to depart from them, and He complied, taking ship at once for the opposite shore.
The people of Gergesa had before them the living evidence of Christ’s power and mercy. They saw the men who had been restored to reason; but they were so fearful of endangering their earthly interests that He who had vanquished the prince of darkness before their eyes was treated as an intruder, and the Gift of heaven was turned from their doors.
We have not the opportunity of turning from the person of Christ as had the Gergesenes; but still there are many who refuse to obey His word, because obedience would involve the sacrifice of some worldly interest. Lest His presence shall cause them pecuniary loss, many reject His grace, and drive His Spirit from them.ar 5:17 Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.
Their choice was made on the basis of material considerations. They chose to forgo any possible blessings such as had come to the healed demoniacs, lest they suffer further loss of property.
Did Jesus respect their wishes?
In harmony with the counsel He Himself was soon to give to the Twelve as He sent them forth to preach and heal (see Matt. 10:14, 23), Jesus made no protest, but simply turned to leave.
Matthew 10:14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.
Matthew 10:23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
How many today follow the pathetic example of the people of Gadara, fearful that the Saviour’s presence will thwart their own plans.
But far different was the feeling of the restored demoniacs. They desired the company of their deliverer. In His presence they felt secure from the demons that had tormented their lives and wasted their manhood. As Jesus was about to enter the boat, they kept close to His side, knelt at His feet, and begged Him to keep them near Him, where they might ever listen to His words. But Jesus bade them go home and tell what great things the Lord had done for them.