Sundays on Mark 12

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections on Mark’s gospel

This week Mark 5:1-20 and the healing of the demon possessed man.

Mark’s narrative recounts Jesus & the disciples’ boat journey into the Gentile region of the Decapolis [ten cities]. The story has an eerie feel. You get a sense of isolation as Jesus enters the demon possessed man’s territory, a place of fear and violence, where he lives alone surrounded by the dead.

The story is astonishing, shocking and strange. It is again the evil spirits who immediately know Jesus’ identity and who beg Jesus not to send them out of the area {not the man}. It is also the evil spirits who suggest the pigs as an alternative ‘host’. [The presence of the pigs reaffirms that this is ‘alien’ territory, a non-Jewish pagan environment.]

The subsequent scenes of mass drowning are awful. The evil spirits’ work is destruction of life. The pigs die and the man is released, healed and made whole in mind again.

Imagine yourself one of these Gentile farmers coming out to see your livestock floating in the Sea of Galilee, a violent madman in his right mind, and a band of Jewish men and their itinerant teacher and healer with him. What would your reaction have been? I’m sympathetic to their reaction – they are rightly afraid and ask Jesus to leave. Here is a power that is beyond understanding.

The healed man wants to follow Jesus literally, but is told to go into the Gentile cities and tell them of how he has been restored by the Lord. Here is a foreshadowing of the victory of God in Jesus over the forces of evil. Here is the story of how Jesus has come to heal and redeem lives and restore the broken image of God. Here is a missionary story of the good news of the kingdom of God spreading beyond the Jewish world. Jesus the Jewish Messiah is the Messiah for the whole world. [I’d love to preach on this text after writing this reflection!]

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, in this story we catch a glimpse of your authority, power and glory. We worship you as the one in whom the forces of darkness and evil are overcome. We give thanks that your mission is to bring healing and wholeness to each and every life. Fill our hearts with joy and thankfulness for all that you have accomplished in our lives, and send us out with joy to tell others of what the Lord has done. Amen.

The Healing of a Demon-possessed Man

1They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4For 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. 5Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

6When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”

9Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

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

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

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

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

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