The first 20 verses of Mark 5 provide us with what is perhaps the most vivid image of salvation in all of Scripture – the story of the demoniac of the Gadarenes. I’m certain that all my readers (all 4 of us) are quite familiar with the story, but I would like to point out a few things from this wonderful account of a wicked man who met Christ one afternoon.
First, notice the end of the previous chapter. In verse 35 Christ says to His disciples, “Let us go across to the other side”. His meeting with the demoniac that lived there seems to be Christ’s only reason for crossing that day. What a wonderful display of the special love that Christ has for those that the Father has given Him. He went out of His way to meet this man where he was. I don’t want this post to turn into a C/A argument, but this is the most vivid example in Scripture of the fact that man left alone can in no way turn his own heart to God.
When Christ gets out of the boat in the second verse of chapter 5, we are met with a vivid illustration of just how wicked, uncontrolled, dangerous, and ugly man in his sin really is. Look at the first 5 verses of the chapter:
“5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” (Mark 4:1-5 –ESV)
What a hopeless situation and what a helpless man. He was such a mess that nobody wanted anything to do with him…nobody, that is, but Christ. He lived in the tombs and, truly, this man belonged there as he too was as a dead man. When others tried to control him, they utterly failed to do so. The man knew no law. He had no standards; he had no “moral compass”; he had no self-respect.
After Christ meets the man we see the miraculous healing, but more interesting (at least to me) is the man’s response to Christ. Look at verses 14 – 20:
“14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began toproclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” (Mark 4:14-20 – ESV)
As a result of Christ’s intervention in this man’s life, his behavior, his affections, and his demeanor changed…IMMEDIATELY! No longer was he a madman running around naked, screaming and cutting himself. He was quietly sitting with Jesus – clothed and in his right mind. So much had his affections changed that he wanted to go with Jesus when He left. Christ, however, had another mission for this man, and without objection the man who no man could tame before obeyed Christ when He spoke.
I suppose that a point could be made that this man was changed from the inside out. The methodologies of the people who knew him had proven to be ineffective. They had attempted to change his behavior with force, but Christ changed his behavior with love. There’s an obvious parallel here to the faulty methodologies of “hyper-fundamentalism”, but I won’t address that today.
One more point to make here and then I’m done for now….I find it to be an important fact that Christ went to this man who most of us would avoid. It’s strange to me that many of us choose to ignore those who are the most in need of Christ in our society. During my life I’ve not seen many Fundamentalist churches reaching out to the worst elements of society. How many outreach programs have you seen that are geared towards the addicts? How about the homeless? The criminals? The juvenile delinquent? I don’t know about you, but it’s a difficult thing for me to read this passage without the Holy Spirit confronting me with my “comfortable Christianity”.