12-11-23 - MY NAME IS LEGION - Mark: 5-1-20
Updated: Nov 12
MESSAGE BY PASTOR DANIEL PARK FROM
BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.
Today we come to a very interesting, dramatic, but also enigmatic passage.
Maybe even a little scary
With evil, unclean spirits of possession
And that word, “exorcism” - though it is not used in the passage.
The casting out of demons and evil spirits is actually a big theme in the Gospel of Mark
In Chapter 1, from very early on in Jesus’ ministry He was casting our demons, and it is a staple everywhere He goes
Jesus encounters three different characters in the story:
1. The evil spirits of the Legion, whom he casts out;
2. The man, whom he heals;
3. and the crowd, whom he frightens.
Each of these makes a request.
Jesus grants every request except the man’s, whom he heals and becomes a disciple.
Our 3 points today are titles of songs we sing for worship.
The stories behind the songs will serve as testimonies to the work of Jesus in all believers in a world that is often dark and bleak.
1 “It’s Yours”
Story Behind the first song we sang this morning, “The Lord’s Prayer (It’s Yours)”
One of the songwriters and the one who recorded the song, Matt Maher shared how the song was about the root of his and his wife’s spirituality.
As they began dating they wanted to get into the habit of praying together and they used the Lord’s Prayer in their daily prayers.
Matt describes the Lord’s Prayer as a simple, yet holistic prayer that covers every kind of prayer.
Beginning with the acknowledgement of God who is overall, and ending with proclaiming that all kingdoms and power and glory are all God’s
It’s all YOURS
And that’s where we want to begin our message today.
Jesus reclaims the ground that the devil THOUGHT he wrestled away from God.
After teaching around Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples crossed over to the other side, to the country of the Gerasenes or the region of the city of Gadara in a region called the Decapolis.
This is foreign, gentile land.
Country of heathens who Jews would want nothing to do with.
Mark emphasizes the “uncleanness” of this land that confronted them as soon as they stepped off the boat.
Besides the pigs that are mentioned later - which Jews would never keep
The passage emphasizes the habitat of the man with unclean spirits - basically a cemetery or burial ground with tombs
Which again, Jews would never approach unless they absolutely had to.
This entire scene would be enough to suffocate a Jewish person with the number of laws they would be breaking just being there. And IMMEDIATELY, Jesus and His disciples are confronted by a pitiable man
He is described in the most dejected sense
Nothing and no one could bind or subdue him
But ironically, this description only highlights how trapped and enslaved he actually is
Trapped in an endless cycle of pain that causes more pain
The country and the man are mirrors of each other, trapped in hopelessness, and pain, and surrounded by death.
Dominated and oppressed by unclean spirits
This is the state and reality of the world without Jesus.
The symptoms of a fallen and sinful world is compacted in this 1 man living with no knowledge of salvation, in a world that is dominated by demonic spirits
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
The world has been dominated by the spiritual forces of evil that:
And is present
There are people who easily attribute all “evils” to demonic possessions or power.
And they’re not exactly wrong, but a lot of it, is not the micro-possession
There’s a lot more macro-possession and domination
Death and all the other related symptoms entered the world with sin
So this world is mired in sin and its symptoms
Death, all the terminal illnesses, neuro-divergences, many physical disabilities, and persistent traumas that hamper the physical body, mind, and emotions.
Things like these, show us the consequences of sin, which is not directly of anyone’s fault, but the fault of sin, and its entrance into the world
This shows us that the world HAS BEEN under the dominion of spiritual forces of evil.
This may sound depressing, but that is the reality of this world.
We cannot change this world, we cannot save this world
What we CAN do, is change ourselves - by SAVING ourselves
Or rather, get ourselves SAVED
Which is why Jesus came, to THIS side of the sea
Through the tempest of the stormy sea at the end of chapter 4
Almost like going back to the beginning of creation - showing and proving HIS power, authority and dominion over creation and nature itself
Bringing with Him salvation and heaven - that is, eternity to this side
The will of God
The domain and dominion of God
Let Your Kingdom come and Your will be done.
This dominion is not established by expected means of conquest by might, but:
Dependence on God for everything
Repentance and forgiveness
Which brings deliverance
All this only being possible because of Jesus, the son of the Most High God
So we sing, It's yours, it's yours
All yours, all yours
The kingdom the power, and the glory is yours
It's yours it's yours
All yours all yours
Forever and ever
The kingdom is yours
2. “No Longer Slaves”
Here’s the story behind another song, which we will sing later, “No Longer Slaves.”
The main songwriter is a guy named Jonathan David Helser.
But the story begins with his father, Ken Helser, a Rock’n Roll performer in the 60s who became a Christian in 1970 and turned his back on a life of sexual promiscuity and drugs.
In 1976 his wife got cancer of the uterus and required a hysterectomy to remove all reproductive organs.
He tried to convince himself he didn’t want any more children anyway, but in his heart, he desperately wanted a son, but he was afraid of having any more children because of all the drugs he had taken for years.
2 weeks before the scheduled surgery, he received a message from God through someone he barely knew, that Jesus said, “I have healed your seed and you will have a son and his name will be Jonathan David and he will play the harp and write prophetic songs for his generation.
Ken and his wife asked for one last test and 2 days before the scheduled surgery, the test came back negative and she was completely cancer-free.
Many years later, Jonathan David, his son would write this song that is his father’s testimony, that he was no longer a slave to fear of the bondage of a former life.
This story of the demon-possessed man is also recorded in Matthew and Luke, but Mark is the only one who gives us such a detailed and vivid account and how he had been treated by people.
He was ravaged by the demons as the disciples’ boats were by the storm as they crossed the Sea of Galilee to get there.
Verse 4 says “No one had the strength to subdue him.”
But the word translated “subdue” actually means, “to tame”
He was treated like an animal because of his condition
A commentator described him as, “a microcosm of the whole of creation, inarticulately groaning for redemption.”
- and I would add, “salvation.”
Mark highlights the destructive power of demonic spirits that can dominate a human life
It’s hard to tell who is in control and speaking - the man or the spirits.
Just as we cannot tell, it’s probably the case for the man as well
So completely dominated by evil spirits
He has lost his sense of self-identity and his reality is distorted
The man was so used to being abused by people that he thinks Jesus, as someone of power, also wants to cause him pain in some way
He saw the power in the human and sinful understanding, as it had been wielded by sinful people
But Jesus would show him, and everyone, that His power is not the same
For some reason, verse 8 is recorded out of chronological order.
Verse 8 actually happened before verse 7, so it should read,
6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
Why? I thought of 2 possible reasons that together, reveal the power and identity of Jesus.
The aggression and intensity of the man’s/evil spirits’ confrontation with Jesus
The mildness and straightforward response of Jesus
Verse 8 almost sounds like an off-hand afterthought
It sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? Reading a conversation between Jesus and demonic spirits that are possessing a man
After the initial aggressive approach, it almost sounds like a civilized negotiation
But the negotiation is not what frees the man
The demonic spirits did not wheel and deal to make Jesus concede a compromise
The spirits were already commanded to leave the man, and the spirits had lost ground and were being driven out
They actually sound desperate if you read carefully
The conversation was for everyone else’s benefit.
Not sure where I got this, but I’ve always thought of a Legion as representing 1000.
But the technical definition of a Legion in the Roman army was actually 5-6000 soldiers.
So the actual number is irrelevant when it comes to the demonic spirits possessing the man
But coupled with the 2000 pigs, it gives us the immense scope and weight of demonic oppression on this 1 man.
Whatever the number, the evil spirits in the man were enough to drive 2000 pigs insane and destroy themselves.
Some people might get outraged by the death of the poor pigs.
I think Jesus was more concerned about the poor MAN.
I think it’s possible that the whole thing with the pigs was a way of minimizing collateral damage.
Jesus was protecting everyone by sacrificing the pigs!
Maybe a little like the sacrifices of the Old Testament
Although this would be sacrileges for Jews because pigs are unclean
I firmly believe Jesus was putting the man first.
And it is clear that the possessed man is not the one who deserves blame
He was being dominated and occupied by a foreign power
This is a symptom of the sinful and called world
In all the NT references of demonic spirits and possessions, there is no direct cause and effect link between someone being possessed to any sins of the person possessed.
They are never told to repent
The power of Jesus the Son of God drives the demons outs.
Jesus saves the man from his bondage to the evil spirits
The power of Jesus is completely different to people’s understanding of power
People only understood power as a means of dominating, taming, and getting others do do what they want, even against their will.
This might sound cheesy to some, but the power of Jesus that saves is that of love and grace
Why we have a song titled, “The Power of Your Love.”
As I mentioned earlier, this passage is not just about exorcising demons from people.
It’s about being restored whole and filled with the spirit of Jesus Christ,
Even though we live in a world that is filled and dominated by spiritual forces of evil that are bent on our destruction and enslavement.
Jesus, the Son of the Most High God has crossed over to this world burdened with the symptoms of sin, calming the storms in our lives.
This demands a response.
3. “What the Lord Has Done in Me”
One more story behind another song, which we won’t be singing today, “What the Lord Has Done in Me.”
Written by Reuben Morgan of Hillsong in Australia, who wrote many other songs like “Eagle’s Wings” and “I Give You My Heart”
The song was written to celebrate the baptism of Reuben’s brother.
The baptism was very special for the family because they had been praying for the salvation of Reuben’s brother for many years until he gave His life to Jesus after turning away from a life of addiction.
Afterwards, the brother even went on to become a pastor as both brothers lived their lives telling the world what the Lord had done it their lives
As we come to the aftermath of a tense and dramatic confrontation, we can view the conclusion from 3 different perspectives.
Delivered man’s response
Jesus’ response to their responses.
There are 2 contrasting responses to the miracle of a man being freed from a legion of demonic spirits
Herdsmen and people
The herdsmen flee after the pigs drown
People are afraid of Jesus after seeing the man who had been demon-possessed, “sitting there, clothed and in his right mind.”
Like the disciples after Jesus calmed the storm and the sea just a short while before as they were crossing the Sea.
I think the panic and fear of these people are related to the revelation of WHO Jesus is
It was one thing to see Jesus heal some people and listen to Him teach, but to see Him command and control the cosmos itself - would have been something else.
These miracles were more in your face about the full nature and identity of Jesus
He is much more than a teacher or prophet
The people in the end BEG Jesus to leave because they were just not ready to be confronted with God
Here we see that miracles in and of themselves are not enough
Miracles and the display of power are not enough to save.
It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God that saves
The once-demon-possessed man received that gospel and he became a disciple that day
2. The once-demon-possessed man
Sitting at the feet of Jesus
This is the posture of a disciple, most famous example being Mary the sister of Martha
The man wasn’t just sitting there resting - he was listening and receiving from Jesus.
He BEGS Jesus to to let him be with Him
Remaining at the feet of Jesus was all the man wanted to do
Notice it doesn’t say follow or go with, but he wanted to be WITH Jesus
He was ready to give his life to be with Jesus
A much more relationally intimate vicinity
He begins proclaiming to everyone how much Jesus had done for him
Jesus says go tell your friends
The man goes ALL over the country PROCLAIMING
It’s interesting that in this whole passage, Jesus says “no” once, to the man begging to be with Jesus.
Even to the Legion of evil spirits and the people asking Him to to leave, Jesus said, OK.
But he says no to the 1 man who wants to be with Jesus.
The reason is the heart of our last point.
So that people could hear from this man, who had his life totally transformed, what the Lord has done for him
And he was way more successful than the miracle Jesus did right in front of them.
People were afraid of Jesus after He miraculously delivered the man
But when the man started telling people what Jesus had done, “everyone marvelled”
What’s more, at the end of chapter 7, Jesus returns to the region of the Decapolis
And this time, people brought others to Jesus to be healed
37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Isn’t that just awesome?
This one man Jesus delivered and said no to, became the catalyst for an entire country knowing and becoming ready to believe in Jesus
In the midst of trials, challenges and difficulty of living among the symptoms of this fallen world, Jesus refusing a request does not mean he is refusing you
He is saying, “Hold on. Take heart; I have overcome the world. So that in me, you may have peace.”
This week, I want you to share what God has done in your life with someone.
Maybe start with someone in your House Group, bible study, family.
Join one if you have not yet.
And then I encourage you to be on the lookout for opportunities to tell people you would not have expected to talk about Jesus to.
Continue and prolong conversations with other parents at school before/after drop off and pickup.
People who greet you on a walk or hike.
If you are free, come to church on Tuesday morning to Mums/Parents and Tots. There are so many people from the neighbourhood who do not know Jesus, that you could casually chat with.
I also want you to start thinking about inviting and bringing someone to our next Alpha Course which will be announced to begin early next year.
Not to tell someone about it or to tell someone to register for it, but to commit to bringing them and being with them on a journey that will introduce Jesus to them.
The perfect opportunity to share with people what the Lord has done for you.
The title of today’s message is “My Name is Legion”
But don’t you feel that that’s not the way the message went?
My real title for today’s message is the One who commands legions of demons to flee
Who calms the raging seas
Who created everything in heaven and on earth
The king who bears the scars of love upon His hands
Who drives out darkness from our lives
The Healer and Saviour whose love and grace came to us before we knew we needed Him
Who died so we could live, but then He rose up from that grave reclaiming all authority forever and forever!
Who is this King?
His name is Jesus!