They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 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. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 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.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 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. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 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.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. – Mark 5:1-20 –
Act IV: The Power of Jesus Recognized (vv. 18-20)
In the first act of this story we saw the power of Jesus required. In act 2 we saw the power of Jesus revealed. In act three we saw the power of Jesus reviled. Now in the final act of this story we will see the power of Jesus recognized. Beginning in v. 18 Mark tells us that “As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.” Looking at this man’s reaction to Jesus, it is interesting to note that this is the third time in this passage that someone was begging Jesus to do something. The demons begged not to be destroyed, the people begged Jesus to leave the area, and now someone is finally begging Jesus for the right things. This is begging to simply be with Jesus. What a contrast with the response of the other individuals. It is clear that this man recognized the power of Jesus that changed his life. This is why he wanted to be with Jesus. I don’t think that it is stretch to say that this should be the reaction that we should all have to Jesus.
Since this was such an appropriate response it is a bit surprising in v. 19 when Jesus denies the man’s request. Mark says that Jesus “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.’” This just seems strange. Of the three requests made in this passage why was this one the only one denied? Well, suffice it to say that Jesus had a plan. You see even though the people had asked Jesus to leave the area, Jesus still had compassion on these people. He wanted to leave this area with a missionary. And this is exactly what Jesus is asking this man to do. Jesus wants him to go out and testify about the power of Jesus that changed his life. Kent Hughes explains what is going on here with this very helpful illustration:
Some years ago an ophthalmologist, just fresh from college, commenced business. Without friends, without money, and without patrons, he became discouraged, until one day he saw a blind man. Looking into his eyes, he said, “Why don’t you have your eyesight restored? Come to my office in the morning.” The blind man went. When an operation was performed and proved successful, the patient said, “I haven’t got a penny in the world. I can’t pay you. “Oh, yes,” said the doctor, “you can pay me, and I expect you to do so. There is just one thing I want you to do, and it is very easy. Tell everybody you see that you were blind, and tell them who it was that healed you.
There is a side note here that we would do well to notice. That is, sometimes God tells us no even when we ask for a good thing. But as we will see in v. 20 it is always a good purpose behind God’s decisions. In v. 20 we see that this man obeyed Jesus. This must have been hard for him, but he did not doubt Jesus’ decision. Mark tells us that “he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” This is an amazing response for a few reasons:
- This man had a submissive response, even though he didn’t get what he wanted. Contrast that with the response of the healed leper that disobeyed Jesus (1:44-45). Furthermore, this kind of submission is a far cry from the behavior he exhibited earlier in the passage.
- This man knew that Jesus was God. Jesus tells him to go and tell all that the Lord had done for him, and Mark tells us that this man recognized that Jesus is Lord.
- This man had a huge impact in the Decapolis (a league of 10 Gentile cities). He reached people that may have otherwise gone unreached. Additionally, we know that he had a lasting impact because when Jesus returned to this area the people were ready for Him (7:31-37)Isn’t it funny that the first Christian missionary to the gentiles was a former demoniac who was covered with scars all over his body?
Because this man had the right response to Jesus he was not only drastically changed by Jesus, but he was also dramatically used by Jesus. And the same will be true of us id we properly recognize the power of Jesus. For this to happen we must begin with humility. James 4:6-10 puts it this way:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Jesus has the power to change us. He has the power to save us from our sin, and he has the power to use us for His kingdom purposes. No matter how bad our situation may seem, if we will humbly submit to Jesus he can change us. Thus, we must properly respond to the power of Jesus. If we do this Jesus will deliver us from the power of our sins. As Romans 6:15-18 says,
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Jesus has the power to change, and we must properly recognize that power.
R. Kent Hughes, Mark : Jesus, Servant and Savior, Preaching the Word (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1989), 123.