Mark has already introduced his readers to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ could cast out unclean spirits, but here he describes one account in some detail. We must never forget that “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
The satanic possession
“And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit” (Mark 5:1-2).
There is a tendency in the modern church to go to extremes regarding demonic activity. Some claim to see and cast out demons everywhere they go, while others dismiss the reality of these beings. The spiritual world is very real, so to explain demonic possession away with medical terminology is to make a mockery of Jesus’ ministry. Those who are under Satan’s dominion are not suffering with epilepsy or a mental disorder. If the demoniac was just an epileptic then the condition must be contagious, for the swine became infected with the same disease too!
Because we may never see a case as described by Mark does not mean that demons do not exist. Those who believe that there is no such beings as demons undermine both the word and authority of God.
The sad position
“Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not … And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea” (Mark 5:3-7, 9-13).
The devil has always been a cruel taskmaster. This man was tormented in body, soul and spirit. His condition is a foretaste of the state that he will bring the lost to in Hell. This man lived in the local graveyard, hiding naked in the sepulchres and cutting himself with sharp stones. To protect himself and others he had been bound with chains, but the demons gave him supernatural strength to break his bonds. He was full of demons, out of control and out of his mind. We ought to remember that possessed people may not always appear to be in this condition. We probably do not realise it, but we come into contact with numerous possessed people throughout our lives.
The legion of devils knew exactly who Jesus was, and understood that He had the power to send them to their eternal place of torment. Though He had the power, the timing was not right for this. All of Satan’s angels will end up in the Lake of Fire, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) … “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). It is possible that the devils were mocking Jesus when they said, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29), so asked to be sent into the swine. How could that man live for so long with 1,000 demons when 2,000 pigs could not bear them for one minute! If the devils could not destroy the man, they would destroy the swine. They were following the nature of their lord, “And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon” (Revelation 9:11) … “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10).
The Saviour’s power
“For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit … And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts” (Mark 5:8, 14-17).
Demons cannot argue with the authority and power of Christ, “Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?” (Ecclesiastes 8:4) … “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). In every case where Jesus casts out a devil a dramatic change takes place in the heart, mind and body of the one delivered. The demons know the power of the Lord, “The devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).
When the Spirit of God inhabits the believer there is no place left for the devil, therefore we reject the notion that Christians can be possessed by demons. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) … “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7) … “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11) … “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Lord never does anything by half-measures, so the truly born-again believer can be assured that the “wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18).
Though demons are never far away from us, we know that the Lord is closer to us that they could ever be, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). We believe that we are saved to “the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25), since the Saviour has triumphed over Satan, “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).
Until he is cast into the Lake of Fire, Satan continues to rule over the “children of disobedience” who live their lives “according to the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), but the Lord has given us the power to “resist the devil” (James 4:7) and “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). As we follow the Deliverer we will never be “ignorant of [Satan’s] devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).