Weird is Normal?
Have you ever observed bizarre behavior at sporting events? Perhaps you’ve seen downright crazy behavior that society finds acceptable because that’s “normal” for sports. For example, it’s not uncommon for adult men at an NFL football game to remove their shirts, paint their bodies, and wear weird hats and clothing to support their teams. Society often finds the weird normal.
Society is generally okay with weird – but not okay with God or the Church displaying His power!
God’s power displayed requires humanity to accept what it often rejects and doesn’t understand. Simply stated, we like God to be “predictable.” It’s okay for humanity to be a little weird at times, but not God to be “out of the box.” Hmmm, I remember reading where God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours! (See Isaiah 55:8-9) Perhaps God’s interruptions into our “weird normal” are much greater and more normal than we realize.
Society, and many in the Church, prefer a “mild Jesus” – you know, one with blonde hair, blue eyes, and holding a lamb! We like a gentle Jesus, not the roaring Lion of Judah! But when His power is displayed, such as the calming of a storm or delivering a severely demonized man, many are frightened. Jesus said plainly to the religious who rejected and accused Him of delivering the demonized by the prince of demons, “If I cast out demons by the finger of God, know that the Kingdom of God has come near you!”
As we observed last week, when Jesus calmed the stormy sea, the disciples feared what they didn’t understand. “Who can this be that even the wind and the waves obey Him!” (Mark 4:41) This week, we will examine the deliverance of the demonized man in Mark 5. The story challenged the people of the Gadarene region to make a decision regarding Jesus. Like the disciples, they “feared” when God’s power freed the demonized man. They were more comfortable with a man demonized, cutting himself, and howling all night than with Jesus who sets the demonized free.
Lord Over All
Last week, we discussed Mark 4:35-41, and observed Jesus taking command of the wind and waves—He is Lord over all—including nature. The story contrasts the panic of the disciples: He was at rest—they were in distress.
In the presence of chaos, Jesus is so confident in the Father’s presence and power that He remains asleep on a pillow. True peace and rest, amid the trials and storms of life, are found in Jesus—He is the Prince of Peace.
Mark 4:41, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Mark answers this question in Mark 5. Mark left no room for his readers to form an answer; he wants Jesus’ action recorded in Mark 5:1-43 to demonstrate the answer.
FEAR is replaced with FAITH when Jesus is your focus!
In Psalm 16:8, David declares a simple but profound truth to remove fear and build faith in our lives, “I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” I have set the Lord before me continually—I am secure!
The liberation of the demonized man, healing the woman with the issue of blood, and raising the daughter of Jarius from the dead all convey one simple and profound truth—Jesus is Lord over all!
As equally impressive as the winds and waves obeying Jesus is the deliverance of the man with the legion of demons in Mark 5:1-20.
The casting out of demons has been a central part of Jesus’ ministry. His first miracle in Mark was the casting out of a demon (Mark 1:21-28). Mark summarizes twice this deliverance ministry of Jesus in Mark 1:32-34, 3:11-12.
For those who follow Jesus, His directive is clear: “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:7-8; see Matt. 28:18-20 – the Great Commission)
Demonized Man in Brazil Delivered
Several years ago, I was ministering in Brazil. After the service, a middle-aged man was brought to me for prayer by several family members. The family showed extreme concern for him because he had severe outbursts of anger, thoughts of suicide, and even murderous thoughts.
I began to ask some questions and discovered these thoughts and emotions had been occurring with the man for about five years. After more interview with the man and his family, I learned that these extreme emotions began five years prior, right after he was in a serious construction accident at work.
I then asked the man if he had forgiven his employer and those responsible for the accident. He emphatically said, “No!” I then talked to him about the importance of forgiveness (see Matthew 18:21-35) and led him through prayers of forgiveness toward those who had wronged him. Suddenly, he was thrown to the floor, violently manifesting demonic oppression.
I began to minister deliverance to the man, first taking authority over the demon tormenting him, then leading him through prayers of renunciation of witchcraft and closing the “open doors” in his life that led to his demonization. He and his family had been involved with macumba, a form of witchcraft in Brazil, which opened a legal foothold for the enemy to torment him.
Within a few minutes, the man was delivered from a macumba spirit; completely free of torment, anger, and rage. I’ll never forget his face as he stood there smiling, weeping, thanking me and God for his new-found freedom in Christ. This type of ministry would be “weird” in many of our churches, perhaps even “shunned.” Tell a good “deliverance” story to those in society, and they will probably run from you—maybe even some in the Church! We like our weird, it fits our understanding.
Many today are in bondage and oppression – Jesus still asks those who follow Him to set the captives free. His commission has never changed or been rescinded.
Mark 5:1-2 sets the tone for this amazing story of liberation.
Jesus and the disciples have crossed the sea of Galilee to the eastern shore, to a Gentile region. This area even in daylight can be eerie, there are caves all along the shoreline. A man with an “unclean spirit” (see Mark 1:23) comes out of the ceremonially “unclean tombs” to meet Him.
Mark 5:3-5 reveals the hopelessness of the situation. Men have tried to tame him to no avail; no leg iron or chain was strong enough. Can you imagine? Day and night, he was in these tombs howling and cutting himself with stones.
I’ve personally seen several cases of people who were severely demonized requiring several men to restrain them while they were manifesting to prevent them from thrashing around hurting themselves or others.
Notice in Mark 5:6-8, “But when the demonized man saw Jesus, he fell on his knees as if to worship Him.” Was the demon in the man mocking Jesus or recognizing the authority of Jesus? It seems more related to fear of the authority of Jesus. Like Mark 1:23-24, the demons in the man seem to have been trying to usurp the authority of Jesus, attempting to bind Jesus with an oath. In the ancient world, to know and declare one’s name was to have power over another person.
“What is your name?”
Mark 5:9 Jesus quickly stops the demon’s ploy by asking him, He replies, “My name is legion, for we are many.” A Roman legion was comprised of between 4,000 and 6,000 men. To say that this man was severely demonized is an understatement.
Demons often oppress individuals in groups. They lie and intimidate!
They know Jesus is God, they know His victory, their defeat, their end! The demons beg Jesus not to send them away, but into the pigs instead (Mark 5:10-13).
The theme of “uncleanness” is taken to a new level. Jesus was in Gentile territory, confronted by an unclean spirit who dwelt in a man who lived in the unclean graveyard—now the demons want to be placed in unclean flesh! In Christ, everything is made clean. We have no need to be afraid of Old Testament uncleanness. Everything has been made clean.
Unclean spirits want to inhabit flesh, and it is possibly due to their origin. There are three views of the origin of demons:
1) They are disembodied human spirits from an earlier age
2) Demons are the offspring of the union between the sons of God and the daughters of men (Genesis 6:1-4).
3) Third the view, which is held historically by the Church—and the most common view of the Church—is that they are the fallen angels mentioned in Revelation. This third view I agree with.
Seized with Fear
Rather than celebrate this man’s deliverance, the people are seized with fear, plead with Jesus to leave the area (Mark 5:14-17).
Those tending the pigs went and told everyone in town what had happened. The people come out to see Jesus and this man, who is now clothed and sane. They FEAR!
The people seem to have been more comfortable with the demons they knew rather than the God whom they didn’t know—fear is the root of rejection.
We often fear and reject what we don’t understand. God’s power demonstrated causes people to decide, “Who will I serve?” The Church often prefers the status quo and a “weak” Jesus as opposed to the manifestation of his power.
The same verb, phobéō, was used to describe the Apostle’s reaction to Jesus calming the sea in Mark 4:41. Now that the demonized man is no longer running around naked, cutting himself, and howling in the hills, they are afraid.
Society accepts “crazy,” but rejects the Holy. Why?
God has displayed His power; they can’t remain neutral toward Jesus. The deliverance of the demonized man challenges them—a decision is required. Rather than face the uncomfortable question of who Jesus is and what claim He might make upon their lives, they plead with Him to leave. Who is this man?
They fear because of God’s power and they fear more loss! “It’s better to maintain the status quo Jesus, you might cost us everything!”
“What if Jesus delivers everyone from their demons? There may not be enough livestock to hold the demons!”
To follow Jesus means you let go of the “crazy,” and follow Him in the path of holiness—it will cost you—that is the gospel.
Consider what Peter said, a former fisherman and worldly person, “You have wasted enough time doing what unbelievers desire—living in their unrestrained immorality and lust, their drunkenness and excessive feasting and wild parties, and their forbidden worship of idols. They think it’s strange that you don’t join in these activities with the same flood of unrestrained wickedness. So they slander you.” (1 Pet. 4:3-4 CEB)
Those who follow Jesus aren’t called to blend in, but to stand out—we are peculiar!
“Let me follow you Jesus!”
However, the man who is freed and in his right mind has the opposite request: he pleads to remain with Jesus—to travel with Him (Mark 5:18-20).
He wants to follow Him, just like the other disciples (same phrase used in Mark 3:14), out of gratitude for his liberation. When you meet Jesus and experience true freedom, you want to be with Him at all cost!
Jesus replies not with a rejection, but with a commissioning. “Go and tell everyone what the Lord has done for you!” Go be an evangelist—be a sent one, a missionary!
The man, who was severely demonized, is sent to proclaim the power and mercy of God to the very people who had tried to chain Him to the tombs! Notice the wisdom of God—these people knew the man—they knew they had witnessed a miracle!
The man was asked to do what Jesus was not welcome to do—to share the good news of God’s kingdom and testify about the compassion of Jesus and what He had done for him.
The man didn’t merely “tell.” The Greek word used here is the same for “preaching.” Notice that his preaching and testimony “amazed everyone!”
Rev. 19:10 “…for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.” Greek for testimony means “evidence given: record, report, testimony, witness.” A testimony is the spoken or written record of anything God has done in history.
Ps. 78:5-7 says “For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments;
The testimonies of God’s nature, character, and power build faith in our children, and in future generations. When we remember and re-tell what God has done, faith rises in the hearts of the hearer believing God will do this again. Jesus isn’t willing that any would perish – you must re-tell what God has done!
This story reveals much more than just the demonized man finding freedom. Think about these 4 thoughts from this account:
First, notice that Jesus crosses boundaries to make people whole. There are no “ethnic” boundaries in God’s Kingdom. Nor are there religious boundaries, He goes to the ceremonially unclean. Jesus doesn’t go to those who are “well,” but to the “sick.”
Mark 2:17 CEB “When Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.”
He expects us to do the same. Go to the marginalized, those whom many in society don’t care about. Be inclusive in Church culture!
Secondly, expect people to change when they come to Jesus. I wonder how many people we have written off as “zombies,” because we lack the faith and commitment that they can experience transformation through Christ?
What about the addicted, mentally ill, traumatized, or demonized? Is there hope for them in Christ?
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases, – Psalm 103:2-3
Are we willing to give those whom God has delivered from their personal demons (addictions, depression, failures, prison time) a second chance? By the way, you can’t cast out the flesh… it must be crucified!
Third, this story confronts our own priorities. Are we more interested in “business as usual” (i.e. our herd of pigs) than we are in the power of God to deliver our disordered lives and the lives of those around us? It does cost something to truly follow Jesus!
Do we celebrate God’s power to liberate, or do we fear the manifestation of God’s power because He might ask us to change—or to help others?
Finally, Jesus who delivers is also Jesus who sends. Each of us who know Christ has been liberated—the chains are now gone—go therefore!
In any church, there are people who have been delivered from “demons” of lust, perversion, fear, depression, prejudice, and sin. To you who have found this freedom, Jesus says, “Now go home and share with your family and friends the mercy of God and what Jesus has done for you!” God will use your testimony to liberate others—go!
For a more in-depth look, be sure to watch the recent Passion Church message, “Power of the Testimony”: