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Clash of Two Kingdoms

July 29, 2012 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Gospel of Mark

Topic: Authority/Power of Christ Passage: Mark 5:1–20

Please turn with me to the gospel of Mark chapter 5 as we continue our journey through Mark. Let’s pray and then read verses 1-20. 

Mark 5:1-20

While waiting in a checkout line in a convenience store I got into a conversation with the young man standing ahead of me. He looked like he was into some dark stuff and in a short time the conversation turned to spiritual things and when I mentioned Jesus to him he informed me that he had decided to follow Satan instead cause he felt that Satan was cooler than God and more powerful. He believed that the devil was going to win the cosmic battle and he wanted to be on the “winning side”. Nothing I could say in the few minutes we had could convince him that he was choosing the losing side.

The story we come to this morning is one of three consecutive events that display the lordship and power of Jesus. Last week we saw Jesus’ lordship over nature, next week we’ll see his lordship over death, and in the story we come to this morning we see his absolute lordship and power over Satan and his minions. If that young man in the checkout line could be here, he would see that not only does Jesus win, it’s pretty embarrassing how much firepower the enemy has and how little he can do with it.

Scene one: portrait of a tormented soul

After facing a deadly storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and his disciples cross to the other side and come to the Gentile country of the Gerasenes. Mark says that as Jesus is getting out of the boat, immediately they were met with a seriously demonized man. Matthew tells us he was a fierce man and Luke tells us that long ago he had stopped wearing clothes and living in a home, now he wandered among the tombs, a walking dead man. For a time the townspeople had tried to restrain him with chains and shackles but he would break the shackles to pieces and wrench the chains apart. So, whether they cast him out or whether the demons drove him out, this poor soul would wander the tombs and the mountains day and night and the Bible says he was always crying out and cutting himself.

This is a picture of a soul in torment. Lonely, cast out from society, driven by demons that relentlessly torment him, he screams and cuts himself in a desperate attempt to express the despair of his tortured soul. And there is no power on earth that can deliver his soul from the hellish grip of these demons and inevitably they are driving him to a miserable death.

As soon as Jesus gets off the boat this demonized man runs to him, and falls down at his feet. Don’t ask me why – it would seem to make more sense that the demons would drive this man away from Jesus but for some reason we see throughout Jesus’ ministry that while demons lived in fear of Jesus, they were also mysteriously drawn to him – they wanted nothing to do with him, but couldn’t seem to run or hide from him either. What we know is this: Jesus’ presence on earth signaled the clash of two kingdoms and the one thing the demons couldn’t do was to avoid the confrontation. So this demon resists in a different way, and that brings us to one of the strangest interactions in the Bible. Let’s read through it again:

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.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Vv. 7-8

The first time we read this it might seem like the first words spoken were by the demon asking Jesus what do we have to do with each other? But verse 8 tells us that these words were spoken in response to Jesus: for he was saying to him, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 

So this is all the resistance the demon can offer – he doesn’t come out right away but instead pleads with Jesus not to send him prematurely to the abyss or to judgment. I spoke last week about the ultimate storm being the judgment of God that every man, woman and child must face if they aren’t in Christ. The Bible says that is a certainty, but we can ignore it, deny it, live like it isn’t reality. Demons, on the other hand, live with the certain knowledge that their days are limited. They know the clock is running out, they know they only have a certain number of days, they know God and the terrible judgment they will one day face. They don’t want that day to come one second before its appointed time, and this demon is pleading that Jesus not cast him into hell before his time had run out.

Scene two: My name is Legion

In response to the demon’s plea, Jesus asks him his name. This is unusual – Jesus never asks any other demon his name or spends any time at all conversing with demons – he simply casts them out with a word. When I lived on Long Island, a terrible teaching went through a lot of churches that focused on demon possession and deliverance – called deliverance ministries. Church services became carnivals of craziness in the name of demons being cast out (even of Christians!). I heard one such service broadcast on a Christian radio station and the pastor leading it was asking the demon not only its name, but all kinds of questions – carrying on an entire conversation, even at times joking with this “supposed” demon. It was a disturbing abuse of this passage.

Jesus isn’t chatting up the demon. He asks its name because he wants to reveal the man’s horrifying condition to the man and to those around him. When the demon answers, my name is Legion, for we are many, it is a staggering admission. Most people possessed by a demon in the Bible are possessed by a single demon. In Luke 8:2 we read the unusual story of Mary Magdalene who was set free from seven demons. But a legion was a Roman military unit consisting of 6000 foot soldiers and 120 horsemen – so this man has been taken over by an army of demons. When the demons plead to be allowed to enter the nearby herd of pigs, they immediately run down a cliff into the sea and are drowned – and there were over 2000 pigs. So there were a lot of demons crowded into this man.

But here we come to another unusual aspect of this story. Why does Jesus accommodate the demons and allow them to enter the herd of pigs? Some have tried to speculate and say that the herd of pigs was being tended by Jews and Jews weren’t supposed to be raising pigs – since they were unclean –so Jesus is teaching them a lesson. I don’t think so. Remember, this is a Gentile country – raising pigs would not be forbidden to them at all. I believe Jesus did allow the demons to enter the pigs in order to teach something, but not something about the pigs - in order to show the ultimate destructive nature and intention of the demons. What they did to the pigs they were doing to the man, only at a slower and crueler pace. It gives us insight into the nature of Satan and his kingdom.

The murderous nature of the devil

The Bible tells us that evil isn’t an impersonal force, it is a person. Lucifer rebelled against God and his nature became evil. Out of that evil, he influenced a third of the angels to rebel against God and follow him – that is what demons are, fallen angels. Satan, the serpent, then influenced mankind through Adam and Eve to rebel against God and evil entered this world. There is a lot of evil in the world today and throughout history – all of it influenced and endorsed by Satan. Jesus said that from the beginning he is a liar (that means when he speaks he deceives and misleads) and a murderer (he wants to kill and destroy life whenever and wherever he can).

Why? Because he hates God and wants to destroy God, but he can’t. Because men were created in the image of God, by destroying, by distorting, and by killing men, Satan is getting as close to destroying God as he can possibly get. The young man that I talked to in the checkout line didn’t realize that Satan hates his soul as much as he hates a Christian’s soul. His plan for his most loyal follower is to betray and destroy him – like this poor man was being tormented and destroyed. Like the pigs were quickly destroyed.

Satan’s usual game plan isn’t possessing men with legions of demons and tormenting them. Most of the time he appears as an angel of light – he looks good and attractive and he makes his plans look good and attractive. But according to 2 Corinthians 4: 4 this angel of light blinds unbelievers to keep them from seeing the true light of the gospel and the glory of Christ. He leads men at different rates but always in the same direction: to eternal damnation and destruction. This tormented soul in Mark 5 wasn’t extreme, just advanced. It is a picture of where every soul who is in Satan’s kingdom is going. And the bad news is that because of sin, we were all born into Satan’s kingdom. You don’t have to be bad or evil or do terrible things, like the man possessed by a legion of demons, we were in the grip of the kingdom of darkness and there was no power on earth that could save us from that grip.

This tormented soul had no hope of ever being set free, and he began this day with the same hopeless despair that he felt every day – but everything was going to change for him because Jesus came to his shore. We’ve looked long enough at the prince of darkness, because this story isn’t about the legions of hell, it’s about the champion of heaven, the Savior who came to set us free from the hellish grip of Satan so that we might be sons and daughters of the most High God. Two things we see about Jesus Christ in this story:

Scene three: the absolute power and lordship of Jesus Christ

The young man in the checkout line would have loved the odds: Jesus up against thousands of demons.  You’d think the stage was set for an epic battle, like something out of Lord of the Rings. It’s a confrontation between two opposing kingdoms and the demons have a serious advantage in numbers.

But once again the veil is pulled back and we see the staggering power and authority of Christ. With all that firepower the most this army of demons can do is wave the white flag and ask permission to retreat. Usually when an army is overpowered they just pull back and regroup, but this army of demons has to ask Jesus if it’s ok if they retreat. They are defeated before the battle begins! And with a word Jesus drives them out – his person and his word have such absolute authority that they have no ability to resist and no choice but to obey. There is no epic battle between God and Satan. Jesus could destroy all of the kingdom of darkness without breaking a sweat. The epic battle Jesus fought wasn’t to destroy the kingdom of darkness, but to break the grip Satan had on the world through sin. Satan isn’t our biggest problem, sin is, and the horror of sin isn’t facing Satan, but facing God and His fierce anger over sin. Jesus couldn’t save us from our lostness with a word – it took the cross. It took Jesus dying in our place, enduring the wrath of God for our sin that we should have endured. When we come to Jesus in faith and receive him as Lord and Savior, we need no longer fear Satan or the kingdom of darkness – they have no power over our lives any longer. Jesus is our Lord and he controls our life and destiny.

And in this story we see not only the power of Jesus’ lordship, but we see the goodness of his lordship. Verse 15 describes the difference that Jesus’ rule makes in a life:

And they (the townspeople) came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind…

He’s not shrieking anymore, he’s not cutting himself anymore, he’s not wandering naked anymore, he’s not tortured anymore. He is sitting peacefully and clothed and in his right mind, the image of God, and the dignity and nobility of man was restored to this man by Jesus’ lordship.

Scene four: the saving mission of Jesus Christ

Finally we come to the last scene and it is sad and yet hopeful at the same time. When the townspeople, who knew this demon-possessed man well, saw him sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, verse 15 goes on to say, and they were afraid. And when those who had seen what happened described it to them, including the part about the pigs, verse 17 shows the tragic response of this Gentile town:

And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.

Rather than welcoming Jesus after what he did, they were afraid and wanted him to leave – begged him to leave. They didn’t insist or threaten – they knew the power of Jesus was unlike anything they had ever seen, but they begged him to leave. They preferred demon possession to a man restored to peace and life. They’d rather have the pigs and the demons than Jesus
Satan’s twisting of man’s appetite

It’s all backwards – they want what they should despise and despise what they should want. Why is that? The answer came to me the other day as I was, of all things, taking the garbage out. I was sealing up a bag of rotten garbage – in the heat the garbage smelled rancid and I realized I hated the smell of heat-rotted garbage – couldn’t get away from it fast enough. But I knew that I needed to tie it up well so creatures wouldn’t get in to it. Then it hit me: what is sickening to me is attractive to some creatures. The smell causes me to lose my appetite, but for many creatures that same smell – same sick, putrid odor – says to them, “dinner’s on! Come and get it!” They are built differently and their appetites are completely different.
Satan hates the image of God in man, so through vehicle of sin he distorts that image and he does that by blinding our minds to the light and glory of God – and sin changes the appetites of men so that the garbage of immoral and unethical and even evil things become attractive to us and the things that God created us to love and value – truth and love and compassion and selflessness and humility – seem repulsive. So the smell of pride smells good to us. The smell of selfishness smells good to us. The smell of lust and immorality smells good to us. The smell of greed and deception and laziness and apathy and materialism…these garbage smells smell good to us because of sin.

These townspeople loved what was evil and despised what was glorious. They wanted their garbage back and they begged Jesus to leave. So Jesus got back in the boat (vs. 18). He travelled all that way across the Sea of Galilee, enduring a wicked-bad storm, all for one man. That was his mission – one man. And Jesus would, as far as we know, never set foot in that region again. But that one man’s heart had been changed completely and now he was devoted to Jesus. He knew what it was to be under Satan’s rulership and now he knew what it was to be under Jesus’ rulership and he loved Jesus’ rulership. Jesus didn’t let him come but told him to tell all the people in the ten cities about all that God had done for him – and that’s just what he did!

It is a preview of what’s to come. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but in His earthly ministry that was confined almost exclusively to the Jews. But this gives us a glimpse into what is to come in Luke’s second book - Acts. Jesus will commission and send His disciples to seek and save the lost from every nation, and every state of lostness. They will travel into the darkest of regions with the good news of Jesus Christ. They will tell of all that God has done for them, and many will reject them, but some by God’s grace will receive that good news with joy. And then they will tell others of all that God has done for them.

That is the mission Jesus gave this man – commissioned as the first witness for Christ in a pagan land. Then He gave that commission (the Great Commission) to the Twelve and His disciples. And it is the mission we have today – to tell those around us how much God has done for us. He has saved us, He has transferred us from the domain of darkness into His kingdom. He sends us out to tell others that He can do the same good for them if they will believe.
It’s not our job to get them to believe. We can’t change their appetites to hate sin and the kingdom of darkness and love God – only God can do that. But as we share the gospel and tell them what the Lord has done for us, God will touch their hearts and change their appetites and He will save them.

So as we close this message, there are two truths we can take home with us: we need not fear the enemy of our souls if our hope is in Christ. And no one is beyond the reach of his saving power – we should pray for and share with the most lost people we know with confident faith because Jesus can reach them and save them.

Let’s pray.