Read Mark 5:1-20
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NRSV)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 187: Demoniac. We’ve already discussed the exorcisms Jesus performed and the battle he waged against demons who had possessed people. That was a major part of his earthly ministry. There can be no doubt that there is more to meet the eye when we think about this world and the sin and evil that plague it. There can be no doubt that we are at war not just with our own sinful nature but with the spiritual forces of darkness that work behind the scenes in the world.
So, naturally, Jesus’ ministry included many exorcisms and conflicts with the spiritual forces of evil at work in the world. With that said, the account of the demoniac reveals whole new level of possession, and not in the way that one might think. That is why I felt that it was important to single out this particular person who was possessed by demons.
In the account, we learn that Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee and came upon a series of burial caves. It is at this place of burial that we are introduced to a man who was possessed by “an evil spirit” or “a demon”. I put that in quotes because we learn that, in fact, the man had many evil spirits or demons within him. When Jesus demanded the man was not living by these caves due to personal choice; rather, he had been chained up and placed there by other people.
We all know the result, this man rushed up to Jesus and begged him to not torture him or send him out of the region. Jesus then exorcised the demon and sent him into a herd of pigs which ended up squealing and running into and drowning in the sea. We also know that the man was so joyful to be delivered from the demons that he begged Jesus to let him come with him, but Jesus declined and told the man to spread the good news in that Gentile region.
The focus for this devotion, however, is on the people of that region. Not only did these people shackle and chain another human being in a cemetery, leaving him for dead, but they also had no apparent concern for the person. I am sure he was chained by the tombs out of fear that he might harm the villagers; however, when he was healed and he shared what Jesus had done, the villagers begged Jesus to leave because he had cost them their entire herd of swine.
In other words, they had more concern for their own safety and their own financial stability than they did for a human being in desperate need for hope, healing and wholeness. That is possession on a whole new level. These people were possessed with their own selfish desires and they allowed those things to justify the evil they perpetrated on this man.
The challenge for us is to recognize this fact: demons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. One need not be turning their head 360 degrees and vomiting pea soup in order for one to be possessed by evil. Sometimes evil is much more subtle and, as always, the devil surfaces in the details. The question for us is this, what have we allowed to possess us? What sorts of things do we have within us that enables us to justify the wrong we do.
You may be thinking that there’s nothing. Yet, if we think outside of the box on this, the truth will be revealed to us. Plenty of Christians, for instance, have used their “love for their children” as an excuse for not raising their children in the church and worship God. Kids are now given the religion of sports and activities, as opposed to being raised in the Church worshiping God.
Plenty of Christians have allowed their love of nation to justify treating immigrants and foreigners with contempt and lots of other evil thoughts and deeds. There are tons of examples where people are possessed by a different spirit than the Holy Spirit, and every one of us is possessed by things that are counter to the Spirit and the teachings of Christ. The challenge for us is to be honest about that, to repent, and to invite Christ into our hearts so that we can be delivered of such things. While this type of possession is different than that of the demoniac; however, it is just as destructive. My prayer is that we all may continually open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit so that such things may be driven out.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Human beings, we have dark sides; we have dark issues in our lives. To progress anywhere in life, you have to face your demons.” – John Noble
Lord, deliver me from the demons that possess me so that I may be freed for joyful obedience to you! Amen.