“That’s A Lot of Pork Chops!”

“For Jesus was commanding, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!  And He asked him, What is your name?  He replied, My name is Legion, for we are many.  And he kept begging Him urgently not to send them [himself and the other demons] away out of that region.” “Now a great herd of hogs was grazing there on the hillside.  And the demons begged Him, saying, Send us to the hogs, that we may go into them!” “So He gave them permission.  And the unclean spirits came out [of the man] and entered into the hogs; and the herd, numbering about 2000, rushed headlong down the steep slope into the sea and were drowned in the sea.” (MARK 5:8-13 ~ Amplified Bible)

BIBLE-BELIEVING CHRISTIANS

We have always accepted the fact of demons and their activities in New Testament times.  But in these days, we are inclined to relegate demonic activity to pagan lands and missionary experiences. Like it or not, demonic forces are likely to become much more of a concern for you in days to come.  The apostle Paul tells us that are struggle is, at the bottom, a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:12): “For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending with physical opponents] but against the despotisms, against powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.” Even in our sophisticated times and intense interest of the “supernatural” and the “occult”: — Ouija boards are found in many American homes. — Horoscopes and astrological predictions found in most major newspapers.

FOR THE CHRISTIAN

There are two extremes that must be avoided in reference to Satanic activity.  C.S. Lewis aptly put: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” The confrontation between the powers of heaven and hell can nowhere be seen in a better perspective than Mark’s account of the encounter; the Gerasene demoniac and our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE SETTING

I was reading this morning, as a devotional and my prayer time, The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 8.  I completed reading the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee when “they came to the country of the Gadarenes or Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee” (Luke 8:26).  This same setting is recounted in Matthew 8:28-34 and Mark 5:1-20.  The Holy Spirit prompted me in writing this blog based on the story in the Gospel of Mark.  I had no idea why, I just obeyed the “prompting” and so here we are.  I later discovered the reason! At the conclusion of the day, after Jesus had calmed the waters in the Sea of Galilee, He and His disciple continued to the other side.  The ship landed perhaps late in the evening in the countryside of the Gadarenes. The Gadarenes consisted of two major cities; Hippos and Gadara.  Since Gadara was geographically several miles from the Sea, perhaps the boat might have landed in the harbor of Hippos but Scripture doesn’t say so and I’ll stick to the country of or the region of the Gadarenes If they arrived late at night, the scene must have been a dark and eerie one.  I can imagine that the nerves of the disciples were worn thin by the terrifying experience of the violent storm at sea. In 1986, a wooden vessel was found from the first century, discovered near Nof Ginosar at the lake’s  northwest shore [Gadara was on the southeast side of the lake].  The size was 26 by 7 feet, and big enough for 15 men. 

MEETING THE “INCREDIBLE HULK” 

“And as soon as He [Jesus] got out of the boat, there met Him out of the tombs a man [under the power] of an unclean spirit.  This man continually lived among the tombs, and no one could subdue him any more, even with a chain;  For he had been bound often with shackles for the feet and handcuffs, but the handcuffs of [light] chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he rubbed and ground together and broke in pieces; and no one had the strength enough to restrain or tame him.  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always shrieking and screaming and beating and bruising and cutting himself with stones”  (Mark 5:2-5–Amplified Bible).

After this weary group disembarked the boat, they meet what appeared to be a madman.  Our children would probably understand best by his appearance, he might have looked like the television creation of The Incredible Hulk!Never-the-less, he would have appeared to be insane.  The Gospel writers inform us that he was demon-possessed. Although the manifestation of demonization vary widely. the classic symptoms were there:

1.  Severe personality change.

2.  Anti-social behavior; living in solitude in a cemetery, perhaps near a ‘garbage dump’ if there was such a thing then.  What do pigs eat?  GARBAGE!

3.  Super-human strength:  (Mark 5:3, 4; Acts 19:16). 4.  Spiritual insight.   The [demoniac] in Mark 5:7, instantly recognized the Lord Jesus as the Son of God.  Matthew’s account adds the words:  “And behold, they shrieked and screamed, What have You to do with us, Jesus, Son of God?  Have You come to torment us BEFORE THE APPOINTED TIME?”  (Matthew 8:29). 

The words reveal to us that demons have an intuitive knowledge of their impending doom.

5.  Tormented.  The price tag of possession was high when falling victim to the demons, agonized in constant torment of night and day (verse 5).  His animal-like shrieks must have sent chills up spines of those nearby.

6.  Tendency towards self-destruction.  Another indication of demonic control.  All you have to do is watch the media report on well-known celebrities, who are addicted to alcohol, drugs or both.  The so-called experts and psychologist announce that these people have an illness that only needs extensive medical treatment and therapy.  Do you see where I am going? This man in Mark was continually doing harm to himself, even bruising and gashing himself with stones (verse 5); and other examples of a demoniac described in Scripture bent on self-destruction (Mark 9:17-29).

THE CONFRONTATION AND CASTING OUT

It wasn’t difficult for me to imagine what was going through the minds of the disciples as their ship landed.  In Matthew’s account, there were two demon possessed men who rushed to them.  It was like being attacked by two “Hulks”. The small group probably thought very quickly to get back aboard the ship and push-off.  Maybe they clinched their fist and picked up driftwood to defend themselves.  But from all of the Gospel accounts, I got a distinct impression that the man’s eyes were riveted on Jesus.  He didn’t appear to rush upon the group on the beach as he would normally have done.  Rather he began to plead with Jesus. Though Legion bowed at Jesus’ feet (verse 6), it wasn’t an act of worship.  He seemed to view Jesus’ approach as a launching of a direct attack on demonic forces.  He pleaded with the Lord not to be tormented. Something for us to pay attention here:  Unclean spiritual traits; they have names, they know who Jesus is, they are aware of their surroundings, they have a voice.  How ironic that the tormentor pleads not to be tormented.

THE PLEAS OF “LEGION”

In response to Jesus’ command for the demons to come out of him (verse 8); when Jesus asked the demoniac his name, it wasn’t without significance.

I agree with others, He was asking all the demons to reveal their identities.  The reply, Legion, might have been some kind of evasion of the question; a reluctance to individually identify themselves.  To the evildoer, anonymity is always preferred to identification.  On the other hand, although there were many demons, they had combined as one force to possess this man. 

While Mark records Legion’s request not to be sent out of the region (verse 10), Luke adds to this request: “And they begged [Jesus] not to command them to depart into the Abyss (bottomless pit)”  (Luke 8:31) [Rev. 9:1].

Jewish thinking was the spirit beings were assigned to certain geographical territories.  As an alternative to confinement, the demons posed an option; being permitted to enter the pigs on the scene, some 2000 in number who were feeding at the time.  The request was granted and the entire herd rushed headlong to their own destruction.  I might add here that the pigs all died and not the demons.  Demons are spirit beings and spirit beings don’t die.  After the group had departed, they perhaps continued their attack on the surrounding countryside.

THE DROWNING OF THE PIGS

This event has caused a great deal of discussion amongst Bible students.  “That’s A Lot of Pork Chops!” Had Jesus achieved such a miracle today, He would be in deep trouble.–Under investigation by the EPA for polluting Lake Galilee with decaying pigs.–The SPCA would have been up in arms for cruelty to animals.–The Livestock Association and consumer groups distressed over the sudden decrease in pig population and the impact on pork prices.

THE DELIVERANCE

Let’s not end up on the note of the death of 2000 hogs, BUT on the deliverance of the demoniac.  He had been a slave and now he was delivered from demon possession.  The New Roget’s Thesaurus in Dictionary Form gives what it means to be servile or subject to slavery: “controlled, exposed, cringe, be at the mercy of, depend upon; fall prey to, serve, obey, submit to.”  That kind of slavery can apply to substance abuse, other people, emotions, fears, etc. While the demon-possessed man was once uncontrollable, he now was sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus.  Where once he was an instrument of Satanic opposition against the Messiah, now he is a witness to His power!  Once he was naked but now he is clothed.  Once a menace to society, now a messenger of the words of deliverance and healing!

CONCLUSION and APPLICATION:

What purposes did Mark intend to achieve by the inclusion of this event?  First of all, I personally think Mark was attempting to warn his Gentile readers of the great danger of demonic influences and activity in the world around us today. The Greek were believers in the spirit world but not necessarily convinced that demons were evil.  The scene which Mark presents is deliberately dark. A word of clarification is in order here.  We must recognize in this account the dark side of Satan is exposed, but this is perhaps the more unusual side of Satan.  Satan’s most useful instrument is the outstanding, moral, upright religious man whose good deeds are done independently of God, whether in the congregation of believers or behind the pulpit.

And it is of no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light;  So it is not surprising if his servants also masquerade as ministers of righteousness. [But] their end will correspond with their deeds”  (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15).

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