Posted on November 6, 2013
#27: Hope for the Hopeless
He was the picture of misery. Naked, scarred from numerous cuttings and self-mutilation, isolated by his own insane raging, he was both feared and afraid. Well-meaning people had tried to bring him under control; they bound him many times but he broke the strongest restraints. Now he stayed outside of town in a cemetery. No one went near him. He was a hopeless case.
Then he met Jesus.
Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our study of Mark’s gospel. Glad you’re joining in!
Read Mark 5:1-20. (For parallel accounts, read Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-38.)
After He stilled the storm, Jesus and His disciples continued across the gentled sea. They came ashore in a region known as the Decapolis, or “ten cities.” (Scholars debate the exact name of this area, using Gadarenes, Gerasenes, and Gergesenes; all were in fairly close proximity in the Decapolis.)
A man came running out from the tombs toward Jesus. (Matthew says there were two men. Mark and Luke focus on the spokesman.) The man’s appearance must have been fearsome. He was the town “crazy man,” though his violence was mostly directed toward himself. Driven by numerous indwelling demons who knew Jesus’ authority, the man fell to his knees before Jesus.
As Jesus began ordering the demons to evacuate the man’s body, their leader spoke: “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You before God, do not torment me!” Demons are tortured creatures with only more torture to come. JW McGarvey wrote, they use the body of their host “as a vehicle to express their own grief.”
This demon was stalling for time, asking Jesus to give him and his associates another host rather than sending them to the abyss (see Lk. 8:31 and Mt. 8:29). Looking about, the desperate demon saw a large herd of hogs. “Send us there,” he said. “Let us go into them.” Jesus granted permission. The demons didn’t intend to kill the herd; they were hoping for a new host and took what was available. But their destructive nature made the swine crazy, as it had the demoniac. The terrified swine ran wild, plunging down a steep bank into the sea to drown.
The herd’s keepers, responsible to its owners for its safety, ran into town to report what had happened. By the time the townspeople arrived, the formerly-possessed man was clothed and calm, and the wild look was gone from his eyes. His townsmen hardly noticed. Their greed overcame their compassion.
They were so worried about the financial hit they’d just taken in losing thousands of hogs, they began pleading with Jesus to leave their region. They didn’t understand that by doing so, they lost much more than swine. What if instead they’d welcomed Jesus and become His friends? Oh, what they missed!
Meanwhile the newly-freed man, seeing Jesus board His boat, begged to come along. But Jesus sent him to his family and friends, saying, “Go, tell what the Lord has done for you.” Often, Jesus told people not to spread word of healings or miracles. But in the Decapolis, news of Jesus wasn’t yet widespread like on the west side of the Sea where people were ready to forcibly make Him king. Here, people needed to hear the gospel—the good news!
So the man went home, telling his amazed family and countrymen how Jesus had transformed his life. His obedience paved the way for Jesus and the Twelve to be welcomed in the Decapolis later (see Mark 7:31). Apparently, Jesus came across the Sea to claim this one man for God—more evidence that each one of us has a vital role to play in the Kingdom.
Jesus never met a hopeless case. Not one was beyond His power to help and heal, then or now. In many cases, the more extreme the transformation, the more powerful the testimony.
Do you know a “hopeless case”? Bring them to Jesus—first in prayer, then in person as the hard layers surrounding their hearts are peeled away by the power of the Holy Spirit.
© Diane McLoud 2013