Released by the Power of God’s Word

Mark 5:1-20
Heb 11:32-40 / Psa 31

He pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.
(Mark 5:10)

Avoid any form of obsession
It will lead us away from the Lord;
From the evil spirits’ possession,
We’re freed by the power of God’s Word.

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5:1-20)

Reflection

The territory of the Gerasenes (or “Gadarenes” in Matthew 8:28) was considered to be heathen territory, and lay in the easternmost shore of the lake of Galilee. The apostles had just experienced an awesome display of Jesus’ divine power in calming natural forces, such as the winds and turbulent waves as they were crossing over to the other side of the lake. This time they would witness His power over the evil supernatural forces, thus proving that He was really the Son of God.

In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus earlier expelled an evil spirit in the synagogue of Capernaum. Note that the Gerasene evil spirits greeted Jesus with the same words: “What have you to do with me (us), Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” It may seem all the forces of hell acknowledged the divinity of Jesus. But our Lord dismissed their false worship, and consigned them through the pigs into the deep abyss of the sea.

The authority that Jesus displayed in the pagan territory of the Gerasenes in casting out the legion of evil spirits from the demoniac signalled the start of the conversion of the gentiles. He did not want the man freed of evil spirits to go with Him, because Jesus wanted him to be His herald, to “announce to them all that the lord in His pity has done for you.” And indeed the man went off to proclaim to the whole Decapolis region what Jesus had done for him. (Mk. 5:19-20)

What is the Word of God telling us in this long Gospel passage? First, that the reality of being possessed by the devil cannot be taken for granted. The legion of Satan had sovereignty over the Gerasenes because the people there were non-believers. They did not want to have anything to do with Jesus even when our Lord had purged their land of evil spirits. If we are more obsessed with our material possessions than with the Good News of salvation, then we are more vulnerable to being possessed by evil spirits. But this Gospel passage also tells us about the love and mercy of God, which extend even to non-believers. Jesus took the trouble to visit that pagan territory to free them from the bondage of Satan, even if He was not wanted there. Finally, this episode also reminds us that if we hold fast to the Word of God, to our faith, and to the teachings of our Church, we have the hope of the Holy Spirit countering the forces of Satan, who has already been defeated by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord, let your Holy Spirit keep me steadfast in faith, persevering in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ, that I may never be swayed again by the evil one. Amen.

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