Omnipotent Son, Merciful Savior – Part 1
Text: Mark 5:1-20
Main Idea: Jesus is the Son of God and he is a merciful Savior
I. A Hopeless Existence (Mark 5:1-5)
II. The Omnipotent Son (Mark 5:6-13)
III. A Two-Fold Response (Mark 5:14-20)
Before we turn to our text today, I want to tie it into the preceding account because I believe the Gospel writer wants us to see that the demons know the answer to the disciple’s question in chapter 4 verse 41; “who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The disciples know that only God can still the seas, but they also know that no one has ever seen God and that no man can see his glory and live.” Yet, this “man” their “teacher” Jesus just did something that only God can do. And as they step onto the shore in the country of the Gerasenes, a legion of demons provides the answer to their question. “Jesus is the Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7).
But, this raises an important question, “How does God incarnate interact with sinful and broken humans?” Did he come to teach them a better way to live? Did he come to deliver a divine indictment against them? Did he come to pour out his holy wrath on sinful humans? No. Jesus is a merciful savior who delivers wretched rebels from their miserable existence and their just condemnation. And there is no one more wretched, abandoned, and hopelessly lost in this Gospel than the man in the text this morning.
Main Idea:Jesus is the Son of God and he is a merciful Savior.
A Hopeless Existence (Mark 5:1–5)
This is one of the most deplorable descriptions of human misery in the entire Bible. This man is a terror to himself and to everyone around him. In fact, Mark hammers home his violence in verse 3.
- No one could bind him anymore
- Not even with a chain
- No one had the strength to subdue him.
This man has been stripped of his humanity and has been reduced to little more than a raging animal. He is alive, but he is banished to the land of the dead until his eventual demise; abandoned, alone, wailing among the tombs as he is forced to mutilate himself for his dementor’s fiendish pleasure. In this man we see the epitome of lostness. He cannot ask for help. He cannot fightback. He has lost all sense of self-control.
Even more, from a Jewish perspective, this man is living in a geographic region and a physical location that they would never—ever—choose to go for fear of becoming ceremonially unclean. First, the country of the Gerasenes is east of the Jordon river in a Gentile area known as the Decapolis (or ten cities). Ten cities that the Roman General Pompey reestablished as centers of pagan Hellenistic culture in 63 B.C. Second, the region that Jesus and the disciples landed in was devoted to pig farming—animals that were utterly unclean and off limits according to the Law of Moses. Third, the demon possessed man was unclean himself: (1) lived among the tombs, (2) he was covered in blood from his self-mutilation, and (3) he was possessed by unclean spirits.
So this man is wholly unable to interact with other people, wholly unable to escape his demonic oppression, and he was wholly unfit to pursue a relationship with the Holy, Just, and Sovereign Creator of all things. But, Jesus isn’t disgusted by his wretched condition, he isn’t enraged by his animalistic violence, he is not deterred by his ceremonially unclean location, nor is he intimidated by his demonic legion of dementors… Because, he is the Omnipotent Son of God and he has come to this very place to deliver this man from his living hell.
Our Merciful Savior
When I was serving with TLI, I had the opportunity to train pastors in the small Himalayan country of Bhutan. My teaching partner and I were tourists by day and teachers by night because Bhutan is closed to any missionary activity. And as we toured Buddhist temple after temple I began to notice that Tibetan Buddhism was very different than the Theravada Buddhism of Burma. But, even more its sharp contrast with the gospel, in that, their understanding of life, death, karma, and reincarnation was an enclosed circle with various degrees of reward and punishment for their life on this earth. Yet, Buddha was not in the circle! He stood outside the circle as a promise of possible enlightenment and nirvana… but there was no opening or path that led to him and he never lifts a finger to help anyone achieve it.
Jesus didn’t—and doesn’t—stand on the outside encouraging us to try harder. He set aside his glory in heaven, he stepped into our hopeless brokenness, and he broke the “system” so that we might be saved from our slavery to sin and Satan’s power.
1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
The Omnipotent Son (Mark 5:6–13)
A One-Sided Confrontation
Just picture the scene, as this demonized man—who breaks iron shackles, whom no one can subdue—rushes full-speed toward Jesus only to collapse at his feet in full submission. Instead of falling upon Jesus in attack, he falls down before Jesus in fearful recognition that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, if you read through the gospels you will find that demons never question Jesus true identity, they always acknowledge him for who he really is. And that is because…
Colossians 1:15–17 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Satan and his demons are not equal but opposite spiritual powers in relation to Jesus. No! Jesus is God. He is equal in deity to the Father and Holy Spirit But unique in personality. All things were created through Jesus AND for Jesus. But, Satan and his demons were not created evil. They were holy angles that rebelled against God. All things (at this very moment including demons) are held together by Jesus himself.
They know he is the Son of God. They know that they are no match. But, at the same time these demons are not falling down before Jesus in true worship. They know they are going to face eternal wrath and torment for their rebellion, which is why they confront Jesus and attempt to bargain with him—they want to avoid his righteous wrath as long as they can.
A Surprising Revelation
Now, Jesus could have freed this man without any conversation. He could have commanded the demon to be silent. But, instead he asked the demon his name—legion.
And I do not believe Jesus was trying to gain power over the demon by asking its name. Jesus is the Omnipotent Son of God. Rather, Jesus asks the question in order to reveal the massive nature of this man’s demonic oppression AND emphasize the true magnitude of his miraculous deliverance to his disciples who are with him.In their eyes, this was just another case of demon possession. They had seen Jesus cast out scores of demons.
But, they had never seen anything like this. A legion (λεγιών) is astronomical increase, in that, it was a Roman military unit made up of approximately six thousand troops and 120 horsemen.
Jesus was facing down an army of demons. But, despite their vast numbers and incredible powers they are wholly-incapable of stalling Jesus’ Kingdom advance by one step. The only thing they can do is ask for a reduced sentence and he accepts their request.
Mark 5:12–13 And they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
I think that Mark wants us to see at least three things in this encounter.
Jesus is the Son of God because demons do not grovel before humans and humans cannot command demons with a word—only God can do that.
This man is not simply suffering from a split personality or severe psychological disorder. The title “legion,” the tangible manifestation of 2,000 pigs, and the man’s final condition confirms both the truthfulness and the magnitude of the exorcism.
Seeing is not always believing…
A Two-Fold Response (Mark 5:14–20)
Miracles may produce holy fear but do not necessarily awaken faith— Seeing is not always believing. Notice that both the stilling of the storm (4:35–41) and this exorcism both end in fear. In the previous account, the disciples were more terrified at Jesus’ ability to still the storm than at the storm itself. And here the villiagers are more frightened by Jesus’ power to expel demons than they are by the demoniac himself. But, this fear does drive the villagers closer to Jesus asking, “who then is this?”Rather, their fear compels them to push Jesus away.
Just as the demons “begged” Jesus not to send them out of the area (v. 10) and to send them into the pigs (v. 12), so also the townspeople “beg” him to leave (v. 17). The reason is fear (v. 15), but fear of what? Some have said they are afraid of greater financial loss. They cared more for the pigs than people. While others suggest that they see Jesus as a dangerous and uncontrollable disruption to their peaceful lives. But, Mark isn’t concerned with their motives; he wants us to see the marked contrast between the townspeople and the man who was delivered from a living hell.
The townspeople beg Jesus to leave. But the man begs to be with Jesus because he has experienced the overflowing mercy and saving power of God himself. He has tasted God’s kindness to him in Jesus Christ and all he wants more. But, Jesus leaves him behind as a living testimony to his mercy and saving power.
Let’s take a minute to link this encounter to the gospel because it is easy to miss the fact that you and I need God’s compassion an mercy just as much as this man; not because we are demon possessed but because apart from faith Jesus we are all doomed to share the demons eternal punishment.
The Bible is very clear, God is perfectly holy, perfectly just, and will pour out his perfect wrath upon unrepentant humans and demons alike for all eternity. Not because he his utterly ruthless but because he is infinitely worthy of praise and worship… and as Paul puts it in Romans 1:18,
Romans 1:18–19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
Creation declares God’s glory and cries out, “This world is no cosmic accident! There must be an all-powerful creator, look for him and worship him. But, mankind suppresses that truth by creating their own narratives of reality and worshiping created things rather than the creator himself. His wrath is fully deserved because it is in direct response to our willful rebellion.
Yet, despite all of this and more; God is merciful, in that, he sees and knows the true depths of your sin, depravity, uncleanness, and secret desires. He sees how we constantly hurt ourselves. He sees how we constantly hurt those around us. He sees our hopeless wretchedness, brokenness, and inability to save ourselves—everything is bare before him. Yet, despite all of this, he does not recoil in disgust and propel us toward our doom. He responds in mercy and love!
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God in his mercy sent Jesus to live the perfect life that we could never live and die the death that we deserve so that we might be saved from his coming wrath through repentance and faith in Jesus’ substutionary death and glorious resurrection.
Ephesians 2:8–9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God [just like the man in this encounter], 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
This is the message of the gospel. This is how you become a Christian.
- Jesus can clean the dirtiest sinner.
- Jesus can straighten the most twisted and deviant mind.
- Jesus can deliver from the strongest spiritual strongholds.
- Jesus offers the kind of satisfaction, joy, and purpose this world can never provide.
Two closing questions.
Are you trusting in Jesus as your only hope today?
If you think you are living a moral life, your moral pursuits are not enough. No one can stand before God in the merits of their good deeds.
If you think you need to fix up your life before Jesus will accept you. Jesus isn’t waiting for you to preform penance or prove your sincerity before you can come to him in faith.
If you think that your willfully rebellious, joyfully depraved, life-long pursuit of sin is greater that God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. You couldn’t be more wrong!
No one is good enough for the gospel. And no one is too far gone for the gospel. The call of the gospel is simply this: Jesus lived, died, and rose again for your sin. And God will forgive you if you turn away from your self-reliance and your sin and you trust in Jesus Christ as your only hope of forgiveness.
Please do not put it off any longer, receive the good news of the gospel and believe today.
Christian: Are you measuring people by the magnitude of their brokenness or by the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ?
What I mean is that it’s easy to believe that moral unbelievers are more pleasing to God and closer to the gospel than unbelievers who are trapped in addictions, embrace homosexuality, or who have committed heinous acts against other people. But, the Bible reminds us:
On the one hand, moralistic individuals do not have an easier path to Jesus. They don’t believe they need Jesus because, deep down, they believe they are doing just fine on their own.
And on the other, sinfully broken individuals [your children, parents, friends, coworker, employer] do not have a harder path to Jesus, because every human is a slave to sin and the blood of Jesus can cleanse the deepest stain.
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The ground is level at the cross. Moralistic and broken people alike need the same thing. Jesus is a merciful Savior who loves to save every kind of sinner. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 154–55.
David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 204.
“Another puzzling question is what happened to the demons after the destruction of the pigs? Were they destroyed? Were they banished to wander aimlessly (cf. Matt 12:43–45)? The irony of the narrative would suggest that their desperate attempt to stay in the region has failed, and their worst fears are realized. Since the depths of the sea are often associated with the netherworld, perhaps Mark envisions them as now banished to “hell… in chains of darkness” (2 Pet 2:4; cf. Jude 6), awaiting their final judgment (Rev 20:1–3). This would seem to agree with the parallels in Matthew and Luke (the earliest commentaries on Mark), where the greatest fear of the demons is to be tormented and banished to the Abyss before the eschatological judgment (Matt 8:29; Luke 8:31);” (Strauss, Mark, vol. 2 of Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014] 219).
Strauss, Mark, 219.
Strauss, Mark, 220.