Chapter 8:: the Demoniac of Gadara and the Ruler of the Synagogue

 •  30 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Mark 5
I desire, beloved friends, with the Lord’s help, just to bring before our hearts this evening three incidents in this chapter; the power of Christ, His gracious, wonder-working power over demons, disease, and death. And I think you will find as we study it together that there are peculiar voices of God to us of a very practical nature in connection with each case in the chapter. First of all—and I need not dwell long upon this case—we have the demon-possessed man. God only knows whether there is anyone here to-night morally like that, but it is the picture of a person who is entirely and completely under the enslaving power of the enemy. I have no doubt whatever it is the picture of a man who is not merely in his sins, but who in his sins is peculiarly a slave of the devil. Now there are characters of sin amongst men very diverse in nature the one from the other. The leper, for instance, is a type of the sinner in one aspect, the blind man is the type of the sinner in another. We might go through all the various cases that came in contact with the Lord of life and glory in this world, and your feelings would be very differently moved in each case; you would not have the same kind of feeling with regard to a man blind as you would with regard to a leper. But when you come to a case like this, a man that was possessed with demons, a man distinctly under the mastery and dominion of the devil, bound as we would say hand and foot by his power, one shudders with horror at a case of that kind. I believe such cases morally abound: I am not prepared at all, beloved friends, to deny that there is a peculiar power of Satan at the present moment. I see, for instance, in the New Testament scriptures that long after the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and long after the coming down of the Holy Ghost upon the day of Pentecost, there were persons who were distinctly under the blinding, tyrannizing power of the devil. If ever there was a time when one would expect to see the power of Satan entirely broken and annulled, so that persons should not be subjected to his thraldom, it would be immediately consequent upon Christ’s victory and His resurrection, and the coming down of the Holy Ghost. But you have only to study what is called the Acts of the Apostles (really the Acts of the Spirit through the servants of God, and you will find a very solemn power of the devil in those days. Now observe, I do not speak at all of that power in any other sense save after a moral and spiritual nature; I do not speak now of a person’s body being possessed, as we know this poor wretched man was possessed with a legion; I am speaking entirely now, as I have said, of the moral power, or what we might call the spiritual power that Satan exercises; a power that we see is positively in progress to an enormous extent at the present moment. If ever there was a time that was a witness to the tremendous exercise of Satan’s virulence, and his hostility both to God and man, the day that we are living in is the witness to it. It is increasing, and it will increase; and persons are now in their souls and in their minds (I have come in contact with them myself) as distinctly devil-possessed as surely as ever they were in their bodies in past days. Now that is a very solemn reflection for us all. You remember how the apostle describes it, for instance, in Eph. 2, when he says, “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world,” I now mark the words—“according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Now that is very striking and very solemn: that is development, beloved friends, and that is the development that we avow. I fully admit development, but development in what way? Development in evil, and in the exercise and display of Satanic power; and that we have all round us. Here is a striking case that comes before the Lord in Mark 5; and all through this chapter, the details which the evangelist presents are positively appalling. This man is described in this way: he “had his dwelling among the tombs”; “no man could bind him, no, not with chains”; and that had not been untried, for that means to restrain, to keep in subjection, a person under this influence had been attempted; “he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces; neither could any man tame him; but always”—not on one isolated occasion, but as the habit of the man’s life, the perpetual, dreary, wretched position that this man ever occupied—“always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.” And there is another word in the verse which follows which brings it down as applicable to the state in which we find people under the power of Satan as sinners to-day, and that is the little word in v. 6: “Jesus afar off.” I know nothing that more accurately and minutely describes the position of the person who answers spiritually to that state. God alone knows if there be such a person here to night; “Jesus afar off.” That is exactly what is true of every person who is under this power spiritually in their souls. If any one here to-night is under the power of Satan, in our natural state, that is exactly where you are: Jesus is for you “afar off.” The apostle uses the expression dispensationally in Eph. 2, “Ye who sometimes were far off”: that is dispensational. But here in our chapter it is a moral distance from God and Christ. How solemn, friends, such distance. Do I address one this evening whose state is thus set forth “afar off’? Let me entreat of you to weigh it well. Think of what it means, what it involves, I beseech of you. Further note here that which always marked demoniacal possession, a kind of mixture of adjuration and of prayer; that was always the consequence in the gospel history of persons being possessed in their bodies by demons; there was adjuration, “I pray thee,” or “beseech thee” “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God that thou torment me not.” There is something weird and miserable in the extreme in this howl of despair of this poor wretched man. And therefore, beloved friends, it is the exact picture of the condition in which souls are found at this present moment; they are positively under the tyranny and power of the enemy; they are in death and darkness, out of all restraint; they are positively spiritual suicides, “crying and cutting themselves with stones.” For them Jesus is “afar off.” What a picture! Who can deal with that case? You cannot deal with it by anything that has been previously; restraint will not do for it; law or ordinances will not do for it, any more than they did for the poor wounded man that we read of in the Gospel of Luke, to whom the good Samaritan came. The priest and Levite passed by on the other side; what they said practically was, That case is beyond us, we cannot deal with that. “By chance”; it says, “there came down a certain priest that way, and likewise a Levite, when he was at the place”; these were powerless for help to one in his state. So here, no restraint of man, no power brought to bear upon a slave of Satan, no iron fetter of law, no ordinances, no restrictions, could in any way succeed; he brake them entirely in pieces. But mark how one blessed word of power from the One who was there accomplishes all, and that word of power is uttered here, in the clemency and kindness, in the compassion and goodness, and in the tenderness of the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, unsought, unasked, unlooked for. It was sovereign goodness and mercy that operated in this case of distress, and met this dire need and necessity just where it was; “Come out of him,” was His word; and He spake and it is done. O how blessed that is! No one could so work but our Lord Jesus Christ. No one can dispossess a soul under the tyranny and bonds of Satan but Satan’s conqueror, the One who has broken in pieces the power of the enemy; He who bound Satan by His obedience in life, Himself who has annulled Satan’s power in death, the One who has triumphed over him in the place of his greatest display of power”; “That through death,” says the apostle, “he might annul him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.” One word from Him when He was here, one word of power in the sovereignty of His goodness, entirely alters the whole condition of the man; “Come out of him.”
And mark for a moment in connection with the delivering of this man out of the terrible bondage that was upon him; He asks him, “What is thy name?” Look at that for an instant, because it helps to give the word a power, and to throw it into very great prominence; and I have no doubt that was the intention the blessed Lord had in the bringing out from this man’s lips his name. You remember how He asked Jacob, “What is thy name?” And I believe the Lord makes us answer that question; and perhaps He may be asking some of you here to-night, “What is thy name?” I am perfectly certain He asks that of every one of us some time or another, “What is thy name?” He knows, but He will have it from your own lips, “What is thy name”; This poor man had seen the awful power of the Roman legion, that terrible instrument of oppression, and he could not conceive any word that would describe more exactly where he was. The word “legion” was a word that struck fear and shame into the heart of the oppressed Jew; the Roman legion, composed of thousands of men, was a great terror to every conquered enemy that came under their power; and so, in order that he might with his own lips convey what his name was, he uses this word “legion.” “My name is legion.” Now, beloved friends, I believe that is the reason why “legion” and “come out of him” are here found together as it were, how wonderfully it brings out the power of our Lord Jesus Christ; He broke that power; “Come out of him.” Verily it is, as we were saying a few weeks past, “He spake and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast.” The Lord of creation Himself, the Creator, the One who by His divine power could bring everything into existence out of nothing, by the same word and by the same divine power—though He was down here as the servant of need and distress—set free this poor demoniac from that bondage and tyranny which was upon him, brought him into divine liberation.
Now I would call your attention for one moment to the contrast of his former position with what we find now. They come and see this man out of whom the devils were cast, “sitting”—he had never known a moment’s rest before—they see him “clothed” he was in nakedness and in the wretchedness of the possession of Satan previously—and they see him “in his right mind”—for he had been as one demented—“and they were afraid.” I do not know anything more solemn to me than that; man is not afraid of the devil; he is afraid of God in goodness, afraid of Christ in mercy. How striking that men are afraid when God comes near to them! They are not afraid when the devil is at their right hand, they have no fear of evil, sin, or wickedness, or the innate vileness of man; but they are afraid of God, and afraid, as I have said, of God in goodness, that is the most solemn part of it. It was not a display of God in judgment, or in wrath, or in the fiery thunders of His vengeance; but here was the most blessed and gracious kindness and goodness that could be conceived, and a mercy that pitied and a compassion that looked with tenderness upon a man that was held in thraldom and bondage, and delivered him from it, and yet the people of the region were afraid. Now how blessed to think of the contrast here, in the delivered man. If there is any person here to-night like that poor man spiritually, may God in His grace bring you into the position spoken of, to “sit” and to be “clothed,” and to be in your “right mind.” That is what it really is—not merely, beloved friends, with regard to the future: you know people think that the gospel of God’s grace only concerns the future; how blessed to know it concerns the present just as much as the future. It is not merely that a man’s title is made good, so that when he dies he shall not go to hell, but it puts a person on this earth into a position of unparalleled blessing. But do you say, Is that the gospel? Yes, we gladly reply, it is the gospel that puts us into that position. Can you conceive anything in this world more blessed than that which brings you into rest in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and fills your soul with the comfort come now to a poor woman whose body is under the power of disease? The Lord is asked by Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, to come and heal his little daughter, his “only daughter,” Luke says, but who was at the point of death; and when He was on His way to the house of Jairus to bring relief and comfort to the heart of that poor oppressed father by raising up his child, He meets this poor woman. And I must say this affectionately to you to-night, I am convinced there are people in this company whose case answers exactly to this woman, not in their bodies, but in their minds. I know I am speaking to some here to night who have a care and a sorrow locked up in their breast. This poor woman was distressed in her body; she had a terrible disease; if you refer at your leisure to Lev. 15, you will find, I believe, a light shed on the disease this woman was suffering from. I believe it was a disease that made her ceremonially unclean; and therefore she was shut out from intercourse with her fellow-creatures and from their privileges. But there are three things said about her: first, she “heard of Jesus,” and it was not that kind of hearing that you continually find with people, which leaves no result behind it; she heard in reality, and hearing of Him she came; the hearing set her in motion; it was the right kind of hearing; it exercised her mind, and touched her heart, and moved her feet: hearing of Him, she, as it were, said, I must get to Him. She does not hear of Him and then speculate and reason; she does not hear of Him to dispute; she hears of Him to come to Him; He was the very one for her. And she came. And observe how that there were difficulties; there was what is called here “the press,” there was the crowd that encircled Him round, so to speak; but no crowd, no press, no people, no obstacles, no difficulties could keep her away from that blessed One; nay, despite it all, she came behind Him and placed herself—mark it well—in personal contact with the Savior; she touched His clothes. And why did she do that? She said to herself—and here was her faith—“If I may touch but his clothes I shall be whole.” She says, as it were, I know there is virtue in that blessed One. Do you say that she, as it were, purloined the blessing, that she came stealthily, that it was a Nicodemus-like?. Be it so, that it was all this, that it was a furtive way of getting at the Lord of life and glory; still, there was the earnestness of faith that would somehow reach Him; she came and touched Him, and immediately “the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.”
Perhaps there is some one here to-night who has spiritually something exactly corresponding to that “issue.” You have got some care locked up in your heart, some burden, some pressure, some difficulty, some weight upon your spirit. Is not that the reason of our sadness and depression? We cannot, as it were, sing; we did so once, as Israel, On the shores of the Red Sea; but the notes have died away, and there is no cheerfulness or brightness of Christ about us; moreover, we repel people too often, we do not impress them with the sense of true joy and rest of heart outside and apart from all the fading, passing scenes of earth; alas! that it should be so, when it need not be. Thank God, we Christians have not lost everything, poorly as we show it. We are going on into all that is bright and blessed, little as it is seen in us, and little as the sufficiency and satisfaction of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ is displayed by us. Why should we be this puzzle, as it were? Ah! there is a secret at the bottom of it all, there is a weight of some kind on your hearts; we have cares locked up there, we have burdens pressing us down, a wearing, gnawing distraction, tearing out, as it were, our souls, and hence our visage of misery. Oh if my poor words could lead us to do what this poor woman did; if I could but show you the blessedness of it; so that we would go through all the difficulties, through all the press, and in spite of everything that is in the way, get into personal contact with Jesus Christ. Remember, I am not speaking to unconverted people, I am speaking to Christians, to those who are children of God, here to-night. Do you not know, beloved friends, how possible it is to have truth as clear as clear can be, and yet not to have as yet a personal knowledge of a personal Christ! Now that is very sad, but it is to be seen, beloved friends, on all sides—we may know about Him, but as yet never have come into contact with Him, never as yet touched Him. I was reading a little incident not long since, which will illustrate this point in a very simple way; it was about a poor Scotch girl who was being examined by the Presbytery before she could, as they say, “go forward” to the Lord’s table; and there were a great many, as she thought, hard questions and points of doctrine brought before her, and she could not satisfy by answers her interrogators.
But what did she say? Why just this—“I dinna ken your questions, but I ken Himself.” Ah! beloved friends, that is the secret, I know Himself: I can tell you but little about Him, I cannot tell you much about the wonders and glories of which He is the center, His acts of power and His deeds of might, I may be able to tell you very little about all that; but she could say, “I know Himself.”
Now this is what I find in this case I am speaking to you about. Here was a poor woman with her issue of blood and her body of disease, she heard of Jesus; it does not say she heard about Jesus, but she heard of Jesus; it was the Person that came before her mind, the report of the Person reached her, and she resolved in herself that she would go to Him. And she came in the press behind, undeterred by the difficulties and impediments that stood in her way; she says, as it were, I must get into personal contact with Him, I must touch Him even at the very extremity of His clothes, the hem of His garment, the fringe of blue which they wore. I believe that is what it was. Ah! it was a fringe of blue, without any question in His case: He was the Man from heaven, the heavenly Man. O how blessed the thought! If I may but touch, she says, the fringe, the hem, of that garment, I know there is virtue in Him, I count on His love, His goodness, His kindness, His willingness, His power; and if I can only, though it be on the extremity, get into contact with that, I believe “I shall be whole.”
Let me tell you to-night, brethren, if you have in your hearts and souls what that poor woman had in her body, if you get into contact with Jesus Christ to-night, your face will shine, you will lose your care, you will lose that burden that is pressing you down; the furrows on your cheek will fill up, the careworn look on your face will depart. This is the only cure for it; doctrines, however you may reason and speculate about them from morning to night, will not do it for you; nothing can avail but personal contact with a personal Savior, having to do with Him. Now let me try and encourage your faith for a moment. There is an ear there into which you may pour what you would not tell into any ear on earth; and there is a heart there that is tenderer than any heart on earth
“That tender heart that felt for all,
For all its life-blood gave,
Yet found on earth no resting-place
Save only in the grave.”
There is a heart there with its love, and compassion and kindness that invites you to come. O do come to-night! I would speak to my brethren who may have cares and worries and burdens and anxieties and difficulties, let me entreat you to come like this poor woman and get into personal contact with Christ, and your issue of care, or trial, or sorrow, that pent-up lake that is in your heart, will be relieved. You know very well the illustration, that as long as ever the walls or borders or boundaries of the lake hold, the lake is well-nigh ready to burst; but if they give way, there is relief. And there is only one place where you can get that relief. Go to Him, and open out and pour out your breaking heart; touch Him, and in that way you will get relief. The Lord in His infinite grace grant it. I know perfectly well from contact with people’s souls the need of it; I know very well that I never got relief or comfort for my own heart till I got to Him. You might get relief for your conscience by the knowledge of what He has done for you; but you are not a person with only a conscience, at least I hope and trust you have a heart, that you have affections but you will never get relief for your heart till you get to Him.
One word more, and then we will look at the last case. The woman got what she looked for and wanted at once; the cure was immediate: “Immediately her issue of blood stanched.” It is very blessed to think of what happened after this: “she knew in her body she was healed,” Jesus knew that virtue went out of Him. You could not persuade that woman, if you were talking with her from morning to night, that she had not got the relief: you might say to her, You cannot be sure you have got the relief; but she knew she had got it: she knew by the reception of the blessing, He knew it because the virtue went out of Him into her. He knew it intuitively, she knew it receptively; I put those two things together. “Jesus, knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him.” He knew there was a poor body relieved and a poor heart comforted: don’t you think He was glad, delighted? don’t you think the heart of Jesus rejoiced? It just comes to my mind now what He said after His conversation with that woman of Samaria in John 4, His disciples had gone into the city to buy meat, and when they came back to Him with the provisions and said, “Master, eat,” He said, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of”; and they were all astonished, and inquired, “Hath any man brought him ought to eat?” “My meat,” He says, “is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” He had made a poor heart happy that day; He had communicated heavenly secrets to a poor, debased, degraded woman; He had refreshed her soul; that was His meat. Oh! how blessed! I do love to dwell on that, and to think how Christ was refreshed, and how His heart was ministered to, as He met needs and distresses in this world. And so it was here. I have no doubt when He said, “Who touched my clothes?” His object was that He should bring all this out. If it had been a stolen blessing, if she had received it furtively, as it were, still the moment was now come, she was blessed, and therefore the Lord would have the whole thing out. That was the reason that word was used, “Who touched my clothes?” “And the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him and told him all the truth,” let everything out, although He knew it well; but she got relief by letting the whole thing out; she was not to take the blessing away as if she was not entitled to it; she was not to go away as if she had not full divine light to it; that is the reason why He brought her into His presence. She was healed and cured first, now she is brought to own all that was done, and to get the seal of His imprimatur upon it, and with the sweetest word, “Daughter.” These beautiful words bring forcibly to my recollection, though it takes me away from my subject for a moment, a little incident, I read of not very long ago, of a city missionary in this great city of London, who was visiting a very poor and degraded district. He found his way into a house peculiarly destitute, and went into a room where there was lying, on a pallet of straw, what looked to him much more like a bag of bones than a human being. A woman was lying there in the last stage of rapid decline, there was that bright look about the eyes, and that hacking cough, and that terrible emaciation of the worn-out frame, which all mark the fell disease. Thank God for the London City Mission, and the noble band of men who work in connection with it, in this great city of London. Let us not forget to think of them and ask God’s blessing on them, as they go into haunts and scenes where none else penetrate. This man stood in pity and compassion over this poor creature, and thought to himself I must go and get something for her, so as to ameliorate, if possible, the terrible condition she is in, and make the little spark of life that remains a little more endurable than it is. He stooped over her, and thought she had no strength to say anything, and almost involuntarily exclaimed to himself “Poor thing.” It seemed to bring back a little bit of the departing life into her, and as much as she possibly could, she raised herself up, and fixing her bright eyes upon him, she replied, “I am a poor thing, and I have Christ!” Dear friends, what a reality that is! There she was, and not one of us here to-night would exchange circumstances with her, everything was the most untoward that could be conceived, the surroundings were the most comfortless that could be supposed; but she had Christ, and she felt she was rich. You have got, perhaps, and I have got, everything she had not. Have we Christ? that is the question. I do not say, Have we Christ as our Savior from our sins? but have we Christ? that is the point. I have no doubt the reason of the Lord’s action here was to bring this woman’s case out. “She fell down before him, and told him all the truth,” and got this word, the seal, so to speak, of His grace upon the power exerted in her behalf. His power had acted for her, her faith had claimed it and received it, and now we have grace added to it in what I would call the divine seal: “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole.”
Now let us look at the last case for a moment. In this case the messengers had been quick to bring bad news; and whenever there is bad news to be told there are always people at hand ready to tell it. There are few comparatively to tell good news; the Lord raise up more such: we long to see the tellers of good news increased. But here were these birds of ill omen that came from the house of poor Jairus, and they say to him, “Thy daughter is dead; why troublest thou the teacher [or Master] any further?” Now, beloved friends, why I allude to this is, it brings out some of the most beautiful and tender touches of the kindness and grace and consideration of the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ that I know of. The moment He heard that, He at once addresses Himself to poor Jairus, and you can understand how Jairus’s heart was, as it were, swayed between hope and fear, a hope that had increased and been ministered to by the marvelous cure he had just seen take place in the case of the woman. His own little daughter, his only daughter, lay there a-dying, and the irrevocable had happened, and she is dead. Now this is how it brings the Lord Jesus so preciously before us. When He heard this, He turns to Jairus and says to him, “Be not afraid, only believe.” How lovely that is; Be not afraid, Jairus, only believe. Now, beloved friends, it is these little touches that acquaint us with the Savior. Thank God, we can speak of His power; but how blessed to see His heart; before He put forth His power to quicken that girl, the first thing in His mind was the poor father’s heart. He knew it was bowed and agitated between fear and hope, and therefore He binds up the broken heart. “Be not afraid,” never mind though death has come in; “only believe.” How beautiful that is! Does it not lay a claim upon your confidence in Jesus Christ? How I love to hold a brief, as it were, for my Master, and to bring His worthiness and goodness and kindness and tenderness and grace before us! How sweet those outlets of His heart! What an encouragement! If I have a sick child to-night, if I have an only daughter at the point of death, if I have some weighty care and perplexing worry in my heart, do you think that the blessed Man, who is up there at the Father’s right hand in glory, is different to what He was when down here? There is one little word that is attached to His name that connects Him as He was with what He is; “This same Jesus.” O what a comfort that is! How that gives the poor heart confidence in Him, because of what He is. “Be not afraid; only believe.” Then He takes His chosen disciples into the house with Him; and first of all, how blessed to see that He alters and takes away the dreadful name of death. And I have no doubt this was for Jairus too, though it was for others as well, but specially for the poor father. He says, “Why make ye this ado and weep?” – these were the hired mourners of those days, the weepers—“the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.” That is all they could do. Then He put them all out, and in the most precious tenderness He takes the girl by the hand (there is something so sweet in that and He uses these words—they were the Aramaic dialect of the day)—“Talitha cumi, which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose and walked, for she was about the age of twelve years.” Then lastly, He says, as it were, “She wants sustainment; give her something to eat.” Think of the tender love displayed in that! There is tenderness in the Lord’s greatness; indeed, it is only one who is great can think of little things, little things are beyond little people. O the majesty of our blessed Lord, the kindness of Jesus Christ, the tenderness of Jesus Christ in things little and great!
But there is one thing more here. It is not only His tenderness, but He commanded that “something should be given her to eat.” What is that if we take it out of the figure now, and apply it? He is the one that gives life, and He is the one that provides for the sustainment of the life He gives. What is the something? Shall I tell you? Christ. Not doctrines, not theories, not notions, not thoughts, not opinions; Christ, that is the “something.” If you have been quickened by Him, if you have felt His touch of power, He commands that something should be given you to eat. And He commands that to His servants; He did not say that to the girl here, He commands His servants—and, beloved friends, one feels the responsibility of it—He commands that something should be given her, and that something is Christ. Nothing can sustain or nourish or uphold the soul but Christ.
I commend those three instances to you tonight. I think they bring out His power, His tenderness, His kindness, His goodness, His grace. O beloved friends, may God in His infinite grace be pleased to use His word this night to set Christ before our souls in such a way that our hearts may be drawn out in confidence, and that if, as I said at the beginning of our meeting, if we have burdens and cares and anxieties and pressures upon our hearts, we may carry them to Him, and leave them, that He may conduct our hearts into all the comfort and grace and blessedness of His love, for His name’s sake!