Rocky Balboa is one of the great movie heroes. Sylvester Stallone’s character was the backdrop of my childhood. The plot’s pretty similar in all the movies. Rocky is fighting someone where it doesn’t seem likely he’s going to win. In the end he does.
But Rocky I is different. The challenge in Rocky I is, can he go 15 rounds with a heavyweight champ like Apollo Creed? He does. After the fight the announcer calls it "the greatest exhibition of guts and stamina in the history of the ring."
In our text this morning we’ll witness another battle between two heavyweight fighters: The Lord Jesus Christ and Satan.
It’s a long battle but the ending is not in question. Begins Genesis 3. Ends Revelation 20 when devil thrown into the lake of fire. But ending never in doubt.
That cosmic battle is in the background of our passage this morning.
But in this passage also is a more personal story—personal redemption story. A man having his life transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ.
What we see here is what’s true always—interweaving of the cosmic story with personal redemption stories.
Part of our series "Introducing...Jesus." This morning we're introduced to Jesus as the one able to defeat Satan the Strong Man.
Our passage is from the second gospel account in the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four are early records of the life of Christ filled with eyewitness accounts of what Jesus said and did.
But they’re also God’s Word to all people. Which means, God’s Word to you. God has something he wants to say to you this morning. Let’s pray we have ears to hear it.
Sermon: (1) Imprisoned, (2) Redeemed, (3) Commissioned
Read Mark 5:1–20 and pray.
The location of this event is “the Gerasenes,” likely a city called Kursi on eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Gentile region. Immediately follows Jesus “rebuking” the storm. Now the issue concerns the devil and his demons.
The man is a picture of someone tormented.
First—“a man with an unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).
Second—“lived among the tombs” (Mark 5:3).
Third—a wild supernatural strength—unable to be tamed and controlled. “He had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces” (Mark 5:4).
Fourth—Alone and in agony—Mark 5:5—“Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.”
Fifth—the location itself—“the Gerasenes” (Mark 5:1)—was a place for Gentiles, clear by the presence of a herd of pigs, something forbidden for Jews.
THINKING ABOUT THE PERSONAL REDEMPTION STORY:
Uncleanness abounds: Man himself, demons, pigs, tombs, living amongst Gentiles. A vivid picture of someone in a desperate spiritual condition.
A powerful picture of our place of need before Christ came. These opening verses are graphic and extreme. But his imprisonment like ours. Every part of him—body, soul, relationships—is impacted. His separation from society is fitting. Being in the tombs is fitting. Psychological agony. Cutting himself in some warped way to comfort himself.
“No one had the strength to subdue him” (Mark 5:4).
Mark writing from Rome to Roman audience. Maybe they would imagine some super-gladiator impossible to defeat in the Roman Coliseum.
For us, “NO ONE HAD STRENGTH TO SUBDUE HIM” = Satan the Strong Man. Stronger than any person.
We minimize that in our day—think of him as some Medieaval bogeyman or part of creepy movies. But he’s real and he hates us.
Reminds us that sometimes he can occupy a person:
The whole narrative therefore constitutes a striking example of the way the NT presents demon possession not as a psychological problem of the one afflicted, but as a matter of alien occupation.
R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark
This man needed help from outside of himself. He didn’t have the ability within himself to break free.
When Jesus arrives the man instantly—“Immediately!”, Mark 5:2—goes to Jesus.
Recognition of Jesus’ power and authority—“He ran and fell down before him” (Mark 5:6).
Second—Appeals to Jesus in a loud voice—“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me” (Mark 5:7). Jesus’ supremacy means they APPEAL.
Third—Jesus demands the demon identity himself. He is “Legion,” some great number. A clue is that “two thousand” pigs will run into the Sea of Galilee (Mark 5:13). So appears that the man has 2k demons inside of him.
Fourth—“he gave them permission” to enter the pigs (Mark 5:13). Jesus is in full control. Demons and the devil only do what God “gives them permission” to do.
THE COSMIC BATTLE
The key truth about the cosmic battle here is that in Christ THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS COME!!
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Matt 12:28–29)
Jesus has “bound the strong man.” Remember Mark 5:4, “No one had the strength to subdue him.” Satan was in control here but JESUS BOUND HIM!
Jesus’ message is that in his own person and mission God has invaded human history and has triumphed over evil, even though the final deliverance will occur only at the end of the age.
George Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament
All this implies and confirms that the great moment of salvation, the fulfillment of the promise, the kingdom of heaven, has come. “The all-embracing power of the City of the Devil has been shattered, the City of God has broken in.”
Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom
PERSONAL REDEMPTION STORY
And our salvation—these verses speak of being REDEEMED. What does it look like when Christ gets hold of us? When he takes over? When he delivers us from our helpless imprisonment to sin, death, and the devil?
This Gentile from the country of the Gerasenes shows us the change that comes:
What do we do? In some ways we imitate this Gerasene: RUN TO JESUS AND CRY OUT!!
The result? Transformation. A new man.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17)
In the final part of the narrative, the man is COMMISSIONED.
Herdsmen go and describe what happened and people come to see.
Mark vividly describes what they saw—Mark 5:15—“sitting there, clothed and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15).
The combination of 2k dead pigs and this crazy man now perfectly normal TERRIFIED THEM. They “BEG” Jesus to leave.
For them a crazy man being changed isn’t worth 2k dead pigs. But not to Jesus.
Let’s focus here on Mark 5:18–20. This is his commissioning.
Jesus didn’t let him. Instead commissioned him to a ministry—“Go…and tell them!” (Mark 5:19).
And he did! “He went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis HOW MUCH JESUS HAD DONE FOR HIM, and everyone marveled” (Mark 5:20).
He’s a man COMMISSIONED by Christ. His Redemption was not so he could remain “sitting there, clothed and in his right mind.” That was just the starting point.
The end of the narrative is this man commissioned to “GO AND TELL” (Mark 5:19).
A great way to think of evangelism in our lives:
This morning I looked through the Gospel Conversations. We’re up to 29. Still a ways to go to get to 200 by August 31st—but 29 is outstanding.
One stood out as something like what this Gerasene did: Phil Sasser. I went to physical therapy and during the evaluation interview one of the two therapist asked me the secret of being happily married for 51 years. It was such an easy set up. I told them our testimony which included the gospel in about 2 minutes.
We’re commissioned to “go and tell” the mercies of God. Not many of us will be commissioned as any kind of evangelist. But we all have a story of mercy to share.
Remember the words of :
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
PERSONAL REDEMPTION STORY:
In this passage there’s the story of the imprisoned man redeemed by Christ. And that’s your story: “I was imprisoned. I’ve been redeemed. Now I’m commissioned.”
THE COSMIC STORY:
But then there’s that cosmic story. That connects to us, too. The devil hasn’t left the scene. He hasn’t retreated to Medieval myths and creepy movies.
He seeks to hurt us and harm us and hinder us and make us as unfruitful and unproductive as Christians as he can.
Most of the time he works very indirectly. But not always.
Reminder from 1 Corinthians 12:8, “the ability to distinguish between spirits.”
Tips from Wayne Grudem in exercising our spiritual authority:
Exercising Your Spiritual Authority:
Don’t be glib. Don’t frighten people unnecessarily.
Focus on the person being ministered to, not the demon(s).
Don’t be overly curious about the demonic.
If the person isn’t a Christian, encourage them to turn to Christ first.
Your spiritual condition (and maturity) impacts your ability here.
Remember the greater issue: “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20).
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology
Prayer and closing song
 R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark, NIGTC, 230.
 George Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 65.
 Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, 64, here also citing C.E. Stauffer’s NT Theology (1945, p. 105).
 2nd edition (2020), 554–556.
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