Ever wonder what it would have been like to personally witness one of Jesus’ miracles? It must have been incredible.
Imagine if your dead child was powerfully brought back to life. What would it have felt like to have your leaprous mother cleansed and returned to your family? How would you have responded if the lame beggar you passed for years suddenly stood to his feet?
What follows is my attempt to capture with fiction the miraculous events described in Mark chapter 5 as a pair of demon-possessed men were set free by the power of Christ. I hope it will do three things for you…
- Provide you with even greater reason to praise God
- Help you to see the power of personal testimony
- Motivate you to share your story with others
Voyage to the East
A sense of dread gripped the band of twelve as their boats approached the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Just a few hours before, their Master had instructed them, “Let us go over to the other side.” This instruction came in the evening of what had been a particularly troubling day.
Earlier that day, Jesus had squared off against a group of Pharisees who rejected His authority. These Pharisees had witnessed the Master’s healing of a blind mute who was demon-possessed. But instead of praising Jesus for the marvelous work, they attributed His miracle to the power of Satan.
Such opposition from the religious leaders was not a new occurrence, but on this particular occasion, Jesus’ response had been especially sharp. And, though none of the twelve understood precisely why, their Master’s demeanor seemed changed following the incident.
These events had taken place in Galilee, a region that had been generally receptive to the ministry of Jesus. Despite the antagonism of some, many in the area had embraced what Jesus was doing.
After the altercation with the Pharisees, it seemed reasonable to the disciples that they should reach out to those who would respond with greater favor to the message of the Master. And this is why the disciples were so perplexed when they heard Jesus say, “Let us go over to the other side.”
The Approaching Shore
After all, what lay on the other side of the sea? Certainly, they would not find an audience receptive to the ministry of the Messiah. For on the other side lay the lands of the Gentiles, the region of the Decapolis. The territory to the east of the Sea of Galilee was a pagan land. Centuries earlier, it had been settled by the seven nations whom the Israelites had driven out during the conquest led by Joshua.
Since that time, the Greeks had established cities that had become Hellenistic centers of culture and worship. If any region could be considered the domain of Satan, surely it was the Decapolis. And this was precisely where Jesus was leading His disciples—into the heart of the opposition.
A Satanic Welcome
The early light of morning painted strange hews upon the Gentile lands. The high cliffs that formed the landscape cast broad shadows across the waters of the abyss below. From their boats, they could see Gerasenes, the godless heathens who inhabited the region, traveling along a road near the shore.
As the disciples left their boats for the road ahead, they felt as if they were entering the presence of evil itself. Each man questioned within himself why Jesus would lead them to this forsaken country.
“Arrgghhaahh!” A tormented scream rang out among the cliffs, cutting through the still calm of morning. The unearthly sound was both guttural and piercing, like that of a fresh-wounded beast.
Startled by the fearsome shriek, the disciples immediately turned to identify its source. The Gerasene travelers also turned, but upon seeing what must have been a familiar sight, they quickly fled, screaming in response to the approaching figures.
From among tombs carved into the nearby rock came two twisted figures. They were hurling themselves rapidly toward Jesus and His disciples. Though the figures clearly were not animals, they did not seem fully human.
As the men approached snarling and screeching, Jesus and the disciples could see that one of them was naked. From his wrists and ankles swung the remnants of broken straps and chains which had apparently been used at one time to bind him.
Some of the disciples, taking their cue from those who were fleeing, began to run away from the men but stopped when they saw that the Master did not follow. One of the fleeing Gerasenes shouted to the disciples, “Are you mad? They’re possessed. No one is strong enough to subdue them. No chains can hold them. They’ll kill you if you stand there.”
Jesus did not move.
To the amazement of all who were watching, the demonized men did not maul Jesus and the twelve when they reached them. Instead, the one who was naked threw himself down and bowed low before Jesus.
At this distance, the disciples could see the deep gashes where the man had ripped apart his flesh using stones and sharp objects. His filthy body was riddled with scars, and many of the fresh wounds were still oozing with blood.
Speaking to the demons, Jesus commanded, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” The Gerasenes who had not fled observed the exchange with great curiosity, for Jesus did not attempt to remove the demons in the same manner as other exorcists.
He did not recite any incantations or formulas. He did not appeal to the power of any person, god, or gods. He simply spoke to them. He commanded them on the basis of His own authority.
As the demonized man prostrated himself on the ground before Christ, he looked up through crazed eyes and roared, “What do I have to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”
A Shared Past
An audible gasp could be heard among the gathering crowd of Gerasenes, who began murmuring to one another about the possessed man’s astonishing words. The man knew the Stranger.
Even more astonishing was the fact that he referred to Him as “Son of the Most High God.” These demons within the man were acquainted with Jesus. This was not the first time they had been in His presence.
Long before, prior to the great rebellion of Satan and his minions, these creatures had offered their worship and service to Christ. Here again, they bowed low before the One who possessed the right to command them.
Crying out to Jesus, the demons asked, “Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Though their words perplexed both the people and the disciples, Jesus understood their reference.
These demons acknowledged the spiritual reality of their situation. They knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the long-awaited King who would establish His throne upon the earth.
They recognized that the establishment of Christ’s kingdom would mark the beginning of the punishment that awaited them (Revelation 20). But they also understood that the time for their torment had not yet come.
Rather than directly speaking to their inquiry, the Master asked, “What is your name?” In response, the demons answered in pained and mangled tones, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”
Obviously, the man was unable to reply for himself. His abused body had been overtaken by a host of demons who began to writhe about on the ground before the Lord.
A Strange Request
Assuming that Jesus would then exact His judgment, they did not try to defend themselves or cast aspersions upon Christ. Instead, they recognized that their punishment would be deserved, and they pleaded with Jesus for mercy. Begging Him not to consign them to the place of their eternal punishment, the demons bawled, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.”
The disciples and the Gerasenes were baffled by the exchange that was taking place between Jesus and the man. They could only speculate why the demons would request to be sent into the herd of pigs feeding on the nearby mountain.
Perhaps, they thought, the demons wanted to enter the swine because the pig was the sacred animal of the fertility cult to which many of the regional pagans belonged. They postulated that the unclean spirits may have found the unclean animal of the Jews a fitting alternative to their human residence.
Or perhaps, they supposed, the demons didn’t want to be cast disembodied into the Sea of Galilee, which was sometimes referred to as the abyss. Aside from Christ and the demons, no one present understood the punishment that awaited Satan and his forces in the abyss on their day of reckoning.
An Unceremonious Exit
In response to their request, Jesus commanded, “Be gone.” At that, both men collapsed to the ground, freed from the occupation of their tormentors. In almost the same moment, earsplitting squeals from atop the mountain pierced the air.
The disciples and Gerasenes gasped in wonder as they turned their attention to the herd of swine now bucking and butting in a panicked cacophony of shrieks on the nearby slopes. Driven mad by the evil power that now inhabited them, the herd of roughly two thousand swine began thrashing and rampaging about.
In less than a minute’s time, the frenzied herd began careening down the steep bank. Driven by the unearthly force within, their squeals were silenced by the suffocating waters of the sea below.
A Hardened Response
At seeing this terrible sight, the Gerasene observers and the mountain herdsmen fled to the city to report the fearsome happenings they had witnessed. Many returned not long after to find an astonishing sight.
The men whom they had known as wild and treacherous were clothed and seated at the feet of the Master. No longer were these men prisoners within their own bodies. They had been liberated. And they looked with gratitude upon the One who had freed them.
Seeing these men, who had been so radically altered by the Stranger named Jesus, and understanding what had happened to the swine, the Gerasenes were filled with fear. Instead of turning to Jesus, the Gerasenes hardened their hearts.
Jesus had demonstrated great power in the healing of the demonized men, and some were frightened by this power. Others were angered because, for them, the swine represented a source of revenue that had been swallowed by the Galilean Sea. Caring more for themselves than the men who had been freed, the Gerasenes pleaded with Jesus and His disciples to depart from their lands.
Saddened by the wickedness of the people, Jesus and the disciples turned and departed for their boats. However, they did not walk alone. They were followed closely by the men who had been possessed all the way to the shore.
As Jesus began to climb into His boat one of the healed men grabbed onto Him, pleading that he might be allowed to come with Him to become one of His disciples. Jesus turned to the man, and looking into his eyes, Jesus instructed him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”
At this, Jesus sat down in the boat as He and the disciples shoved off to make for the shores of Galilee. The once-tormented men could only watch from the shore as their Savior drifted away on the waters.
The Story Spreads
Undaunted by their Lord’s departure, the men rejoiced in the miracle God had accomplished in their lives that day. Energized by the mission Christ had entrusted to them, the men traveled about the Decapolis, visiting cities and villages, speaking of the great things Jesus had done.
As they shared their story, the inhabitants of the land took great interest in the One who had healed them. The ministry of these men sparked a flame that would spread throughout the region. The fruits of their efforts were witnessed when Christ returned to the Decapolis (Mark 7:31-8:9). The testimony of these men caused many to come to Jesus for healing and instruction, for salvation and life eternal.