During the Second World War, when Hitler conquered France, he immediately shut down the borders to keep the people from leaving the country. But one small border town saw its population diminish rapidly, so the Germans searched for the answer. It turned out, this town had a cemetery that straddled the border with the neighboring country, which was free from Nazi control. The locals opened up an ancient gate in the wall of the cemetery, and they kept having “funerals” – except the people never came back! They went out to the tombs, but they just kept on walking, right out the back gate, to their freedom!
This morning, our next “story” is the story of a man who also found “freedom” in a cemetery – it is the story of the Gerasene Demoniac – a man who was bound by the power of Satan, but who found freedom among the tombs by the power of Jesus. We have talked before about how a good outline of a testimony is to share your life “before” Christ; then how you came to know Christ; then your life “after.” We are going to follow that outline this morning as we look at the “story” of the Gerasene Demoniac from Mark 5:1-20 …
I. BEFORE: In the “grip” of the enemy
This was indeed a man who was in the grip of Satan: :2 says he had an “unclean spirit” – “unclean spirit” meant a demon. But this was not “just” a demon; when Jesus told the demon to come out, and He asked him his name in :9, he said “My name is Legion, for we are many.” So there were evidently MANY demons in this man. He was totally in the grip of Satan’s power – and he showed it: :3 says he lived among the tombs, and they tried to bind him with chains, but he just broke them in pieces. Verse 5 says that day and night he screamed among the tombs, and gashed himself with stones. This is a very pathetic picture, of one who was totally and helplessly under Satan’s grip.
I know the story of another man who is currently in Satan’s grip, from one of the journeyman missionaries our church in Louisiana worked with in Suriname, South America. One day this missionary was walking in the village of Diitabiki, and he asked God to open a door for him to share with someone. He then came to a man who was working on his half-finished home. The man said that he had heard that Taylor was sharing Bible stories, and that he would like to come some time. Taylor said, I can do better than that, and he shared how God loves us and wants a relationship with us, but that we have separated ourselves from Him by our sins, and that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins, and restore our relationship with God. The man said, “Come with me, I want to show you something.” So Taylor followed him to his hut. The man showed him a table with skulls and sticks on it, and a long, wooden pole wrapped in colorful sheets. The man said this was his “god.” And Taylor said he would never forget what the man said next: “This is what I know. This is what I believe. This is what I grew up with.” And with his fists lifted up and clinched, he said, “I hold to these beliefs tightly, and I do not want to let go!” As Taylor talked to him further, the man told him, I cannot let them go – or these spirits will kill me. He lived in fear. It was not that he had a grip on them – the truth was, THEY had a grip of fear on HIM!
But lest you be thinking: “What a pathetic picture, this man under Satan’s power like that …” but the truth is, if you have never given your life to Jesus as your Savior, YOU are just as surely in Satan’s grip as well!
Ephesians 2:1-2 says: “And YOU were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Do you see what God says there? When you are walking in sin apart from God, you are not walking “your own way” – you are actually under the influence of Satan – “the prince of the power of the air”! HE is “the spirit now working (that word means “energizing”) in all those who disobey God! You may say, I am not going to follow the Lord; I don’t want to be anyone’s slave. Listen, the truth is: you ARE going to be under someone’s “grip” – the question is just WHOSE grip is it going to be? Are you going to be in God’s grip, or in the grip of Satanic influences?
If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, you are in Satan’s grip right now! It may not be as obvious as it was in this demoniac in Mark 5, or in that villager in Diitabiki, but you are in Satan’s grip regardless. It may be a more subtle grip, and influence, but it is real.
C.S. Lewis writes in his book The Screwtape Letters of a fictitious mentor demon who is writing to his apprentice nephew on the “strategies” he is to use to keep the man to whom he is assigned in Satan’s grip, and to lead him to hell. In the book, the “uncle/mentor” demon, “Screwtape”, writes to his nephew, “Wormwood”:
“I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way … Before I knew where I was I saw my 20 years’ work beginning to totter … I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch … Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy does of ‘real life’ (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all ‘that sort of thing’ just couldn’t be true … He is now safe in Our Father’s House.”
A fictitious story, yes, but Lewis makes a great point: if you are not “in the grip” of God, you are in the grip of someone far more malevolent. You may think you are just “so intellectual” that you are beyond God – but the truth is, your mind is being manipulated by dark spiritual forces. You may think that you are “above” the “slavery” of religion – but you are enslaved to sin; you just have a different master. You may think that you are “your own man” – but you are NOT! You are being controlled and manipulated by the devil and by his dark forces. You are in his grip! You need to understand this! The question is not “are you going to be in someone’s grip?”; the question is: “In WHOSE grip will you be?” If you are not in the grip of God, through Jesus Christ, then you are in the grip of Satan’s power, just as surely as this Gerasene demoniac was. And you need to do whatever it takes to escape from that evil grip today!
II. JESUS: sovereign power to save
:6 “seeing Jesus, he ran up and bowed down before Him”!
This man was in the grip of Satan’s power – but there is a greater power; the power of Jesus. As strong and evil as is the power of Satan’s grip, Jesus’ power is greater still. Note all the evidences of Jesus’ power over Satan’s forces in this passage:
–:6 he bowed before Him – significantly, this is the Greek word “proskuneo” – the word for “worship” – it means to fall down before one greater than you. This demon-possessed man fell down in worship and obeisance before the King of Kings!
Then we see three uses of the same word in the next verses:
–in :7 he spoke: “I implore you”; :10 says: “he began to implore Him not to send them out of the country”, and in :12 it says “the demons implored Him.” This word “implored” is the Greek word “parakaleo”, and is translated as in other places as “beg”. It is used of the leper of Mark 1:40 who begged Jesus to help him, and of the debtor in Matthew 18:29 who fell down before a man to whom he owed an immense debt and could do nothing but beg. So the demons begged Jesus.
–:13 “Jesus gave them permission”. This is perhaps my favorite part of this story. Jesus gave them “permission” to leave. Those demons could do NOTHING without Jesus’ permission. JESUS is the absolute sovereign power here!
We need to remember that. Satan’s power is nothing to toy with, and you do not want to expose yourself or your family to his power and influence. That’s one reason why you shouldn’t dabble in the occult, or pornography, or horoscopes, or any of those kinds of things that open you up to Satanic influences. His power is destructive – as we see in the life of this demoniac. BUT, if you are a Christian, you do not need to fear his power; your Lord is infinitely greater than demonic forces.
I remember when I was a boy, attending the First Baptist Church of Harrah, Oklahoma, it was back in the era when a lot of movies came out glorifying the demonic, and Satanic power. Several of us were riding in a car, and some of us were talking about that. I don’t remember what I said, if I expressed some fear or concern, but I remember a sweet senior adult lady from our church who was in the car, turned back and said: “Shawn, you don’t need to worry about demons; you are a Christian, and God’s Spirit is in your heart, and they cannot possess you.” I have never forgotten her words, and I have never worried about demon power since that day. (Let me also say: the things you say to other people may have a lasting impact on them; more than what you would ever think. I seriously doubt that woman remembers that conversation. But I have never forgotten it!) Jesus presence in my life, through His Holy Spirit, is greater than the powers of Satan. “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)
When we were in India the last time, one of the things we did was pray in some of the temples. In one particular temple we went up to, we had climbed a flight of stairs and gone up to walk and pray for people, and there were idols and images around. I began to pray for their power to be bound, and for the people there to be freed and come to Christ. As I was walking and praying, a creepy little voice spoke in my mind and said, “How do you know that the demons that animate these idols will not overpower YOU?” And I just smiled and said: because I am a child of God through Jesus Christ; His Spirit is in my heart, and I am praying in the name of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” And in that demonic temple I began to sing “All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name, let angels prostrate fall; bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all!” From that day I took tremendous pleasure, every time we went to an Indian temple, to sing and pray: “All Hail The Power of Jesus’ name”! There is no contest for superiority here; Jesus is the sovereign power. The demons shudder at the name of Jesus!
Jesus’ power was greater that day in the country of the Gerasenes – He set that demoniac free; He cast the demons out, and restored him to his “right mind” as :15 says. Jesus saved him from Satan’s grip.
And Jesus can save you from Satan’s grip. BUT … you must have a personal experience with Jesus to be set free from Satan’s grip. It is not enough just to have some “acquaintance” with Jesus – this passage makes that clear. The demons in the man in this passage knew who Jesus was! When they came up and bowed before Him, they said in :7 “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” They knew exactly who He was! They probably knew who Jesus was better than His own disciples did at this point! But those demons were not saved; they could not expect heaven; they could expect nothing but perdition and hell because although they knew who Jesus was they did not know Jesus as their personal Lord & Savior! (James 2:19)
And you have to understand that it is the same with you, too. You may have a “head knowledge” of who Jesus is; you may have grown up in the church, knowing that He is The Son of God; you may believe that He died on the cross; you may know all those facts, and have grown up with them. But knowing those facts does not release you from Satan’s grip any more than it did those demons in Gerasa. You must have a personal experience with Jesus in which He becomes YOUR Lord & Savior. John 1:12 says “as many as received Him, to THEM He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe on His name” – the Bible says that you must have a personal experience with Jesus in which you repent of your sins, and put your trust in Him as YOUR Lord & Savior. This is what “This Is My Story” is all about – asking you to consider, has this happened to you? Do you have a “story” of personal trust in Jesus as your Lord & Savior, in which He freed you from the grip of sin and Satan, and transferred you into the Kingdom of God? Jesus can free you from the grip of the enemy, but you must make sure that you have a “story”: a personal experience of repentance and faith in Jesus as YOUR Lord & Savior.
III. “AFTER”: serving where you are
This man’s “before” story was that he was in Satan’s grip, and then he was freed by Jesus’ power. Now we come to the “after” part of his story. When this man had been freed from the demonic grip by Jesus’ power, :18 says he “implored” Jesus that he might let him accompany Him. But Jesus said to him: :19 “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.” Jesus said to him, you don’t need to follow Me to unnamed places – go home, and just tell the people you know, where you are, what I have done for you. Serve Me where you are. His “after” story was one of sharing and serving Jesus in his own home town.
And this is how our “after” stories should be, too. When Jesus has touched your life, there should some similarities in your “after” story to this demoniac:
A) Your “after” story may be different than you plan or expect. Sometimes we have an idea of what we should do for the Lord – but He has something else in mind! The man here expected that he would follow Jesus wherever he went. This is what Jesus DID indeed ask a number of His disciples to do, if you recall. In Matthew 4, He told Peter and Andrew, James, and John, to “Follow Me” – “and they left their nets and followed Him.” Later in that same book He told Matthew the tax-collector: “Follow Me”. Well, here in Gerasa, evidently some time had gone by, since the demons had been cast out, as they had been sitting there when the people of the region came by. Surely Jesus and His disciples had been talking with this man. Perhaps the disciples had told him of how Jesus had called them to follow Him – and he may have thought that Jesus was going to call him to do the same thing: he thought that he was going to leave where he was and follow Jesus like these others had done. But he was wrong. The “picture” he had of what Jesus was going to have him do was not what the Lord had in mind. He had something completely different for him.
It is often that way with us, too! We get these “ideas” of what God is going to have us do, but often what HE has for us is different than what we expected. He thought that God was going to call him to go to some far off location, but Jesus told him to stay where he was. It may be like that for you. You may think if you surrender your life to the Lord, that He’ll call you to some “exotic” place, but He may tell you to do something less radical. My wife Cheryl totally committed her life to the Lord when she was a young lady, and she thought that God was probably going to call her to be a missionary to Africa or something like that. But He had something else in mind: (she just got me instead!) He called her to be a pastor’s wife, right here in the States. And it may be like that with you. God may call you to something less “exotic” than you think.
Or it may be the opposite for you: you may think that God is going to call you to stay right here, when in fact He is going to call you to follow Him in ministry or mission to another state or nation! There was a couple in our church in Louisiana (Bob & Nancy Shirey) few years ago who were on the verge of planning their retirement. But God had called their two sons to the mission field, and they saw them go through seminary, and all it takes to get their young family on the field, and they thought, you know, God’s brought us to the point in our life where we are basically free; we can retire, and go serve God anywhere in the world – and they did! They served several years with our Southern Baptist International Mission Board in Chile, and now I believe they are serving in England. They may have always expected to retire and stay in the States — but God had something else for them.
It may be the same way for you. You may think you know what God has for you: just to stay here where it is comfortable and familiar, but God may call you to leave what you are doing, and go to seminary, and minister in another state — or even another nation! Just keep in mind: God call you to serve Him in a way that YOU do not plan or expect.
B. Your “after” story should begin at home.
Jesus told him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you.” This man’s “after” story was to begin at home. Yours should too, in a couple of ways.
First of all, if Jesus has really touched your life, people are going to see it in your home – that is, your family members are going to see the difference that Jesus has made, and is making, in your life. Your husband, and wife, and children, those who live with you, know better than anyone else whether your relationship with the Lord is real.
One of our Baptist North American missionaries won a man to the Lord one night, and a couple nights later, this man’s wife came to see him. She asked him: “What did you do to my husband — and how can I have the same thing?” She asked that because her husband didn’t beat her, or swear at her any more. She could tell the difference that Jesus made in his life.
Listen: if Jesus is real in your life, the people closest to you will know it — in your home, on your job. In 1905 God brought a great revival to Wales through Evan Roberts, and so many of the men’s lives were changed, the work of the mines slowed down at first, because the little ponies who pulled the carts were used to being commanded by cursing and swearing, and the men weren’t doing it any longer! It took them a while to learn to respond to a gentle tap or a normal command! When those miners’ lives were changed by Jesus, even the mules at work knew it! And it will be the same with you. If Jesus has really touched your life, those in your own home, at work, and right here in this town will know it.
Secondly, your first mission from the Lord is right here in your home town. We talk a lot about missions in Romania and India and New York, and all of these are very important, and we are commanded to be involved in them. But your “after story” mission should begin, just like this demoniac’s, at home. And that just makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, how can we get all misty-eyed about ministering to children in overseas places when we have classes right here in own Sunday School that no one will teach? What about the children who need to know Jesus here? There are children right here in Burke County who are as lost as any child in any village anywhere in the world. Jesus loves ALL the little children – starting right here where we are! If mission trips are more than a just glorified vacation to you, your mission will start at home, right here – working with kids in Sunday School and Good News Club and Bible School, helping with our local mission efforts, inviting people to church and to the the Christmas program, sharing your “story” with people around you here. You won’t just fly across the ocean to minister, you will walk out into your own neighborhood to pray and look for opportunities to share. Jesus’ Acts 1:8 command begins “You shall be My witnesses inJerusalem” — reminding us that our mission starts at home.
So, this was his “story” – “before Christ, Christ, and after Christ.” Before, he was in the grip of the enemy, held in Satan’s power. Then he met Jesus, the ultimate power, who set him free from that grip. And after met Jesus, he was changed, and went and shared in his own home region “what great things Jesus had done for him.” That’s his story.
Now my question for you is: do you have a story like that? It doesn’t have to be as bizarre and dramatic as this man’s was – not too many are! But we are ALL in Satan’s grip, by our sin, separated from God. Unless you have come to know Jesus as your Savior, you are STILL in his grip, and you need to trust Him today. And if you have come to know Him, those around you will not be surprised. Those in your home, at your job, in your neighborhood, have seen the difference in you, and they know it is real. And if it is, you are not waiting for the next international mission trip to tell somebody about Jesus – you are going to be like that demoniac, and start serving the Lord right here, in your own home town, and THAT will be your story!