Going to the Dark Side: Part 2

Mark 5:1-20

At the insistence of the demons, Jesus permitted them. By His power, Jesus could have sent them anywhere, even back to the abyss. That fact that He didn’t do that tells us He had a larger purpose to fulfill in this interaction with the demons and the residents. John MacArthur wrote, “By granting permission for these demons to go into the herd of pigs, Jesus was allowing them to put on display the true magnitude of their destructive and deadly force. In so doing, He also highlighted the glorious superiority of His own power.” [1]

              What happened next stunned the bystanders! The entire herd of 2,000 pigs went berserk and stampeded down a steep slope and into the Sea of Galilee to their deaths. This was undeniable proof that the demons had left the man and entered the pigs. It also illustrated the damaging power of the demons on a massive scale. Most importantly, it demonstrated Jesus’ absolute authority over them. They had no choice by to comply with His sovereign command!

              We have many warnings in Scripture that evil will increase as we approach the end of the age. Jesus and the apostles spoke about how evil behaviors will “come out of the closet” and into the mainstream of culture as Satan realizes that his time for deception is growing short. I have witnessed this in my short lifetime.

              For those who follow Christ, confronting evil in society today is much more costly than in the past. But we must not shrink in fear. Instead, we need to “put on the full armor of God so we can stand against the devil’s schemes.” We are not struggling against human beings, but against spiritual forces of evil in this world of darkness working through human beings. We must not retreat in the face of opposition but go boldly forward to confront evil in our time.

              Going to the dark side requires us to cross barriers and confront evil.

Another STEP (in going to the dark side) is,

              Choosing Sides

              Not all demonstrations of Jesus’ power are as dramatic as this one. But one thing is sure; when Jesus shows up you can’t be neutral. You can either accept Him or reject Him, but you can’t ignore Him!

              Those who cared for the pigs and witnessed their dramatic destruction didn’t wait around to see what would happen next. They took to their heels in fear and told everyone they saw about what had happened to the herd of pigs. The text isn’t clear about whether they had seen the transformation in the former demoniac. The news spread like wildfire across the whole region. When people heard about what happened they wanted to see it with their own eyes.

              So, they came to see if what they’d been told was true. And sure enough, the pigs were floating in the water. Even more astounding was the man who had been possessed by many demons sitting with Jesus. He was fully clothed, and his mind was completely restored. He and Jesus were conversing together. And they were afraid. This was the same kind of fear the disciples experienced after Jesus stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee. It was the realization that they were in the presence of the Holy One.  

              Imagine those who had witnessed these dramatic events retelling them to the curious crowd that had gathered. I see them imitating the behavior of the demoniac, the calm composure of Jesus, and the violent reaction of the herd of pigs. I picture them pointing to the bodies of all those dead pigs floating in the water. It was almost more than one could comprehend.

              And the response? The people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. Why? Was it the loss of the 2,000 pigs? Possibly. This would have been a major shock to the local economy. Those pigs could still be butchered, and the meat used, although it may have glutted the market and caused the price to fall.

              Were these people content to remain in the kingdom of darkness to protect their possessions and the things that were familiar to them? Were they more concerned about their livelihood than the deliverance of this tormented man? Or were they bothered by the fact that they had witnessed a demonstration of power that left them feeling very uncomfortable?

              Remember what I said earlier? “When Jesus shows up you can’t be neutral. You can either accept Him or reject Him, but you can’t ignore Him!”

              Jesus warned His followers it would be this way. In Luke 12:51 to 53 Jesus said, Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

               These people decided they didn’t want Jesus in their community. You can make the same decision today; you have that freedom. But you can’t choose the consequences of your choice. They are built into your decision.

              Just like the people of Gadara, the behavior of most unbelievers today isn’t as extreme as the demoniac. But regardless of their behavior, every human being is a sinner. I suppose there were lots of “good people” in that community, people who took pride in their culture, their heritage, and their citizenship. But when they rejected Jesus, they chose the temporary over the eternal. Jesus wanted to give them freedom from sin just like He had given to the demoniac.

              Going to the dark side requires us to cross barriers and confront evil. It also requires us to choose sides. Today, you have the opportunity to choose sides. Which side will you choose?

The Final STEP (in going to the dark side) is,

              Commissioning Witnesses

              In response to the request of the crowd there on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus prepares to leave the area. As He is getting into the boat, the formerly demon-possessed man keeps begging Him, “Let me go with you.” We can surely sympathize with his desire. Jesus had delivered him from a life of misery and degradation. Gone was the constant torment of a deranged mind and the pain of his mutilated body. In many ways, his existence was worse than that of an animal. Out of gratitude, he was ready to follow Jesus anywhere.

              But Jesus denied this man’s pleading. Instead, He said to him, “Go to your home, to your own people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and that He had mercy on you.” Maybe that seems harsh to us. Shouldn’t he have had the opportunity to be with Jesus for a while to grow in his faith and understanding? How was he going to survive as the only Believer in this pagan community?

              We can take comfort in the fact that Jesus knows all things. He knew this man and how he would respond to Jesus’ command. Jesus gave him the hardest assignment possible – go home to your family and friends and be My witness there. That was his commission.

              So, the man went off as Jesus commanded. He shared his story throughout that whole region of Decapolis, telling anyone and everyone who would listen to all that Jesus had done for him. What happened after that? We don’t know, that’s the end of the story for us.

              But we can be assured of at least two things. First, this promise was given by God to the prophet Isaiah. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there,
but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void (empty), but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Everyone who heard his story was amazed, and I’m sure some of them were transformed too.

              Second, we can also be assured that as this man recounted the story of his miraculous deliverance over and over again, his love for Jesus and his gratefulness for His mercy grew deeper and deeper. Jesus said, “To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” The reverse is just as true. The one who is forgiven much, the same loves much.

              The challenge many of us face is to realize just how much we’ve been forgiven. We tend, like the crowds there on the seashore that day, to compare ourselves to others whom we consider the worst of sinners. We’re not nearly as bad as the demoniac! We see our behavior as respectable, and we don’t engage in many of the sinful practices that are prevalent all around us.

              But when we open our hearts before the holy presence of Jesus, we gain a deeper understanding of our own depravity. Our pride, our self-righteousness, our refusal to forgive others, our bitterness toward those who have wronged us, our insistence on our rights, and a host of other things show us just how much we need the mercy and grace of Jesus. Jesus came over to the dark side to save you and me too.

              You will recall that some of Jesus’ final instructions to the disciples just before His ascension to Heaven were – But you shall receive power… and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus’ command to them was similar to the command He gave the former demoniac; your witness begins at home.  

              And Jesus has given you and me that same commission. Maybe you think your story isn’t dramatic or compelling. Not many people have a story like the demoniac. But every born-again child of God has a redemption story to tell.

              You and I can testify of the peace we have in our hearts knowing that our sins are forgiven. We can tell others how God has given us a purpose for living that goes beyond ourselves and beyond our time here on earth. We can share with them how He has given us victory over habits that are harmful to our bodies and our relationships with other people. And the list goes on. In all of this, we need to assure them that these things are true, not because we’re good people, but because Jesus has set us free from the power of sin.

              Going to the dark side isn’t easy and it isn’t comfortable, but Jesus hasn’t called us to an easy and comfortable life. He has called us to cross the barriers, to go places we don’t want to go. He has given us the power through His Holy Spirit to confront evil and to call people to choose which side they will be on. And He has commissioned us as His witnesses; first at home and then into the wider world.

              All the while, we must remember, that Jesus left the glorious light and glory of Heaven to come over to the dark side to rescue us. May God give us the courage to follow His example.

[1] MacArthur, John New Testament Commentary p. 246

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