9th July 2023

Demon Possession

Passage: Mark 5:1-20
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

I want to talk tonight about one place in the earth which is lower, I believe, or one of the lowest, of any place in the earth. And it is somewhere which has a number of biblical towns that are associated with it. And I'm asking you the question, if you know what place this is that has Capernaum, Tiberias and Bethsaida, and the country of the Gargarians. Anybody tell me what that place is associated with those four towns? Just seeing, yeah? That's approximately correct. Certainly, is in Galilee, but more particularly, so I want to advance on the accuracy of that. She's right, but the general area of Galilee, but more particularly, the Sea of Galilee. All right, that's correct, because those are towns around the outside of the Sea of Galilee. And this particular Sea of Galilee had another name. Who knows what the other name was?

Not the Sea of Galilee, but the Sea of Tiberias, yes, because, of course, all those towns around the outside of the Lake of Galilee could be called the Sea of that place as well. What is there about this place that is peculiar on planet earth, or very, very distinct? I'm not sure it's exactly the most of what this characteristic is, but it would be close to it. It is actually the lowest part on the earth, or one of them. I'm not sure that the Dead Sea isn't lower than that, and that's because it actually is, let me see, I wrote it down somewhere, 662 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, or most ocean levels that can be measured, and 652 feet lower. It's rather strange, isn't it? But because of the evaporation of water, and because it's in a sort of canyon shape, that's the Sea of Galilee. And most of the, around the edges of the Sea of Galilee, there's steep mountain, or mountains, too strong a word, hillsides around the edges, so that it causes the wind flow to be somewhat turbulent. Many a person coming to go fishing on that lake have reported that there were storms, or sudden squalls, it was a place where there'd be people drowned in the middle of the night who went out fishing, and a sudden storm wrecked their little boat.

And so, rumours had spread that there were ghosts that came and met you on the Sea of Galilee, and if they came and, well, how do you, person, you know, that was a signal that you were going to perish that night. And that's a part of the background to understanding, not the story we're looking at tonight, but understanding the background of the story of Peter, thinking he saw a ghost coming, actually it was Jesus walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee. Well, this particular sea is the site of a miracle that Jesus did in Mark's Gospel, it's recorded in Chapter 5, so if you want to follow your own Bible, Mark's Gospel in Chapter 5, and we'll put that up on the screen, verses 1 to about 20-odd, Mark 5, 1 to 20. And following the story of this episode of Jesus healing the man who was demon-possessed, we're talking on exactly this question of demon possession. So, if you're not feeling at ease, we're talking about demons, leave now. But if you don't leave now, the Word of God will encourage you that it's not something to be afraid of as we listen to the storyline.

Now, I've been getting the treatment at home, and they wouldn't want me to say this, but I will anyway, but they give me advice on my sermons, it's quite normal for a house of a preacher to get advice, and usually what they tell me is I'm too complicated, and that I must learn to do as they know far better to do, and one of the features of being up at SMAD was I got to hear, I went up for some of the time, and to hear some of the four young people who were the speakers. Normally they'd get a speaker, one older person, at least 30 years of age, who would be the speaker, but they didn't do that, the leaders all chose to do it themselves, and they each had a turn, four of them, and there were four leaders this time amongst the young people.

They each gave a message, and they believed that they had something to do to make a good message that they think I could learn from as they've been listening to my sermons, and it is that I should give more clarity by having, you know, points, one, two, three, and four, and I, this morning, attempted so to do in my organization, but I got going and forgot, and when I got home for lunch, they told me off, you know, for not giving my points, even though I'd thought them up, but I actually got excited in the sermon and didn't do, or I didn't get, remember about the points, and so I've decided in repentance tonight to have points, and there's ten of them in the storyline, and you may be my witnesses to see whether I've achieved this or not, okay, but we're reading through, and you can follow it on the screen, stream on the screen, and we want to see ten particular things that give us information about and help us to understand what is this phenomenon of demon possession, and it's an incident that you clearly have to believe the Bible is in error if you don't believe that it's true, but it gives a lot of information about what the phenomenon of demon possession looks like. Well, they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Geraseans, and when Jesus had stepped out of the boat immediately, they met him out of the tombs, a man with an unclean spirit, and the first thing we've got to recognize is that in the world that has demons in it, in the spiritual world, there's a bit of a spiritual principle, not something they try and keep, it's just a principle of how it is, that two opponents can't be there together without there being a contest, and wherever you know there's someone who is demon-possessed and someone comes along filled with the Spirit, Holy Spirit, then you'll get a contest, and that's what happened, and the little word that indicates that to me is the one that a couple of sermons ago, I think it was in the morning I was preaching on, how the Bible talks about the immediacy of Jesus' call, when Jesus called the disciples, immediately they get out of the boat and follow him.

What's the immediately all about? It's about the spiritual dimension when Jesus comes to a person and calls them, it's more than just a person who's wearing a type of clothes and has a beard or not, it's more than just the physical descriptors that might give you what that storyline is. There's a spiritual dimension to the call of Christ, and when he called to the disciples in the boat, immediately they get up and leave their boat and they left their father in the boat doing the fishing, and they follow Jesus, and there's two sets of brothers who become the first disciples, Peter and Andrew, and John and James, who become the core of folk who were in Jesus' discipleship group. And here we have Jesus stepping out of the boat, and immediately they met him out of the tombs, a man with an unclean spirit. He came out to meet this strange figure of Jesus, because he was demon possessed. He lived among the tombs, verse 3, and no one could bind him, not even with a chain, for he'd often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in places. No one had the strength to subdue him.

And one of the signs of there being true demon possession, and not just something else that we might imagine so explaining, but one of the signs, not always present, but one of the characteristics of demon possession often is supernatural strength. We're going to see some other signs as we go through, and part of the reason why I wanted to do this is that we'd be able to distinguish real demon possession, but not jump to the conclusion when someone might look a bit unusual or weird, which is often our possibility, of course. And so, we're looking there, we had point one about the fact of the spiritual conflict. Now I realize if I'm going to be telling you these points, I better aid the process with my glasses, so you can report, please, for me, you know, that I did indeed have good points in the sermon. And here we have the fact that that's what we've done with number one. Now look down in verse 4. He'd often be bound, and we discover that he has supernatural strength, and night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, always crying and cutting himself. And so supernatural strength is one of the signs of demon possession, but I want to tell you, self-harm can be. I need to add a bit of a carefulness about that one, because I think what's happening when someone self-harms is not necessarily because there's a demon. It is because something's happened in their minds to control all the processes that are going on there, and psychologically people can get mixed up and can have a clash of forces within their mind and do self-harm.

So, I'm just saying that because I know of people who had done self-harm, and it wasn't necessarily a demon possession. But it is one of the signs, sometimes it is, because one of the characteristics of demon possession is that the person loses control of what's making their decisions. And there are those two possibilities. So, it's always, if you find someone and they're always doing things that, you know, cuts their bodies or whatever, then you have to look for more information as to whether it is spiritual or whether it is psychological, because it's not normal. We all love our bodies, even if you think they're too skinny, like I do, or we think we're too fat, or we nonetheless, there's a sense of love of self and care for your body, which is normal. And so, if there's someone who is not doing that, or is doing the reverse of hurting their bodies, then there's some forces that are operative, and that one of those forces possible is demon possession. Now, going further, we notice that's not only self-harm, but I'm listing all the different characteristics. A supernatural strength was one, and possibly self-harm. But another one is when a person displays a supernatural strength. We've got that already, but a supernatural knowledge.

And so, Jesus is busy as he sees this person, and Jesus recognises this demon possession, and he speaks in verse 7, I adieu you by God, do not, although that's what the man says, I adieu you by God, do not torment me. For Jesus was saying to him, come out of the man, you unclean spirit. And so, when Christ deals with people, he deals with them at a spiritual level. Now you may not be demon possessed, but I want to tell you, you have a spiritual depth anyway. And in the dealing that God does with you, he can't but help, but be a dealing that is addressing you at the deepest level of who you are. And when a person becomes a Christian, there may be a slow process of them learning a bit and understanding, getting a better knowledge of it. There can be a time when there's certain beliefs that they have that they've got to change, and they don't do that quickly. It can be a case of they have things they know are inconsistent with being a Christian, and them becoming one might mean that they've got to quit whatever club it is that they shouldn't be in.

Yes, there are those processes that go on, that they're in the rationality of our minds and in the volition of our character. But deeper still than that, it is a spiritual thing that happens to you, because Jesus is talking to you, he's working on you, he's convicting you. Never the same with any two given persons. God doesn't work in a way that you have to have a thing happen just the same as everybody else. But when he's working on you, it is something that includes his address to you at the spiritual level. And as Jesus is saying to this fellow, and to the demon, he's saying to the demon, come out of the man, you unclean spirit. And he's addressing that spirit. And when Jesus calls us to become Christians, likewise, there's a sense in which his voice comes through to you. You know that saying, knowing the master's voice. That used to be on my radio set when I was a little kid at home, his master's voice. You know when your master calls you like the dog does when you call him and he knows his master's voice. Well, you and I, the way that we were born, were born with a natural master. And it's Jesus. He's the one who caused your creation in the first place. There's a verse in John's Gospel chapter one that can be taken two ways. It says that he's the light that lightens every person coming into the world. And you can take it to be that he's the light to all the world.

And so, everybody comes into the world that Jesus is the light of. Or you can take the statement to be saying that at your birth, he's the one that turned the switch on for you to be alive. He's the one that enlivened you at your birth. There is a miracle that a person, a little baby's birth. And the master of every one of us by being born as a human is Jesus. He is the one with a voice, his master's voice. And he addresses you spiritually. That's why when we come to Christian messages, a Christian message doesn't just depend upon what the person's speaking. Like tonight in my case, I'm the speaker. And what I might think up. There's a deeper level that's happening right now. And that deeper level is that Jesus is speaking. And sometimes people come into a Christian service like this and they come out the door. They say to me or to whoever's the speaker, they say, while you were speaking, God spoke to me. Say, how do you know that, Jim? I know that because I used to work. One of my chief areas of Christian service was being in charge of the counselling after crusade meetings. And I'd be the person who prepared a room.

Our rallies that Youth for Christ used to have, used State High School Hall. And they gave us permission to use one of the nearby classrooms. And I'd prepare the classroom for the counselling and have little tables, the normal desks, and then there'd be three chairs around each desk. And there'd be a follow-up booklet put on each little table. And when the people came forward in the appeal after the message, we'd take them in there and they'd sit down and a counsellor, one counsellor at each little desk would sit. And they'd fill in something that I prepared for the counsellors to use, that we'd get their name and address. And then they'd been trained, the counsellors, to take them at the end of them talking to them and trying to lead them in a prayer to come to Christ.

They'd take them to me. I'd be standing at the door of the classroom. And the advice that the counsellors had been trained in was to bring them to me and they were to say, this is John Smith, or whatever their name was, and hand me the card and walk on. I'd made that arrangement so that I would have a couple of seconds just to ask another question to see whether they really got properly counselled. And I'd say, well, why did you come forward today? And the thing that astounded me again and again was the time that after the message, they'd say, well, that man in there, they're talking about the preacher, while he was speaking, God spoke to me. God spoke to me. Because that's what actually happens in evangelism. What makes evangelism successful is not the harangue the preacher could give. It's not the special tricks he had to get you to listen. It was when God speaks. And this is happening in this scene. This scene is, excuse me, a scene where there's a demon. And the demon and God and Jesus, who's God, they have a confrontation. Jesus is saying, come out of the man, you unclean spirit. And Jesus asked him, what's your name?

There's business going on in the spiritual world. Now, not only in the case of someone who's got a demon, is that the truth, but it's the truth for all of us when that moment of Jesus and his speaking, at last you begin to hear. When Jesus wrote letters to the churches, he often tacked down the bottom, he that has ears to hear, let him listen. Because of this phenomenon I'm telling you about, and Jesus is addressing in the first instance, the demon. Later on, he'll be giving advice to the man. And that's what happens when someone is demon possessed and they're released by Jesus. Well, we're looking here, and that was my point number three, I think. I better check-up, I'm getting the points right. And self-harm and then the supernatural psychology or supernatural voice, one way or another. So, going further to point number five, and what happens in the storyline is that the man replies to Jesus and begins to say, Jesus says, what's your name? And he said, my name is Legion. Now that's a strange name, my name is Legion, but he explains and says, for we are many. Anybody guess how many that might be from the storyline?

If you looked on further down? Well, what happens is that they begged Jesus that he won't, what did they say? They begged him, verse 10, earnestly not to send them out of the country. Demons like to be enfleshed. They like to get within bodies, preferably human bodies. So don't disbelieve in the idea of demon possession. A lot of people have got explanations, it's really psychological, it's really not real demons, it's their personal demon, meaning the thing that's troubling them. No, there are real demons who have a desire to get within people for the purpose of controlling them, staying enfleshed as long as they can. These ones don't want to be sent out of the district. Jesus is going to send them out of him, out of the man. They begged him, verse 12, saying, see how their wish is, they begged him, send us to the pigs, let us enter them. So, he gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out, and they entered the pigs and the herd, numbering about 2,000, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and they drowned in the sea.

So how many demons could I say there might have been? I don't know, maybe they had a herd mentality, no pun intended, but they didn't necessarily have to be 2,000, but they could have been. And the man gave, the demon I should say, gave his group name as Legion. Now I need to say here at this point of time, that understanding this is difficult to us because the arena of spirituality is one that is not easily understood by us with our human backgrounds alone. For people who have become used to it more often, that's been in cases of missionaries going over to other places where there's a lot more demon possession being exhibited. But there are some things that people who delve in those things can see and understand, and their intuitions have been trained to make sense to them. So, because this storyline says 2,000 pigs rushed into the water, don't sell us a stupid story. It's a story of something that happened, numbering about 2,000, they rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and they drowned in the sea. I can't explain whether that was the demons doing their last nasty work by drowning all the pigs on purpose, or whether there was sufficient demons numbering the pigs for the pigs to do a live act of following the leader down the hill, and it was like a pig accident.

I don't know the full details, but I want to tell you that this is something that the Bible tells us happened, in this case of a man who was released from a legion of unclean spirits. Well, that's an amazing thing. Now we're up to point number five, but we're looking at, if you just came in, we're looking at the characteristics of demon possession, and the fact that there is supernatural knowledge that's demonstrated by the voice of the man, because he cries out verse seven, and he says, what have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the most high God? Now the people of Jesus' day, when the Lord came, first came, didn't wake up to exactly who he was. The best that they could know from the prophecies of the Old Testament was that they could jump to the conclusion that he was the promised Messiah, the word Messiah means the Christ, it means the one who's going to be the leader for the people, it's a human person. So, they're correct to call him Messiah in as much as he is human, he's the God-man.

He's the second person of the Trinity who's taken on humanity, so now he's both deity and human. There's a mystery in that. It's necessary for him so to come, because his chief purpose that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit decided in eternity past that he should come and do, was come and take on humanity for the purpose of going to the cross. He had a destiny that God, in all that he was, purpose for him that he should die upon a cross for our sins. But he couldn't do that and take on him the punishment for humanity as a God making himself, well I was going to say making himself pay, he did that indeed, but he had to take the human punishment. He had to qualify as an innocent, a righteous human being, so he's the God-man. But that's not known, at this juncture in Jesus' career, in Jesus' time, people were gradually waking up to the fact that he was the Messiah, that's the first thing they began to realise. John the Baptist had said that he introduced him more or less to the Messiah, and so they were to believe he's the one that was sent by God to lead in the kingdom of God on earth, but they didn't fully understand all that it meant until later in his ministry he had to keep on explaining it to them.

Eventually, when he went to the cross, they were then aware more of who he was. But this demon, he says, what have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the most high God? He knows who Jesus is, and he has a spiritual knowledge, this demon, or the group of them, come out of the man, you unclean spirit. Jesus asks his name, he knows his name, and he says, if we turn the slide to the next bit, um, we are many. That's when they, the demons beg that the Lord not send them out of the country, they take on being the pigs. Notice the permission, they can't even do that unless Jesus gives the permission. So, one of the truths about demon possession is that they're very aware of the spiritual authority of the spiritual world. They know that Jesus is king of kings, especially now, they know he's the one who's the son of God. No one has to tell them, they know. And one of the features of demon possession is often it comes out with, the demon-possessed person might be the one whose voice is heard, but they come out with supernatural knowledge about the supernatural world. And it isn't just a medical problem the person has, or just a psychological mix-up in their brain, there is something at that deeper level that's exhibited.

And when you're dealing with people who you suspect may be demon-possessed, it is often that possession of spiritual knowledge. And they'll say things that they couldn't know if they didn't have connection with the evil world. Excuse me. So, he gave them permission, verse 13. And that is telling us, that's telling us that in the spiritual world, Jesus is the one who's in charge. And the spiritual world is very sensitive to whose authority is there. And God's authority is the one that wins every time. That's one reason why, although it's a rather scary topic to get into, and we naturally can be scared, you can see that in the storyline, the moment the supernatural enters into things that people can't explain, they get afraid. That's actually one of my points, I'm getting in and out of order. But while I'm mentioning it, let's keep reading. My name is Legion, verse 9, as the demon is saying. And he begged him earnestly, begged Jesus earnestly, not to send them out of the country. Now, the great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and they begged him, send us to the pigs, let us enter them. So, he gave them permission.

Nothing happens in Jesus' world that he's not in charge of. He gave them permission. The unclean spirits came out and entered into the pigs in the herd, numbering about 2,000. And they rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. The herdsmen, now they're the people, there's 2,000 odd pigs. Is it 2,000? Anyway, whatever the number is, it's a lot of them. They're making a good killing, money-wise, being in charge of all these pigs. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city. If it was that they were just done out of there, making a big killing with eventual selling of the pigs, they wouldn't have run off. They'd be there arguing, look what you've done, you've got to pay now. Jesus, come on. Excuse me. They would be there. They wouldn't be running off, and they'd be trying to get some value out of their loss of pigs. But they fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. There's a fear that's there, because the supernatural has entered the scene. And it's one of the signs of the presence of the supernatural, of there being something supernatural. Sometimes the person is supernatural strength. Sometimes it is a supernatural voice.

Sometimes it's a supernatural knowledge as to what is said by the supernatural voice. And all these things suddenly tell you you're dealing with a demon, not just a person. These things about the permission that they give Jesus to have to tell. Their sensitivity to authorities is one of the signs of the spiritual world that involves demons. And it's rather good news for us to recognize that the one that we follow, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the highest, is the highest authority in all the world. There is no other authority higher than his. It is Jesus. And so that's a beautiful thing for us to know. But when you come across genuine demon possession, you're dealing with authorities. And the way you deal with those authorities is that you always call on Jesus. Call him by his name. His name, Jesus, has been given the highest authority in the whole of creation. The name Jesus is the highest authority in all of creation. And just at his name, Jesus, there is tremendous power. I had a friend who'd been assailed by the demon world. He had a father who was definitely a possessor of a person who got out of jail now and then, would turn up at the home.

And he had some effects of demons hunting him down, this friend that I had. He wasn't possessed, but he was scared of that demon world. And he used to come with me to go to a lot of the youth camps I was speaker at. And one of those camps at the night time, he went out for a walk and a prayer time that he might pray and help in things to do with demons. And while he was outside praying, a real sinister presence came. I don't know whether you've ever been somewhere where a real strong demonic presence comes that makes you very afraid. And he just, without knowing what he was doing, he said, Jesus. The whole thing disappeared. And he had learned, because sometimes his dad would come around and he'd be a spooky presence when his dad came around. And he had learned to rely upon the name Jesus. And you don't have to let the evil world get you cowering. You've got to learn to trust in the strength of his name, the name Jesus. And so that's actually what is happening here. The demons are fleeing.

The herdsmen are afraid. But is the man afraid? The beautiful end of the story. And the one that had had the legion, he was there sitting, clothed and in his right mind. He's clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and the pigs. They, these are the ones who owned the pigs and the people, local people, came for a stare. They began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. It's all too much for them. And I think what this is, and it's my point number seven, I lost the order a bit, but this is sometimes that human and spiritual areas mixed together to make motives. I wouldn't mind guessing that these ones that beg Jesus to depart from the region are the ones who suffered financially from what happened, all the pigs being lost. But it also would include, this is they, meaning the people generally, but include the people who just are not able to handle the whole talk about demons. And so, they want Jesus out of there. And you'll find amongst churches, there are people, if I go and give it a message like this, there are people say, we don't really want that sort of message, Jim.

They don't get a choice. If someone asks me to preach, I go for where God tells me. I don't know anywhere safer to be than simply doing what he tells you to do. And here is these people who are asking Jesus to leave. Now if I knew of someone who was going and living in the cemeteries and living in the district where there's evil things that go on, and someone comes along and leads them to Christ, and they led to Christ, have a transformation, I'd be hugging the man. I'd be thanking him. Thank you for coming to our district because when Jesus comes, everything is different. And if you look at the storyline, it's so wonderful that while they're begging Jesus to leave the region, it's so different with the man. We'll go to the last part of the, yeah. And Jesus getting into the boat and the man who'd been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. He's discovered a friend, all right. He begged him. He wants to stay just where Jesus is.

One of the things that happens to people in the spiritual world who have dealings with Jesus, you get attached to him, and you know him, and you want him, and you just want to have Jesus with you everywhere. And he don't, didn't, but Jesus didn't permit him, but said to him, go home and to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you. And he went away and began to reclaim, in Decapolis, that means ten cities, was where he was from, how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marvelled. Now, it's not written in the Bible, but there are records, historical records, that there was a mighty revival that happened for Christianity in Decapolis, the ten cities. And some people guess, we don't know for sure, but it was the spark of the initial witness of the man who went and told them. And if they'd heard the stories of him, they didn't have any ammunition to fire back and say, oh, I don't believe that. His very presence saying, look what God has done for me, was the initial witness that brought many of them to know the Lord as Christians later. And that's a storyline that happens not only in the Bible, like the woman in the well, and many of the Samaritans came to know Jesus and believe in him. It's not only just that, but it is something that has occurred down through Christian history, where there are people who know the Lord and get to have a sense of his presence. And it has been a blessing that's passed on to many people. Many folk have come to know him because of that one witness. Well, they're my points. I probably didn't say them all in the proper order, but there were 10 of them if you want to look them through later. And let's have a word of prayer.

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks tonight because of this storyline. We thank you, Heavenly Father, for Jesus, that he's in the business of turning what was a terrible tragedy to this man, something that had him frightened. And then at the end, he's so at peace with Jesus, he just wants to stay with him. And I thank you, Father, for the power of Jesus. Lord, I pray that you'll help us, each in our own level of what is our need, be those who are prepared to get close to Jesus and let him deal with all our issues. We pray it in his name and for his sake. Amen.

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