No Contest

Even the demons know their power is useless against Christ’s.

When an army meets a solitary opponent, which do you expect to emerge victorious? Fortune may favor the strength found in numbers, but what about God? Regarding the constant clash between His church and the kingdom of darkness, Jesus said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18 ESV). And He would know—not even hell’s legions could withstand Him.

 

Read

To get the most out of this Bible study, read Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39. But first, ask that the Holy Spirit guide you into the truth available in these passages. Permit yourself to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. Remember, God is the best teacher.

Key Passage: Mark 5:1-20

 

Background

Even though the disciples were in the Lord’s company night and day, they still needed training in order to understand He was a miracle-working Messiah whose every word could be trusted. So in Mark 4:35, when Jesus said, “Let us go over to the other side,” He was about to drive the point home by calming the fierce gale that would cause His men to doubt. Now, on the heels of that stunning miracle, they arrive, as promised, on the other side, where Jesus teaches another lesson—that besides having authority over nature, He is also supreme over the spiritual realm.

Reflect

With the men still awed by the wind and waves’ obedience to Him, Jesus steps off the boat into another confrontation. The Lord is immediately met onshore by a man who is possessed—not just by one demon but by many.

  • Consider how the demonized man identifies himself in Mark 5:9, noting that Legion specifically refers to a Roman battalion of between 3,000 and 6,000 men. With such numbers, the conflict may initially appear lopsided, but the verb implore, which occurs three times in verses 7-12, tells a different story. What does that wording reveal about how the demons view Christ? About how they view their own power?

  • Luke 8:27 says the man hasn’t worn clothes or lived in a house for a long time, and Mark 5:3-4 refers to a strained and possibly abusive relationship with the adjacent town. In what ways do you imagine this deprivation and isolation compounded the torture he was already experiencing on account of the demonic possession?

  • What verbs describe the townspeople’s actions against the possessed man (vv. 3-4)? Compare with the verbs in Isaiah 61, a passage Jesus uses as a personal mission statement (Luke 4:17-21). Which approach proved most effective, and what does that reveal about how God operates?

 

Continuing the Story

In a dramatic moment, the demonized man is delivered and sits at Jesus’ feet, clothed and in his right mind.

    Besides having authority over nature, Jesus is also supreme over the spiritual realm.

  • Both gospels describe how the man has been living among the tombs, but Luke specifies that he’d “been driven by the demon into solitary places” (Luke 8:29 NIV). How does that final destination compare to where Jesus sends the man after deliverance (Mark 5:19)? In terms of community and relationships, what does that tell you about the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness?

  • Have you experienced a similar movement toward or away from your family and friends? What correlation, if any, do you see between your spiritual health and an increasing or decreasing intimacy with others?

 

Reflect

After the demons have been cast out of him, the rescued man immediately wants to join Jesus and His disciples. But the Savior instead deploys him as an evangelist to the very people who rejected and restrained him.

  • In His parting address to the delivered man, the Lord tells 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” (Mark 5:19, emphasis added). What are the feelings or experiences that you typically associate with mercy? How does this man’s experience of deliverance correspond (or not) to your idea of mercy?

  • Read Mark 1:23-26 and Mark 9:17-26, and then take a look at Mark 5:7. It’s clear that deliverance, even as an act of mercy and divine intervention, is oftentimes an uncomfortable experience for those who are being delivered. Does that impact how you expect to experience the Lord’s mercy in your life? In what ways?

  • While mercy is often understood to be the absence of punishment, that’s not to say it isn’t also a confrontation. When God addresses the darkness lurking within His children, it can feel like torture, but on the other side is freedom and purpose.

 

Revisit

Over the next several weeks, use this section to review the study and consider how its message applies to your life.

Deliverance, even as an act of mercy and divine intervention, is oftentimes an uncomfortable experience for those who are being delivered.

One of the most repeated commands in the whole Bible is “fear not.” On more than one occasion, angels reassured humans with this simple mandate, suggesting that such supernatural visitations were inherently terrifying for mere mortals. But they’re not the only ones to speak these words—we also see Jesus constantly exhorting His timid children to take heart and trust Him.

Yet Scripture also tells us we’re to fear the very one who keeps insisting that we not fear—namely, God Himself (1 Peter 1:17). Why? Because if we don’t fear God, we may find ourselves expelling His presence from our lives.

  • Reread Mark 5:14-17. The townspeople are clearly more disturbed by the sane man sitting at Jesus’ feet than they were by the demonized one roaming the tombs—why do you think that might be?

  • Fear compels us to protect ourselves, sometimes in irrational ways. Note what action the townspeople take in response to this deliverance: They demanded Jesus’ departure. Have you ever reacted in a similar illogical manner, distancing yourself from the very thing or person that is helping you? How does misplaced fear lead to such behavior?

  • The fear of the Lord is a difficult concept to grasp, and while we may not be able to tease out every nuance, it’s important to wrestle with the idea. Consider that fear is often a response to authority or power—that is to say, we’re not afraid of things weaker than us. With that in mind, how is our fear of the Lord an acknowledgment of His omnipotence?

  • Fear, like shame, connects us to our primal humanity. But unlike shame, fear properly directed toward God brings us closer to the One whose perfect love paradoxically casts out all our terror.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

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What happens to my notes

18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

1 They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.

2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,

3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain;

4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.

5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.

6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;

7 and shouting with a loud voice, he said, What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"

8 For He had been saying to him, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"

9 And He was asking him, What is your name?" And he said to Him, My name is Legion; for we are many."

10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.

11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.

12 The demons implored Him, saying, Send us into the swine so that we may enter them."

13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.

15 They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion"; and they became frightened.

16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.

17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region.

18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.

19 And He did not let him, but He said to 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."

20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.

27 And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.

28 Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me."

29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.

30 And Jesus asked him, What is your name?" And he said, Legion"; for many demons had entered him.

31 They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.

32 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission.

33 And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country.

35 The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened.

36 Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well.

37 And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned.

38 But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying,

39 Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

35 On that day, when evening came, He said to them, Let us go over to the other side."

9 And He was asking him, What is your name?" And he said to Him, My name is Legion; for we are many."

27 And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.

3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain;

4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.

17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

18 THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,

19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."

20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

21 And He began to say to them, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.

19 And He did not let him, but He said to 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."

23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

24 saying, What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!"

25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Be quiet, and come out of him!"

26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him.

17 And one of the crowd answered Him, Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute;

18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it. "

19 And He answered them and said, O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!"

20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth.

21 And He asked his father, How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, From childhood.

22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"

23 And Jesus said to him, `If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."

24 Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, I do believe; help my unbelief."

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again."

26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, He is dead!"

7 and shouting with a loud voice, he said, What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"

17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.

15 They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion"; and they became frightened.

16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.

17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region.

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