LEGION. Mark chapter 5 v 1-20.
This is a strange and fascinating story of a madman and a herd of pigs. The location is easily established. There is only one place on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee where there is a rocky outcrop going steeply down into the Sea. Tourists can visit the exact location today. The meeting with Legion follows after the calming of the storm on the Lake. Jesus recognised that it had been Satan who stirred up the storm and he demanded that the storm cease. This was an attempt by Satan to drown Jesus and the Disciples and so frustrate the work of God. Jesus was alert to the attack and exercised control over the powers of darkness when He calmed the storm. The area is a predominantly Gentile area.
There are five lessons.
Lesson One. This was no chance meeting. Jesus came ashore at the very point where He would meet this man. His mission was to rescue the man from the power of Satan. The man had an unclean spirit. The demons in Legion could not prevent the man from meeting with Jesus. God allows evil for His purposes and the situation is never beyond His control. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Legion was well and truly lost. The demonic web had been wound very tightly around the spirit, soul and body of Legion. Satan was in control of Legion. He was the worst case encountered by Jesus in His three-year public ministry. What did the Disciples think? Were they having a good look at the boat and judging the distance? Did they feel afraid? But Jesus was in control of the situation. In a strange way the man was religious. He fell at the feet of Jesus and worshipped Him. In all his torment he was calling out for help. If Jesus can solve the problem for Legion, He can solve any problem. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. The passage invites a believer to take his problem to Jesus.
Jesus took the initiative, just as His Father had done in Egypt. He saw their oppression and resolved to do something about it. The Hebrews had no hope of escape. God took the initiative just as he did in sending Jesus to die for the sins of the World. There is no other way for a man to be reconciled to God but by the cross of Jesus. Ezekiel ch 34 v 11. “I, I myself will lead my sheep.” Jesus confronted the enemy head-on. A believer must face the challenge facing him today and not run away from it.
Jesus asked his name. Jesus is interested in people. God knew all about Legion. Jer ch 1 v 5. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” People say: “It is the drink talking.” 95% of crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol. The demons asked Jesus: “What have you to do with me, Jesus?” The demons knew whom Jesus was and that He had authority over them. Anger on the part of the demons is a sign of a spiritual power trying to frighten a man and intimidate him. Name the demons. Jesus knew the demons. He had created them as angels before they rebelled against His Father. The demons asked Jesus to send them into the pigs and not to send them to the abyss. Jesus did as they requested, thereby demonstrating that He was in control of the situation.
v 2. Legion approached Jesus. Legion was a non-believer in Jesus living in a Gentile region. Legion had supernatural strength. He was exceptionally strong. No one could hold him with chains. Everyone was petrified of Legion. The local road had become a no-go area. What was behind the supernatural strength? The strength manifests itself to protect the demonic kingdom within the person, to give powers to the host who uses the demons to give him power and influence.
Legion lived among the graveyards. Demons and death go together – hence the graveyard. There would be a bed for the night, if the stone at the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away. The people of that area believed in an after-life and brought food to the graveyards for the deceased. Legion would be able to eat regularly every morning. For many involved in the occult there is a strong compulsion to visit graveyards, to lie on the tombs at night or even lie on the grave of a freshly buried corpse. What appears to be happening in that event is that demons from those who have died are attempting to transfer to new homes, and the demons inside a living person are trying to attract new demonic powers in order to enhance their power and further demonise their host. So as a result there were many demons living inside Legion. Some writers picture demons like bats. How could there be many bat-like beings inside Legion? It is better to think of demons like germs. After a cut infections can enter the body. The indication from the story is that the man was highly demonised and that his original demons had successfully attracted a huge number of evil spirits, many of which would have come from the dead who had been buried in the tombs. The more demonised a person is, the greater the control by demonic powers and the greater the supernatural strength, which can be displayed through the victim’s body. The local people almost certainly did not understand that any more then most people today, including some believers.
Legion cut and bruised himself with stones drawing blood. When a person cuts himself, it is a sign of demonic activity. It is not natural. Eph ch 5 v 29. 1 Kings ch 18 v 28-29. Elijah watched the prophets of Baal cutting themselves. It was part of the Baal worship. The demons within a person demand blood Exodus ch 20 v 5 says that one of the consequences of idolatry is that the sins of the fathers are visited on the children. Demons can travel down the family line affecting future generations. Perhaps Legion was the descendent of someone who was a worshipper of Baal. If so, then as a result he was forced, against his will, to fulfil the rituals of a form of worship that was probably foreign to him. For some who cut themselves it is a means of masking intense emotional pain, which cannot easily be fought. The physical pain caused by cutting themselves is a focus for pain, which distracts from the real source of the emotional hurt inside. Freemasons are worshippers of Jabulon – three gods – the middle one being Baal. How many today are abusing their bodies – with nicotine, alcohol, drugs and over-eating and tattoos.
Legion had been naked. Luke ch 8 v 27. People who are mentally deranged very often lose all sense of personal modesty. It is not unusual for patients in mental hospitals to wander about naked by preference, giving staff problems when visitors arrive. Many of the rituals of witchcraft and Satanism are carried out by participants who are naked. Many of them include sexual acts and perversions as part of the initiation ceremonies and the ongoing practices of the covens. Nudity, under demonic direction is part of a way of life. In the past twenty years the World has become progressively less self-conscious and nakedness on beaches, in films, on television and in print has progressed at an astonishing speed. Nudist camps and nudist sun-bathing are on the increase. It may be that ancestors, who have been involved in the occult, are affected by spirits, which make the person want to remove their clothing. As soon as sin entered the World nakedness has always been associated with sin. Satan has always wanted to destroy and pervert everything, which God created. Satan’s perversion of the flesh leads to lust. Satan’s character has been implanted in fallen man and the capacity for lust has become part of man’s fallen nature. Satan and his demons encourage nakedness and pornography because it encourages lust, which like all sin is a form of rebellion against God. There is an explosion of pornography in the present day.
Lesson Two. It seems that people had tried hard to control Legion. Perhaps they had tried to educate Legion and integrate him into society. They may have intentionally attempted to help him but Legion was stubborn and refused to accept their advice. Today there are young gang members wandering the streets of most cities, bullying and intimidating people, pushing drugs and ignoring all the advice of parents, teachers and government. There is an education system, there are welfare benefits, counsellors, charities and social workers. Millions are spent by governments in an attempt to solve the problems. Yet there are more and more people like Legion, enslaved by evil spirits and bent on self-destruction. One soul conquered by Satan can cause a lot of harm to others. That is the way Satan likes it. Many in large housing estates live in a socially terrified World, afraid to go out at night in the dark. More that half of primary children in Britain choose not to walk to School. Their parents are afraid for the safely of their children. In many cities Satan is in control. When a society believes that it has it all together and claims that there is no God, it is bent on self-destruction. Nation after nation looks to solve its problems by throwing more money at the problems but the leaders cannot see that the problems are actually getting worse. Many nations are very like Legion – controlled by Satan and disintegrating into moral and financial chaos. The permissive society of the 1960s simple surrendered to lust – lust for money, lust for fame and lust for sexual experience. Jesus was intolerant of evil. Yet today people – including believers – are encouraged to be tolerant of every point of view.
Lesson Three. The grace of God brought Legion to sit at the feet of Jesus in his right mind. He was no longer naked, restless or raging. Where did Jesus get the clothes from for Legion? How did Jesus get clothes when He rose from the dead? Jesus said: “I only do what I see my Father doing.” God met the needs of Adam and Eve and provided clothes for them to cover their nakedness. Did Jesus do the same for Legion? How long did Jesus spend with Legion? Probably 3 hours. At least enough time for the man who owned the pigs to go to town and come back with the people from the town.
Lesson Four. The response of the townspeople is most interesting. They came to see for themselves and to find out the facts of what had happened. Legion was healed and the Sea of Galilee was full of dead pigs. As they arrived at the scene they might have thought of asking Jesus to heal others in the neighbourhood. They could have asked Jesus to teach them about God. Instead they asked Jesus to leave. They saw a miracle but asked Jesus to leave. Jesus was demonstrating to the people that one person is of more value that 2,000 pigs. Today man is in danger of putting animal rights before people. Save the whales – but what about the seven million of babies aborted in Britain since 1967? Man is the pinnacle of God’s creation. Kick the kids and stroke the cat. There is something wrong when a person spends more time with a pet than with other people. There is a contrast between the people who had money and were in danger of losing it and the woman with bleeding who had lost all her money to the doctors and had nothing left to lose.
The townspeople were guilty. They were biblically illiterate and knew that they should have done for this man what Jesus had done. Jesus showed them up. Darkness enfolded them and they asked Jesus to leave. It seems that they were as afraid of Legion in his healed condition was they were previously. The people preferred the value of the pigs to the health of the man. They loved money more than people. Jesus had been teaching people on the other side of the Lake: “Your heart will always be where your riches are.” Nothing could have been clearer in this instance. The value of the pigs was more important that the health of Legion. Jesus left. He never forces Himself on anyone but left the people to their own devices. He lovingly invites people everywhere to move from the duty of religion to the joy of a personal relationship. People today, who gradually drift away from Church, are making the very same decision as the people in the story. They weighed the costs and made their choice. They had freedom to do that. Indeed Jesus advises them to do that very thing.
Lesson Five. Legion wanted to be a full time servant of Jesus. He wanted to follow Jesus. Jesus sent him home to witness to his own people as to what God had done in his life. Legion wanted to join the Disciples. As Jesus was getting into the boat to depart Legion begged Jesus that he might go with Him. Legion wanted to be in full-time service. Mark ch 5 v 19-20. After being rescued Legion was not taught and made a disciple to any great extent. Jesus must have spent three hours with him. On one occasion Paul taught in one town for two years. There is such a lot to learn. Legion was sent away into a pagan region with a testimony and little else. Maybe God would put him in touch with other believers in that area. What was Legion to do to earn a living after being healed? The passage does not say. But God is Jehovah Jireh. The Lord who provides.
Surely every believer should be in full-time service. What of John on the Island of Patmos.
How many cold, wet, shivering nights did John endure on Patmos? How often was he soaked to the bone by the Mediterranean’s storms? Did he even have shelter, or a change of clothes? How many colds and diseases did he have to battle? What kind of diet did he have? Maybe a few bags of rice? Did he have to ration it, knowing it would last only so long until the prison boat returned? Was he forced to catch snakes or lizards to supplement his meagre food?
By anyone’s standard, John was a failure. Many believers today would look at him and say, “What a waste. Why would God allow one of the most anointed men of all time to be isolated this way? Why would he allow a devoted disciple to be exposed to the elements in a prison camp and nearly starve? Did John ask God for deliverance? Later John wrote that Jesus said: ‘Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you…ask, and you will receive’ (John 16:23-24). Where was John’s faith?”
Many Church leaders today would measure John by the current standard of success: he had no congregation, no church building, no money to rent or buy a structure. He had no vehicle to travel in, no house, no decent suit to preach in. He had no ministry agenda, no outreach to the community, no plan to win nations. Leaders today would quickly write him off, saying, “This man has nothing. Why was he called to ministry in the first place?”
It was not on a mountain-top but in a prison camp that Jesus came to John. On that very first Sabbath on Patmos, John started a church. He called it The Church of “I, JOHN.” He wrote, “I, John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Rev ch 1 v 9-10). John was saying: “Yes, I’m shut off from civilization. But I have a church. And I minister to the Lord here. I have no brother or sister to join me. But I am in the Spirit.” Something incredible happened to John after his first few days on Patmos. He made a decision that impacted the entire church world for eternity. Simply put, John died to all his own plans and thoughts of ministry.
As far as John knew, his exile on Patmos was his final lot. He probably thought, “I may be stranded here for life. But I am not going to lose the fire of God. Even if it is only me here, I am going to worship the Lord. I may have no congregation, no fellowship with brothers or sisters. But I am going to walk in the Spirit. And I am going to give myself to seeking the face of God. Now I have time to get to know Him as I never have before.” John sought the Lord fully in his isolation. He moved in the Spirit. And he gave himself as a living sacrifice. John was in full-time ministry. It was full-time in the sense that John had God all to himself.
On Patmos there was no need for fund-raising, slogans or hype. There was no need to compete with other ministers or erect a bigger church building. There was no one around to praise John or to congratulate him. His life was reduced to a single focus, a single ministry: Jesus Christ alone. That is all John had. He said in essence, “That is all I will ever need: prayer, worship and communion with the Lord.”
Full-time ministry does not simply mean pastoring a church. Nor does it mean travelling as an evangelist or holding revival meetings. Full-time ministry is not determined by a diploma, or a certificate from a Bible College, or ordination from Church officials. In fact, you can pastor a large, successful church and still not be in full-time ministry. You can preach hundreds of messages and reach crowds of thousands. But none of these things makes you a full-time minister in God’s eyes.
There are many Legions in the world today but still only one Jesus. He is still sovereign over the nations and sovereign over Satan and his demons. Why is one saved or healed and not the others there? That remains a mystery. Today each believer is part of the body of Christ. The same Holy Spirit who empowered Jesus is available to empower each believer. There is a big World with many like Legion hurting and crying out for help. Legion was delivered and set off into full-time ministry in his area. This story challenges each believer. “Are you in full-time ministry for Jesus Christ?”