He Proclaimed How Much Jesus Had Done For Him
It is as good a time as any to remind you of a major theme in Mark’s Gospel, the New Exodus. You’ll remember in Mark 1.1-3, how Mark quotes Isaiah 40.3 to set the stage for the gospel. The Lord God is coming and, in Jesus Christ, has now come in the flesh to set God’s people free. And what is new about this promised Exodus is that, by it, we are delivered from the most substantive sort of slavery, slavery to sin, death, and the principalities and powers deployed to enslave us to these very things.
And four weeks ago, we saw the strength of Satan’s bonds. “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house” (3.27). The problem we observed was that Satan’s house is not divided. There is not a single demon or unbelieving person in the world that desires to get out of Satan’s house. They are all loyal subjects, obedient children, compliant with his will and desires. But the gospel of God introduces Jesus Christ as the Stronger One who binds the devil and plunders his house in order to build a house for God.
Salvation, A Mighty Act of God
And it is that truth that our passage revisits in narrative fashion. It has given me opportunity this week to reflect on the fact that salvation is a mighty act of God. That you are a Christian tonight is not without the merciful exertion of divine omnipotence! “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1.16). “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1.18). “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thes 1.5). And as we walk through the gospel of Mark, we are seeing that power on full display, being directly applied to the lives of sinners in the person of Jesus Christ!
So, tonight, the main point is simply this—”Jesus has all power to destroy all the works of the devil.” Nothing can thwart Jesus when He purposes to set a sinner free.
So what I want to do is unpack that incredible reality from our text in 6 truths.
1] The most prominent and universal work of the devil is to keep sinners sinning. So 1 John 3.8, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” This is in our passage, but we’ll save it for the moment and come back to it.
2] An occasional work of the devil is to deploy demons to inhabit and influence particular unredeemed sinners. This work is what is most immediately prominent in our passage. So let’s see it together, 5.2-9.
a] The effect of the devil’s work is an intensely and frighteningly powerful man.
He lived among the tombs. Let us pause there—who lives amongst the tombs? Who makes his dwelling amongst the dead but the dead! There are people that we, in fear, distance ourselves from and, then, there are those that we hide away from the rest of the world. This man is of that latter sort. In fact, Mark emphasizes this point by mentioning his place three times, v. 2, 3, 5. He is a dead man living. Now why the isolation? Why the alienation?
Because he really is terrifying! We read in v. 5 that his daily employment was to roam around the tombs and mountains crying out and bruising or cutting himself with stones. And from this we may infer a man experiencing great personal anguish, pain, torment, even self-pity, and, consequently, self-harm.
He is such a terror that ordinary men sought to subdue and imprison him, vv. 3-4a. He is a man that men want to cut off from the world. In the eyes of men, he is not a person worthy of their pity and compassion. He is despised by men. And so they sought, time and time again, to bind him with shackles and chains. But what do we learn about him? “He wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.” This is a frighteningly powerful and, yet, terrorized person!
b] Demonic possession is the cause of this man’s intense and frightening and alienating power. Throughout the gospels, we see that a single demon can have a terrible effect upon a fallen human being. In Mark 9, for example, a young boy is inhabited by a demon that makes him mute, causes violent seizures, and seeks to put him to death. But here, we discover that he has been possessed by not one but a legion of demons!
Now a legion referred to the basic unit of a Roman army recruited specifically from Roman citizens, around 5000 soldiers! And while we don’t know that that was the number of Satan’s army in this man, it was great enough to enter and drown 2000 pigs in the sea! Either way, we are confronted by a man tragically and terribly possessed and bound by an army of demons. There is, then, an intensely pitiable irony in these first verses, that while no one had the strength to bind him, not with chains or shackles, he was yet woefully and helplessly bound by this work of Satan. Night and day, the devil exercised his dominion over him. The man was able to break the bonds and chains of men but not those of the strong man.
3] Jesus has all power to destroy all the works of the devil, 5.7-13.
Mark has been raising the bar of power to an unrivaled position. There is the strength of ordinary men. When that is not enough, men employ metal. But even what chains and shackles cannot bind can be bound by the work of Satan. A single demon can terrorize a man. This man is filled with thousands. An army of real, incredibly powerful beings stands before the Lord Jesus Christ in this one man. The stage is set for an unforgettable battle or is it? Let’s read it together, 5.6-13.
It is an utter, unchallenged display of Christ’s power to destroy even the worst works of the devil. How does this great legion respond to the presence of Jesus of Nazareth?
a] Verse 6 [submission], all of the attention to this point has been given to the incredible strength of this man and the terrible oppression of this great legion and, then, in verse 6, the mere sight of Jesus produces an immediate submission of these great powers. He ran and “fell down before him.”
b] Verse 7 [recognition], this is a legion, a house of Satan that has come to know, not only the end of its reign, but its end in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is the Son of the Most High God! There is no power greater or higher than Him! In the presence of Christ, this legion is reduced to a cowering and conquered host that can do nothing but obey the command of Christ. They are bound by a word!
c] Verse 13 [obedience], “So He gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out.” There is no fight! Christ exercises such an incomprehensible power in His own Person, such an utter control over the situation, such an absolute authority over the works of the devil, that there is only what Christ permits and what Christ does not permit. There is not a posture of battle in the entire passage, just surrender. There is a total acquiescence to the sovereign will of Jesus Christ!
So even as He stilled the wind and waters with a word, so here, by His presence, this great work of the devil is destroyed! Nothing can thwart the purpose of Jesus to set the sinner free!
4] This passage is ultimately about the sovereign power of Christ mercifully applied to this particular sinner, 5.13, 19-20.
It is unfortunate that so much effort goes into answering the question, “what is happening with the pigs? Why the pigs?”, and so little on the incredible fact that when Mark narrates “So He gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out,” that, in an instant, this man who had been so long a sinner, so long terrorized by Satan, so long alienated from God and man, is set free from his bondage and wonderfully transformed by Jesus!
And when, in verse 19, Jesus addresses what has just taken place, He calls it divine mercy! “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”
5] Jesus Christ is sovereign over the application of that mercy and sinners are accountable for how they respond to what they hear.
Why do I say that? Look with me at 5.14-17.
a] Sinners are accountable for how they respond to what they hear.
It is a great benefit that God sends the report of Christ’s mercy towards sinners throughout this country. You see in verse 14, it goes national! But where there ought to be repentance and faith in Christ, there is only rejection—”people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. . . . And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.” They heard. They came to Christ. They saw the glorious effect of His power. They heard the gospel and saw the power therein and, yet, rather than seek Christ’s mercy for themselves, they beg Christ to depart, not just from them, but from the region! We understand that that is a work of the devil, to blind sinners to the glory of Christ. We understand that there is no harm done to God’s justice in leaving sinners to their sin. And we must understand that these sinners are complicit and, ultimately, responsible in every way for what they have just done with Jesus Christ. You’ll remember the first truth that I said we’d come back to—”The most prominent and universal work of the devil is to keep sinners sinning–in their sin.” The devil works at nothing so much as he does the blindness of sinners to the glory of Christ.
Now I suggest to you at this point that we are confronted with another very great irony—the normal people, the people that sought to bind this man and cut him off from the land of the living, are just as dead, just as bound, just as alienated from God, just as much in need of mercy from Christ as he was! The sinner may not be demon-possessed or living in graveyards but they are, nevertheless, “dead in the trespasses and sins” in which they walk (Eph 2.1). The sinner may not be bound with chains and shackles but they are bound by their sinful nature, “ following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2.2-3). And lest they repent and believe, lest Christ’s sovereign mercy be applied, this is their predicament, night and day.
b] Jesus is sovereign over the application of omnipotent mercy.
But there is a stark contrast that we cannot ignore here, 5.17-18. The same urgency with which they beg Christ to depart from the region, this man, now delivered, begs Christ that he might be with Him wherever He goes! And, so, when we hear the words of Christ to this man, “tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you,” we are to understand two great things–he has been set free from the oppression of demons, yes, but also, even greater than that, he has been set free from the love and guilt and shame and condemnation of his sin! He was an heir with us–with us!–of sovereign mercy!
6] The next best thing to being with Christ is living fervently to make Him known, 5.18-20.
And so Mark introduces our first international missionary! In these concluding verses, Mark is relating the power of Christ to the global advancement of the gospel. He sees Christ’s destruction of Satan’s works to be gospel!–it is how sinners are being saved! Not only that, Mark sees something that we must–he sees what we ought to do with the glorious freedom that we have received in Christ. By the power of Christ, this man is now free! What does he want to do–what should every Christian want to do–with that freedom? “The man . . . begged Him that he might be with Him.” But where, for a time, Christ does not permit it, what is the next best thing? Living fervently to make Christ known! The power of Christ is not only evident in your salvation but in your passion for the salvation of others! The freedman of the Lord is a bondservant of Christ. And the Spirit of Christ and, I, your brother in the work of the Lord, want nothing more than that you have the example of this man or the words of 1 Corinthians 9.16 tattooed upon your hearts, “Necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
So I pray that God will cause you to stay with me for a few moments longer as I seek, by God’s grace, to encourage you and give some instruction to, not just personal evangelism, but, really, what it means to be a Christian.
a] Get some friends and forget not your foes. The Lord says to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” We ought to major on befriending people for the sake of the gospel. Relational evangelism often turns into relationships with no evangelism. Christ tells us to go to our friends and to tell them the gospel. The gospel reigns in our friendships. It also reigns in how approach evident foes. The very people that this man approaches with the gospel are the ones that have just begged Jesus to depart from them. And I want us to see here that while Christ did not then apply sovereign mercy to them, He yet sent a minister of mercy to be with them. So let’s have the gospel reign in all of our interactions. And with that in mind,—
b] Exalt Christ. Again Jesus says, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” And Mark tells us that he went and began to proclaim in the city how much Jesus had done for him. The emphasis of his message is not what he had done for himself. There is no self-help here. There is not even collaboration in the work of salvation. His only boast was Jesus Christ and what Christ had done for him! And, therefore,—
c] Remember mercy. Again Christ commissioned him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” What an interesting thing to emphasize–the Lord has had mercy on you! What does it imply? We stand in need of mercy and Christ has had mercy on me! What a word to self-sufficient sinners. Nothing slices into the quick of the heart than that, as a sinner, you stand in need of mercy before God; and nothing is more powerful to the awakened soul than that God is exceedingly merciful to sinners in Jesus Christ! The gospel is inherently provocative in this way! It carries with it an offense, but that offense is from God and meant to reveal His mercy. So what should we be earnest in doing? Making friends! And honestly sharing Christ with them! How do you start? Speak of how much He has done for you. Speak of your former manner of life. Be honest with people. And speak of how Christ has powerfully transformed you. Speak of this truth, that if there be any good in you, anything lovely and commendable in the minds of others, say–”this comes from Christ, this is His power, His mercy in my life; it is not original to me, I can assure you!”
This man’s story is great hope for all sinners. How great was his sin, his plight and problem? He was full of sin. He was filled with Satanic influence. He housed a legion of demons. He was in bondage to devils. He was out of his mind. He was frightening to men. He was ostracized, marginalized, hidden away. He lived amongst the dead. He was, for all intents and purposes, a dead man. The concern of the demons was his own, “I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” That was his eternal lot, the wage of his sin—until in omnipotent mercy Jesus Christ set Him free!—until Christ took His place! Then what? He was calmed, sitting there, in his right mind, desiring to be joined at the hip to Christ, and rushing into the Decapolis to preach Christ!
This man, like Paul, probably said, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim 1.15-16). Or perhaps he sang, “And can it be, that I should gain, An interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain–For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? He left His Father’s throne above, so free, so infinite His grace—Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race: Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me! Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray–I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine, Bold I approach th’ eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own!” Oh, I believe he preached, if Christ would exercise mercy on me, you are not beyond the reach of His saving arm!
d] Know the gospel. Our passage is rich soil for the gospel knowledge.
i] We might simply say that this text is but a foretaste of Christ’s climactic destruction of the works of the devil. It is one stop along the way to the cross and the empty tomb, where, by the sinlessness of His life laid down and raised again for His people, Satan is utterly disarmed.
ii] We see it in the details of our story. Christ is a substitute for this man. He was a man cast out, alienated, despised by men. Remember that they sought to bind him and keep him on the outskirts of the city. But Christ restores him. He tells him to go home and he reenters the world as a transformed man. But not without Christ being cast out, alienated, and despised by men. Christ takes his place! The unclean is made clean because Christ goes out to him. The bound one is set free. The sinner is forgiven. The tortured one facing an eternity of torment is redeemed because of an impending cross upon which Christ will cry in his torment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is what is communicated in those words of Christ, “tell them how much the Lord has done for you.”
iii] We behold it in one last irony–the power of God to save sinners is Christ crucified in weakness . . . and raised in power! We will not get the gospel until we get that this Christ, with infinite power at His disposal, willingly submitted Himself to bearing our sin, our shame, our God-forsakenness, our penalty, our condemnation, submitted Himself to a material cross and to death on that cross that we might be saved. Omnipotence incarnate submits Himself to the weakness and humiliation of death on a cross and, yet, for we who are being saved this–this!–is the power of God (1 Cor 1.18).
e] Believe in the power of Christ. There is not an inch of earth over which Christ cannot save. Jesus exercises an absolute authority and an utter dominion over the god of this world. There is no place or person in the world where Satan and sin’s reign is ultimate. Do you realize this? This is the place of Christ alone! God reigns in Christ! This is the whole of that word from Christ, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me!” Neither the sin of man on earth or the strength of principalities and pow ers in the heavenly places can bind where Christ, in His omnipotent mercy, wills freedom, salvation, redemption, deliverance! And we are called here to believe, trust and lean upon Him and so take the gospel to all peoples for their everlasting joy in God in the strength of His might!