A Poor Portrait

“Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran.”—Mark 5:1–6 (NKJV)

Without question, this passage kicks off one of the most dramatic moments in all of the Bible. After traversing a life-threatening storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples come ashore at the region known as the Gadarenes. As they all disembark, they’re met by something far more frightening than the storm they had just survived—a man possessed by demons. I say “demons” because as the story goes on there’s indication there were a vast host of unclean spirits that had been inhabiting this poor soul.

There are actually quite a few different demonic encounters in the Bible, but this one tends to stand above them all. This is due to the extreme severity of the possession and the vivid detail that’s recorded. Let your imagination do its best work as you reread the shocking description of this man in today’s passage.

What do you think the disciples faces looked like as this crazed creature rushed towards them? What would we have thought and done in this instant? The fact that Jesus was there was probably the only difference between their life and death. (We’ll explore the Lord’s response tomorrow.) But for now, we’ll take a closer look at this individual beneath all the demonic disfigurement.

Under the authoritative control of the dark kingdom, we see he was forced to make his home among the tombs. There’s an unmistakable connection between the adversary’s agenda and death. Whether spiritual or physical, Satan is moved to lead people into places of deadness, away from life. He wants to immerse them in despair and hopelessness and does so by directing them to dead ends.

We also see this pitiable person was uncontrollable. No amount of chains or willpower could get a handle on him because what the enemy was doing in him was just too much! The devil operates in much the same way now. Those who know what it’s like to be under his influence know the frustration of feeling helpless and unable to take control of one’s life.

Finally, we see he frequently cut and harm himself under this demonic possession. Satan always destroys what he puts his hands on. He never leaves something in a better state of being. It’s always more miserable, broken, and empty under his watch.

He never advertises this up front, but time always tells the truth of his destructive management. Sadly, this man’s life was a portrait of that principle.

Seeing these “markers” in this man’s life can also serve as warnings for us. They help us to stay sober and alert to our adversary’s tactics. But beyond this, it’s important that we see his plight to fully appreciate what Jesus does next.

PAUSE: What does this man’s condition reflect?

PRACTICE: Do some studying of Scripture on spiritual warfare as you seek to understand the tactics of your adversary so you can counter them more effectively.

PRAY: Lord, I pray for a hedge of protection over those who are being influenced by the kingdom of darkness. May You rescue and save that which is hurting and lost.

About the Author

Dan Hickling