Mark 5:1

General question of demon-possession. An aggravated form of Satanic influence. Intelligible enough on the principle of provocation and desperation: light and darkness are strongest side by side. The advent of Christ roused to intense activity and excitement the whole demoniacal realm. In this scene there is exemplified -

I. MORAL ANTAGONISM. (Vers. 2, 6.)

1. Instinctive. Spontaneous; prescient; yet furnishing no intelligible reason. "An intensified spiritual presentiment" (Lange).

2. Weakness of the demoniac shown by:

(1) Excitement.

(2) Self-contradiction. Attraction and repulsion alternating.

(3) Use of borrowed weapons.

The exorcism, doubtless so often uttered over him by magicians and ecclesiastics, is all the lore he seems to possess in the way of religion.

3. Strength of Christ proved by calmness and self-possession, and resolute pursuit of his object.

4. Utter and absolute. "What have I to do with thee?... Torment me not."


1. Instant exercise of authority. Calm, self-possessed, and fearless. He had already discerned and measured his opponent, and decided as to how he would deal with him.

2. Spiritual insight and skill. The great Physician had made diagnosis of his case. Mental surgery was needed, based upon the most profound truths of psychology. The man had to be discriminated and freed from the indwelling demon. The former had little or no sense of his own personal identity. A Roman legion had probably been quartered near, and when he saw their number and power he felt that they somewhat resembled that which had quartered itself within his own nature. With maniacal vanity he readily adopted the title, "Legion." Pride and wretchedness were probably both involved in the retention of the name; it represented the dominant principle in his confused consciousness. Christ asked him, "What is thy name?" that he might rouse him to a sense of personal identity: a wise measure.

3. Rectoral discipline. "He gave them leave:" apparently their own suggestion, but granted

(1) on principle of highest curative psychology - objective disenchantment; the character and distinctness of the unclean occupants of the man's nature being thus outwardly and visibly set forth, his better self, enfranchised, would be the more likely to assert itself;

(2) in pursuance of rectoral discipline. The unclean, unprincipled habits of the people in violating the Law being thus avenged.

III. MORAL DECISION. (Vers, 14-20.) The Gadarenes had to make up their minds with respect to the great Stranger.

1. The data. (Vers. 14 - 16.) Material and moral stood forth in opposition, as in so many other instances. How was their relative importance to be estimated?

2. The decision. A unanimous petition for him to depart. How could such men be expected to judge otherwise? They had grand ideas of Christ, but of the wrong sort.

3. The response. Instant departure. He took them at their word. "They believed not on him," and acting upon their unbelief urged their request. The conflict of anger and fear, fawning and obstinacy. A word was enough; nay, a wish, even unexpressed, has often secured the same result. Not the storm, not the evil repute of the people, not even the horror of the demoniac, could deter him from coming; but a word sent him away! How careful should men be in their attitude to the heavenly Visitant! He went, but not without having, in the person of the restored maniac, a monument of his saving power and grace. Every region and every heart has its witness to the same. - M.

Into the country of the Gadarenes.
I spent a night and part of two days in the vicinity of the Lake of Tiberias. My tent was pitched near the Hot Baths, about a mile south of the town of Tiberias, and, consequently, near the south end of the lake. In looking across the water to the other side, I had before me the country of the Gadarenes, where the swine, impelled by an evil spirit, plunged into the sea. I was struck with a mark of accuracy in the sacred writers which had never occurred to me till then. They state that "the swine ran violently down the steep place, or precipice" (the article being required by the Greek), "and were choked in the sea." It is implied here, first, that the hills in that region approach near the water; and, secondly, that they fail off so abruptly along the shore that it would be natural for a writer familiar with that fact to refer to it as well known. Both these implications are correct. A mass of rocky hills overlook the sea on that side, so near the water that one sees their dark outline reflected from its surface, while their sides are in general so steep that a person familiar with the scenery would hardly think of speaking of a steep place or precipice, where so much of the coast forms but one continuous precipice. Our translators omit the definite article, and show, by this inadvertence, how naturally the more exact knowledge of the evangelists influenced their language.

(H. B. Hackett, D. D.)

These tombs were caverns, natural or artificial, in the sides of the rocks, containing cells in which the dead bodies were placed and closed up. The entrance to the cave itself was not closed, and thus it might be used as a habitation. Such ancient tombs still exist in the hills above Gersa, as well as at Gadara, indeed the whole region, as Mr. Tristram remarks, is so perforated with these rock chambers, that a home for the demoniac might be found, whatever locality be assigned as the scene of the miracle.

(Dean Mansel.)

In the East the receptacles of the dead are always situated at some distance from the abodes of the living; and if belonging to kings or men of rank, are spacious vaults and magnificent structures, containing, besides the crypt that contains the ashes of their solitary tenants, several chambers or recesses which are open and accessible at the sides. In these the benighted traveller often finds a welcome asylum; in these the dervishes and santons, wandering mendicants that infest the towns of Persia and other eastern countries, generally establish themselves, and they are often, too, made the haunts of robbers and lawless people, who hide themselves there to avoid the consequences of their crimes. Nor are they occupied only by such casual and dangerous tenants. When passing through a desolate village near the Lake of Tiberius, Giovanni Finati saw the few inhabitants living in the tombs as their usual place of residence; and at Thebes the same traveller, when he was introduced to Mr. Beechy, the British Consul, found that gentleman had established himself, while prosecuting his researches among the ruins of that celebrated place, in the vestibule of one of the tombs of the ancient kings. Captain Light, who travelled over the scene of our Lord's interview with the demoniac, describes the tombs as still existing in the form of caverns cut in the live rock, like those at Petra — as wild and sequestered solitudes, divided into a number of bare and open niches, well suited to be places of refuge to those unhappy lunatics for whom the benevolence of antiquity had not provided a better asylum.

(R. Jamieson, D. D.)


1. As seen in its extensiveness. Their field is the world.

2. As seen in its effects.

(1)In institutions: paganism; pseudo-Christian forms; governments.

(2)In society: amusements; sentiments; prejudices; practices; vices; crimes; results.


1. Feared by them — "I adjure Thee by God, torment me not."

2. Hated of them — "What have we," etc.

3. Absolute over them — "Come out of him, thou unclean spirit," etc.

(1)This exercise of Christ's power over evil spirits a prophecy of their ultimate subjection to Him.

(2)Christ only can deliver us from the power of Satan.

(3)The contrast between Satan's power and Christ's is here graphically and historically delineated.

(4)The power of worldliness to dry up human sympathy exemplified in the Gergesenes sending Jesus away from their coasts.

(5)The power of Christ in delivering us from the power of evil involves grateful obligations — "Go home to thy friends," etc. This is the true method of spreading the gospel.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

The four evangelists give themselves very little concern about pathology and diagnosis, although one of them was a physician. But taking the Gospels as an honest and not unintelligent record of the phenomena, we make out two points very clearly concerning this demonism.

I. IT WAS NOT MERE LUNACY OR EPILEPSY, for these diseases are recognized and clearly distinguished from the work of the evil spirits. There are patients in whom the work of the infesting spirit produces symptoms like epilepsy, and other patients in whom it produces symptoms of dumbness, and there are still other manifestations, but beneath these symptoms they detect indications, which the sufferer himself confirms, of something different from the mere physical diseases of like symptoms by which these cases were surrounded.

II. As this demonism was not mere disease, so, on the other hand, IT WAS NOT MERE WICKEDNESS — the wilful giving up of one's self to the instigation of the devil — a mistake to which we are inclined by the unhappy mistranslation of demon into devil. It is always spoken of and dealt with as an involuntary affliction, looked upon by the Lord with pity rather than censure. Neither is it treated as if it were in any special sense a visitation for sin. Doubtless these sufferers were sinners, and doubtless their sufferings stood in some relation to their sins, but it was not this relation, that they were "sinners above all others." The truth seems to be this: that sin, unbelief, opened the way for this awful curse, and that when the alien spirit had taken hold of body and mind and will, it had the power of plaguing with various disorders — with wild, moping, melancholic madness, or with epileptic convulsions, or blindness, or dumbness. Both the disciples and the evangelists, and even the popular apprehension of the Jews, distinguished clearly between such of these maladies as were merely physical, and such as were inflicted by malign spirits.

(L. W. Bacon.)

From this strange but suggestive incident we may learn —

I. THE IMMEDIATE CONNECTION OF THE WORLD OF DARKNESS WITH THE EVIL HEART. Today men break through moral and social restraints, and with else unaccountable recklessness destroy their every interest; suffer disgrace, lose their situations, break up their homes, and for a mess of pottage sacrifice all their hopes in life. Human passion, or even selfishness, is no explanation of such follies. They have a demon; they are possessed.

II. THE GREAT POWER OF THE INHABITANTS OF DARKNESS OVER THE EVIL HEART. To drive men from the comforts of an honourable life, and to lead them to seek happiness in vagrancy; to make them think they are all right, though daubed with dirt and pollution; to cause men who are sane in the ordinary affairs of life to frequent such places and cherish such companions as reveal to others their moral madness.




1. Beware of tampering with evil. The "little sin" may open the door of the heart for the entrance of a whole legion of demons.

2. The wish of evil will ever be self-destructive.

3. If Jesus has cured you, show it by causing joy and gladness where you have caused so much misery — in your home.

(F. Wallace.)

I.The MISERY of the man.

II.The MAJESTY of Christ.

III.The MISCHIEF of the devils.

(J. B.)

Congregational Pulpit.
1. That there are ether intelligent and finite creatures beside men.

2. Some of these are wholly wicked, while others are wholly good.

3. Wicked spirits can tempt men to sin.

4. Yet it is conceivable that in some instances they should acquire an absolute physical control over a human being, so as to coerce him irresistibly and make him act against his own will.

5. Cases of possession were peculiarly numerous at the time of Christ's ministry upon earth.Lessons:

1. See the exceeding terribleness of sin, in ruining two orders of creatures and making one the means of ruin to the other.

2. Be thankful to be saved from the physical tyranny of the devil. He would make us all howling demoniacs if he could: but he is restrained by the power and interference of Jesus Christ.

3. Consider the dreadful doom of sinners who hereafter will be absolutely under the power of evil spirits. Hell is a pandemonium of devils, and a bedlam of demoniacs.

4. As still subject to the moral temptations of the evil one, look stedfastly to Jesus, who has power to bring you off more than conqueror in every conflict with the powers of darkness.

(Congregational Pulpit.)

The Pulpit Analyst.

1. Its contagiousness. The man was "possessed." Evil is always reaching beyond itself for something of which it may lay hold, and which it may drag downwards.

2. Its anti-social tendency. "Neither abode in any house, but in the tombs." Iniquity isolates men, as ferocity does the wolf, the tiger, the eagle.

3. Its embrutalization of character.(1) Evidenced in the man; naked, dwelling like a beast amongst the caves: "about two thousand" demons dwelling in one man!(2) Evidenced in the evil spirits. Spirits, who had been inhabitants of heaven, fallen so low that they desire to take up their abode in the swine I

4. Its dread of righteousness. The devils cry out when Christ draws near. Always vice fears and hates virtue.


1. It is begun in the expulsion (not repression) of evil principles and desires.

2. God accounts as nothing whatever material loss may be incurred in its effectuation. Souls are more to Him than swine.

3. Its moral and spiritual results have a counterpart, and external evidence in improved material and social condition. "Clothed," etc.

4. The surest proof of the reality of its accomplishment is renunciation of personal preferences in obedience to Christ's command. "Not my will, but Thine be done."

(The Pulpit Analyst.)

I. THE PERSONALITY OF EVIL SPIRITS: or, in other words, that they are distinct personal beings. For every feature of the narrative bespeaks their true personality. Their first meeting with our Lord; their direct perception that He was their great antagonist; that He was man, and yet that in some way He was the Son of the most high God: that He was of the race over whom they had of old triumphed, and yet that He was their judge; their trembling entreaty that the appointed time of their full sorrow might not be fore. stalled: — all of these bespeak the manifest meeting of the person of the Christ with the person of the evil one. For all parts of this narrative are equally incompatible with the supposed solution of imaginative language; and all equally agree with the simple meaning of the declaration, that these spirits were separate, lost, personal beings, under whose strange and cruel power the demoniac had been brought. But, above all, this is so clearly established by their entering into the swine, that it furnishes us with the most probable reason for that permission.

II. And as their personality, so, further, THEIR GREAT NUMBER is established by this history. Their name was Legion, for many devils had entered into this single victim: a clear intimation of the exhaustless multitude of these hosts of darkness.

III. Again, concerning THEIR CONDITION we may gather much. For their meeting with Christ, as it called forth their name, so did it compel the disclosure of their state. We see them wandering restlessly over the earth, held even now in the strong chain of an ever present despair, and looking on to the full accomplishment of their appointed punishment. So that their present condition is plainly one of active, unresting, sinful misery; their hell is already within them, though its outer bars close not utterly around them until the accomplishment of all things.

IV. And in this condition THEIR POWER IS MANIFESTLY GREAT. The strength which they administered to this their victim, by which "chains had been plucked asunder by him, and fetters broken in pieces," was but the outward exhibition of the awful might with which he was himself subdued to their will. For what is meant by their "entering into him," save that they had the mastery over him; that his spirit was controlled by theirs, so that his outer actions were now the coming forth of an evil power within him? In this sense they had "entered into him." But it is as plain that this power, great as it was, was limited; for they could do no more than they were suffered.

V. And but for this gracious help of the Almighty, surely man would be swept away before the flood of their bitter hatred; for we may see here THEIR MALIGNITY as plainly as their power. These wretched men, with their foul haunt amidst the pollutions of the tomb, who wore no clothes, but were "always night and day crying out and cutting themselves with stones;" how plainly do they bear their witness to the character of Satan's rule! What else was all this their proclaimed misery but the evident display, in those given over utterly to him, of the true working of that will of his which is now making men sensual, and brutish, and violent, and fierce, and dark in spirit! The pleasant baits of sin are cast aside as soon as they have served their turn, and an absolute malignity seeks to overwhelm his prey with unmixed misery. Surely the tender mercies of that wicked one are cruel; he hates God without measure, and therefore hates in man even the obscured image of his heavenly Father. What a fearful intimation is all this of what hell shall be, where there shall be no limitation to his power of tormenting those who heretofore have joined him in rebellion, and thereby made him master over them! Lessons: And, first, we may see here the greatness of our redeemed life. Every one of us, how narrow soever be his sphere, is, as it were the champion of the great King. There is a mighty warfare raging throughout all His wide dominions. The hosts are gathered for the battle. An expectant world is looking on. Not men only, but all the armies of heaven, are ranged on this side and on that. Our common temptations, they are these times of trial. In them we either maintain God's truth, or go basely over to His enemies. And if there be this greatness in our redeemed life, let us see next its fearfulness. For who are we that we should have to face these mighty ones, thus armed with power, thus inevitable in presence, thus skilled in the arts of the destroyer, thus malignant, numerous, nimble, and daring from the blackness of despair and the bitterness of hatred? Surely, then, our life, which leads us into the midst of them, must be fearful. Can it be safe for such men as we are to be sleepy and careless; to be ungirded, as those who live for pleasure; unarmed, as those who loll idly, courting ease or slumber? But once more; see not only the greatness and the fearfulness of the life which, in this view, we are leading, but see also its blessedness and true security. There is, indeed, this enemy to meet; our temptations to common sins involve this mighty struggle as coming from him; but there is also great joy even in this very thought; for as we cannot doubt the presence of evil, surely it is a blessed thing to know that it is thus a temptation cast in from without; that it is not necessarily part of us. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). We are Christ's soldiers, will He suffer us to perish? let us look at His cross, that we may deem better of His love. We know not how greatly we are every day protected by His present might; we know not how He has already succoured us; how He has curbed the power of the enemy; we know not how to measure aright the common blessing of being in His Church, amongst His saints, where the power of Satan even now is manifestly bound and straitened; we cannot tell from what bodily inflictions, from what mental struggles, from what fearful falls He has actually kept us.

(Bishop Wilberforce.)


1. They are distinct and separate things (Matthew 4:24; Matthew 8:16; Mark 1:32).

2. The language of our Lord on the occasion of His casting out devils is such as to warrant us in concluding that it was an actual or literal demoniacal possession. The theory of Strauss and the Rationalistic school.

3. These demoniacs were not necessarily, or in every instance, the guiltiest of men, but they were in all instances the unhappiest of men. There was a groaning under the tyranny they endured.

4. There seemed to have been two wills in the person — the will of the victim, and the will of the spirit driving him wherever he would.


1. If demoniac possessions were in those days, how is it that demoniac possessions are not now? How is it that epidemics that existed once do not exist now? etc.

2. Why does God suffer it to be so? The answer to that difficulty is, that we know very little why evil was introduced, we know not why evil is continued, etc. Evil is not unripe good, as Emerson and others of his school allege.

3. Another reason why demoniac possessions may have ceased is, that Satan, beyond all dispute, at our Redeemer's birth, and at our Redeemer's atonement, received a blow from which he has never recovered.

4. And there remains this fact, too — whatever God does in the world, Satan always gets up something very like it, because his hope of progress is by deception.


1. The most awful specimen of demoniacal possession that we can well imagine.

2. It is very remarkable to notice the contrast in his character — the bureau in its agony, groaning to be delivered, and the fiendish in its depravity, imploring to be let alone.

3. It appears that when Jesus drew near to the man he was not delivered of the demons instantly, but underwent a tremendous paroxysm of suffering and distress.

4. The prayer of the demons occasion a great deal of difficulty and of scoffing (confer Luke 8:31). It seems to us a mystery that Christ should answer the prayer of the demons at all. If there is any other way of disposing of them, why let the demons take possession of the swine, and why let the swine be thus destroyed?

5. The Gadarenes also presented a petition to Christ; and what is that petition? (ver. 17.) Strange, startling, painful fact! And yet it is possible for us to imitate their example.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

I. HUMAN EFFORTS EXERTED. Picture his state. He was a pest to his family and the city. So are great sinners, who are the devil's instruments for disturbing society. Something must be done. But what? Men can think only of fetters, etc. They did all that they had the wit to devise, or the power to accomplish. Perhaps congratulated themselves on baying done so much. Notice modern human restraints. Law, prisons, reformatories, policemen, and punishments. Besides these there are public opinion, fashion, custom. These are often used to keep the unruly in check. Suitable efforts employed among children. Parental restraints (Psalm 32:9) hence (Lamentations 3:27).

II. HUMAN EFFORTS FRUSTRATED. No restraints could be found that were strong enough. Apply this and the personal injuries received to the case of those, especially children and young people, who break through restraints. He cut himself with the rocks; they are injured by contact with evil companions, bad habits, etc. Liberty only good for those who have some power of self-control. Observe how futile are human efforts in restraining sin. What multitudes break through every restraint! This to be prevented, not by strengthening the bonds, but by removing the inclination. This was what Jesus did.

III. HUMAN EFFORTS SUPERSEDED. Jesus did not rebuke those who had done their best, but He did something better. He exorcised the evil spirit. The man was at once reduced to tractability; tamed without a fetter. Power of evil spirits illustrated by the fate of the swine. Superior value of the man proved by the permitted destruction of the swine, so the man might be saved. Selfishness of the Gadarenes illustrates that of the world in general, who would rather preserve personal property than sacrifice it for the religious and permanent good of man.Learn —

I. The malignity, power, craft, and blindness of evil spirits.

II. The wretched state, personally and relatively, of man under their influence.

III. The utter helplessness of the best-concerted human means for the restraint of evil.

IV. The sufficiency of the word of Jesus (Colossians 2:15).

(C. Gray.)

From this history we learn three truths of great importance.

I. That the devil is a spirit of great malice and power.

II. That both his malice and his power are altogether under the government of God.

III. That God often permits him to do great mischief, for the profit of worldly men and for the trial of the faith of good men.

(Bishop Wilson.)

I. THE GERGESENE IN BONDAGE. Was he not a free man, one who would not be bound by others — would go his own way? Yet he was a miserable slave (vers. 15-18). Here was one who seemed to be free, yet was really a slave.

II. HOW THE GERGESENE WAS RESCUED. Could not escape himself — the evil spirit too strong. Friends could not rescue him. Hopeless until someone stronger than the devils should come — then deliverance (compare Luke 11:21, 22). Jesus not only stronger than one evil spirit — an army of them here (ver. 9). Yet see His supremacy.

1. They could go nowhere against His will.

2. Besought Him.

3. Even when He defeated them.


1. Is it like a free man to be sitting at another's feet like that?

2. What does he ask of Jesus? Would it be freedom to have to follow another everywhere?

3. Jesus gives him an order; is that like liberty, to obey it so implicitly? Yes, for it is his own free choice to be, like St. Paul afterwards, the "slave of Christ" (Romans 1:1).

(E. Stock.)

Sunday School Times.
Satan's work is a work of destruction. Nearly seven hundred years ago, Jenghis Khan swept over Central Asia, and it is said that, for centuries after, his course could he traced by the pyramids of human bones — the bones of slaughtered captives — which his armies left behind them. If the bones of Satan's slain captives could be piled up in our sight, what a pyramid that would be! Self-mutilation has always been common among the worshippers of false gods; to this day the fakirs of India cut and gash themselves with knives. The devil sets his servants at the same unprofitable task. Alo-ed-Din, the chief of the Assassins, succeeded in persuading his men that whoever would fall in his service was sure of Paradise; and so, at a nod of their chief, the poor dupes would stab themselves to the heart, or fling themselves over precipices. Satan's one aim is to blind his captives and lead them to self-destruction.

(Sunday School Times.)

Can anything be more sad than the wreck of a man? We mourn over the destruction of many noble things that have existed in the world. Men, when they hear of the old Phidian Jupiter — that sat forty feet high, carved of ivory and gold, and that was so magnificent, so transcendent, that all the ancient world counted him unhappy that died without having seen this most memorable statue that ever existed in the world — often mourn to think that its exceeding value led to its destruction, and that it perished. It was a great loss to art that such a thing should perish. Can any man look upon the Acropolis — shattered with balls, crumbled by the various influences of the elements, and utterly destroyed — and not mourn to think that such a stately temple, a temple so unparalleled in its exquisite symmetry and beauty, should be desolate and scattered? Can there be anything more melancholy than the destruction, not only of such temples as the Acropolis and the Parthenon, but of a whole city of temples and statues? More melancholy than the destruction of a statue, or a temple, or a city, or a nation, in its physical aspects, is the destruction of a man, the wreck of the understanding, the ruin of the moral feelings, the scattering all abroad of those elements of power that, united together, make man fitly the noblest creature that walks on the earth. Thousands and thousands of men make foreign pilgrimages to visit and mourn over fallen and destroyed cities of former grandeur and beauty; and yet, all round about every one of us, in every street, and in almost every neighbourhood, there are ruins more stupendous, more pitiful, and more heart-touching than that of any city. And how strange would be the wonder if, as men wandered in the Orient, there should come someone that should call from the mounds all the scattered ruins of Babylon, or build again Tadmor of the desert! How strange it would be to see a city, that at night was a waste heap, so restored that in the morning the light of the sun should flash from pinnacle, and tower, and wall, and roof! How marvellous would be that creative miracle! But more marvellous, ten thousand times, is that Divine touch by which a man, broken down and shattered, is raised up in his right mind, and made to sit, clothed, at the feet of Jesus.

(H. W. Beecher.)

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