Jesus Changed the Possessed—not the Pig-Herders (Mark 5:1-20).
Some animals just refuse to be tamed. We had one dog growing up—just one. That’s all it took to ruin our family’s history with dogs. She was a hunting dog, bred to chase down fowl in the wilds of the Appalachians…and we named her Cupcake. It seems we had picked the wrong breed to make a family pet. Cupcake was as hyperactive as a Junior-Higher on Mountain Dew. She would jump all over guests and would chew through every leash we tried. Eventually, we got a chain. That seemed to hold her.
Well, in our story today, it’s not an animal that’s untamed. It’s not a dog that needs to be chained up. It’s a person. But you’d hardly be able to tell from first glance. In fact, you’d probably think this was some type of evil creature haunting your movie—a real-life Gollum. Mangy. Wild. And his home address is 108 Tombstone Drive. He lives in the cemetery—his roommate is a corpse. And he doesn’t use Febreze.
Nor can he be tamed. The people around him tried. Apparently, he was quite the public nuisance—so they tried to tie him up. Like an untrained dog, they used everything they could think of to strap this guy into his tomb-house. Tied his hands and feet with chains. But he ripped those off with more strength than Samson. No one in all the land could tie this guy up, much less tame him.
He was the stuff of children’s nightmares. At night, while trying to go to sleep, they would hear his loud, constant wailing coming from the tomb outside town. It would start low and then grow louder and louder. “Why is he making all that noise, Mommy?!” the children would ask, hiding further and further under the covers.
“I don’t know,” the parent would answer. But she knew full well why he was wailing. He was cutting himself in deep, bloody gashes with the sharpest stones he could find. Every night it was the same. Cutting. Gashing. Ripping his flesh to shreds. Wailing constantly. It was a wonder he had any blood left.
No one had the strength to subdue this guy—and no one wanted to try.
Well, except One Person. The Changemaker. It seemed the Master wanted to take a vacation…to the local cemetery on the other side of the sea. He had to do His Father’s work—which now included changing the life of the untamable.
As they got out of the boat, His disciples probably panicked. They started darting around for the nearest sword—or knife—anything to save them from this incoming monster! The Gerasenes sure had quite the welcoming committee! For here, running to meet Jesus was that untamable man. The disciples probably hid in fright at this scary sight. But Jesus stood calmly. The untamed ran wildly toward Him…then stopped. And fell on his face before the Changemaker.
“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God!? I adjure you by God, do not torment me—”
He hissed and groveled at his feet. But Jesus stopped him mid-sentence with a booming voice:
“Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
A demon. Who else but the forces of darkness could create such havoc? Then, Jesus decided to ask an odd question:
“What’s your name?”
What, was this some type of formal introduction? “Hi, I’m Jesus—what’s your name? Nice to meet you!” No, Jesus was revealing the truth of this man’s condition for all around to see. The untamable replied:
“My name is Legion, for we are many.”
And he wasn’t talking in the royal “we.” Talk about shudders. I’m freaked out just thinking about it! But Jesus does not get freaked out. Just His Presence pushes back the darkness…and makes them run scared. This legion—4,000 to 6,000 demons—was no match for the Son of the Most High God. The demons surrendered before Jesus even started. They knew His power—He was the One Who cast them out of Heaven. And now He was going to cast them out of the untamable man. So they looked for some small sliver of escape. Some way to get out of total annihilation—restriction in the abyss, where demons are chained up for eternity. They glanced around and found the perfect animal for demon possession—no, not cats. Pigs. They ask to be cast into the pigs. Talk about pitiful. All these guys can think of to escape to is…hogs!
So Jesus let them. And out, out, out they went from the poor man and in, in, into the pigs. Then down, down, down went the pigs into the sea, sea, sea. Sounds like a good children’s song, right? A great way to bring joy to young toddlers is to teach them a song about two thousand demon-possessed pigs drowning in the sea. Then, for snack, you can have bacon…but I digress.
The pig-herders were not happy. I think they got what was coming to them. First of all, pigs are unclean for Jewish people to eat—so why were they herding them? Second, why would you herd pigs so close to this untamable crazy man? Keep this lesson in mind next time you’re herding pigs. Well, anyway, these herders ran to the nearby villages and told this crazy story. And it went viral. #pigdrowningAD30
A whole host of people came out to see if it was true. And what they found was that untamable man—the man who kept them up at night by wailing…the one who attacked them when they tried to chain him up…the one who not even the bravest warrior would dare attack…THAT untamable man was now sitting with clothes on.
Whoa—sitting!? This guy had never been seen standing still, much less sitting. But here he was, sitting at the feet of some Teacher…in his right mind—more than could be said for a lot of us on a Monday morning!
You’d think they’d be happy. No more public nuisance. No more loud wailing. No more broken chains. But no, these people were not rejoicing with the man—they were deadly afraid. Of what? Of Jesus. Of His power. He had tamed the untamable. But worse yet, He had destroyed the two thousand pigs! This Man was obviously too much for them. He caused too much havoc. All they could focus on was the pigs—loss of income. They refused to rejoice with the man, and instead got worried about this Man disrupting their lives—changing everything they thought was normal. So they asked Him to leave. And Jesus did. If they didn’t want His life-changing power, He would not force it on them. He turned to get into the boat. But so did the tamed man.
Jesus stopped him. That man’s place was not following Jesus around—he had twelve guys for that already. No, he would be much more useful to the Changemaker there in Gadara. As a living, walking, tamed testimony to Christ’s power.
“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 so he did. The untamable became unstoppable with the Gospel.
But how does this incredible story connect with us? Well, often I think we are too much like the pig-herders. We hear of Jesus’ great work in other parts of the world—or even right in our area. How He changed drunkards and harlots to become believers. And instead of rejoicing with them we become side-tracked by lesser issues. We have our own “pigs” that we are upset about. We get mad that they’re getting all the attention. That they don’t do things like we want. That there will be too many weird people in the church. That these new converts might make our church too “different.” What’s more, we get jealous of their “more exciting” testimony. That’s a bunch of hogwash!
Every sinner is untamable—including you! Like that man, we all were ravenous in our rebellion to God—cutting ourselves with the stones of sexuality and wailing in our worldliness. We all were untamable freaks before Christ. But then He changed us. For some of us, the change was less sudden and drastic since we grew up in a Christian home. But the fact remains that we were all changed.
So let’s get excited! Let’s be bold in our proclamation of what Christ has done in us—how He changed us from untamable to unstoppable. And let’s be thrilled when sinners are changed into saints. Let the hogs be hogwash! Cling to the Changemaker.