Where do you go when you’re pushed to your limit? Maybe it’s your mental health, loneliness, or trying to keep your head above the waves at work. Whatever it is, it’s tough. Even excruciating at times. But through it all, you can always turn to and completely put your trust in Jesus! He not only pushed His disciples to the brink, but mostly Himself for our benefit. He offers his hand to the outcast and can lead us out of the fog when we cannot tell what to do next. In this lesson, unpack a day in the life of Jesus where He taught, rebuked a fierce storm, and saved a demon possessed man who couldn’t be bound. Learn how Jesus is the surprising cure in a world that doesn’t understand Him. . . . . . Wanting to find out more about your next step?
My name is Joe Stearns. I’m one of the ministers on staff here at the Broward Church and we are continuing a series called The Ministry of Jesus, which I’m really excited about. If you are visiting with us, I want to welcome you. We are really glad to have you. And if you’re visiting, see if we can progress the slides, all right, if you’re visiting with us, we want to make you aware of an opportunity that Mike is also going to remind you guys of at the end of the service.
But that is we have a class called the Discover Class. But if you’re visiting and you want to learn more about the Broward Church, we do a Bible study and also can answer any questions or help you get more connected with the Broward Church. That’s held in classroom E4, which is at the end of this hallway in the east wing. I hope if you’re visiting, you’ll consider joining us.
So we’re in this series called The Ministry of Jesus and we have come to a very unusual passage of Scripture. It’s the healing of the demoniac, and the setting is a day in the life of Jesus. Now there’s a couple of times in the Gospel where you have an entire day of Jesus described for us. One of them is when Jesus feeds the 5000 and walks on water. And you can tell from the context that the Bible is describing a day in the life of Jesus. Well, this is another one. And here I want to give you his agenda.
Let’s take a look. Sorry, I’m going to get myself together here.
So let’s do his agenda. Here’s his agenda for the day. In the daytime he’s going to teach parables until exhaustion. At sunset, am I booming. Why am I booming?
Do I need to adjust this thing? I don’t even know. I’ll try not to bang it or whatever I’m doing. At sunset, Jesus is going to tell his disciples to get in a boat and roll across the Sea of Galilee rather than go home, eat dinner and go to bed. So this is just another day at the office for Jesus Christ.
Then after they row about 3 hours into gale force hurricane strength winds to round out the workday, they’re going to go to a pagan graveyard in the dark to heal a demon possessed, mentally ill man who’s extremely violent and very strong.
So I want to give the geographic context. Lately you’ll notice that the stories, as we progress chronologically, for the most part through the life of Jesus, this particular part of Jesus’ life is happening at the Sea of Galilee and Jesus decided at the beginning of his physical ministry he would move from Nazareth to Capernaum. And so now Capernum is kind of like his new hometown, his operations base. We all know that Jesus traveled a lot, but in this particular case it looks like he’s probably teaching right from Capernaum.
In 2008 I had a chance to go to the Promised Land. And I want to show you a photo of what we believe is the Sermon on the Mount field. And so just outside of Capernaum is this field where the Sermon Mount probably took place. It’s right outside Capernaum. We were in a tourist bus and we stopped and looked at a big field and they said that’s probably where they did the Sermon on the Mount.
Now there’s kind of like two sermons on the Mount. There’s a Sermon on the Mountain, Matthew, and then in the Book of Luke, it says Jesus went on a level place and taught the people. And so could the Sermon on the Mount also be this level place? Probably so. And so this is the site probably for the teachings in the Book of Luke that is recorded there.
So Jesus is right at the northwest corner, as you can see from the lake, the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. And it says he told his disciples to get in a boat and rode to the other side of the lake. So the Sea of Galilee, as Mike mentioned last week, is about twelve or 13 miles tall. I mean north to south, seven or 8 miles east to west at the widest point. And they’re probably going from Capernaum down to this area, the area of the Gadarines or Gurgasins or Gerasenes has a couple of different names.
They probably rode that boat because they were going at an angle about eight or 9 miles. I don’t know how fast you can row a big boat like they were in, but it was probably if it was 3 miles an hour, it was a three hour boat ride and it was in the dark. Obviously, these are the days before we harnessed electricity. So these men are rolling the boat away from the city, probably into pitch darkness and gale force winds. And one last thing I want to show you about the context here is that I know the print’s kind of small here, but here’s the Sea of Galilee and we’ve zoomed out, and this west left side of the Sea of Galilee is all Jewish. You have Jewish, half Jewish, Samaritans. All Jewish again in the south. This is the Jewish side of the lake. This is the Gentile, or pagan side of the lake, which includes an area called the Decapolis and this was Syria over here. The Jews in Jesus’ day did not go to the east side of the lake. They just didn’t go there. And so what Jesus asked his men to do at the end of a long, exhausting day is to get in their boat, row into the hurricane to the pagan side of the lake where they never went. That’s our setting.
Let’s begin the day. Again, Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it on the lake while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. So our text for today starts in Mark chapter five. But this is the beginning of the day. In Mark chapter four, it’s a day of teaching.
At the end of Mark 4, it says, that day when evening came, he said to his disciples, let’s go over to the other side. Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along just as he was in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up and the waves broke over the boat so that they were nearly swamped.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples said to him, teacher, don’t you care if we drowned? Now, the reason I brought up this word exhaustion a couple of times is Jesus has decided to take a nap at dinnertime. Now, I know that some of you may get home from work and take a nap at dinnertime, but it is kind of an unusual time to take a nap. Does this happen to you?
If I want to take a nap at dinnertime, I’m afraid if I take a nap, I’ll be up all night when I try to go to bed later on at night. So I think Jesus was just utterly wiped out from what he had done during the day. And I don’t know how his disciples felt about this because they were probably pretty tired themselves. But he’s like, you guys row. I’m going to go take a nap and off they go into the dark.
He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, Quiet. Be still. Dropping down to verse 41 and said they were terrified and asked each other, who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him. And now we’ve come to our text, Mark five, one. They went across the lake to the region of the Garasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him.
You know, if I was Jesus’ disciple, I would be really confused. And obviously it says these men were terrified. I might be questioning Jesus’s leadership. Like, if you’re the Son of God, don’t you know this is a really bad time to get in a boat right before a hurricane? And it’s a really bad destination to go to a pagan graveyard in the middle of the night.
My mom told me to never go over there when I was a kid. And so I imagine that however you imagine what they were going through, the disciples were confused and they were mentally and emotionally pushed. Now, if you live in Florida, you know what it’s like to deal with the storm. I’ve never seen the show Stranger Things, so I don’t even know if I’m supposed to be bringing it up as a preacher. I don’t know if it’s a good show or a bad show.
But people have told me it’s about weird paranormal stuff, and this is kind of what you have now. My generation, we do the Twilight Zone, all right? So we’re going from the hurricane into the Twilight Zone. And what I mean is, these men are already terrified, already terrified before the graveyard, and now they’re going to go in the pitch darkness into the graveyard.
This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been chained hand and foot. But he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day, among the tombs and in the hills, he would cry out and cut himself with stones. Now, I do think there’s something to note here, and that is that this man is not only suffering and in deep anguish, but it appears to have been a really prolonged thing that he’s going through. It may have been years and years that this man was suffering like this.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, what do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? In God’s name, don’t torture me. For Jesus had said to him, come out of this man, you impure spirit. Then Jesus asked him, what is your name?
My name is Legion, he replied, for we are many. And he begged Jesus again and again not to send him out of that area. Before we move on, I just want to note that this man’s first thought about Jesus is that Jesus was going to torture him. And yet we know that Jesus has gone to great sacrifice, great effort, continuing towards this man in the tombs, through exhaustion, literally through a storm, to reach this man and rescue him. And I just think there might be something briefly to point out here, and that is, are you afraid of Jesus?
Are you afraid that he wants something bad for you because of your sins? Or do you realize that what he’s gone through for you is to rescue you, not to torture you? I’ve met people, when I ask him, would you like to read the Bible? They seem afraid, like, no, don’t open that book. When my daughter was 14 years old in high school, she could bring any book she wanted for ten minutes of quiet reading at the beginning of the Homeroom, the first class of the day.
So she brought her Bible, and her teacher said, you can’t bring a Bible. And she said, well, they told us we could bring any book. And the teacher said, well, because of the separation of church and state, you can’t bring a Bible. So Pam and I talked to the principal and said, any book in the world except the Bible. Does that make sense?
For quiet reading for my 14 year old. And so they let her start being able to bring her Bible back to school. But people can have this fear of Jesus or the community of faith or the Scriptures. And I think we should remember he died on the cross so that we could be rescued.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demon begged Jesus, send us among the pigs. Allow us to go into them. He gave them permission and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs.
The herd, about 2000 in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside and the people went out to see what had happened.
A couple of interesting things I think to note is that Jesus, who does not sin, who does not promote sin, still has power and authority over the demons that live in the spiritual world. You can tell they’re asking him permission because he has authority over them. It’s also interesting that the evil spirits didn’t know what was good for them and that it was a bad idea to go into the herd of pigs, but Jesus let them anyway.
We actually think we know where this took place and I just want to show you a picture. This is a telephoto photograph from the city of Tiberius, about four or 5 miles across the Sea of Galilee to what we now call the Golan Heights. And you can see these are the hills that that demoniac was living in, crying out at night, cutting himself with stones. And you can see that the hills sharply dropped down to the lake side and then they gently kind of level off. Now if you go to the other side of the lake and stand on the hill, this is what it looks like from that side.
So here we are in the region of the Garasenes on top of the hill looking down. This is the probable and most likely site of where they were taking care of these pigs. And the demons went into the pigs and they were drowned.
When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons sitting there dressed and in his right mind and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon possessed man and told the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
Now there are two issues in this story that I’m not going to try to step around and that’s the issue of demon possession and the issue of mental illness. And in a couple of minutes we’re going to begin to address those issues directly.
But I do think it’s important to notice that once again we have people afraid of Jesus because they misunderstand Him. Here Jesus has come and solved a long bad problem of a crazy man that no one could subdue living in the local community cemetery. And Jesus has come and solved that problem and maybe it’s because of the financial loss with the pigs or whatever, but rather than holding on to the wonderful man that Jesus was, they just want to get rid of him because they don’t understand him.
As Jesus was getting into the boat the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he’s had mercy on you. So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him and all the people were amazed.
So I just want to point out as we close out the reading of our text today that gratitude is a powerful thing. This man is so grateful that Jesus Christ has rescued him and saved him that not only does he go back to his own people and tell his testimony like Mary Haddaway did telling her testimony and people have been doing each week lately. He goes into a ten city region and goes on tour because he’s so grateful and he thinks that what has happened to him is so powerful.
Jesus has given this man salvation, a purpose and a message and he’s grateful. And I just believe that we should learn from this and realize that we should continue and not lose our gratitude for God because he has given us salvation, a purpose and a message. Now we’re going to talk about demon possession and mental illness but as we try to learn some facts that are helpful to us from this message, I would like to focus because there’s a lot of messages you could get out of this text. But I would like to focus on the fact that this entire story has people pushed to the limits, pushed to the very limits. And even if you are not pushed to the limits right now, I think there’s a lot we can learn about their experience. The disciples are pushed to their limits.
They don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know why they’re there. This is a genuine hardship for them. Some of them may have been confused, may have been frustrated. We know they were terrified.
Even Jesus himself, he doesn’t seem confused. He seems to know exactly what he’s doing even in the Twilight Zone. But he’s been pushed to his physical limits. And we have the disciples not knowing what’s going on and we have the demoniac of course who’s an ongoing anguish. Have you ever felt like I don’t know what God’s doing with this situation?
I don’t know what God has in mind here? If I was God I would do it different. Now for sure, this day the disciples must have thought this is the wrong way to be a messiah. Like, maybe this is a bad day and tomorrow will be better. But Jesus knows exactly what he’s doing.
And I think we can realize what we’re pushed sometimes even to our limits, when, as they say, at the end of your rope, when you’re back to the wall. Jesus knows what he’s doing. He knows what he’s doing even if we do not.
So let’s talk about demon possession. I have a working theory on demon possession because I don’t understand it. Now, when I say I don’t understand it, I’ve read commentaries about it. I’ve read about it. I should tell you that as one of the elders in the church, we had a visitor several years ago who asked the elders of the church to perform an exorcism. So John Brush and I, we talked to this person and we’re like, we don’t really do that here.
And the guest said, Please just do it like it talks about in James Five. Pour some oil on my head, pray over me, and see if you can exorcise this demon I have. And so we tried it and nothing happened. And we found out later on that guest went to a different denomination, different church, and the preacher actually charged her for the exorcism. And it didn’t work there either.
When I was younger, before I joined this church, I’ve been part of a Pentecostal church for a while, and I have witnessed on video and intent meetings people who are claiming to be possessed by demons and experiencing exorcism. Listen, I don’t have it all sorted out. I can’t tell the fake from the real. I just can’t. I was baptized when I was 18. I’m 64 years old. I’ve never witnessed what I knew for sure was a genuine exorcism. On the other hand, I cannot tell a person that I know for sure that their experience is fake. It might be real. So all I’ve got for you is two cents worth of a working theory. But after that, we’re going to look straight at the scriptures and look at some principles that can help us with this issue. My working theory is that for sure, it was real in Jesus’ day. I don’t believe, as some people speculate, and as some commentators believe, I don’t believe that the biblical writers were describing mental illness as demon possession. I don’t believe that. I believe the demon possession was the demon possession and the mental illness was the mental illness.
And so I believe what happened back then, maybe because of the power of the coming of the Son of God, the spiritual forces kind of came into the physical world. That’s speculation on my part, and I admit that. Now, there’s guys that I respect within our own family of churches that have a theory that I think has some weight to it and that maybe a focus on it may make it real today. And here’s what I mean. In Western society here in America and a lot of urban and industrialized nations, a lot of people just don’t believe in demon possession.
But there’s a lot of countries where people do believe in demon possession. And perhaps it’s a possibility that that focus and belief on demon possession opens the door to some real demon possession in the 21st century. I don’t know. There was a theory given to me, perhaps that’s true. I’ve never witnessed it.
And I hate to leave you hanging, but that’s where I am. Now, what I want to give you is I want to give you a five minute machine gun pace tour of nine scriptures about the evil spiritual world and our role and how we should interact with it. Can you hang with me for five minutes as we do? This is called a systematic theology, where you collect a lot of scriptures on a topic.
So let’s go. The acts of the simple nature are obvious sexual, immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft. In Galatians Five, we have a list of sins. Witchcraft is on it. Witchcraft is a sin.
So we as Christians, even though we believe that there is a spiritual world with evil forces and good forces, we are not supposed to participate in witchcraft. It’s a sin. Here’s an example, our second scripture from the Book of Acts in the city of Ephesus. Many of those who believed these are converts to Christianity now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly.
When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to 50,000 Drachmas. So here’s Christians who are taking incredibly valuable black magic guide manuals and they’re burning them rather than selling them to other people who are into it because they believe they’d rather take the financial loss rather than this kind of practice continuing on in the hands of anyone. Third Scripture. We know that we are children of God and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. Well, who’s the ruler of the world? Guess what? It’s actually not Jesus Christ. So God is the God of the universe and he rules everything. But in our human society, we have unwittingly chosen the way of evil rather than the way of good. And the being that’s really running things in society on the earth is not primarily Jesus Christ. All you have to do is read the news.The one who’s primarily running it is Satan.
So this passage teaches us not only is Satan in control because we actually voluntarily giving it to him by choosing the way of sin, but there is a real Satan. He really exists. He’s a real force. He’s alive and working today.
Be alert and soberminded. Your enemy of the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. Not only is the devil real, but he is our opponent and he really has a goal of ruining our lives, in particular ruining our faith. He’s happy with ruining anything, but his primary target is our spiritual well being.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. So this passage is saying that the Holy Spirit given to you is more powerful than Satan. You and I are not more powerful than Satan, but we are given more power than Satan by the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us. I’m so encouraged that I have the ability to not be overwhelmed and defeated by Satan because of the spirit inside me. And to add to that, listen to this promise submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
I find that super encouraging, that if I fight the good fight of the faith, god is telling me by the power of the spirit in me, I can win and Satan will back off. Now let’s talk about Jesus’s role in all this. Let me get to that. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil. Because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. And our second to last scripture here Jesus elaborates on this himself. In John twelve, Jesus says now the time for judgment is the time for judgment on the world. Now listen to this. The prince of this world will be driven out, and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. So we know from this scripture and the earlier scripture that a primary goal of Jesus was to defeat Satan. And on the cross he had a victory where he drove out Satan and drew in people for salvation. Now, the last scripture is going to take two slides to finish our five minute tour.
This is a really serious scripture that describes the mindset and the fate of somebody who turns to witchcraft rather than to God for their answers. When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists who mutter and whisper, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.
Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land. When they are famished, they will become enraged and looking upward, will curse their God, their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom. And they will be thrust into utter darkness.
So I believe in the spirit world. I believe in demons. I believe in angels. I believe in God. My instruction from my Lord Jesus Christ is not to dabble with the evil spirits, but it is to fight the evil spirits in the life of a disciple within Jesus Christ. We know what the battle is, and we’ve been given instructions here on some of the ways to handle that. I hope that was helpful.
So that’s what I just said. So now let’s talk a little bit about mental health before we come to our conclusion. It says here that this man in the tombs was dressed in his right mind. I have a question for you. Should a Christian seek counseling or take medicine for mental health issues? Is our decision a decision between faith versus modern medicine? So there are a lot of churches in the past in Christian history and some still today who make a fatal error. And the fatal error is they want to choose between faith and modern medicine. And it’s a false choice.
It’s an artificial choice. And I would like to share a viewpoint on this that I believe is based on the scriptures, and that is that God has given us the ability to improve our condition. I like to read a scripture that has this principle out of deuteronomy. It says, beware lest in your heart you say, my power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth. You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the power to get wealth that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your Father’s, as it is to this day.
So here’s an example where you could say, I’m a self made man, or I’m a self made woman. By my intellect, by my ingenuity, by my industry, I’ve earned this wealth. And God is saying, Hang on a second. You couldn’t do that without me giving you those abilities. Now, I believe that we are made in the image of God because God said we’re made in his image.
And what I wanted to show you is that God has taken qualities of God and he’s given them to humans. He has made us want to be rulers. He has made us to want to create. He has made us to want to build things, want to improve things, want to organize things. He has not given this to any other creature.
And so now we can find a cure for tuberculosis. We can find a cure for leprosy. We can build modern communication. We can harness electricity. We can build modern transportation.
Your dog cannot build his own dog house. I’m just saying your cat cannot invent a car to go down the street to visit his friend cat from down the road. But humans can do that. And so I thank God for modern medicine. I had my gallbladder pulled out about eight or ten years ago.
People used to die of that before modern medicine gave us the right and ability and the training and the discoveries to take care of that. And so I believe that psychology researchers are studying what God has made. Human behavior. And sometimes psychology researchers get it right, and sometimes they come to wrong conclusions and get it wrong. But basically, we can benefit from the God given ability to research the pharmaceutical testing and manufacturing that can help us.
I’m not saying all counseling is good. I’m not saying all medicines are good. That’s way beyond my expertise. Talk to my wife.
What I am saying is that in the issue of mental illness, I believe that there are supplemental resources, that there’s nothing wrong with a Christian taking advantage of counseling or medicines that may possibly help them. But I do want to land a land on something, and that is that there’s no place I’d rather be. And it’s this. When it comes to mental health, could it be better than in Jesus Christ? You see, you have the support system of the church.
Can you get counseling? Yes. Can you take medicine? Sure. But what about the support system of the church?
What about the guidance and the comfort and the strength of the Holy Spirit that lives inside you? What about the guidance and support of the Bible and the truth, the reality therapy the Bible can give you? What about the genuine concern of God for all people, but especially for his church? And so look at this scripture. Here’s a wonderful scripture on guidance for us and mental health challenges.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Listen to this. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. When pushed to your limits, where should you turn? Whether it’s mental illness, whether it’s a job situation, whether it’s a relationship problem, whether it’s loneliness or depression or whatever you’re going through, even if you’re not pushed to the limit, there’s no better place, no more solutions than in Jesus Christ. He’s the one that has the answers to things that we cannot answer. He’s the one who has the cure for things that we cannot cure. He’s the one that has the solutions where we cannot find solutions. And he’s the one that can lead us out of the fog when we cannot tell what to do next.
So I think what we can draw from this is already what I’m concluding, and that is that Jesus is the surprising cure. You may not think he’s the solution, but I promise you he is. And the Bible promises that, and that people are afraid of Jesus because they misunderstand Him and have unfounded fears. Don’t be afraid to come to Christ. Don’t be afraid to read that Bible.
It’s not going to bite you. It’s going to change you. And last but not least, as we go to communion and the Lord’s Supper. I just want to point out that the reason Jesus pushed Himself so hard on that day that we’ve just read about every day of his earthly ministry. The reason that God Himself sacrificed His Son and Jesus was willing to go to the cross was not to torture us and not to punish us, but to rescue us and to save us.
As we go to the Lord’s Supper, and by the way, you should have the cup with some bread and wine next to you as we go to the Lord’s Supper. I want to read this scripture so we can meditate on that and then we’ll have it together. For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that One died for all and therefore all died, and he died for all. Those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we do not have all the answers, but we believe that you have all the answers. Father, we do not know how to solve everything, but we turn to you to solve our problems, to rescue us and to save us. Help us, Lord, not to be afraid of you, but to come to you, because we need you even in times that we don’t understand. Thank you so much for giving Your Son on the cross, for raising Him from the dead, and for offering us salvation and a victory over Satan because of the work you did. We pray in your son’s name.