Mark 5:1 Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes.
Where is the other side of the sea of Galilee
“The other side” of the Lake of Galilee refers to the eastern shore, in the region of the Decapolis
The preceding day Jesus had delivered the Sermon by the Sea, which consisted largely of parables.
The distance across the lake at this point was about 11 kilometers. It was upon this crossing that Jesus had stilled the storm.
His purpose in crossing to the less densely populated eastern shore at this time was to enjoy a brief respite from the throngs of people who were now pressing upon Him to the extent that He often had little or no time even to eat and sleep.
But He had more than that in mind. He was going to heal two demoniacs and clothe them we decent clothing.
Though conclusive evidence is not now available, it is generally thought that Christ’s encounter with the Gadarene demoniacs occurred a short distance below what is now the village of Kursī, which is usually identified with the ancient Gergesa.
Gadara was a city about 19 km. to the south of this place, about 10 km. from the southern tip of the Lake of Galilee. It was at one time the capital of Decapolis.
A short distance to the south of the village of Kursī is a steep bluff that descends abruptly to a narrow shore. Jesus and the disciples may well have disembarked to the south of this bluff, where the beach widens and the hills recede from the lake.
The limestone hills in the region about Kursī abound in caverns and rock-hewn chambers. Dug out of the comparatively soft limestone, chambers such as these were commonly used as burial places in ancient Palestine.
It is worthy of note that Matthew, no doubt an eyewitness to both events, mentions two men in each instance.
Mark 5:2 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
Mark 5:3 who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains,
According to Levitical law a corpse was unclean, and this uncleanness would attach also to the place of burial. Obviously such considerations were of no concern to the demoniacs.
Matthew’s statement that no one could pass “that way” (ch. 8:28) implies that the haunt of these demon-possessed men was not far from a thoroughfare, one leading along the eastern shore of the lake (cf. DA 338).
Mark 5:4 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.
Greek. Pedē, “a shackle for the feet,” from a word meaning “foot,” or “instep.”
Mark 5:5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.
In fury he often gashed his body, and was probably a mass of scars and sores.
Mark 5:6 When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.
He and his companion may have been on the lower slopes of the hill that dropped off precipitously into the sea, and thus they may have observed the boats approaching.
He ran. Probably with the intention of attacking Jesus and those who accompanied Him, no doubt screaming wildly while coming down the beach.
Worshipped him. By the time the demoniacs came to the place where Jesus stood, the disciples had fled in terror, and the Saviour was alone with the two demon-possessed men (DA 337).
Somehow they seemed to perceive dimly that here was a Friend, not a foe (see DA 337, 338), and they prostrated themselves on the ground at Jesus’ feet. His very presence often seemed to impress deeply even His worst enemies (see Matt. 21:12, 13; John 2:15).
Mark 5:7 And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”
The challenge to Jesus’ authority really meant, “What right have you to interfere with me?”
The evil spirits were speaking directly through one of the demoniacs of Gadara to Christ, for Jesus addresses the “unclean spirit” rather than the man himself. Accordingly, the recognition of Jesus as the “Son of the most high God” represents knowledge the spirits possessed, not the demoniacs.
I implore. Gr. horkizō, “to administer an oath to.”
Mark 5:8 For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”
As Jesus was in the very process of commanding the spirit to come out of the man, the spirit startlingly interrupted and challenged Him.
Mark 5:9 Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”
This miracle was for the benefit of the disciples, in order that they might appreciate more fully the magnitude of the miracle, and better realize the nature and power of the forces against which they must contend.
Legion. A Roman army division, which, at full strength, consisted of approximately 6,000 footmen and 700 horsemen, or a total of about 6,700.
Mark 5:10 Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.
The defiant demon now took the attitude of a suppliant begging Jesus for mercy. He was fearful for his life.
Mark 5:11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains.
That is, on the hillside, at some distance from where Christ and the demoniacs stood on the beach. Whenever in that region the swineherds were undoubtedly always on the alert for the demon-possessed men, and thus saw them as they raced toward Christ, heard their unearthly shrieks, and witnessed the glorious transformation in their appearance that had occurred.
Although some Jews raised swine for the sake of gain, there is no evidence that the owners of this particular herd of swine were Jews. Certainly, however, they were absorbed in business and profit, oblivious of spiritual things.
Mark 5:12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”
Send us. It was Satan’s purpose to turn the people of this region against the Saviour by making it appear that He was responsible for the destruction of their property. The immediate result seemed to justify the devil’s evil expectations.
But the ministry of the transformed men who previously had been known throughout the district as demoniacs, together with news of the herd of swine that perished in the sea to confirm their story, served as nothing else could possibly have done, to turn the people of the region to Jesus (see on vs. 19, 20).
Mark 5:13 And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.
Down a steep place. Literally, “down the precipice.” A short distance south of the village of Kursī, ancient Gergesa, there is a steep bluff, where the hills come down close to the water’s edge, the only place on the entire coast where this is true.
The declivity is so steep that it might be called a cliff, though not of the overhanging type. At the foot of this precipice the beach is so narrow that the swine could not possibly have halted their headlong race.
Mark 5:14 So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened.
On their way to the village of Gergesa, probably a short distance to the north of the precipice (see on v. 13), the swineherds might be expected to announce to all they met what had happened.
Mark 5:15 Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
1Sitting. Composed, relaxed, and at rest—a great contrast to the excited state in which they had come to Jesus shortly before.
Did the disciples give these men some of their clothes or did Jesus buy it at Capernaum?
They were afraid. Thoughts of the loss of the swine tended, for the time being, to dominate the thinking of most of the people of that region. They no doubt wondered what the next demonstration of supernatural power might produce, and apparently they feared that greater material loss might result.
Mark 5:16 And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine.
Both the swineherds, who had already told their version of the incident (see v. 14), as well as the disciples. The latter also related the experience of the stilling of the storm on the lake the previous night, but their words fell on deaf ears.
Mark 5:17 Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.
Their choice was made based on material considerations. They chose to forgo any possible blessings such as had come to the healed demoniacs, lest they suffer further loss of property.
In harmony with the counsel He Himself was soon to give to the Twelve as He sent them forth to preach and heal. Jesus made no protest, but simply turned to leave. How many today follow the pathetic example of the people of Gadara, fearful that the Saviour’s presence will thwart their own plans.
Mark 5:18 And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him.
As Jesus was in the act of entering the boat, the healed man was beseeching Him.
The brief time the two men had spent with Jesus must have been to them the greatest thrill of their lives. As they saw Him getting into the boat to depart, they realized that they were about to be separated from the One who had restored them to health of mind.
Mark 5:19 However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”
Jesus did what was best for all concerned. The inhabitants of Decapolis needed the ministry of these men. Additionally, there was the probability that they, as Gentiles would have become a hindrance to Jesus’ work in Galilee.
Your friends. Literally, “to those of you,” that is, to his own relatives.
The reasons that so often led Jesus to warn those who had been recipients of His miracles not to circulate the report of what had been done for them did not apply to the situation in Decapolis. There were probably few scribes and Pharisees in Decapolis to give out a false report of Jesus’ activities.
Mark 5:20 And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marvelled.
In the brief hour or so during which Jesus had remained with these two men great things had happened. They had an inspiring story to tell, and in the interval before the people came out from the city Jesus instructed them in the fundamental truths of the gospel story.
As they proclaimed their message throughout the region of Decapolis, what they said was confirmed by the report of the swineherds, which must have spread throughout the vicinity of Gergesa with lightning speed.
Men everywhere must have listened with eager interest when these, for whose benefit the miracle had been performed, came with the gospel story. Their own former reputation as madmen have been widely known.
The various cities of the Decapolis had been Hellenistic since the time of Alexander the Great, but were subdued by the Jews under the Maccabees. They were liberated from Jewish rule by the Roman general Pompey, who distributed the land among veterans of his army.
All marvelled. As the two men, now under the control of the Spirit of God, told their story, people everywhere listened in surprise and astonishment.
The results of their ministry should bring great encouragement to those who may feel that their own ability and training are not sufficient to enable them to bear effective witness for Christ.
Those who sincerely love Christ, and whose lives have been transformed by His power, need simply to tell others “how great things the Lord had done” for them (v. 19), and men will be won to Christ.
This took place late in the autumn of a.d. 29 . When Jesus returned to Decapolis some nine or ten months later thousands flocked to see and hear Him. Those who came out to hear Jesus upon that later occasion were almost entirely Gentiles.