SERMON TITLE: Unexpected Power (pt 1)
TEXT: Mark 5:1-20 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — even if it’s your first time with us — I want you to know that God loves you and I love you too.
And we’re in week three of a series we’re calling Unexpected — because in the gospel of Mark we find Jesus doing and saying things that are unexpected. Last week, we left off with Jesus teaching some parables — He was right by the Sea of Galilee — and now He and His disciples have traveled to the other side of the sea.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
So if you have your Bible let’s turn to Mark chapter 5. We’ll be looking at verses 1-20.
And — if you’re a guest with us — something I like to do is answer your questions. So if you have a question about the sermon, you can text it in to the number printed on the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
Now for the next few weeks, we’re going to look at some stories that give us a glimpse of Jesus’ power. And we’ll see that His power surprises people — it catches some off guard — it’s — what you might call — unexpected power.
And today — we’re going to see Jesus’ power as He encounters the demonic — something from the spiritual world — part of the unseen things happening all around us. And here’s the overarching idea for us for the next few weeks.
Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must rely upon His power above all others. Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must rely upon His power above all others.
Now I know not everyone believes in a spiritual world or the demonic. There are many people who say they believe only what their eyes can see, but even that’s not quite true. Love — for instance — is something many people believe in even though you can’t see it.
And if love is to sappy for you, there are many people who believe that death is it — after you die — you simply cease to exist. But this belief is unprovable — it’s unverifiable. What happens after death isn’t something you can see — it’s something believed based on faith.
But even though there are people who don’t believe in a spiritual world, my guess is that many of you do — or you at least have a curiosity about it. The reason why I say this is because our culture has a high interest in the spiritual world. All you have to do is flip through channels on your TV and you’ll quickly notice that our culture loves the spiritual world — we have a fascination with it. Angels. Demons. Ghosts. It doesn’t matter how bad the writing or acting is — if you throw in angels or demons you’ll have an audience.
But for us, it’s both wise and helpful to get the Bible’s perspective on all of this. The interest in the supernatural is already part of our culture, but a biblical perspective and understanding is what’s lacking.
And the Christian faith teaches that Jesus has power greater than what’s found in the spiritual world. And there are some implications we should draw from this truth. And even if you don’t consider yourself to be a Christian — give the Bible’s perspective about Jesus’ power a fair hearing because maybe — just maybe — it will help you better understand the spiritual world you’re curious about and what true power is actually like.
And here’s the first thing we learn about Jesus’ power.
RUN TO HIM
Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must run to Him with our problems. Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must run to Him with our problems. Look with me in verse one.
“They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he (did what? The man…) ran (to Jesus) and (when he got to Jesus, he...) fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." 8 For he was saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" 9 And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Legion, for we are many." 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, "Send us to the pigs; let us enter them." 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.” (Mark 5:1-13)
Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must run to Him with our problems.
Now we’ve all got problems — but you’ve got to admit — the guy in this story isn’t having a good day.
Jesus and His disciples have just crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat. And as soon as they arrive on the opposite shore, they encounter this man who has a problem — the man has an unclean spirit — what we would call a demon.
Now the particulars of this man’s situation are a bit unclear. Later in the story, the man’s described as being demon-possessed, which conjures up in our minds all kinds of images from Hollywood movies or Stephen King novels.
But — and I know this will be hard to believe — sometimes Hollywood makes up stuff that isn’t based on reality — they use this thing called their imagination. So it’s a bit silly to allow our beliefs about the spiritual world — and I’m including Christians and non-Christians here — often our ideas about the spiritual world and the demonic are based mainly — sometimes even entirely — on Hollywood.
But in our story, the word “demon-possessed” can mean everything from “being possessed by a demon, to having an illness or disability because of a demon, to being controlled by a demon.” And in the Bible, oftentimes it’s hard to tell the difference in how the word is being used.
Is the demon in the person?
Is the person being controlled by the demon?
Or is the demon just manipulating someone to do certain things?
It can be hard to tell.
But here’s what we do know. Jesus has greater power than the demonic. And apparently this demon-possessed guy sees something in Jesus because he runs to Him. He’s got a problem and he runs to Jesus with his problem.
And when he gets to Jesus, notice that he falls down — he falls down at Jesus’ feet. It’s as if he recognizes the power that Jesus has and — almost instinctively — knows that the power Jesus has is a power that’s to be honored. It’s a power you fall down in front of just as people would bow down in front of kings in ages past because of the power their king represents.
And Mark let’s us know that this man’s been tormented by the demon for a long time. He’s been isolated from the rest of the community. He’s been living among the tombs — where the dead were buried. This is a place where only the poorest of the poor would live — basically — it was the city slum.
So this man’s in a hopeless situation. And he’s so desperate to have this demon removed from him that he — and this is a bit graphic — but he was so desperate he would cut himself in an effort to get rid of the demon.
So when this man runs to Jesus, not only does he recognize Jesus’ power, but so does the demon. And the demon confronts Jesus. And Mark records this dialogue between Jesus and the demon.
The demon makes a request — it asks Jesus to not torture it. “Don’t torment me Jesus,” the demon says. And — in response — Jesus asks the demon for its name. And some people make a big deal about Jesus asking for the demon’s name. There are some who assume that knowing the demon’s name was necessary for Jesus to exorcise it out of the man, but that’s not hinted at in this story — nor does Jesus ask for the name of any other demons He casts away from people.
So there are some who make a big deal about knowing the demon’s name and even more is made of this particular demon’s name: Legion. The reason being the word legion is a military term that basically means six thousand soldiers — leading some to conclude that this man had six thousand demons — but that’s probably not the point of knowing the demon’s name either.
The reason why the name “legion” is important is so we understand what happens next with the pigs. Why do thousands of pigs go jump into the sea? Because there was a lot of demonic activity happening with this man. Was it six thousand demons worth of activity? Maybe. But it was definitely enough to send thousands of pigs to their death.
Which leads to another question and — for some of us — this is the most important question. Why did Jesus let the pigs die? I mean Jesus just killed Ms. Piggy or Piglet — if he’s your favorite pig — or Wilbur — for all of you Charlotte’s Web fans — Ms. Piggy, Piglet, and Wilbur just jumped off the cliff — we, we, weeing all their way to death — or at least that’s what we envision in our minds. And we think, “Why did the little piggies have to die?” Why did Jesus send the demons into the pigs?
Two reasons. First, it wasn’t time for these demons to be eternally defeated. That will come later, but it’s interesting how the Bible describes the eventual defeat of these demons — along with Satan — their leader. In Revelation chapter twenty we read, “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10 ESV)
The pigs jumping into the lake — in our story — foreshadows the destiny of these demons. One day they will be thrown into a fiery lake for all eternity — but the time for their eternal destruction had not yet come.
The second reason why Jesus sends the demons into the pigs is to show their destructive nature. We see what the demons were doing to the man — look at their destructive nature. The entire herd of pigs is destroyed — that’s the nature of the demonic. Destruction. Violence. Death. And Jesus wants us to see the nature of the demonic, so He lets them go into the pigs — which should be a warning to all of us about messing around with the demonic.
But don’t miss this. Even with the amount of power these demons have in creating chaos and destruction, Jesus has even greater power than these demons — He commands them and the demons obey — now that’s power. And because Jesus has the greatest power of all — like the man in our story — we must run to Him with our problems.
Now I don’t know everything going on in your life — but here’s what I know from this story. This man had no one — Mark keeps showing us this over and over again.
No one could tie him up.
No one could keep him bound with the chains.
No one could help him.
The townspeople resorted to leaving him isolated and all alone in the tombs.
He had no one until Jesus came into his life.
So if you feel like you’re ready to give up on life because no one has been able to help you with your marriage, or no one has been able to help you overcome that addiction, or no one has been able to help you get over your anger — like the man in our story — you need an encounter with the power of Jesus. You may feel all alone and that no one can help you — but there is One Person who can help you because He has the power capable of overcoming all of your problems. So run to Jesus with your problems — run to Him in the Bible — run to Him in prayer — run to Him and let His power be the source of your help. We must run to Jesus with our problems.
“But come on Josh. I read my Bible and pray. Is that all there is to running to Jesus because I don’t think it’s working?” No there’s more to it than that. Here’s what we find next in our story.
RESPOND TO HIM
Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must respond to Him in faith. Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must respond to Him in faith. Look with me in verse fourteen.
“The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were (what? The people were...) afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, "Go home to your friends and tell them (what? Go tell your friends...) how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis (that’s the ten surrounding cities — and look at what he proclaimed. He told everyone...) how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” (Mark 5:14-20)
Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must respond to Him in faith.
Now the faith of the healed man is pretty obvious — we see his response in verses eighteen through twenty. He begs Jesus to let him become a disciple. “Let me be with you — let me become one of Your close followers,” the man pleads. But Jesus tells him no. Instead, Jesus tells him to go and tell everyone in the surrounding towns what the Lord has done for you. “Go tell everyone you meet how merciful God has been to you — tell them the Good News that God’s power is life changing.” And the man responds in simple obedience.
And we see here that not only has he been delivered from a demon — he also believes that Jesus is God. How so?
When Jesus tells him to go and tell everyone what the Lord has done for you, what does the man do — and the word “Lord” — here — means “God” by the way — so Jesus tells him to go and tell everyone what God has done for you. And what does the man do — how does he respond? He goes and tells everyone what Jesus had done for him — he tells them about the mercy and power of Jesus.
And I love how Mark tells us that everyone who heard him “marveled” at what he said — they were mesmerized — they were in awe — his story was completely unexpected. The man had an encounter with Jesus’ power and he responds to Jesus in faith — believing Him to be God — and then he went out telling others about Him. Like I said, his is the obvious response of faith.
But the crowd also responds in faith — just not faith in Jesus. When the townspeople hear what happened they quickly come out to Jesus and — notice — they beg Him as well. The healed man begged Jesus to let him become His disciple — but the townspeople — having seen the results of Jesus’ power — beg Him to leave.
They’re afraid of Him. They don’t know what to do with His power. They don’t trust Him. They respond to Jesus by choosing to trust in something else instead of trusting Jesus — so they reject Him.
And here we see something we all do when we encounter Jesus’ power. We either respond to Him in faith — asking Him to make us His disciple and doing whatever He asks of us — or we respond by rejecting Him and putting our faith in something else. We either trust in Jesus’ power or in the power of something else.
But here’s what both the Bible and life teach us — and you know this is true. Whatever “it” is — whatever the thing is — or whoever the person is — that you put your faith in — if it’s not Jesus — eventually they fail you — every time. Eventually you discover that their power isn’t all that powerful — it’s not reliable — it can’t be trusted. And the terrible thing is — and let me just warn you because this is how it always happens — whatever it is you’re trusting in — if it’s not Jesus — it’s going to fail you at the exact moment you need it most. You don’t even know when that will be — or what the situation will be like — but nothing can stand up to the “power of Almighty God test of reliability” except the power of Almighty God. Marriage can’t. Kids can’t. Health can’t. Beauty can’t. Your job can’t. Popularity can’t. The latest gadgets can’t. Nothing and no one has the power you’re looking for — except Jesus.
And because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must respond to Him in faith.
Finally…Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must receive Him as our substitute. Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must receive Him as our substitute.
Now this isn’t as obvious as the first two points — but this is where hope’s found — this is where your life can be changed — this is where unimaginable joy is discovered — this is Jesus’ power made personal for you. Look with me back in verse three.
“He (the demonized man) lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always (doing what? The man was always...) crying out and cutting himself with stones.” (Mark 5:3-5)
Because Jesus has the greatest power of all, we must receive Him as our substitute.
I mentioned earlier that after the man was healed from the demonic activity — he believed in Jesus — he believed Jesus was God and had saved him — not only from the demons — but eternally saved him. In Luke’s recording of this story, the man’s described as being “healed” and the word for “healed” — that Luke uses — is a word often translated as “saved.” As in “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved,” kind of saving. The “you are healed for all eternity” kind of saving. The “spiritually dead being made alive — the lost being found — the child of wrath becoming a child of God” — kind of saving.
So this man is healed in the greatest sense of the term. He experiences the power of Christ and is saved. Then he was sent out — almost as a precursor to what the disciples would one day be told to do — go to the ends of the earth proclaiming the Gospel — he went out to the surrounding towns proclaiming to others the Good News about Jesus.
But how could Jesus heal this man?
How could Jesus save this man?
How could this man believe in Jesus in such a way that — not only was his demonic possession cured — but his eternal damnation reversed?
The answer is that Jesus became his substitute.
When we first meet this man he’s all alone — he’s isolated — he’s abandoned by everyone. And the hope for all of us is that what Jesus did for this man — He has done for us. Jesus substituted Himself for this man — He took this man’s place — when He found Himself all alone, isolated, and abandoned by everyone — even His closest friends — when He hung on a cross to die.
The man was out among the tombs — that’s where he lived — where the dead were laid to rest. And Jesus took this man’s place when — after He had died — His body was placed in a tomb and was laid to rest.
The man spent day after day crying out in torment and pain — he was desperate for relief from the pain he experienced — pain from which he found no relief. And Jesus gave Him that relief, because He would one day cry out in desperation — in great torment and pain — “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me” as He experienced the wrath of God being poured out on Him for the sins of all mankind. And He experienced no relief from the pain of God’s judgement — for your sins and mine — when He substituted Himself in our place.
The man was desperate. He would cut himself in an attempt to put an end to the torment of an unbearable existence. And Jesus took this man’s place when His back was cut open as the Roman soldiers whipped Him over and over and over again. An unbearable experience that weakened Jesus so much that He was unable to carry His cross on the way to His execution.
And the man was naked when we first meet him — so tormented that he couldn’t even cover the shame of his nakedness. Yet Jesus — in His great love for this man — healed him and clothed him at great cost to Himself. For on the cross Jesus was left naked and ashamed as the onlooking crowd mocked Him — He was left completely exposed to the ridicule of people who did not believe in His power or see the beauty of His sacrifice for them — Jesus suffered the humiliation of being gazed upon by those who were completely unaware that He was offering Himself as a sacrifice on their behalf — as a substitute for their sins.
Because Jesus has power greater than all others, we must receive Him as our substitute.
For the power He has is not just one that can heal us — it’s not just a power that can bring us comfort — it’s not just a power that offers us freedom from our addictions and isolation — even the demonic — it’s a power that will judge us. And one day, Jesus will return as Judge and each of us will have to give Him an answer to these questions: “Did you believe in Me,” He will ask. “Did you receive My death as the payment for the penalty for your sin? Did you receive Me as your substitute? Did you respond to Me in faith? Did you run to Me with your greatest problem — your sin against Me?”
Jesus’ power is greater than all other powers. Powers on Earth and powers in Heaven. Powers seen and those invisible. And with the curiosity that our culture has with the spiritual world — it would be wise to seek out the One who’s more powerful than anything Hollywood and our imaginations can come up with — the One who is all-powerful.
His name is Jesus. And His power is the greatest power of all, and we must rely upon His power above all others. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, remind us that Jesus’ power is greater than all other powers — those that are seen and those that are not seen. And — Jesus — not only are You all-powerful — You are good, kind, and loving — so we can run to You with all of our problems. We can trust that You will use Your power for our good as we respond to You in faith. Faith that’s been made possible because You substituted Yourself for us.
You lived for us. Died for us. Satisfied God’s wrath for us. And defeated death for us, so that we can have great confidence in knowing Your power is like no other — for it has saved us.
Spirit, help all of us to respond to Jesus in faith. Some trusting in Him for the first time for our salvation. Some trusting in Jesus with a major life decision. Others trusting Jesus to find us on the other side of the lake where we’ve been isolated and all alone — tormented and in despair — in desperate need for someone to come and heal us. Help us trust that You — Jesus — have heard our cries and have promised to come near to all who call out to You.
Thank you for these undeserved graces in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
COMMUNION (JOSH WILL MOVE TO COMMUNION TABLE)
Today as we turn to the Lord’s Table, we’re reminded once again of God’s power as displayed in Jesus’ sacrifice. A powerful display of His love for us that compels us to run to Him, respond to Him, and receive Jesus as our substitute.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:24b-26 ESV)
And with these words our Lord commands all believers to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of His return in glory. God graciously declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
PRAYER (COMMUNION SERVERS COME FORWARD)
Father, we give you thanks for Your Son, Jesus. For His obedience and suffering during His life on earth, and for His giving up of His body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are pardoned through His blood and may Your perfect love drive out all fear. Fill our minds with Your peace and turn our eyes to Heaven, where Christ is at Your right hand interceding for us. Enable us to offer up ourselves in service to You and to all Your children. Let no trouble or sorrow distract us from this loving service, and unite us with each other through Your Spirit so we continue in the living hope of our Savior's coming in glory. Amen.
At this time, ushers will be passing trays with the bread and the cup down your rows. You may take the bread immediately, but hold on to the cup, which we will all drink together.
Let’s feast on God’s grace together.
PRAYER (TRANSITION FOR WORSHIP TEAM)
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, in Your wisdom, You have made all things and You sustain them by Your power. You formed us in Your image, setting us in this world to love and serve You, and to live in peace with one another. When we rebelled against You — refusing to trust and obey You — You did not reject us, but still claimed us as Your own. Then in the fullness of time, out of Your great love for us, You sent Your only Son to be one of us, to redeem us, to heal our brokenness, to cleanse us from our sin, and to defeat our greatest enemies of Satan, sin, death, and Hell. And now, You call us Your sons and daughters. In response to these great truths, we now praise You in song together. Amen.
BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: Have felt isolated, alone, need assurance of God’s power and presence)
May you go running to Jesus — trusting in His unmatched power. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.