Deeper // Mark 5: Tomb Raider

Deeper Mark 5

The heart behind these posts is to explore the bible together, and to try and apply what it says to our lives, to genuinely let the Word of God affect us on a Monday as well as a Sunday.

For the next sixteen weeks we will be looking each week at a chapter of Mark. I would encourage you to read through the whole chapter at least once as well as the specific chunks we’ll be focusing on.

Mark is the shortest of the four gospels that show the life of Jesus. It is the action film, it is fast and punchy.

Mark 5

Every town has one. You know, a crazy person.

They’re badly dressed, you can smell them a mile off and their hair, well that’s just not worth mentioning. We tend to stay away from them, cross the road when they are walking towards us and awkwardly shuffle away when they try to speak to us. But in reality, none compare to a person who is demon-possessed.

In Mark 5, Jesus encounters this very person. Picture it, this guy lives in a graveyard, it seems his friends and family want nothing to do with him and in Luke’s account we are told he doesn’t even wear any clothes. It gets worse…The guy is violent, people have tried to chain him down, stop all this madness but he is just too strong. We are told that he would break free and could be heard crying from the tombs day and night. Self-harm seemed like the only way of escape so he would cut himself with stones.

It’s sad really, he’s the sort of guy I would pray for but wouldn’t dare approach. Let’s be honest, I don’t think any of us would. But Jesus does. When Jesus steps onto the shore, we read that this nut runs towards him. If I was Jesus I would get on the boat! Instead, he stands his ground and the madman drops to his knees before Jesus, who commands the demon to leave this man alone. The man begs in desperation ‘Please, for God’s sake don’t torture me! Have I not suffered enough?’ Jesus, gently asks ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Legion’ the madman replies, ‘because of the amount of demons in me.’

Before we know it, we see Jesus casting the demons into a herd of 2000 pigs which rush down the mountain side into the lake before drowning.

Jesus the bully?

Wow, you really couldn’t write this stuff. Out of all drama, I can’t get rid of one thought. Not that this man ran to Jesus. It’s not that Jesus spent time with this low life. It’s not even that the darkness within him was able to kill a herd of pigs (the most unclean animal in Jewish culture). It’s Legion’s reaction to Jesus. ‘Please, don’t hurt me.’ This man genuinely thought Jesus wanted to make him suffer.

Let’s be clear, God is a God of justice, the Bible tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23). On top of this we are told that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin deserves to be punished and one day it will be. If we are outside of Christ the wrath of God is upon us.

But surely this man had not grasped who Jesus really was. We look at Jesus’ life and see that he did nothing but good, he fed the poor, healed the sick, loved the outcast and raised the dead on top of other amazing things. Jesus is the first person you would call on if you were in this guy’s situation, not the last! Right?


The more I think about this madman, the more I feel I can relate with him.

Before becoming a Christian I viewed Jesus as legalistic, judgemental and that by following him I would suffer and lose out on the things I enjoyed in life. I could often hear myself saying, ‘Jesus don’t torture me, just leave me alone!’ It wasn’t until I experienced his grace and his love through his forgiveness that I was able to see that Jesus didn’t kick a man when he is down, he doesn’t point a finger of judgment but instead gives a helping hand up.

I’m ashamed to say that even as a Christian I can relate with Legion. Sometimes when I sin I’m afraid of facing Jesus, I’m afraid to draw close because I might disappoint him and I’m afraid that I might not be working hard enough for him.

You see, that’s a madman’s mind-set. Thinking that Jesus has come to hurt me when the reality is that he was hurt for me, taking my guilt, shame and sin on Calvary’s cross. Jesus doesn’t come to put chains on us like many tried to do with Legion, but instead he comes to release us from them.

Jesus doesn’t come to put chains on us ... but instead he comes to release us from them. Click To Tweet

The story finishes with Jesus sending this maniac turned missionary out to share what God has done for him in the surrounding towns. This madman now went out to try and turn men mad for Jesus. If Jesus could transform and use Legion, who’s saying he can’t do the same with you? We are set free to share this message of liberation!

The same way every town has one crazy guy, each town needs one person who is crazy for Jesus.

GarethThis post was written by Gareth Carrothers, a placement student from Belfast who joined us. He also recorded a podcast while he was here. If you want to read more Deeper posts, they are all here.

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  • Paul

    This is an interesting post and it’s good to see the issue of demonisation hasn’t been whitewashed over. Although some Christians see demons under every rock and behind every sneeze, there is a strong trend in the Western church to write off the Biblical accounts of demonic oppression as an old fashioned way of describing mental illness….which not only puts fear into those who suffer from clinical issues (thinking they’re possessed by demons when they may just have a physiological condition) but also potentially disarms the church from one of it’s clear mandates to drive out demons when they are encountered.

    However I do think some of the conclusions (although doctrinally sound) have been drawn from an incorrect reading of the text. The fear and appeal to Jesus not to torture is in response to his command “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” We surely have to conclude that it’s the demons speaking out of fear, not the oppressed man; it is also the demons who identify as Legion.

    Although the man may well have been afraid of Jesus, the inference from the text is that he was so oppressed by demons he was out of his mind and not really in control of himself. Looking at the context of this particular text I don’t think the responses can be attributed to him with any degree of confidence.

    Also, the text does not state that Jesus “gently” asked for the name, neither is it implied. The text simply states that Jesus asked the question. The author is embellishing the text with speculation from his own imagination to make a point which isn’t good exegesis.

    This article comes across as an attempt by the author to make a predetermined point rather than engaging with the text and drawing an application from it. It looks like he has started at the end, decided what point he is trying to make and then tried to find a way through this text to reach it. I’m sorry if this comes across as splitting hairs but there is a danger is these relativist days to make Scripture say what we want it to say…although thankfully on this occasion there’s no harm done as there’s nothing doctrinally wrong with the conclusions.

    • Dave Criddle

      Hi Paul, thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. It’s good to do that in community!

      I think I understand what you’re saying (forgive me if I’ve misunderstood). I certainly agree that in the dialogue the demons themselves are vocal. But I also think the man himself is speaking as well. The way Mark lays out the dialogue, he at times says ‘he says’ and at times ‘the unclean spirits begged’, etc. I believe there is reason to think we hear a mixture of voices here – with the line between the man and the demons within being very blurred.

      With that in mind, I think both are fearful of Jesus. I absolutely agree that the demons are afraid of being cast out (and of being in the presence of Jesus at all). But I also believe the man, in his corrupted state and his mind being twisted by the demonic, is afraid of Jesus. His mind has been so distorted that what Jesus means for good and for his healing is seen as scary and for his harm. Which is where Gareth then goes on to speak about fear of what Jesus wants to do in and for us when really it is a gift.

      I do believe both are going on in the passage. Clearly Gareth has focused on one instead of the other, but the purpose of these posts is not to give a full exegesis of a text, but rather to take one or two strands and see what God might want to say through them into our context.

      I don’t see what you say as splitting hairs. I manage this site, and I take seriously what gets put up here. I hope in my response you see that biblical thought and a desire to be faithful have informed my thinking, too. Every blessing to you 🙂

      • Paul

        Thanks Dave….yes I see your point. Your explanation that both are acting within the dialogue is certainly in line with the text.

        As you say the issue of who is speaking / acting when dealing with the demon-oppressed can be blurred. There is a perception that demonic oppression turns an individual into a
        type of puppet (a bit like the Borg from Star Trek if you’re into scifi) who basically has no control over their actions but perhaps this understanding has come more from movies like the Exorcist than Scripture!

        Your explanation of a person who is still making decisions but whose mind has become so corrupted and twisted by the demonic is probably more accurate.

        • Dave Criddle

          Thanks Paul – completely agree! And glad my clarification was helpful and satisfying.

          I also found your comments about the distinction between mental health and demonic activity very helpful. It’s a really worrying thing when someone’s mental health condition is written off as a ‘spiritual’ condition. But it’s also important we don’t forget there are dark spiritual forces at work which we must be aware of.