Good morning. How’s everybody doing? Good, good, good. I’m so glad to be here with you all. I love and respect your church. I just praise God for all the good work that he’s doing here. Alright, now I’m going to need ya’ll to say amen a little bit, okay? Amen? Okay. Now, see, if you just look stoic, I won’t know if you understand what I’m saying, okay? So, we’re going to play a little back and forth, okay? Amen? All right. That’s good practice!
So, when Pastor Peter had asked me to preach, I was like, “Yeah!” He said some verse in Mark. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t look at it until this week. And then I was like, “Oh, snap!” So, ya’ll pray for me, okay? This is not the easiest text to preach, but I do believe that it has instruction and good news for us this morning. And we can expect that of every text of the Scriptures.
The question I want you to have on your mind as we jump in the text is: How does Jesus respond to evil? How does Jesus respond to evil? Even more so, how does Jesus respond to oppressive evil — evil that seems to entrap, evil that seems to press down and hold people in bondage. How does Jesus respond to that?
The good news is that he comes to defeat evil and free his people. The first thing we see is that Jesus goes to free the oppressed. Verse 1 says, “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.” Now, if you remember from the last chapter, whose idea was it to go over there? Jesus. It was his idea to go to the other side of the sea. And we know that Jesus has perfect foreknowledge, and he knew full well where he was going, what he would encounter, how he would encounter evil, oppression. And not only that, when he would heal and deliver this man, he would encounter rejection from the people of that area. He knew full well what he would encounter, and he came anyway. He came anyway.
This is a microcosm of the gospel. We understand that the eternal Word of God looked down from heaven and saw us in our mess, saw us entrapped in evil, saw oppression wreaking havoc in our world. And he knew that if he would come, he would be rejected. He knew that if he would come, he would end up on a cross. He knew that if he would come, he would speak true and beautiful words, and people would shrug their shoulders. But beloved, he came anyway. That’s the God that we serve. He knew that he would encounter spiritual evil and rejection, yet he came anyway. It reminds me of Philippians 2:6-7 when it says,
“Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
Beloved, our perfect Savior, the one who knew no sin, knew no suffering, knew no need, came down into the bondage of our broken world so that we would be free.
You can go on and look at verse 2 and you see the spiritual evil causes many kinds of oppression. Look at verse 2.
“And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 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. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.”
This story rubs against our modern sensibilities. You know, we don’t really think about spiritual evil that much. We attribute evil to maybe they made a bad decision, or that’s just a rotten apple. But this scripture runs against that sensibility and reminds us that there is real spiritual evil, that there is real oppression. This is not a fable, not a story that has been made up. And beloved, if we were to pay attention to the world, we would see countless examples of untold evil. Right now, right now in the western part of China, there are concentration camps created to eradicate and oppress a people group called the Uighurs. That’s now, today. They’re doing forced sterilizations and all types of surveillance. And you can’t look at that and say, “Well, that’s just a bad apple.” You can’t look at that systematic evil and think, “Well, that’s just a bad actor.” No, beloved, that is spiritual evil.
I was reading in the news last month that in a church in Ethiopia, there were 800 people killed in and around a church. They weren’t doing anything but worshiping. You can’t look at this untold evil… We in America, I feel like a lot of times we live a very sanitized life, and we’re very far away from the reality of suffering in this world.
One of the reasons we planted the church in the area that we did is we wanted to plant a church among the poor. And so, we looked on the map, we found the highest concentration in Greenville County. And we’ve been there for 3-4 years and I’ve seen some stuff, y’all. With my own eyes, I have seen people die on the streets. I have spoken with people who have been trafficked. I have been in the drug houses. And when you’re around it, you’re not just like, “Well, you know, maybe that’s some bad people.” No, it’s oppression. I’ve spoken to people who logically understand the end of the road. If you continue down this road, you are going to die. And they will say, “Well, that’s true, but I can’t stop.”
Beloved, spiritual oppression is real. And we see the different manifestations that can happen in this passage. One of the things that sticks out to you, I don’t know if you remember that this demon-possessed man was really strong, breaking chains. Now, I don’t know the story, the back story, but I imagine when this oppression first started, that man probably liked being strong. Who doesn’t want to be strong? But I can tell you, people who do business with evil because of the power it gives, they eventually become drunk on power. They become illogical. I’ve seen this. And we’ve seen the history of it. The last century, when there was a dictator everywhere, if you read their biography it wasn’t just that they were smart, they were crazy, literally crazy. They did business with evil and became crazy and thought it was worth it because of some perceived benefit.
Not only that, we can see that spiritual evil has the aim and the goal of isolation. Remember, that man lived in the graveyards by himself. Nobody wanted to be next to him. See, we were created for community, yet Satan seeks to isolate and to destroy.
We can see this in the first sin when Eve is in the garden, and the serpent speaks to her, and everybody goes, “Where is Adam?” We can see this in how … I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced depression or anxiety, but it is so much worse when you’re by yourself. You start thinking these illogical, depressing thoughts. But beloved, if you would be honest with those who are in your community, those thoughts and the anger and the anxiety will begin to be disarmed. We were made to be together, but oppressive evil isolates us and puts us against one another.
Not only that, but oppressive evil is self-destructive. Spiritual evil’s ultimate aim is the destruction of God’s prized creation — humanity. And if you follow the chain of evil, at the end you will see destruction every single time. You follow the chain of greed, and you get sweatshops and hunger pains. You follow the chain of lust, and you get trafficking and abuse. You follow the chain of hate, and you get violence and murder.
This is the aim and the goal of spiritual evil. But we have a Savior who has authority. Jesus has authority over spiritual evil. Look at verse 6. It says,
“And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 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.’ For he was saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ And Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion, for we are many.’ And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.”
See, this demon or demons had this recognition of the authority of Jesus and a recognition that there would be a final judgment. And they said, “Hey, is it time yet?” Immediately, instantaneously, this spiritual evil that wreaked such havoc in this man and in this community recognized the authority of Jesus. Immediately!
Now, sometimes when I read the text, I try to imagine myself on the sidelines. Because you can read it, you know, like it is on the page. I’m sitting there. I’m watching Jesus. This dude is rolling around on the ground saying craziness: “You’re the Most High God.” And that’s the same dude that’s been breaking chains and cutting himself. And I’m sitting there going, “What is going on?” It’s almost as if the demons are throwing a temper tantrum. Some of ya’ll got kids. You know what that’s like. I’m not saying your kid’s got demons, okay? I’m just saying, “You’re being illogical right now. You’re wilin’.” When spiritual evil shows up, it seems to throw a little bit of a tantrum. Again, we have the temptation to see this text merely as symbolic or metaphorical. But ya’ll, I have seen a person afflicted with a demon act crazy. I have gotten a call saying, “Pastor, my son is doing flips and punching walls. Can you come?” I say, “I’ll be there,” and then I call my assistant like, “You’re coming too!” I ain’t going by myself! Oh no. Oh no.
I’ve seen people shake, and I’ve seen — literally seen — people slither. I’ve seen them do strange things because of the oppression of the demonic. It’s like the demons, they kind of want to scare you. They want you to trip out and make you all afraid. And I imagine that part of this was the tactic of fear of the demonic. But beloved, I’ve seen the power of Jesus in those moments too, where in the name of Jesus we say, “Go,” and it goes.
Now, this is a mini message within a message. I don’t encourage you to go hunting for demons, because that’s not the biblical example. You don’t see Jesus or the apostles walking up to people like: “You look normal, but you might have a demon.” No, that’s not what’s going down. Usually they’re going about, walking, preaching the gospel, and something starts wilin’ out. Someone starts yelling, and they’re like, “Okay, well, I guess we better address this now.”
He demonstrates his authority. Jesus has power over these things. Again, I imagine from a fleshly perspective, you’re standing on the sidelines, this man is on the floor yelling. He says, “I’ve got a legion. I’ve got a whole army of demons.” And you look at Jesus, who from all perspectives, looks like a regular man, and he’s probably like, “I don’t know who will win this.” In fact, there was kind of a bit of a power play going on in the conversation. It kind of comes out strange because Jesus says, “What is your name?” Why did he ask what the name is? What does that matter? Why did he say, “What is your name?” Now, I don’t know if you ever been in a conversation or if you’ve ever seen a conversation between a superior and a subordinate. If the subordinate is asking a bunch of questions, what does the superior do? “It’s not your role to ask the questions. I ask the questions.” Jesus is saying, “No, no, no. Don’t be worried about what I’m going to do. What’s your name? What are you about to do?” Jesus is asserting his authority. In other words, he’s saying, “You report to me. You don’t call the shots out here.”
Now we see the story in verse 11, it gets a little strange. So, we need to just park there a minute. But what we can learn is that spiritual evil gravitates towards compromise. Look at verse 11.
“Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they [the demons] begged him, saying, ‘Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.’ 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.”
And everybody goes, “What? What is going on again?” Now, to give us some context, we need to understand something about Old Testament ritual law. In the Old Testament, there is a regulation for every aspect of life. Every aspect of life was regulated. Why? It was to teach us that all of our life is lived before God. There’s not an aspect of life that’s separate. There’s not a part that you can put in a corner that he doesn’t have authority over. And one of the things is that Old Testament law extended to what they ate. Pigs were on the “no-no” list. Thank God it ain’t no more. But Pigs was on a “no-no” list. That’s another story. Now what you need to know about the area that Jesus was in was the fact that they had a bunch of pigs is like Jewish code word for they did not care about God. We can do what we want to do. We don’t care. We don’t care about his rules. We don’t care about his regulations. We are just going to do what we want to do. And the demons seem to like that area. We don’t want to leave. We like the area where they don’t care about God. We like the area where they can just do what they want to do because we can do what we want to do. See, this teaches us, this teaches us that spiritual purity and holiness is actually a weapon of spiritual warfare. Spiritual purity and holiness is a weapon of spiritual warfare because the spiritual evil gravitated towards that compromise. But you’ll notice that the one who was most holy, Jesus Christ, when he comes on the scene, they go, “Oh, snap! We’ve got to get out of here.” A major way to defeat spiritual evil is by seeking holiness.
Now I’m going to be real, some of ya’ll trifle with holiness. Some of ya’ll think it’s optional, think it’s oppressive. Why do I have to do this or that? Beloved, Jesus is seeking your protection. Jesus does not want you out there compromising, doesn’t want you to be attracted to that which is evil. Because he loves you, he instructs you in holiness for your protection and for the protection of those around you. This is why we keep a careful watch over ourselves. We keep a careful watch over those whom we are in community with, because the reality is that your secret pleasures can open the door for oppression. Every single time I have encountered somebody who has been oppressed by a demon, it’s not random. There’s compromise, there’s dabbling in this or that. We need to understand holiness and purity is not a game, and it’s not optional. It’s for our good. And so, we seek holiness as an act of spiritual war. And beloved, we are accountable to one another as an act of spiritual war. We address our neighbor, and we address those in our community with love because we care. People aren’t just trying to be in your business to be in your business. Listen, if I love you, I will tell you the truth because I want you to be protected.
We jump down to verse 14, and we learn this, that people compromise with evil for temporary good. Look at verse 14.
“The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the [man] who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.”
Now listen, why would they tell Jesus to go away? That does not make any sense. Jesus obviously, is the one who has spiritual power. Jesus obviously is the one who can set people free. Why are they like, “Well, you can go on to the next town now.” That doesn’t make sense! Look at what he did to the man, how he was clothed and in his right mind. Surely, the people of that town had memories of him acting crazy. Surely, they remembered how he used to roam graveyards and cut himself. Surely, they would have been like, “This is awesome!” But instead of saying “this is awesome,” instead of saying, “Jesus, can you stay and do some more stuff,” instead of saying “I’ve got this crazy uncle, Jesus can you go talk to him,” instead of saying any of that, they said, “Jesus, go on somewhere.” See, the change in this man who has been delivered is evident. Why would they not rejoice?
The reality is, when those pigs drowned, they saw money drown. They didn’t just have two thousand pigs as pets. That would be weird, right? No, that’s livestock. That’s money. They were trying to sell them, trying to breed them to get more. And they said, “Oh man, the cost of having Jesus here delivering people means we are going to lose money. So, Jesus, we need you to go elsewhere because we can’t be losing no more money.” Listen, what temporary good do we use to validate our compromise? I just need to relax. This calms me down. It’s just this one time. What things do we tell ourselves that we say, “Well, this good, this feeling, this high is worth this compromise. Jesus, if you only knew how much it would cost me if I didn’t.”
I remember when I was a missionary in East Asia, I had a friend, and he was one of the only open Christians that I knew about. And I worked at a school with him. I remember one time we were talking, and he said, “Do you know that I make the lowest salary possible at the school? And do you know that they will never promote me, and I will never make more than I make? And do you know (He was just being honest), do you know that I literally can’t afford to have a wife because of this? No one will date me because I don’t have enough money.” And I said, “Why? What’s going on?” He said, “Because they know I’m a Christian. I’m not a secret Christian, I’m public with it.” I said, “But is it worth it? How do you feel about that?” And he said, “Did not Jesus say, ‘If you deny me before men, I will deny you before the Father?’” Now, he could have made, in our view, a legitimate compromise. Maybe he could have kept it on the down low, got promoted. But no. He said, “No, I will not compromise.” Beloved, what temporary good do we use to validate our compromise?
In verse 18 we go on to see that Jesus sends free people on mission. Look at verse 18.
“As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘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 he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.”
Now, if you think about this question, it seems pretty reasonable. Can I be with you? You just freed me; I’ve experienced something I’ve never experienced with anybody else. Doesn’t it seem like a pretty logical … Can I just stay with you? Where are you going? I want to be there. Why would Jesus say no? Right? But here’s the truth, Jesus frees us so that we can testify about his goodness. Jesus frees us so that we can go and testify about his grace, about his mercy.
There’s this one scripture that really is interesting to me. In Acts 1, as Jesus is about to ascend, and he’s talking to the disciples that are there, and he’s like, “Hey, [Acts1:8] go be witnesses.” That’s the message. Right? So, then he ascends, and they’re just standing there looking at the sky. And an angel comes and says, “What are you doing?” They’re like, “Well, he just … Did you see that?” And the angel says, “You need to go on and wait for the Spirit so you can get on mission.”
Listen, there is a carnal spirituality that is just consumerism. We can always look at the other church, whoever they are, are they more consumers? No listen, we can consume good things. We can be consumers of theology. We can be consumers of prayer meetings. But beloved, if it does not send you on mission, it is still being a consumer. I’ve talked to people who are geniuses in theology, but they ain’t sharing the gospel with nobody. Don’t let the goodness of the request disguise the consumerism that is at the heart. Beloved, we must be careful. We see Jesus who frees his people to testify. Our spiritual freedom is not just for us. If Jesus has done something in your life, if he has freed you from the oppression of the enemy and the weight of your own sins, beloved, it is for the praise of his glorious grace that you would testify. And I love that at the end of the verse it says that “They marveled.” He began to tell his friends, and they marveled of the freedom that testifies to the glory of God. And this man, who was once oppressed, isolated, and self-destructive, became a trophy of God’s grace that led other people to look at the goodness of the God who freed him.
Now, what I love is that what Jesus has done in this passage, it’s a foreshadowing of what he will do. See, Jesus defeated sin and Satan through his death and resurrection. There’s a way in which you can look at the cross. And there’s some validity to this. You can see Jesus as merely a victim. You can go, “Oh, no.” But I want you to understand that Jesus looked at the cross as a warrior. He was not merely a victim. But he went to the cross as an act of spiritual warfare. And beloved, when he died and resurrected, that does not just mean that your sins are forgiven, but that he has defeated Satan and all the demons. I like that.
See Jesus came to the spiritual evil that is in this world. And the reality is that the spiritual evil in this world is due because of our compromise. Right? Go back to the beginning. Adam and Eve compromised; spiritual evil entered this world. And it has been happening over and over and over again. Our compromise — our breaking of the commitments, our not caring about holiness and purity — this compromise has attracted this spiritual evil. But Jesus took the destruction that is due to us on the cross.
If you remember, in the story, you can see that the demonic and spiritual evil causes destruction. When it went to the pigs, what happened to the pigs? They died. They went and drowned. See, the pigs drowning, and Jesus, while he is on the cross, swallows the judgment of God that is due for our sins. He came to wage war. And beloved, when he rose from the dead, he is defeating Satan. Listen to Ephesians 1:20-21. He says,
“He raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, [where?] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come.”
Beloved, when Jesus went to the cross, and when he was resurrected, and when he ascended, he assures for all time his victory over everything that is evil. And guess what? If you believe in him, you’re united to him. And what he has won because of his merit, you get because of grace. He gives us spiritual freedom now.
One of my other favorite chapters is Act 2. I like Acts, okay? I’m a little charismatic. In Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit comes, and they’re praising God and speaking in tongues. And everybody’s like, “What is going on? Y’all been drinking? What are ya’ll doing?” And Peter gets up, and he speaks, and he says, “Listen, what you are seeing and hearing, let me tell you why that’s happening. It’s because Jesus has died, he rose again, he’s seated in heaven, and he has poured out what he has received from the Father, the Spirit. In other words, Peter is saying, “What you’re seeing right here, this activity of the Holy Spirit, this freedom that people are experiencing, that is evidence that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and that he’s ruling and reigning right now.” So beloved, if you have experienced the freedom of the gospel, the deliverance from evil, you are evidence that Jesus is risen and reigning right now.
So, what does this call us to do? It calls us to live as freed people. And there are four ways that we can do that. The first one is that we will be serious about pursuing purity and holiness, that we don’t return to the things that once enslaved you. Or as the proverb says, don’t be like a dog that returns to his vomit. That’s the Bible. Ya’ll looked at me like I was crazy. That’s what it says. We will be serious about that because we wouldn’t want to play with what once enslaved us.
Secondly, that we would be clear and honest about our testimony, that we would incorporate what Jesus has done for us in our regular speech. I remember when I had my first real job after I spent four years at North Greenville. That’s a little Christian bubble. Then I had my real job. How do I tell my friends about Jesus, my coworkers about Jesus? I was trying to strategize and then I realized every Monday everybody was really open with what they did last weekend, whether I thought they should be open about it or not. Take that how you want. Now listen, they say whatever they want to say. Well, I’m going to say what I want to say, too. What did you do? I went to church. What did you do? Just be honest with what happened. Share your life. And beloved, if Jesus is integral to your life, then he will come out. Yes?
Number 3, we will be serious about doing works of justice. Jesus came to free the oppressed. Yes? He came to free those who are bound, who are downtrodden and enslaved and entrapped. I’ve been in the Psalms a lot lately. If you just sit in the Psalms, it’s interesting how much God is just repetitive about how he cares about the oppressed. And beloved, don’t over spiritualize that. There’s a theologian and he talks about the quartet of the downtrodden that you can see repeatedly, the ones whom God says are oppressed. He says the widows, the orphans, the immigrants and the poor. Beloved, if we have been freed from our oppression by Jesus, we go and demonstrate that by doing works of justice for those who are oppressed. It’s a living picture of the gospel that we say we believe.
Lastly, we seek help when we feel like we are under oppression. I talked to Pastor Peter, and I and I want you to know this. If you are experiencing spiritual oppression, if you or somebody in your family is experiencing spiritual oppression, I know that the pastors and the elders here want to minister to you so that the victory that Jesus won with his own blood would be experienced. Beloved, we don’t serve a metaphorical Jesus, and he didn’t give us a metaphorical victory. So beloved, if Jesus has freed you, if Jesus have given you a testimony, then he has sent you to be on a mission so that you can testify about his grace.
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, I thank you so much for your Word, that it guides us, that it governs us. Lord, help us to submit to every jot and tittle in the Scriptures. Lord, I thank you that you drew near to us, the ones who are compromising with spiritual evil. You took the consequences of our sins on the cross. You rose from the grave, and you ascended to the highest heaven. And everything is under your feet, all authority has been given to you. So, Lord, would you use that authority to continue to free your people so they could be testimonies of your grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.