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August 16, 2020 12:01 am
The moment Jesus approached a man possessed by a legion of demons, they recognized Him as the "Son of the Most High God" (Mark 5:7). Continuing his exposition of the gospel of Mark, today R.C. Sproul explores this declaration of the deity of Christ.
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Coming up today on Renewing Your Mind, there were no handcuffs strong enough that could keep this man under control. And then his torture. He would scream and cut himself with the stones, adding misery to the misery he already experienced, far worse than the worst condition of any leper in the land.
He was a man who wandered in the tombs possessed by a legion of demons. But Jesus and his disciples arrived on the scene. The demons knew that their days were numbered. This story from the Gospel of Mark is familiar, but is there a lesson for us to learn from this man? Let's join Dr. Arcy sprawl as he picks up his sermon series in Mark Chapter five.
When I look at this account here in the gospel of Mark and the parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke. I can't help but ask a speculative question. Why, in the wisdom of God, the Holy Spirit, so determined to superintend and inspire the record of this event. What purpose is there in this text for us? I'm sure you've heard sermons on this text before and most of them deal with the consequences that come to Christians who put their faith in Jesus, that there is an enormous psychological benefit by which the presence of Christ comes to us stills, the tempest on the sea, as we've already seen, and stills the same violent forces that torture our souls inwardly. But without knowing the mind of the Holy Ghost and why he intended the recording of this dimension in the life of Jesus, nevertheless, I cannot be anything but convinced that the purpose of this narrative is not to give us some exercise in psychological tranquility. It's not about us. I think the purpose of this text, which follows right on the heels of the narrative of Christ calming, of the tempest in the Sea of Galilee. The purpose of this word of God is to reveal to us. The character of Jesus. Just as John told us that his gospel was written, that people might believe in Christ and in Christ have life. So when we look at this narrative this morning, my prayer is that it will increase our understanding.
Of the DHT, of Christ, of the majesty of Christ.
Of the power of Christ. Who created the world. Who conquers all of the forces of chaos. Including the demons of hell. With that in mind, let's look then at the narrative as Mark presents it.
He tells us they went to the other side of the sea. This is following again, the tempest on the sea to the country of the gathering's. Now, sometimes this wretched person who's described here is called the Gathering Demoniac Act because the situation for his miserable existence was in the territory of the gathering's and the other gospels. He's called the Jarocin demoniac because the same region was known by that name. And there are textural variants about the location of this place. And the best guess we have is that it didn't take place in the town of Gamora, nor in Gera Zeine, but in the town named Ghirga Sea, which was excavated as recently as 1970 but was known as early as the third century in the church as a town that was right on the eastern border of the Sea of Galilee in the middle of ten cities that were civilize. So to speak, by gentiles in which there were several Roman garrisons housed in this region of the dark Coppola's the ten cities of the Gentiles. And if you would go to Israel this day and try to find a location that would agree with the description that Mark gives us here. Clearly, this site on the Eastern Shore of the Sea would match that description. But in any case, when Jesus came out of the boat, didn't walk 30 miles to the gaturro, but he meets immediately this man who comes rushing out of the tombs, who is described simply as a man with an unknown, clean spirit.
Now, let me just take a moment to expand on that to a Jew. The worst thing that could happen would be to be declared. Unclean in the presence of God.
If you're a student of the Old Testament, particularly of the Pentateuch, and you read in the Book of Exodus Numbers and Deuteronomy, all of the laws that God legislated to Israel to keep them a holy nation, you will see rule after rule after rule dealing with ceremonial cleanness. And not only is the Old Testament filled with rules and regulations to keep a person's ceremonial clean, but later rabbinic traditions developed that expanded those rules greatly for the Jewish community. We know from the Old Testament.
That for a person to touch a dead body would require that they would have to go through seven days of purification to rid themselves of the uncleanness, the contamination of the touch of death. But that principle was expanded among the Jews to include a requirement for cleansing if you touched any of the accouterments of death. If you touch the beer upon which a body was transported. If you went into a cemetery and touched a gravestone, seven more days of purification were required. And of course, you also understand that the Gentiles, as a group of people, were considered on clean strangers to the covenant of Israel, consigned to the outer darkness outside the scope where the presence of God was focused. Now, if you look at this story, we see four elements of uncleanness that are attached to this miserable person. First of all, Mark tells us he has an unclean spirit, not just one unclean spirit, but a legion of them, as we will see, God willing, in a moment that he's inhabited. By demons. The man is tortured. By the bodily presence of hell itself. And I'll expand on that in a moment, but first of all, he's unclean because of the spirit that dwells in him. Second of all, he lives in the tombs. He doesn't just touch a tombstone. He dwells among the tombs. That's where he lives in the worst of all possible circumstances of uncleanness. His living is among the dead. Thirdly, this takes place in the capitalists, as I mention, in gentile surroundings, which are deemed to be unclean. And fourthly. It takes place in the context where the surroundings are, those of people who are raising pigs. And you remember how unclean pork was to the Jews. One of the reasons why the Samaritans were so despised by the Jews was because when the Jews came back from exile and tried to rebuild the temple, that the Samaritans who despise the Jews of the restoration would come and throw the carcass of pigs in the construction site. Requiring then the Jews to stop building for seven days while they went through the process of purification. And then they would resume the construction of the temple. And the Samaritans would sneak there again in the night for another pig in the mix. Stop this construction for another seven days. And pretty soon the Samaritans had nothing to do with the Jews. The Jews had nothing to do with US demands. And it was principally about pigs. And here this man is living. In the middle of a pig farm. So there are four ways in which he's unclean. He's inhabited by demons. Lives in the cemetery among the gentiles and among the pigs.
Now, in all of scripture, the only person that I can think of who rivals in misery, this unfortunate wretch that comes to Jesus here was Jope. Now, we read these stories. They're so brief. You read a whole book of Joe. You know, all kinds of chapters in the book of Joe. And you get this look into the misery of Jobe and his poor, wretched condition. And so we even use that to say that people today suffer like Jobe and I need a patients of Jobe and so on. But I wonder if even jobe's misery. As dastardly as it was. Whether it really approached the misery of this poor soul. Who was tormented every moment?
By the focused power of Al. Listen to the description that Mark gives about this man. He was dwelling among the tombs. No one could bind him. Even with chains, they tried that they had put him in chains, they'd put him in shackles, but he pulled apart the chains, burst the chains with apparent super human strength.
Broke the shackles and pieces. Neither could anyone subdue him. And the word in the Greek therefore subdue, which my translation rightly renders no one could tame him, was the specific word in the Greek that was used for taming wild and vicious beasts of nature. That this man was a wild man and even the forces that were used to tame ferocious beasts of the field.
Could not subdue him.
There were no handcuffs strong enough, no chains tight enough. That could keep this man under control. And then his unbridled.
He would scream and yell and pick up stones and cut himself with the stones, adding misery to the misery he already experienced, far worse than the worst condition of any leper.
In the land. Always night and day. He was in the mountains. In the Tombs. Crying out, screaming. Cutting himself with stones.
Then one day. This miserable wretch. Saw a man coming in the distance. Whom he knew. Was Jesus.
And this poor demon possessed man rushed to the feet of Jesus, threw himself in the dirt and began to worship Christ and spoke. Listen to the words. He cried out with a loud voice.
What have I to do with you, Jesus, son of the most high. I implore you by God that you do not torment me. Now, here's the question to be honestly, I don't know the answer to this question. Who's speaking here?
Is it the man? Or is it the demons?
If we look at the other gospel records, I think the weight of the evidence indicates that the voice that is crying out that Jesus now is coming from inside the man from the devil's.
And it's not just the natural voice of the poor possessed creature. I don't know that for sure, but there is an element in the account that Matthew gives us that tilts the balance for me in favor of its being a plea from the demons themselves. And let me mention that, first of all, in Mark's record, he says he cried out with a loud voice. What are hard to do with you, Jesus, son of the most high God. I implore you by God that you do not torment me now. Virtually the same words are recorded by Matthew and Luke, with one little exception. Matthew adds this clause before the time. Which I think is critical to understanding everything that unfolds here in this text. And so the voice is crying out. Why are you here? Why are you torturing us? Why are you tormenting us before the time?
What's the big deal about? Before the time? Well, as the text unfolds, we see that the demons in this man try to negotiate with Jesus. Don't torture us.
If you're going to make us leave our host here, this poor creature, send us into the pigs. It's the demon's idea to go into the pigs. And as we will see in a moment. Jesus acquiesces to their request, sends him into the pigs, and you know what happened, the pigs run down over the hill into the sea and are drowned. What does that create, lots of problems for animal rights activists. I've heard professors argue that this particular text shows that Jesus was not sinless because of his wanton destruction of these innocent creatures who were sent to their death because it was by the word of Jesus, by his permission, that these devils from hell can now invade these poor innocent pigs. I think there's better understanding than that. But before we get to that, let me come in some other things. As I said, the other gospel says, don't torture us. Before the time I've told you time and time again that the New Testament makes the distinction between two types of time in Chronos. The normal moment by moment, passage of time. Measured by chronometers or watches. And then there's the concept of time with the word Chi Ross', which refers to a specific moment in time. All chiros takes place in Cronos, but not all Crohn orses. Guy Raz, just like in our language, everything that happens is historical. But not everything that happens is historic. We save that word historic for something that takes place in time. That is of lasting significance. And so the Bible talks about history not only in terms of the moment by moment, changing of the hour and the day and the week and the year. But are those specific moments in time? That are pregnant with meaning the exodus was Israel's greatest, Cairo's greatest chirot moment. It was the time of their deliverance. The birth of Jesus was the long awaited moment or our we talked about this with respect to Jesus in the gospel of John speaking about his hour coming, his chiros, his moment. We see the demons of hell. Understood that in the timetable of God, in his providence, in his plan of redemption, God had appointed a day. When Satan would be bound, all of the forces of hell would be crushed once and for all so that every junior great demon, every disciple of Satan knew what Satan knew, that their days were numbered. And when the Messiah would come in any confrontation, the demonic world would have no equality with the power of the Messiah. When they met, it was no contest.
But they lived in mortal fear of that moment in history when all of their demonic activity would be over once and for all.
And they knew. That it wasn't yet. What a time.
For their demonic activity to be ended, they know it. And somebody else it.
Even though Jesus had power over them, could liberate this poor wretch, Jesus also knew that all things were in his father's time and the time for the final conquest of the satanic world was not yet. And so they're afraid that Jesus is going to pull the switch before time. And they say, why are tormenting us, torturing us before the time?
Look, you can't do that, jus. Well, Jesus knows that. And this explains the negotiation. No, Jesus could have said, come out of this poor man and sent the demons into the pit forever. He had the power to do that, but it wasn't time yet. But while it was time for. Was the redemption. Of this poor, possessed human being. Now, the other point I want you to see in the call of the demons to Jesus is how they addressed him. I mentioned to you earlier that it was the Demons who were the first one to recognize the true identity of Jesus and hear the demons cry out. Why do you come to torment us? Why do you come to torture us? Oh, son of the most high God.
What I love about that phrase is not simply that Jesus is acknowledged to be the son of God. But they're acknowledging out of their pagan gentile world. That they're meeting now with the sun.
Of the most high God.
One of the great discoveries of 19th century and 20th century studies of world religions, comparative religion and the sociology of religion Chronicle, for example, by the two most impressive scholars of that ilk in the 20th century, Heinrich Kramer and Mercedes Ealey, a day if they both agreed that in the study of cultures, in primitive societies, that even in cultures that are animistic, that have a God in every tree and every bee and every cow on every totem pole, that despite this crude and crass polytheism.
There is deeply rooted in the memory of the tribes.
A hazy understanding. Of the God who lives on the other side of the mountain.
When they begin to explore this, the sociologist of religion discovered that there was this in their eradicable idea in every tribe and every time a nation of one God.
Who was most?
But the idea of monotheism is not strictly found with the Egyptians or the Hebrews. But it is implicit in every world religion, even one who are daily given to polygamy, still have this idea. Of one God that transcends all the other gods.
Who's the most high God?
So this gentile and demons. Come to Jesus and say you are the son.
Of the most high God.
As I said at the beginning. I'm convinced the purpose of this text is not to tell us how to have tranquility when we're bothered by Tempus in this world. But it's to let us know who Jesus is. That he is the son of the most high God. I don't think it's by accident that Mark has arranged his book in a literary function, that the very thing that preceded this was Christ power over nature. When he stills The Tempest.
Now he's stoles the violence of this man who was assaulted by Al, only the son of the most high God.
Has that kind of power, that kind of authority, whom even the storm, the winds, the ocean obey and the demons from hell. Trimble.
Over and over again, Jesus proved to be who he claimed to be the son of God, the Messiah. What a wonderful message today from Dr. Arcy sprawl. You're listening to the Lord's Day edition of Renewing Your Mind. And I'm glad you're with us. RCA will return next Sunday to finish up this story. This is part of his sermon series from the Gospel of Mark. And we're offering a resource that we think is a helpful study companion to this series. It's our C's commentary on Mark's gospel. This nearly 400 page hardbound volume provides you with Dr. Sproles insight into every passage you can go online and request this commentary with your gift of any amount. Our Web address is Renewing Your Mind, dot org. We need to be reminded that Jesus controls The Tempest and the Demons, Stateway, the global health scare and social unrest that we've experienced to have shown us that what society takes for granted can be upended in a moment. And the moral compass for most of the world has been lost. In fact, Arcy used to say that our world is not unlike that of the first century Roman Empire. But Jesus told the people of that day, and by extension us as well, not to worry about tomorrow. Truth like that comforts us. And that's why we bring you the timeless truth of God's word here on Renewing Your Mind. And when you support Ligate Air Ministries, you help ensure that this work continues to reach as many people as possible around the world. We're grateful for your support.
Well, as I mentioned, next week, Dr. Sprawl will continue this story of the demon possessed man.
And here's a preview. They recognize this person who lived in the tombs, cut himself with stones seated, clothed in his right mind. And so they decided to have a party. Let's invite Jesus. No, not on your life. How does Mark describe their reaction? They were afraid. We'll hear that part of the story next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind.