20230205 Testify About Him
Mark 5:1-20 NET
1 So they came to the other side of the lake, to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 Just as Jesus was getting out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came from the tombs and met him. 3 He lived among the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For his hands and feet had often been bound with chains and shackles, but he had torn the chains apart and broken the shackles in pieces. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Each night and every day among the tombs and in the mountains, he would cry out and cut himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him. 7 Then he cried out with a loud voice, “Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by God — do not torment me!” 8 (For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of that man, you unclean spirit!”) 9 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 He begged Jesus repeatedly not to send them out of the region. 11 There on the hillside, a great herd of pigs was feeding. 12 And the demonic spirits begged him, “Send us into the pigs. Let us enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. So the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs. Then the herd rushed down the steep slope into the lake, and about two thousand were drowned in the lake. 14 Now the herdsmen ran off and spread the news in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man sitting there, clothed and in his right mind — the one who had the “Legion” — and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen what had happened to the demon-possessed man reported it, and they also told about the pigs. 17 Then they asked Jesus to leave their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat the man who had been demon-possessed asked if he could go with him. 19 But Jesus did not permit him to do so. Instead, he said to him, “Go to your home and to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you, that he had mercy on you.” 20 So he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him, and all were amazed.
In today’s text, Jesus encountered a man who had some serious psychological problems. That much we can all agree on. He was a lunatic who was a danger to himself and to the whole region where he lived. That was obvious. But according to the Bible, the source of this man’s problems was that he had been dominated by a host of demons. He was a demoniac. There are lots of people who will not accept that explanation for the man’s problem. Jesus was apparently not one of those folks. He spoke to those demons and he commanded them to leave the man. He set the man free not by counseling him but by confronting his captors.
I am also one of those people who takes this story literally. I know demons exist because I also have had experiences where people I know have been dominated by them. I could not afford the luxury of believing that they don’t exist. I also believe that what the Bible says about anything is true. So, I’m not going to spend time today trying to convince you that what Mark wrote about here is true. I may not be able to convince anyone that something is true if they have not experienced it themselves.
My purpose today is to focus on the command of Christ that appears in the text. After he delivered the man from the demons, he told the man to go to his home and his people and testify about what the Lord had done for him. In every story about Jesus, there is always some element with which every one of us can relate. We may not have had a legion of demons inside us. We may not have experienced the supernatural power of God releasing us from that bondage and possessing two thousand frightened pigs. But each of us who has had an experience with Christ has been given a mission from him. Jesus doesn’t send most people off to preach in distant lands. For most people, the mission he gives them is to go back to where they came from and testify about him.
But what do you say if you want to testify. You want to be a witness for Christ, but how do you go about doing that? I think today’s text can give us some valuable advice on how to testify about what Jesus has done for us.
Testify about how you lived before you met Christ (3-5).
“Hello, my name is Legion. You folks probably don’t recognize me, but you’ve seen me before. If you go down to the seashore, you will note that there is a section of caves in a certain spot. Some people use those caves to bury their dead. Lots of people don’t want to come near those caves because they hear screaming coming from them at night. I used to live in those caves. Yeah, I’m the guy.
I called myself Legion because I was possessed by so many demons. A legion has a few thousand soldiers in it. I also remember all the violence and suffering and murders committed by the Roman legions. I caused the same kind of disruption. I hurt others when they came too close, but I also hurt myself. People tried to keep me from doing this, but I always broke free. No one could control the hatred and evil inside of me.”
Hello, my name is Jeff. My own story is not as dramatic as that of the demoniac, but when I was growing up, I can remember doing things that I knew were wrong, and not even knowing why. The fact that I had more control over my life did not mean I was totally free. I wanted to be free, but I needed help to get free. That help came from Jesus.
Testify about how you feared the judgement of Christ (6-7).
“Hello, my name is Legion. When I first met Jesus, I knew who he was. My first impulse was to beg him to leave me alone because I knew who I was too. I knew that what I deserved from him were condemnation and torment and eventual destruction. The demons told me about this coming Messiah who would bring untold suffering to them and the people they possess. I feared that judgment and I feared Jesus.”
Hello, my name is Jeff. My earliest memories of Jesus are not scary. From the church, I learned about the good shepherd who cares for his little lambs. There was nothing to fear from him. Except that I wasn’t always a harmless lamb. I didn’t let people know about it, but there were some people I hated. God knew, and I knew. Most people were surprised when I came down the aisle in church one day. They didn’t think I had done anything to repent of. God knew, and I knew.
Testify about the things that enslaved you before your deliverance by Christ (8-14).
“Hello, my name is Legion. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate everything and everybody – including myself. These beings inside me just took control of my life. I couldn’t even make a decision without them intruding and getting their way. If I ever wanted to love someone, they would turn that in lust. If I ever wanted to help others, they would turn it into selfishness and abuse. I couldn’t even love myself. They would make me hurt myself. I knew I was their slave, but I also knew that there could be no abolition from this slavery.”
Hello, my name is Jeff. My slavery was a little less extreme, but it was still slavery. I was harmless to others, but I was too absorbed in my own life to help them. I wanted my life my way. I was like a harmless little bird, singing in his cage. Jesus set me free so that I could love others, and help them get free too.
Testify about your new love for Christ (15-18).
“Hello, my name is Legion. I cannot describe for you the incredible feeling of freedom and purity I felt the day I watched two thousand pigs take my demons away. I knew it was Jesus who did it. He set me free. For the first time ever, I was in my right mind. I could remember every shameful thing I had done, but for the first time, I felt no shame. I could remember all the hate I had felt toward others, but for the first time, all I felt for others was love. I could remember all the abuse and violence that I had poured out on myself, but for the first time, I was at peace with myself. Jesus did that for me. I had never loved anyone before. That day, I loved Jesus and I wanted to be with him and follow him and serve him. I saw the other men that had been with him. They called themselves his disciples. That’s what I wanted to be. I said to Jesus, “please let me join your disciples.”
Hello, my name is Jeff. I remember the day my love for Jesus led me to declare that he is my Lord and Savior. I also remember the day I discovered that I could show that love by preaching and teaching about him. Over the years, I have endured some very uncomfortable things because of that decision. But if I had to do it over again, I would. Jesus is worth it.
Testify about your new mission from Christ (19-20).
“Hello, my name is Legion. I was so disappointed when Jesus told me that I was not going to go with him on his preaching tours. I wanted to hear him preach, to watch him heal people, and deliver others from bondage the way he had delivered me. But Jesus had other plans for me. My mission was to go home and testify about him. I had not lived at home for a long time. My home had been the tombs. But I did have a home and a family that the demons had taken me away from. Jesus wanted me to go there and show them what he had done for me. Jesus had dealt mercifully with me. Now he wanted me to treat others with that same mercy and compassion.
But I didn’t stop there. I testified in that one city of the miraculous deliverance I experienced from Jesus. Then I went to the next city. The region I live in is called the Decapolis – the ten cities. I went to all ten cities and proclaimed to them what Jesus did for me, and they were all amazed. I became just as famous as a preacher as I had been as a sinner.”
Hello, my name is Jeff. The first mission Jesus gave me was to assist the pastor in my own church. He came from a long distance, so I started filling in for him during the Wednesday services. Then Jesus called me to go to Bible college, and then start pastoring myself. Along the way, he led me into other ministries, including missions work in other countries. I don’t know what his mission will be for me tomorrow. I do know that any mission he calls me to, he will empower me for. When Jesus saves someone, he doesn’t just put another notch on his belt. Those he rescues, he uses to rescue others. If you are not sure where your mission is, just ask him. There is a place where you need to be. There are people who need to hear your testimony. Testify about Him!