Running With Mark 29

Day Twenty-Nine – January 26, 2020  

Read: Mark 5:1-20 New Revised Standard Version

Here is some background that will help put Mark 5:1-20 in context.

  • Region of the Gerasenes – was an area outside of the holy land. It was made up of a group of cities called the Decapolis which means 10 cities.  The region was populated by Gentiles, non-Jewish people.  Keep in mind that Mark’s gospel is geared toward non-Jewish and Jewish listeners.  By including this story, Mark is including them.
  • Immediately – there’s that word again. Not only does Jesus move fast, people who approach him do too.
  • Tombs – For a Jewish person, any contact with a dead body, or a graveyard rendered them “unclean” or “contaminated”.
  • Unclean spirit – this man tries to harm himself with stones. He was so strong that he broke through the chains that held him, and no-one could subdue him.


New Testament scholar N.T. Wright provides one interpretation of the scene.

Why Jesus went to that bit of territory we’ll never know.  But what he did was not only dramatic; it was deeply symbolic. Many in the area, Jews and non-Jews alike, must have longed to see the Romans pushed back into the Mediterranean Sea.  If they read books like Daniel, they would (as we saw earlier) understand the sea as the place where the monsters came from – and the monsters were like cartoon characters standing for the big hitters on the world’s political scene.  Rome was the Monster of all monsters.  Rome was unclean.  Rome was a nation of pigs.  The best place for Rome was back in the sea.


So what was going to happen when the man who was announcing God’s kingdom, God’s sovereign rule over all human rule, came face to face with someone obsessed, and ‘possessed’, by Rome and her unclean legions?  God’s kingdom is to bring healing, restoring justice to Israel and the world.  If unclean beings are fouling up human lives, the answer is plain.  Into the sea with them.


But it’s not as easy as that.  Again Mark is telling us to look at the bigger story.  At the climax of Mark’s story Jesus himself will end up naked, isolated, outside the town among the tombs, shouting incomprehensible things as he is torn apart on the cross by the standard Roman torture, his flesh torn to ribbons by the small stones in the Roman lash.  And that, Mark is saying, will be how the demons are dealt with.  That is how healing takes place.  Jesus is coming to share the plight of the people, to let the enemy do its worst to him, to take the full force of evil on himself and let others go free.[1]


Questions to ponder:

  • Do you think the disciples were afraid of the man with the unclean spirit? Was Jesus afraid of him?
  • What do you suppose the day in-day out life of this man was like living among the tombs?
  • How does the healing take place?
  • What do you make of the unclean spirit being driven into pigs, an animal considered to be unclean by Jews?
  • What do you think was the swine herder’s response to having his large herd of pigs driven into the sea? Was he mad? Amazed? Confused? Broke now that his resource was gone?
  • What was the reaction of the crowd when they saw the man, now fully clothed and in his right mind?
  • Why do you think the begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood?



Who Am I? by Casting Crowns

Call on Jesus by Nicole C. Mullen


Prayer Focus:

Jesus continually goes out of his way to be with people who were different, people who were outsiders.  Do you stay in your comfort zone?  Take a step and immerse yourself in a culture that is different than your own.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] Wright, T. (2004). Mark for Everyone. London: Westminster John Knox Press, pp.56-57.