Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 173-181.
Matt. 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-39.
We have still an unfolding of the service of Jesus. In this chapter it is not simply the ministration of the word, with its various hindrances and measures of success as far as God is pleased to work both in quickening power and fruitfulness, and this to the end. Neither is it a picture of the tempest-tossed condition of the disciples, Jesus with them, meanwhile, in their dangers, but apparently heedless till appealed to, yet all through the security of His people.
Now we have another thing, the ministry of Jesus in presence of Satan’s power, and the utter confessed weakness and misery of nature. An instructive lesson, indeed, for not only do we see the all-conquering might of Him who was crucified in weakness, but the extent of the deliverance shown forth in him who was both set free from the thraldom of Satan and who afterwards became the active witness to others of the Lord’s greatness and power to others. It is not merely sin here, or the lusts of the flesh and the world. We know how continually God does save from human violence and corruption and their consequences. In Legion, however, we have, rather, the direct agency of Satan paramount, if not there. As to this, men ordinarily are incredulous; or, if they admit it ever thus acted, they would limit it to the time of Christ on earth. That there may have been a greater rising up of the enemy’s power in opposition to the Son of God when here below is a very different statement, and I believe it; but it is a most erroneous conclusion that his power was then so shattered as a matter of fact that cases of demoniacal possession were never afterward to appear. The New Testament refutes the illusion. After Christ died and rose (and this must have gone in the direction of destroying the energy of Satan further than anything else), He charged His servants to preach the Gospel with this sign accompanying them: “In My name they shall cast out demons.” (Mark 16:17) And so, in the Acts of the Apostles, we find the word confirmed thereby. Sick folks were brought, and persons vexed with unclean spirits; “and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:16). This was after the descent of the Holy Ghost, too; so that this mighty event, following redemption, had not of itself extinguished cases of possession. Nor was this confined to Peter or the other Apostles; but similar power accompanied Philip, the evangelist, at Samaria. “For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed by them; and many that were paralyzed and lame were healed.” I need not dwell on such strong cases as the divining damsel of Philippi, nor that at Ephesus (Acts 19), which the seven sons of Sceva proved to be too real to their cost: they are well known.
The truth is, the great victory of Christ is for faith and the Church’s deliverance and joy, though no doubt it was attested largely to the world in miraculous signs, as it will be applied by-and-by in a power which will bind Satan first, and filially crush him for ever. But in the meantime the Church is the scene where Christ’s victory and power are made good by the Holy Ghost. The world, so far from being made better, is proved to be farther than ever from God, as Satan is proved to be its prince and god in the cross of Christ, but for this very reason the object for the time of the fullest testimony of God’s grace in the name of the Crucified. The Gospel which is sent so abundantly to gather out of the world — mark, not to bless it, but to gather out — treats the world as already condemned, and only awaiting unsparing judgment when Jesus is revealed from heaven. Hence separation from the world49 is the paramount duty of, and only right course for, the Christian. The guilt of the blood of Jesus lies upon it, and the only escape for any soul is by faith in that blood, which, if it bring nigh to God, puts the believer in principle outside and above the world — such is the ground, and seeking, and walk of faith. Hence also, the possible amelioration of the world and of man, as such, is a practical denial of the Gospel, and a deep, though in many cases an unwitting, dishonour to the Lord Jesus. No ignorance justifies the allowance of such thoughts, and the more knowledge of Divine truth there is, the more guilty they are. The grace of God supposes the total ruin of the objects of grace, and the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven will execute Divine vengeance on those who feel not their sin and ruin, and who despise His grace. Mark, then, describes in detail and most graphically the torment of this man with an unclean spirit. “And when he was gone out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man50 with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling in the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains: because he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been torn asunder by him, and the fetters were shattered: and no one could subdue him. And always, night and day, he was in the tombs, and in the mountains,44 crying, and cutting himself with stones.” The solitude of death, the rejection of human restraint and influence, the restlessness and the cruelty of that which possessed him, were most conspicuous, but not less so his recognition of a superior power and glory in Jesus. “When he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped Him, and crying with a loud voice, says,45 What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, torment me not. For he was saying to him, Come out of the man, unclean spirit.”
It is remarkable, by the way, how the man is identified with the unclean spirit, just as now in grace the Holy Spirit blends most intimately with the believer. The man cries, “Torment me not,” though it was a question of dealing with the spirit. So he answers, “My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought Him much that He would not send them46 away out of the country.”
On the other hand, it was of importance to give the distinctest evidence that the dwelling of demons in a man is as certain and real as it is of the utmost gravity. Hence the Lord hears their petition that they should be sent into the great herd of swine51 which was feeding at hand “And immediately47 Jesus48 gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out and entered into the swine; and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea [about two thousand],49 and were choked in the sea.” In some instances the possessed had a serious disease also. In Legion’s case we hear of none; but even if there had been, it would be absurd to suppose the transfer of disease to all the swine and such an effect as their immediate frantic rush to destruction. But the expulsion of all the demons from the man and their possession of the herd was an opportunity to show their love of destroying when a mightier hand no longer controlled their spiteful malice.
But, alas! what is man in presence of Jesus, or the merciful power which thus rescued the victim of the devil’s torture? “They went out50 to see what it was that had taken place. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed by demons and had had the legion sitting [and]51 clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.” Yes, afraid before Him who breaks the captivity of the devil; more afraid of Jesus and His grace than of the devil and his works! Nay, more than this. “They that had seen it, told them how it had happened to him that was possessed by demons, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.” Alas! alas! the swine and the demons were to them pleasanter neighbours than the Son of God. They had never sought to be free from either; they did seek to be rid of Jesus. Such is man; such the world was and is.
It is sweet to see the reverse of this in the heart of him who was emancipated. Not only was he at ease before the Saviour, “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind,” but all his affections were towards Him, and where Jesus went his desire was to follow. “And when Jesus was come52 into the ship, he that had been possessed by demons prayed Him that he might be with Him. “And He53 suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thine own people, and tell them how great things the Lord52 hath done for thee, and hath had mercy on thee.” The spiritual feeling that knit his soul to Jesus was of God, and would be gratified and satisfied in due time. But the grace of the Lord thought of others in this miserable scene of the enemy’s wiles, to whom He would bless the testimony of him that had known so painfully the power of Satan. His “own people,” therefore, rather than strangers, were to hear the message. “Tell them,” said the Saviour, “how great things the Lord hath done for thee.” “And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him; and all wondered.” And so may we, not only at the great things done, but at the simple faith displayed. “The Lord” for him was “Jesus.”
Matt. 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56.
We have, next, the Lord going at the call of one of the rulers of the synagogue to heal his sick daughter, lying at the point of death.54 On the way and in the throng His garment is touched by a woman which had an issue of blood twelve years. Here, too, man was unavailing. Instead of finding relief from those most skilled, “she had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and had found no advantage from it, but had rather grown worse.” What a picture of human woe, and how common! “For she said, If I shall touch but His clothes I shall be healed”; and she was right, as faith always is. “Immediately her fountain of blood was dried up: and she knew in her body that she was cured from the scourge.” But even conscious assurance is not enough for the grace of God. She had stolen, as it were, the blessing; she must have it a free and full gift from the Lord, face to face. “And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself the power had gone out of Him, turned round in the crowd, and said, Who touched my clothes? And His disciples said unto Him, Thou seest the multitude pressing on Thee, and sayest Thou, Who touched Me? And He looked round about to see her who had done this. But the woman, frightened and trembling, knowing what had taken place in her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him all the truth.” Blessed Lord, it is good somehow, anyhow, if it be Thy hand that does it, to be brought to tell Thee all the truth! For of a truth it is but to have the cup filled of Thee to overflowing. “And He said to her, Daughter, thy faith hath healed thee: go in peace, and be whole of thy scourge.” Was the blessing less now that the gain of the believer was countersigned of the Lord. Was not the deed of power enhanced by the gracious words that scaled it hers with His own signet?
Such is now the blessing that faith seizes while the Lord is on the road to heal the sick daughter of Judah. And if evil news53 met the ruler’s ear, while Jesus was crowning His mercy to her who touched Him, how swift is His goodness to shield a feeble heart from despair! “Be not afraid: only believe.”54 It was not troubling the Master, but His proper work. With chosen witnesses, pillars of the circumcision, He goes, turns out the vain weepers who scorned His words of comfort, and in presence of the parents and His companions wakes the damsel from the sleep of death, to their great amazement. So at the end of the age He will raise up Israel.
44 “In the tombs and in the mountains”: so Edd., with ABCHL, etc., 1, 33, 69, and versions. DE, etc., have “in the mountains and in the tombs.”
45 “Says”: so Edd., with ABCKL, etc., 1, 33, Cod. Amiat. “Said” is the reading of DE, etc., 69, Memph.
46 “Them”: as D, etc. Edd. read “him,” with L, etc., Syrpesch AEth.
47 [“Immediately”]: as A
ΠΣ, etc., 33, 69, Amiat. Edd. omit, as BCL
Δ, I, Memph.
48 “Jesus”: so A
ΠΣ, etc., 33, 69, Amiat. Edd. omit, as BCEL
Δ, I, Memph.
49 “They were” (before “about, etc.”) as ACcorr
Π, etc., 33, 69, Syrhcl Goth. Edd. omit, with BCpmDL
Δ, I, Amiat.
50 “Went out”: as pmCD and later uncials, Syrsin pesch Arm, AEth. “Went” (Edd.) is the reading of corr ABKLMU
Πcorr, etc., 1, 33, Syrhcl Memph. Goth.
51 [“And”]: so AC
Π, etc., Syrsin hcl Arm. Goth. Edd. omit, with BDL
ΔΣ, 1, 33, 69, Amiat. Memph.
52 “He went”: so Edd., with ABCD KLM
ΔΠΣ, 1, 33, Old Latin. “He had gone” appears in later uncials and most cursives.
53 “And He”: so Edd., with ABC, etc., 1, 33, Syrpesch hcl Memph. Goth. And (but) Jesus as DE, etc., 69, with most cursives, Old Lat., AEth. Arm.
54 Here is found one of the few exceptional dislocations, if not the only one, in Mark, for it would appear from Matt. 9:18 that while the Lord was speaking of the wine and the bottles (Mark 2:22), the ruler Jairus came about his daughter (“Introductory Lectures,” p. 160 note).