They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 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. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 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.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 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 were drowned in the sea.
In the previous chapter Jesus was shown to have power over nature, in this passage we see that Jesus has power over an army of demons. Jesus enters the country of the ‘Gerasenes’ which is a predominantly gentile area, not only that the story includes a cemetery and pigs. From a Jewish perspective this is an unclean place, a place which is more deserving of God’s wrath than God’s mercy.
The following is taken frm the Pillar New Testament Commentary on mark.
“From a Jewish perspective, the story is replete with elements of uncleanness. The setting is the eastern shore of the lake, the Gentile Decapolis. The Decapolis (lit. “Ten Cities”) was a loose geographical term for a number of cities east of the Jordan River (with the exception of Beth Shan, which lay west of the Jordan). These cities were severed from Hasmonean rule by Pompey when he invaded Palestine in 63 b.c. and were reestablished as showcase cities of pagan Hellenistic culture and ideals (Josephus, War 1.155; Ant. 14.74–75). The existence of an important Roman settlement and harbor in Kursi/Gergesa also established the latter as a Gentile city, a suburb of the citadel of Hippos immediately to the south. In this region there lived a man who, according to Mark, had been commandeered by “an unclean spirit” (v. 2). His banishment to the tombs rendered him unclean according to OT law, where contact with the dead defiled one for seven days. According to Num 19:11–14, anyone who failed to purify himself from the pollution of tombs “must be cut off from Israel.” Expanding on this Torah teaching, rabbinic interpretation extended uncleanness from contact with the dead to include contact with anything associated with them, including their bier, mattress, pillow, or tombs.16 In the region there were also swine herders. Following the OT proscription against swine (Lev 11:7; Deut 14:8), the Mishnah states categorically: “None may rear swine anywhere” (m. B. Qam. 7:7). Although the staple food of the Roman army was grain and corn, meat was a prized supplement, when available. If the swineherds where supplying the Roman legions with pork, then the raising of unclean food for the detested Roman occupation was doubly offensive. Thus Jesus meets a man with an unclean spirit living among unclean tombs surrounded by people employed in unclean occupations, all in unclean Gentile territory. “
In such a ‘unclean’ place, Jesus ministers. He offers hope to that community. Forces seem to be at work to prevent Jesus entering this gentile area, storms and demons.. Jesus ministers to the Gentiles, choosing to heal rather than take up the sword. Jesus combats the demons demonstrating his authority over them. This post is not particularly long today but even the quote from the commentary above indicates that Jesus is ministering in place which was seen unclean within Judaism. Jesus breaks the religious and cultural norms for the sake of the kingdom. He find his direction shaped by vocation and not by peer pressure.
Where is unclean today? Are we ministering there? Do we accept the presence of anti-kingdom forces? What cultural pressures are on us today which can conflict with our kingdom values?
The gospel writers no doubt including this story for the the early church so that they would give praise to God for their own salvation. Were we not linke the man with the demons, we were unclean and didn’t deserve the hand of the saviour in our lives. But he came and rescued us, restored us. He called us to live in the kingdom of light where once we lived in the kingdom of darkness