Sermon: “Authority that Frees” (Mark 5:1–20)
Jesus and His disciples had just survived a night on the Sea of Galilee, where a word from Jesus quieted the chaos of the wind and sea. Now on the eastern shore of the sea, Jesus steps off the boat in predominantly gentile territory (The Gerasenes) to the sight and sound of a demoniac who had been living among the tombs. The scene set before us is riddled with perplexing details. A man with thousands of demons? A demonic self-identification by the name legion? Swine careening into the water? To make matters worse, Jesus and His disciples are now among an unclean people, with an unclean man who has an unclean spirit, in an unclean place, with unclean animals roaming to and fro. The scene presents variable after variable that may leave us sulking in the hopelessness of the situation. Yet once again, when King Jesus enters the chaos He beautifully brings order, and in the process, He frees this man when the man was utterly incapable of freeing himself.
This passage teaches several important ways God exercises His authority for the sake of His people, and ultimately for His own glory. First, this passage teaches that God in Christ exercises His authority by loosing. He sets this man free from that which enslaves Him, and in the same way, He sets His people free from sin and death. Second, this passage teaches that God in Christ exercises His authority by binding. Jesus casts legion into the pigs, who in turn go careening into the water. This event is proleptic for what Jesus’ ministry accomplishes in the binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1-3). All principalities and powers that stand in the way of the promulgation of the gospel are rendered ineffective. Finally, this passage teaches that God in Christ exercises His authority by releasing. The man, now clothed and in his right mind, is sent to a perplexed and fearful people to declare the mercy of God in Christ. Grace propels this man, and it propels us, outward.