Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the April 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout.
Lesson Aim: Contend with evil in this world and overcome through Jesus’ power.
By Mark Scott
The miracles of Jesus have their own “power” vocabulary. Jesus’ power is explosive (the Greek word translated “miracle” is the English word “dynamite”). Jesus’ power creates wonder (the Greek word means something that shocks and terrifies). Jesus’ power points to him (the Greek word means a “sign” that points to something beyond the miracle itself). Jesus’ power confirms the work of God in Christ (in John 10:38, Jesus taught us to believe the works so we would understand that the Father was in him).
The first three Gospels have these miracles of power in the exact same order: the calming of the storm (power over creation), the restoration of the demon-possessed man (power over the spirit world), and the needy woman and dead girl (power over illness and death). Is there a progression to these miracle stories as there is in parable genre (e.g., Luke 15:1-32)? In other words, if Jesus is lord of creation and lord of the spirit world, can he be even lord over our illnesses?
Evil Described | Mark 5:1-5
Jesus had been teaching all day in parables (Mark 4:1-34). He was bone tired. He got into a boat (4:35, 36) and sailed with the Twelve across the Sea of Galilee. They probably intended to cross just to the northeast side of the sea. But the storm blew them further south. By the time they got to the shore they were well into Gentile territory. Gadara is a town well south and east of the Sea of Galilee, but the whole area was called the area of the Gerasenes. This area was covered with caves and tombs.
Dripping wet from the storm, Jesus and the disciples stepped off the boat on to the land only to be met by a man with an impure spirit (unclean or demonic spirit) from the tombs (a word used three times in the story), and he ran at Jesus. (Matthew 8:28 said there were two demon-possessed men.) The condition of this man was deplorable. His strength, his environment, and his self-mutilating behavior (the man was a cutter) are mentioned. His demons had made him super strong. Even though his hands and feet were bound with chains, he tore the chains apart and broke the irons. His environment was a cemetery. The devil is all about death. This description of evil is hellish.
Evil Defeated | Mark 5:6-13
No one on earth could bind this man, but Jesus could and did (cf. Mark 3:27; Revelation 20:2). All Jesus had to do was show up and speak, and the man would be delivered. The man fell on his knees in front of (the Greek word is “worshipped”) Jesus. The demon within this man knew three things: who Jesus was (Son of the Most High God, as in superior God), what Jesus came to do (torture, which means to afflict with pain, vex, or harass, as in 1 John 3:8), and the path of their demise. In the process of defeating this evil spirit, Jesus engaged the demons in a conversation (something Jesus rarely did). Do demons have names (and thereby personalities)? Jesus asked the demon his name. The demon’s name was a number (Legion)—a Roman military term normally referring to thousands of men.
The demons begged (a key word in this story—the demons did it, the townspeople did it, and the delivered man did it) for a few more moments to inflict their destructive power. Since this was Gentile territory, they asked to be sent into a large herd of pigs. Interestingly enough, Jesus granted their request. The demons caused the pigs to rush down the steep bank and be drowned in the Sea of Galilee. Can you imagine the economic and ecological disaster this created?
Evil Leveraged | Mark 5:14-20
Jesus is so powerful that he can defeat the devil at his own game. Jesus can actually leverage evil for good. Those tending the pigs ran and told everyone what had happened. Even though the people of the area witnessed Jesus’ power to deliver this man (he was dressed and in his right mind) they pleaded for Jesus to leave. Jesus began to leave, for he will not stay where he is not wanted.
As he was leaving, the delivered man begged to go with Jesus. But Jesus wanted the man to leverage his testimony. The man went and told people all over the Decapolis how Jesus had mercy on him. This made all the difference the next time Jesus came into this area (Mark 7:31-37).
Martin Luther wrote of this power, “One little word shall fell him” (Satan).
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.