A Troubled Soul

Mark 5:1-20

J. R. Miller

"When Jesus got out of the boat—a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones!"

In this demoniac, we have a sample of the work of Satan—when he gets full control in a man. He destroys every beautiful thing in the life, and leaves only ruin! No chains could bind this demoniac. When sin is on the throne, all other influences and constraints become like spiders' threads in comparison! No chain is strong enough to bind the man—who has yielded himself to the sway of the Evil One! The love of a godly mother is a strong bond—but many a child tears off this holy chain and rushes into wayward and evil paths! Home ties are strong—but these too are broken asunder, by the victim of Satan's ungodly rule.

One feature of this case, was that the demoniac cut and gashed himself with stones. This illustrates what in many ways Satan's captives always do. They may not literally go about cutting their flesh with knives or bruising their bodies with stones; but they do gash and bruise their souls! Sin always wounds the life—and one of its fearful consequences is the self-destruction it works. Every sin one commits leaves an ugly scar! We grieve God by our wrongdoing, and we harm others when we sin against them; but we always injure ourselves—by every evil word we speak, by every wrong act we commit, even by the evil thoughts we think in our hearts. The self-hurt of sin is one of its saddest consequences!

Demons are afraid of Christ. "Swear to God that you won't torture me!" The torment this demon dreaded, was in being deprived of the opportunity of tormenting the man of whom he had possession. Demons find their pleasure in working mischief, in destroying the beautiful work of God's hands, and in ruining lives. Godly men count that day lost—in which they have done no act of kindness to another. Demons count the day lost—in which they have stained no pure soul or led no one into sin!

We ought to tear off Satan's mask and show him as he is! Evil comes to us pretending to be a friend. It holds flowers in its hands and whispers entrancing words, promising rich rewards: "Only do this—and it will bring you pleasure, honor, wealth and joy!" That is the way sin talks. But this is all false. Sin is never a friend to man. It never does good to anyone—but always harm. However plausibly Satan may present his temptations, under the guise of pleasure—his secret aim is to destroy the soul he tempts. Nothing gives the Evil One so much pleasure—as to see a fair and beautiful life—stained and debauched!

It is most comforting to us, to find that Christ is able to dislodge even the most obdurate and persistent demon! No one could bind this demoniac, nor resist his superhuman strength. But at His word—the foul spirit was compelled to leave the man he had possessed for so long. No human hand can break the chains of sinful habits. No mere resolution can free one from Satan's bondage. Only Christ can set the devil's captives free! Those who have long been trying in vain to reform, to break away from evil practices—see in Christ the Friend who alone can deliver them and save them. No demon-power can resist His command. Only Christ can free the poor slaves of Satan! He alone can free them, drive out their enemy, and save them from his terrible sway!

"Jesus gave them permission. So the evil spirits came out of the man and entered the swine. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned!" Mark 5:13

In the swine, under demoniac possession, rushing down the steep cliff and perishing in the lake—we have another illustration of the end of all Satan's ruinous work. It is with men—as it was here with the swine. It never yet has been known that Satan impelled anyone upward to a better life or to anything noble and lofty; he always drives down steep ways into choking floods. God's ways leads upward—it is always uphill to Christ and to heaven. Every divine impulse is toward something higher and better. Christ never yet sent a man downhill. But the devil always drives downward. These poor swine, demon-possessed, rushed down the steep bank, into the lake—and perished. Just so do human souls, demon-possessed, rush down sin's precipitous course and perish! It would be well to keep this dreadful picture in our mind when we are tempted in any way by the devil; for if we follow him—this is the way it will surely end with us!

It is strange how the people were affected by this miracle. Jesus had come among them to bless them. He would have gone on, working other miracles, if they had been willing. But the loss of their swine was too much for them. There always are people who hate Christ's religion, because it interferes with their wrong business and cuts off the source of their sinful gain. Saloon-keepers oppose revivals, because when the devil is cast out of men they do not patronize the saloons any more.

But it is always a perilous thing to ask Jesus to go away. He did now as these people asked Him to do—He would not stay where He was not wanted. He went away; carrying with Him the blessings He had brought and meant to leave. So the sick remained unhealed, the lame still continued lame, demoniacs remained demon-possessed. We must be careful never to ask Christ to go away from us. We see Jesus sailing away from this coast, to come back again no more. May He not do the same if we ask Him to leave us?

Jesus knows where He wants His saved ones to witness for Him. This ex-demoniac wished to go with Him—but there was other work for him to do. There are different ways of serving Christ. Some of His disciples, He asks to leave home and friends to follow Him into distant lands. Others He wants to stay at home and bear witness among those who have know them to the grace and love of God. Each one of us may be sure that if we truly put our life into the hands of Christ—He will give us our work where it will do the greatest good.

If He wants one young minister to go the foreign field as a missionary, he must go. But he must not blame his classmate who does no go to the foreign mission field—but enters the mission field at home. The home mission service is just as honorable as the foreign one. The only question with anyone should be, "What does Christ want me to do? Where does He want me to work for Him?" We serve Christ best—when we serve in the place and in the manner in which He directs us!