Legion of demons in 2,000 pigs
- 5:1 Jesus and his disciples continued their journey, sailing to the other side of the lake.1 They came ashore in the territory of the Gerasenes.2
- 5:2 As Jesus got out of the boat, he was immediately approached by a demon-possessed man who made his home in a graveyard.
- 5:3 The man lived in the caves that were used as tombs. No one could manage to tie him up and keep him restrained, not even with chains.
- 5:4 People had tied him up many times before, sometimes with chains and leg irons. But this man tore the chains apart and broke the leg irons into pieces. No one was strong enough to overpower him.
- 5:5 Day and night, high in the mountains and low in the tombs, this man was forever screaming and cutting himself with stones. He never stopped.
- 5:6 When he caught sight of Jesus from a distance, he took off running toward him and bowed down in front of him.
- 5:7 The man screamed at Jesus, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the God above all gods? Don’t torture me. Swear to God you won’t do that.”
- 5:8 The man said this because by that time Jesus had already commanded him, “Come out of this man, you wicked spirit.”
- 5:9 Jesus asked the man, “What is your name?” The man answered, “We go by the name of Legion3 because there are many of us in here.”
- 5:10 Legion pleaded with Jesus not to send them far away.
- 5:11 A large herd of pigs was eating there on the slopes of a nearby hillside.
- 5:12 The demonic spirits begged Jesus, “Please send us into those pigs.”
- 5:13 Jesus gave the evil spirits permission to leave the man and enter the herd of pigs. There were about 2,000 pigs in the herd. As soon as the demons entered them, the pigs rushed down the steep bank and into the Sea of Galilee, where they drowned.
- 5:14 The pig herders ran away and spread the word about what happened. They told people in the nearby village and throughout the countryside. People came to see what had happened.
- 5:15 When the villagers reached Jesus, they saw the formerly demon-possessed man sitting there with him. Legion was gone. The man was properly dressed4 and in his right mind. This terrified the people.
- 5:16 Eyewitnesses to what Jesus had done told the villagers about what happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs.
- 5:17 The people begged Jesus to get out of their territory.
- 5:18 When Jesus started to get into the boat, the formerly demon-possessed man begged to go with him.
- 5:19 Jesus told the man no. Instead, Jesus told him, “Go back to your home and to your family and friends. Tell them what the Lord has done for you. Let them see how kind he has been to you and how much he has done for you.”
- 5:20 So that’s what the man did. He left and started telling his story all over the territory known as Ten Cities.5 He told people about what Jesus did for him and what it meant to him. Everyone was amazed.
Jewish leader pleads for Jesus’s help
- 5:21 Jesus sailed back to the other side of the lake. A large crowd met him at the lakeshore.
- 5:22 One of the synagogue leaders came there, too. His name was Jairus. When he saw Jesus, he dropped to the ground in front of him.
- 5:23 Jairus passionately begged Jesus for help. He said, “My little girl6 is about to die. Please come and put your hands on my daughter. Heal her so she’ll live."
- 5:24 Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed him. As he walked along, the people crowded up against him, bumping into him.
Woman healed by touching Jesus
- 5:25 There in the crowd was a woman who had been suffering with a bleeding disorder for 12 years.7
- 5:26 She suffered a lot because of this. She tried to get help from many doctors. In the process, she spent all her money.8 For nothing. She got no help. Instead, she got worse.
- 5:27 When she heard about what Jesus could do, she worked her way through the crowd and came up behind him. She reached out and touched his robe.
- 5:28 She had been telling herself, “If only I can manage to touch his clothes, I’ll get healed.”
- 5:29 In that moment, the discharge of blood stopped. She was dry again. And she knew it right away. She knew she was healed.
- 5:30 Jesus knew it, too. He felt healing power leap out of him. Instantly, he turned around in the swarm of people and said, “Who touched my clothes?”
- 5:31 His disciples said, “What? You can see the crowd pressing in on you from all over. And you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
- 5:32 But Jesus kept looking around until he saw the woman who had done this.
- 5:33 Terrified, the woman trembled.9 She knew what had happened to her. She fell to the ground in front of him and told him the truth about what she did.
- 5:34 Jesus told her, “Daughter, your faith has saved10 you. The problem you had is gone. Go in peace.”
News for Jarius: “Your daughter died”
- 5:35 Jesus was still talking with the woman when some people arrived and told Jairus, a synagogue leader, “Your daughter died. There’s no need to involve the teacher anymore, is there?”
- 5:36 Jesus heard what they said, but he told the synagogue leader, “Don’t be alarmed. Just keep believing.”
- 5:37 Jesus didn’t allow any of his followers to go along with them, except for Peter and the brothers James and John.
- 5:38 When they got to the house of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw that the people were expressing their deep pain. Some were crying and screaming in grief.
- 5:39 As Jesus walked into the house he asked the people, “Why are you making such a scene and crying like this? The child hasn’t died. She’s sleeping.”
- 5:40 The people laughed at him. Jesus sent the people outside. He went into the room where the child was, taking with him the child’s father, mother, and the three disciples.
Jesus: “Little girl, time to get up”
- 5:41 Jesus took the girl's hand and said, “Talitha koum.”11 It means, “Little girl, time to get up.”
- 5:42 Right away the young girl got up and started to walk around.12 She was 12 years old. The people who saw this were absolutely astonished.
- 5:43 Jesus gave the people in the room strict orders not to tell anyone about what happened. Then he asked that someone give the girl something to eat.
Sea of Galilee.
Some ancient manuscripts call the people Gadarenes and Gergesenes. The area is on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, in the Golan Heights area occupied by Israel. Christians in the early centuries of the movement identified the village of Kursi as the site of the exorcism. It has the only steep bank in the region that drops into the lake. “The pigs rushed down the steep bank and into the Sea of Galilee, where they drowned” (5:13).
In the time of Jesus, the Roman army unit known as a Legion was made up of roughly 5,000 men.
Luke said the man “hadn’t worn clothes for a long time” (Luke 8:27).
Some Bible versions use the Greek word, Decapolis. This territory of the Ten Cities was on the east side of the Jordan River, in what is now the Arab country of Jordan. At the time, it was on the Eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. The territory got its name because of the 10 most prominent cities in the region.
Luke describes her as Jairus’s “only child, a 12-year-old girl” (Luke 8:42). The description is more literally “only begotten daughter.” “Only begotten” usually refers to an only child. But in this case, it could refer to the girl as his only daughter.
Mark’s description sounds like the woman is suffering with heavy menstrual bleeding. One contender for the diagnosis is menorrhagia, a disease that produces excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding–or both.
A first-century collection of medical treatments, Natural History, written by Pliny, includes scores of treatments for the problem of heavy menstrual bleeding. After reading the list of remedies, which includes crushed jellyfish as a topical ointment, it’s easy to see how someone could go broke and make the problem worse.
She had every right to be afraid. By Jewish law, she shouldn’t have been out among people because a woman is ritually unclean during her menstrual period. Anyone who touches her becomes unclean, too (Leviticus 15:19). They have to go through cleaning rituals, including a bath, before they are clean again and considered spiritually fit to worship at the Jerusalem Temple.
Many Bible translations have Jesus saying that the woman’s faith “has made you well.” The Greek word is sōzō, which can mean “saved,” “delivered,” or perhaps in this context “made well.”
Talitha koum (tuh LEE tha KOOM). Jesus spoke those words in Aramaic, a language popular among the Jews there at the time.
Luke says, “Her spirit came back and she immediately got up” (Luke 8:55). The word for “spirit,” is pneuma, which is Greek for breath, wind, or spirit. We use this word when we talk about air-powered tools: pneumatic. Christians as well as many Jews in Jesus’ day taught that the spirit or soul lives on after the body dies. Some Bible experts say that Luke was reporting that the girl’s spirit returned to her body. When that happened, her breath returned as well, and she came back to life.
The odd story about Jesus curing a demon-possessed man by sending the “Legion” of demons inside him into a herd of pigs (5:1-20) is full of questions that no one seems able to answer. What is the one question that comes out of the story that you would absolutely love to know the answer to? Here’s one possibility: What happened to the demons?
What do you think the villagers thought when they came to the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee and saw 2,000 dead pigs floating in the water (5:13)?
Why do you think the people in the territory of the Gerasenes were so terrified of Jesus after he healed the demon-possessed man that they asked him to leave? You would think they would want someone with that kind of power to stick around and heal other people, wouldn’t you?
There are plenty of Christians who have trouble with the idea of demons and Satan as some kind of sentient spirit being. They prefer to think of demonic spirits in the Bible as physical problems such as epilepsy, which were misdiagnosed as demonic possession. And they prefer to think of the evil in the world as a contagious behavior, a bit like copycat crimes. But throughout the stories of Jesus, he is talking to these entities. How do you think we should understand what’s going on here?
After Jesus brought the dead daughter of Jairus back to life, he “gave the people in the room strict orders not to tell anyone about what happened” (5:43). Mark doesn’t say why Jesus gave them such an impossible secret to keep. Any guesses why he did that?
In the story of the woman who seems to be struggling with excessive menstrual bleeding, Mark says she spent all her money on doctors, in an attempt to find a cure. Does the footnote to this verse give you any extra confidence in the reliability of Mark’s reporting? Here’s the footnote: “A first-century collection of medical treatments, Natural History, written by Pliny, includes scores of treatments for the problem of heavy menstrual bleeding. After reading the list of remedies, which includes crushed jellyfish as a topical ointment, it’s easy to see how someone could go broke.”
People who were ritually unclean were supposed to avoid contact with other people. Lepers were considered unclean. So were women during their menstrual period. That’s why the woman who was healed when she touched Jesus became “terrified” when Jesus discovered her. “The woman trembled” (5:33). Yet Jesus didn’t say anything about that. He healed her and told her to “Go in peace” (5:34). What does that tell you about Jesus?
LIFE APPLICATION. Do you think some Christians struggle with the stories in the Bible about Jesus healing everybody who came to him when just about the only way people get healed today is by going to the doctor?