Taming The Tombstone Terrorist

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Mark 5: 1-20

Jesus and his disciples crossed Lake Galilee and came to shore near the town of Gerasa. When he was getting out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit quickly ran to him from the graveyard where he had been living. No one was able to tie the man up anymore, not even with a chain. He had often been put in chains and leg irons, but he broke the chains and smashed the leg irons. No one could control him. Night and day, he was in the graveyard or on the hills, yelling and cutting himself with stones. When the man saw Jesus in the distance, he ran up to him and knelt down. He shouted, “Jesus, Son of God in heaven, what do you want with me? Promise me in God’s name that you won’t torture me!” The man said this because Jesus had already told the evil spirit to come out of him. Jesus asked, “What is your name?” The man answered, “My name is Lots, because I have ‘lots’ of evil spirits.” He then begged Jesus not to send them away. Over on the hillside a large herd of pigs was feeding. So, the evil spirits begged Jesus, “Send us into those pigs! Let us go into them.” Jesus let them go, and they went out of the man and into the pigs. The whole herd of about two thousand pigs rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. The men taking care of the pigs ran to the town and the farms to spread the news. Then the people came out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had once been full of demons. He was sitting there with his clothes on and in his right mind, and they were terrified. Everyone who had seen what had happened told about the man and the pigs. Then the people started begging Jesus to leave their part of the country. When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man begged to go with him. But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how good he has been to you.” The man went away into the region near the ten cities known as Decapolis and began telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him. Everyone who heard what had happened was amazed.

This text sits in the middle of several hopeless situations. Just prior to the events we just read, Jesus and His disciples were out on the sea during a tremendous storm. The disciples were certain that they were going to die, 4:38. In their minds, they were in a hopeless situation.

When they were engulfed in that storm, the disciples were certain that they would die. Those men were seasoned fishermen, but they were helpless to solve their problem. But that storm out on the Deep was no problem for the Master of the sea. He calmed the storm, and He calmed His men.

Now, Jesus moves into a new set of impossible situations. He encounters a demon possessed man. This man possessed was by thousands of demons. He cannot help himself and the people around him are helpless as well. After this, Jesus will deal with a diseased woman and a dead girl. All four of these situations appear hopeless from a human perspective. Yet, in each of these cases, Jesus proved that He was the Master of them all.

If that demon possessed man were alive today, he would be sent off to live in a mental institution. That diseased woman would be sent to terminal care ward. The dead girl would be sent to the cemetery.

As we move through this chapter, we are going to discover that Jesus is not just the Master of the Deep. He is also the Master of the Demonic; the Master of Disease and the Master of Death. He will demonstrate His power over all situations, problems, difficulties, and dangers.

Today we will take a trip to the cemetery. We will watch as Jesus demonstrates His power over the spiritual realm. We will watch Him deliver a man from a hopeless case of spiritual possession and bondage.

As we watch the Lord deliver this poor soul, we need to keep in mind that He can move in our lives with the same power. He can break the chains that bind us, and He can set us free!

Let me share three phases of this encounter that offer hope to those in bondage today. I want to take these verses and preach about Taming The Tombstone Terrorist.


1. v. 2 The Man’s Defilement – As this story opens, we are told that this man is held fast in the grip of the devil. Satan is the master of his life and he is in a state of hopelessness and helplessness.

We are told that he has an unclean spirit! Then, we find out that he is not just the home to one foul spirit, but he is possessed by a Legion of demons, v. 9. A legion in the Roman army could be from 2,000 to 6,000 men.

In verse 13, we are told that when the demons left this man, they entered a heard of swine that number 2,000! This man was totally under the control of the devil!

This man’s case is no different from the condition of every lost soul in the world, Eph. 2:1-3; John 8:44. What a pitiful shape to be in! He is in a state of defilement!

2. v. 3-4 The Man’s Depravity – Two words factor heavily in this man’s world. Those words are cemeteries and chains. This man had his dwelling among the dead. The demons in him drove him away from the living and he spent his life in the cemetery.

In those days, people were not usually buried in the ground. Tombs were carved into the hillsides and the bodies were placed there. Because of his demons this man lived with bones and the decaying corpses of the dead.

We are also told that the people around him tried their best to restrain him. They would catch him and bind him with fetters and chains. Fetters would have been attached to his feet. Chains would have bound his hands, his arms, and his torso. These manmade devices could not hold him. He broke them as though they were made of paper.

When we look at this poor soul, it is not hard to make the leap from him to the lost ones around us. They are trapped in the same state of pitiful depravity. The sin that possesses the heart of the lost sinner drives him to spend his days and waste his years with the dead. The lost sinner has no desire to be around the living. Death and the works of deadness are all they care about!

Of course, man has his methods of trying to conquer and cure all the problems that plague humanity. Man has his jails, his prisons, his institutions, and his asylums. Man pushes his pills, his potions, and his psychology as the answer to man’s dilemma. The problem with man’s efforts to cure humanities problems is that man’s efforts only treat the symptoms, not the cause of man’s situation.

Man acts like he acts and does what he does because he is a sinner! Lost people choose darkness over light because they hate the light, John 3:19-21. Lost people choose sin over the Savior because they are evil and totally given over to the pursuit of evil, Rom. 3:10-23.

Let me add that a professing believer needs to examine his or her heart when they begin to desire the works of darkness. You need to look at your spiritual condition when you find reasons for avoiding the light! When you cannot sit through a preaching service, you have a spiritual problem!

When you find reasons to avoid the house of God, you have a spiritual problem! You are beginning to revert back to the old ways of the old man. That is a dangerous and frightening place to find yourself!

3. v. 5 The Man’s Desperation – Can you imagine the terror this man caused? He is up there in that cemetery. He is naked. He is running around like a wild man day and night. He cuts himself and his body is covered with blood and scars. He screams and yells in his torment.

We do not know whether this man cut his body in an effort to find relief from his demons or whether the demons caused him to do it.

We do not know why he shrieked, screamed, and cried in those tombs. It may be that he did these things because he was desperate to be free. It may be that he did them because he was compelled to do them. What matter is this, he is in a desperate situation and he needs help!

Whether you are lost and bound in sin or whether you are saved and out of God’s will there is only one cure for your condition! You do not need a pill. You do not need a psychiatrist. You do not need a priest. You do not need a program. You need Jesus! He is the antidote for the poison of sin! He is the cure for your condition! He is the solution to your problem! Get to Jesus and get the help you need!

That is the man’s condition! It is horrible, but it could serve as a template that could be laid over millions of other lives. In fact, there are people in this room, this city and county who are defiled, depraved and desperate! They need help and there is but one source for the help they need. Helps name is Jesus!)


1. v. 6 The Master’s Compassion – Everyone in that region feared this man. They fled in terror when he came near. They trembled in their houses at the sound of his shrieks of torment. Children were warned to beware of that crazy man in the cemetery. Everyone avoided this man. Everyone, that is, but Jesus!

Jesus Christ did not avoid this man; He made a special trip across the sea and braved a storm simply because He wanted to deliver this one man from the grip of Satan.

Everyone else feared, avoided, and despised this man; Jesus had compassion on him! Jesus cared about the condition he was in and Jesus was moved to do something about it! This man wasn’t even a Jew! He was a Gentile and still the Lord reached out to him!

Thank God for the boundless love and endless compassion of the Savior! Praise the Lord, there are no hopeless cases with Him! We see people and sometimes we think that some are a lost cause. We may wonder if they can or will be saved. Well, I can’t tell you for sure that they will be, but I can look around this very room and I see case after case of men and women that others had written off as a lost cause. You are here and saved today because the Savior had compassion on you!

He loved you in spite of your sins and He came to where you were to deliver you from the bondage that gripped your heart and life. He loved you enough to die for you on the cross, Rom. 5:6-8; and He loved you enough to come and set you free. No one is beyond the compassionate touch of the Master! Not Zacchaeus in his tree. Not Saul of Tarsus with his agenda of hate and destruction. Not the Ethiopian eunuch with his religious confusion. And not even you with all the baggage you carry. There is a compassionate Savior waiting to set you free!

Jesus sees people with a different set of eyes than we do! We see their sins, He sees what He can make of their lives!

We see a drunk, He sees a deacon! We see a drug addict, He sees a preacher! We see a harlot, He sees a choir member!

That is how lives are changed when they come to Jesus! He will take what you give Him and He will give you something much more precious in return!

You give Jesus your crab apple; He’ll give you back a golden delicious. You give Jesus your thorn; He’ll give you back a rose. You give Jesus your acorn; He’ll give you back a mighty oak. Give Jesus your Jacob, the schemer; He’ll give you back an Israel, a prince with God. Give Jesus a Simon, the cursing fisherman; He’ll give you back Simon Peter, a mighty preacher. You give Jesus your Saul, persecutor of the church, He’ll give you back Paul, militant missionary apostle. You give yourself to Jesus; you’ll be amazed at what He’ll do with you. It’s amazing what Jesus can do when a life is placed in His hands, 2 Cor. 5:17!

2. v. 6-13 The Master’s Confrontation – This man, who ran from everyone else, ran to the Lord Jesus and fell at His feet. The demons that drove this man away from all human relationships drove him to the feet of Jesus. Why? They did not fall down before Jesus to worship Him as Lord; they merely fell down in acknowledgement of His deity. They were bowing in subjection to the Lord of Lords!

Jesus confronts the demons, ordering them to release their captive, v. 8. The demons acknowledge the deity and authority of Jesus, v. 7, and they beg Him not to “torment” them. That is, they beg Him not to send them to Hell, Luke 8:31. The demons then request that they might be allowed to enter into a heard of swine that was feeding nearby, v. 11-12. Jesus gives them permission and they leave the body of the man and enter the swine, v. 13. When they do, the swine cannot tolerate the demons and kill themselves by running in to the sea, v. 13. This is a strange passage, but it teaches us some important truths.

  • First, it teaches us that all spirits are subject to Jesus. They recognize His authority, v. 7. They must have His permission to do the things they do, v. 10-13. Jesus is the Master even of the demons! That gives us hope today! It often looks like the devil is winning this thing. If you think that, then you need to read Rev. 20:10. That verse tells us that Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. This war is over and Jesus is the Victor!
  • This passage also teaches us that man is the most depraved creature in existence. This one man could tolerate a “legion” of demons, v. 9. A Roman legion consisted of around 6,000 soldiers! If you do the math, there were 2,000 swine in that herd. That comes out to three demons per pig. They couldn’t tolerate the presence of the devil. Those pigs couldn’t stand just a few demons, yet this man was able to live with thousands. This just illustrates the human capacity for evil.

3. v. 13 The Master’s Command – Every effort of man had failed this poor soul. Everything he had tried to retain a grip on his own sanity had proven useless. But, one word from Jesus and He was free!

That is the glory of salvation! Man can try his religious works, but they will all fail to save, Eph. 2:8-9. Man can try his pop psychology, but it will fall far short of changing the heart of a sinner. Man can try his pills, his programs, and his practices, but they will never change the lives of lost, hell bound sinners.

There is one solution to the problem of sin and His name is Jesus! There is only one hope for the fallen soul and His name is Jesus! There is only one hope for those trapped in a life of sin and hopes name is Jesus, John 14:6; John 6:37.


v. 14-16 He Was Changed By Jesus – When the pigs ran down the mountain and killed themselves, the servants who were tending the herd went to town and told their masters what had happened. The townsfolk came to see for themselves. When they arrived, they heard all the details and they could see the evidence of a changed life right before their eyes.

v. 15 Jesus Changed Him – No longer is he running around, crying out and cutting himself. Now, he is calm and seated beside Jesus! What a change! (Ill. That’s how it works! You cannot meet Jesus and remain the same. He changes all those who come to Him, John 3:3, 5; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2)!

v. 15 Jesus Clothed Him – No longer is he naked, but now he is clothed! (Ill. This is just further proof of his change! What we need to notice here is that what Jesus does in the heart of a man is ALWAYS worked out on the outside of a man, Matt. 12:35!

V. 15 Jesus Calmed Him – We are told that he is in his right mind! Where there has been turmoil and agitation, there is now perfect peace! He has been changed spiritually, physically, and mentally!

What a picture of the total change that salvation brings to the converted sinner! Jesus literally gives everyone He saves a brand new life!

Jesus changed him from the inside out! Jesus started with the man’s real problem! A bad heart is every lost man’s real problem! His sin isn’t his problem; the outwards manifestations of sin are merely the fruit of the problem; a wicked heart is the root.

v. 17-18 He Was Committed To Jesus – The people of that region were afraid of Jesus, v. 15, and they demanded that He leave their country. For these people, this episode was just too much! They might have been able to handle a little preaching, but when Jesus started changing lives and costing them money they wanted no part of Him. So they drove Him away.

By the way, there are a lot of people like that around today! Just give them a Sunday morning service and they are satisfied. Maybe they will even come back Sunday night or Wednesday. But, don’t ask them to do any more than that! When the Lord wants more they rebel and push Him away.

Friend, when you come to a place in your life where you are satisfied, you have problems! When you come to a place where you cannot sit through a preaching service, you have a problem. When you refuse to give Jesus a little more because it will interfere with your life and your routine, you have a problem!

Most folks want just enough Jesus to make them feel good and to keep them out of Hell. Jesus isn’t a good luck charm! He is a life-changing, eternity-altering Savior. He wants more than just a few hours a week. He wants everything you have and everything you are to be laid on the altar of surrender.

We had better be careful how we treat the Lord. He might just give us what we want. When we teach our children that other things in life are more important than worship and the things of God, don’t be surprised when they walk away from the Lord later on. When we tell the Lord by our actions that we are satisfied and that we do not want any more, do not be surprised when He takes away what we already have.

If we honour Him, He will bless us. If we treat Him like we can make it without Him, He may just give us what we ask for!

Look at the contrast! The townspeople want Jesus to leave. The man who has just been saved wants to be with Jesus. That’s what salvation will do for you! It will ruin you! When you get saved and your heart is right with the Lord, you will love Him, His house, His Word, and His people. Wherever Jesus is, that’s where you will want to be too.

v. 19-20 He Was Commissioned For Jesus – Jesus refused the man’s request to go with Him. Instead, Jesus sent him back to his home to tell others what the Lord had done for him. And, that is precisely what he did. We went into “Decapolis”, which means “the ten cities” and he preached the Gospel of grace to all who would listen!

Can you picture in your mind how this scene must have played out? The people see him coming. They cringe in fear, children hide behind their mothers, doors are slammed shut, and people run in fear to hide from the mad man.

But wait! Something is different today. Yes, it’s still him. He still bears the scars in his body, but the look in his eye is different. He isn’t screaming, he is preaching about a man named Jesus. He isn’t running around like a wild man; he is calm and sane and he is talking about how Jesus has changed his life. He isn’t naked; he is clothed and peaceful and changed. The people listen to his story and they are touched; some are no doubt saved. What a difference Jesus makes!

We are commanded to share the Gospel, Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20. We are to go to a lost world and tell them the same thing this man was commanded to tell: “how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee”. People might argue with us about our doctrines; but they cannot refute our testimonies! Nothing is more powerful that the testimony of a changed life!

Conclusion: Jesus tamed the tombstone terrorist and He can tame you! One of the most notoriously bad characters that ever lived in New York was Orville Gardner. He was the trainer of prize fighters and companion of all sorts of hard characters. His reputation was so thoroughly bad that he was called “Awful Gardner.”

He had a little boy, whom he dearly loved, and this boy died. A short time after his boy’s death, he was standing in the bar of a New York saloon, surrounded by a number of his companions. The night was sweltering, and he stepped outside the saloon to get a little fresh air.

As he stood out there and looked up between the high buildings at the sky above his head, a star was shining down upon him, and as he was looking at it, he said to himself, “I wonder where my little boy is tonight?” Then the thought came to him quick as a flash, “Wherever he is, you will never see him again unless you change your life.”

Touched by the Spirit of God, he hurried from the saloon to the room where his godly mother was. He went in and asked his mother to pray for him. They spent the whole night in prayer and toward morning “Awful Gardner” found peace and gained the victory.

Gardner was the victim of an overwhelming appetite for drink, and had in his house a jug of whiskey at the time. He did not dare to keep it and did not know what to do with it. Finally, he took it down to the river, got into a boat and rowed over to an island.

He set the liquor on a rock and knelt down, and as he afterward said, “I fought that jug of whiskey for a long time,” and God gave him perfect deliverance. He did not dare to break it, lest the fumes should tempt him. He did not dare to leave it, lest someone else get it. Finally he dug a hole and buried it. He left the island a free man. “Awful Gardner” became a mighty preacher of the Gospel.

He weathered the storm on the sea to get to this man. He weathered the storm of Calvary to get to you. Is He calling? Come to Him now.