“And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.”—Mark 5:1–4
They call him “the maniac of Gadara,” and the story of his deliverance is one of the accounts given in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Certainly it is recounted this many times in Scripture because it gives a clear picture of the power and authority of the Lord Jesus over the powers of darkness. Mark’s account is the longest and most detailed (chapter 5, verses 1 through 20), and it reveals three important symptoms of “an unclean spirit” (verse 2). We are surprised that these very symptoms are evident today in the lives of many people we know. The account gives us the symptoms of this condition, the cause, and the cure.
The man is said to be one “with an unclean spirit.” Yet further reading shows us that he was possessed by many “devils” (see verses 8 through 13). These entities were “devils” and “unclean spirits” (plural), but the man’s condition is described as being “possessed with the devil” (verses 15, 16, and 18), and as having “an unclean spirit” (verse 2). His condition was caused by his being possessed by thousands of devils (we gather from verse 13), but it is described as having an unclean spirit and being possessed with the devil. A host of wicked spirits (fallen angels under Satan’s control—Matthew 25:41, Mark 3:22) gave him the condition described as being “a man with an unclean spirit.”
Our attention is drawn to three characteristic problems experienced by people with an unclean spirit.
The Bible says that he “had his dwelling among the tombs” and that “he ware no clothes” (in the account given in Luke 8, and implied by the words in Mark 5:15). Of course it isn’t normal to make your home in the graveyard, nor to walk around naked. It is perverse, twisted, contrary to the normal. In Isaiah 19:14, the Bible describes an unclean spirit as “perverse.” Devils themselves are perverted and they inspire perverted thinking and actions in men.
In the twentieth century, the United States experienced a marked and astonishing trend toward perversity in many segments of its culture. Movies began to tell stories with strange, twisted moral overtones. Music began to feature unnatural sounds and words that attacked or undermined societal standards of every kind. Before the end of the century a large portion of American entertainment was devoted to the grotesque, the shocking, and the perverted. And the trends of society at large moved away from and against the values upon which it had been traditionally built. The sexual revolution that manifested itself in the fifties and sixties, followed by the homosexual uprising that continues to rewrite our institutional and cultural constitutions, paved the road to the sanctioning of the perverse. An objective observer must conclude that something big has happened in the past hundred years that turned our world upside down. The culture is characterized by an unclean spirit.
And individuals in this nation have also been caught in the trap of perversity. Bible-readers recognize perversity as evidence of Satan’s influence. It’s everywhere today.
But when he was cured, the devil-possessed man “clothed” himself (Mark 5:15).
Mark 5:3 says that “no man could bind him, no not with chains.” The next verse records that, “He had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces,” and it says that nobody could “tame him.” Matthew 8 tells us that he was “exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.” An unclean spirit made him untameable.
Our times have also been characterized by increasingly unrestrained violence. The same spirit that controlled the mobs of the French and Russian revolutions can be felt in the political speech of our once-civil public discourse. The savagery of youth gangs drenches the streets of our big cities with blood. The hatred in the hearts of some against the rich, the Christian, the successful, and the philosophically opposite has gone way beyond heated controversy. It is mindless and malicious.
And a growing number of the young in America, even the very young, have become uncontrollable. Society has resorted to drugs, incarceration, and failing government programs to “tame” them. The fierce are entertained by increasingly bloody and gory depictions on the video screen. An objective observer with Bible knowledge will recognize in these perilous times the influence of devils in our society.
But when the possessed man was cured, he was at peace, and was seen calmly “sitting” (Mark 5:15).
A third characteristic of the unclean spirit in the man was his compulsion to hurt himself. The natural human instinct is to protect oneself. Self-destruction is a trait of insanity. But this poor man, “always, day and night, …was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5:5). When the devils that were in him entered the herd of swine, they drowned themselves in the Sea of Galilee (see verse 13). An unclean spirit produces a self-destructive form of insanity.
The passion for self-destruction is all around us, everywhere. Some manic compulsive behavior is characterized by harming oneself, and this condition is growing and spreading. Suicides are happening more and more, and among more and more unlikely people in more unlikely places. The mass killings that have shaken the nation repeatedly in recent years and months are nearly always perpetrated by people who want to die, and who hate certain others enough to want to take them all to the grave with them. With no fear of God, and no belief in an afterlife or future judgment, they are free to massacre others just before killing themselves or getting themselves killed. While leaders try to convince us to blame the weapons used by the madmen, or the mental health system that should have known, or political rivals whose views supposedly made these things happen, no one seems to have the courage to blame the devil for his role in the insanity of our day.
But when the Gadarene maniac was cured, he was “in his right mind” (Mark 5:15).
And one thing cured the man, and it was submission to Jesus Christ.
“But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him.”—Mark 5:6
The poor man came quickly to Jesus, and “worshipped him.” The word translated “worshipped” means that he crouched or prostrated himself before the Saviour. The main Bible promise for deliverance from the Devil is James 4:7, which says,“Submit yourself therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
When this man prostrated himself before Jesus Christ, in the attitude of absolute submission, although he was so thoroughly controlled by the powers of darkness that he could not speak for himself (see Mark 5:7), he got deliverance (read verses 8 through 13). And the whole community could see the difference in him.
“And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and that had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.”
We are seeing the once-sane, once-moral, once-Christian society in which we grew up invaded and overwhelmed by what the Bible calls “an unclean spirit.” The tragic collapse of reason and decency around us is the result of more than natural causes. Many of the causes are supernatural. And they must be addressed by supernatural means. Christian people alone have such supernatural weapons at their disposal, as we see in 2 Corinthians 10:1–5. Through them we must deliver the captives by “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” who is the Deliverer.
Everyone who sees in the story of the man with an unclean spirit at Gadara characteristics in his own life can find deliverance in Christ. Submission to Him and resistance to the devil will bring deliverance. This is a principle that will work for both devil-possession and evil spiritual influence. Bow to Christ and look to Him to set you free!