A Study of Mark 5:19
“Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” (Mark 5:19)
This text concludes the record of the Lord restoring a sound mind to the Gadarene who dwelt in the tombs. This has always been an intriguing account for those who have read it with a Spiritual eye. It is wonderful to read that when Jesus went there, the Scripture says it was “the other side of the sea.” (Verse 1) We usually think of our Saviour as being in the midst of His people, and surely He is. However, He being the God and Saviour of all His flock, whenever one of them is afar off, or scattered, we may be certain that before they can leave this world, even if He must needs go to “the other side of the sea,” He will certainly do so to seek them out and deliver them.
The encounter with this man was certainly unique in that the man was wild, and could not be tamed though bound with chains and fetters. The scripture says, “neither could any man tame him.” His constant moanings and groanings could be heard night and day there in the mountains and among the tombs, for he was ever crying and cutting himself with stones. “But when he saw Jesus afar off he ran and worshiped him.” (Verse 6) It is a strange thing here to consider that this man, though yet knowing nothing of Jesus, came and worshiped Him as soon as he saw Him. He pleaded with Him that He not torment him before his time. And yet it obviously was not him speaking, but the unclean spirit in him, for in Verse 8 the Saviour said, “Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.” This and other scriptures inform us with no shadow of doubt that even the devils are compelled to worship Jesus when He comes into their presence. Some may not believe that, but there are ample recordings of such throughout the scriptures.
After the Lord had commanded the unclean spirits to come out, they pleaded to dwell in a nearby herd of swine. Thus Jesus sent them into the herd. How amazing it is to know that there was about 2,000 swine, yet there had been enough unclean spirits in this one devil possessed man to cause this huge herd of swine to violently run down a steep place into the sea and be choked. It is fearful and awful to consider that a human being could be so possessed with evil spirits, and yet it was so. (If it was so then, we see nothing to prevent the same thing today.) Immediately after the departure of the unclean spirits the man was sitting at the feet of Jesus clothed, and in his right mind. It is marvelous to note the obverse of this, in that previously he was never still, but screaming, and howling, and fretting day and night; but now he is sitting. Previously he was naked and unclothed, and in no way attired with anything but grave filth, and was not even on equal standing with the beast of the field; before a violent and possessed wild man, but now he is clothed. Until Jesus came to him, he was of an unsound mind, or we might say “spiritually insane” but now he is in his right mind. Only amazing grace could make it so!
The citizens of that land saw nothing marvelous in this great miracle. They, being spiritually blind, saw no reason to worship Jesus. They saw no reason for praising, or for that matter, to abandon their unseemly, and contrary ways; but rather they began to “pray Him” to leave. It can hardly be said this was true, spiritual prayer; it was a hasty petition to the Lord to leave. He who had just delivered and made whole the most violent among them was now asked to leave. Why? Because they were fearful! And yet, on the other hand, the man who had been so wild and violent – now free from the power of the Devil – also “prayed Him” that he (the freed one) might be with Him. The others prayed that Jesus would leave; he prayed that he might be with Him. Is this not, at least in part, the experience of God’s wandering children when they have been afar off; even “on the other side of the sea”? No communion with the Saviour, and as bad or worse than the rest of the wild men of this world. Their only desire, their sweetest hope, is that the Lord would hear their petition that they might be with Him. We can think of no place under Heaven better to be than with Him, and He likewise with us. But our text said, “Howbeit Jesus suffered him not.”
What would seem like a great and rich blessing was not to be for this man. He was instructed, in a sense, to go home and be a spokesman. It would certainly seem to us that Jesus would have allowed him to join His little company; but from everlasting it was not to be so. He must be as one alone, and dwell among his former friends and family and tell them, not others, but them, “how great things the Lord had done for him.” Not what great things the Lord had done but how. Not what He had done for others but for “thee”, and how that He had had compassion, or grace, on him. This man could never, ever, have been cured by friends or well meaning individuals, whoever they were. But it was a simple thing for the Saviour of sinners to speak the spirits out of him, and command them to part; and so they did – to the sorrow of the swine.
“Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee.” The man probably never saw the Saviour again in this life. Maybe he never even met with any of the Lord’s Disciples. His age is not told. We don’t know if he was in the prime of life or nearing the end. One thing we may be certain of; he would never lose sight of this great and remarkable day, or the great things the Lord had done in showing compassion to him. His friends may have laughed, or ridiculed, they may have sneered or gave that puzzled look as if this man had developed a new kind of craziness, but nonetheless, he could not but speak those things which he had seen and heard.
It is a gracious thing to know that whatever our lot in life is, it was marked out by the Saviour just as this man’s lot in life was marked out. He would rather have been with Jesus, personally, but Jesus has given us all the promise, “I will never leave thee or forsake thee.” Though he could not be with Jesus in the flesh, for shortly Jesus must die, the Spirit of Christ would ever be with him and bless him to recall the vivid account of his Holy deliverance, and his being clothed, and being in his right mind, sitting at the feet of one whose feet was pierced to carry him to heaven. Mighty and wondrous truths can be found in what we might call simple passages and we trust it might be the case here. May the dear Lord ever bless us to examine very closely within, searching for some of the Holy marks of His grace, wherein He has set us free from bondage, unholy rages, and the filth of this world.
J.F. Poole – 1987