Thursday, April 11, 2013

Notes on Mark: Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac

MARK 5:1-20
This is the familiar story of Jesus sending the demon from the possessed man into the swine, which then rush over the cliff. I knew that the presence of pigs would signify a Gentile population but never fully realized all the elements in this scene that speak to Jesus saving Gentile nations. And I've gotta say that the symbolism connected with the sea is fabulous. I certainly never heard that in any homily!
Gerasenes: Gerasa is one of the cities of the "Decapolis" (5:20), a confederation of ten cities in NT Palestine. They were predominantly Gentile in population, and most of them were located east of the Jordan River. The presence of "swine" in 5:11 reinforces this Gentile context, since the Jews would never herd animals that God declared unclean (Lev 11:7-8).

Legion: The term for an armed regiment of nearly 6,000 Roman soldiers. It points to the overwhelming presence of demons in the man and accentuates the intensity of spiritual combat between Jesus and the forces of evil...

Allegorically (St. Bede, In Marcum), the demoniac represents the Gentile nations saved by Christ. As pagans, they once lived apart from God amid the tombs of dead works, while their sins were performed in service to demons. Through Christ, the pagans are at last cleansed and freed from Satan's domination.

Into the sea: Biblical symbolism associated with the sea is diverse and flexible. According to one tradition, God's enemies arise from the sea in the form of beasts that oppress God's people (Dan 7:1-3; Rev 13:1). Here Jesus reverses the direction of evil by sending the demon-possessed swine back into the sea. Like Pharaoh's army in the OT, God's adversaries are drowned in the waters (Ex 14:26-28; 15:1).
The Gospel of Mark(The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible)
Looking Forward: here is a parallel connection,a foreshadowing, that never occurred to me (yes, there's a lot of that going around).
The principles "sitting" and "clothed" reappear in Mark 16:5, again in the setting of a tomb, where it describes the young man who announces Jesus' resurrection. With these verbal parallels Mark hints that the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, like all Jesus' miracles in the Gospel, is an anticipation of the power of his resurrection, already at work in the lives of human beings.
Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Mark by Mary Healy
And we see that power at work in the life of the demoniac when Jesus tells him to proclaim what has been done for him. Yet another leap forward from the present text that I hadn't made, but one that works powerfully in my imagination in looking at my own life.
The seemingly inauspicious missionary, a former demoniac, faithfully carries out Jesus' command by broadcasting throughout the entire region his story of deliverance--the kind of proclamation that is impossible to refute. Indeed the success of his efforts appears later from the very different reception Jesus meets on his second visit to the area.
Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Mark by Mary Healy


  1. No, casting out demons still occurs - that's what an exorcism is.

    1. You are definitely right, Bob. Those comments were from 2005 I believe ... I didn't know then, what I do now. I hate that the full date doesn't show up on them. Must see if I can fix that. :-)

    2. I always was one to do the task before readng the instructions... :)