Region of the Gerasenes

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

Mark 5:1-5

Jesus encountered a heavily demonized man in a Gentile region and a spiritual battle ensued. But the battle was not between Jesus and the demons. That wasn’t even a battle. Jesus immediately and easily cast a legion of demons out of the man. The real battle was over the region. When one reads the full story in Mark 5, it becomes clear that there was a demonic principality who sat over that Gentile region and did not want to be overthrown (Ephesians 6:12).

First, the legion of demons were perfectly fine leaving the man, they just didn’t want to be sent out of the region. “…he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area”(Mark 5:10). These demons had likely operated with impunity and without resistance in that region for centuries. They had gained authority in that region over the people there. And they were likely ruled by a principality who protected them.

Secondly, when the townspeople discover what happened to the man and the pigs, they ask Jesus to leave the region. “…the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region“(Mark 5:17). The people were more terrified of Jesus and His authority than they were of this crazed and demonized man living among the tombs. They likely were Gentiles and had been under the influence of the demonic principality of the region their whole life. They became as afraid of Jesus as the demons were. They needed Jesus to leave because His power and authority were a threat to all that they had normalized.

Third, Jesus was willing to leave because He didn’t want to overthrow the demonic principality of that region and leave a spiritual vacuum. Imagine overthrowing a dictator by force and having no government to replace it. Things end up worse than before. Jesus says as much in Matthew 12:43-45. So instead, Jesus enacts a subversive spiritual revolution through the man that was just delivered of a legion of demons. But the man wanted to go with Jesus. “…the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him“(Mark 5:18).

It’s like the man could still sense the darkness of the region. He knew that darkness all too well. He didn’t want to stay there. He wanted to be near Jesus. He wanted to be near the light, safety, and freedom that enveloped Jesus. He didn’t want to stay in that region still ruled by that old, familiar demonic principality. But Jesus knew that the only way to overthrow a demonic principality was through subversive spiritual revolution. In other words, the principality would be displaced when there was enough people of the Kingdom of God no longer bowing to its demands in that area.

Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Mark 5:19

When we first read about the demonized man with a legion of demons in him and how Jesus set him free, we can think this encounter was all about one man. And in a sense, it was about that one man. But more than that, this was about a region under the rule of the kingdom of darkness. This was about Jesus planting a small seed in the enemy’s garden and watching as it becomes the largest tree in the garden, gradually displacing all the weeds that had grown there.

The spiritual battle was not between Jesus and the demons. That is a fight that is all too easily won by Jesus. The spiritual battle was between the people of that region and the demonic principality calling the shots in that area. That is where the real battle was.

That is where the real battle still is.

Not Against Flesh and Blood

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

When we fight this spiritual battle, we fight as the Israelites did to take possession of the Promised Land. We are given new life in Jesus and there are some parts of this new life that we must fight for in order to possess. The land of this new life in Christ is already ours, but we must kick out the inhabitants of darkness that previously occupied our life.

This passage in Ephesians 6 indicates that the kingdom of darkness has a hierarchical command and control structure. Demons seem to be the lowest level spirit of darkness. Then there are powers (authorities) and principalities (rulers) that seem to be higher level beings of darkness that retained more of their power when they fell from heaven with Satan. We might call these powers and principalities “fallen angels” who are able to retain some of their former glory–though it is fading.

Satan is a counterfeiter. He is constantly trying to imitate in his kingdom of darkness the things of the Kingdom of Light. I believe this hierarchical command and control structure is an attempt by Satan to imitate and counterfeit the omnipresence of God the Father. Since Satan can’t be everywhere at once like God, he sends his minions everywhere.

I believe the principalities of darkness that are over a geographic regions are trying to imitate and counterfeit the fact that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. And I believe demons, with their constant need to be embodied in something physical, are attempting to imitate and counterfeit the Holy Spirit who dwells inside the body of believers, His Temple.

The reason I believe Paul needed to remind the Ephesians that our battle is not with people (flesh and blood) but with the kingdom of darkness is because we can so easily miss our target if we make people our enemy. We are like the Israelites, taking ground for the Kingdom of God, but different from the Israelites we are not fighting people. We are not even fighting ourselves. We are fighting the darkness that invades and persuades people. So our weapons are different. Our most powerful weapons in a battle like this are love and forgiveness.

And we don’t fight in order to attain the victory. Jesus won the victory for us on the cross and in His resurrection. We don’t fight for victory but from victory. We fight the battles knowing that the war has been won by Jesus alone! Here is how Paul writes it to the Colossian Christians:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Colossians 2:13-15