The man from Decapolis that Mark tells us about is anything but free before he meets Jesus (Mark 5:1ff). He lives in the tombs—among the dead, because for all intents and purposes that’s what he is. But it hasn’t always been this way. He once had a life. After all, he’s someone’s son, grandson, probably a brother, nephew and cousin. Maybe he’s even a husband and a father. But all of that’s in the past. Satan has taken hold of his life and won’t let go.
The people who loved him seemed to have done everything they can for him. As a last resort they put him in chains. No one could control him and he had become a danger to himself and others. But even that doesn’t work as with superhuman strength he breaks the chains and irons. He ends up in the only place he really belongs—in the tombs among the dead.
But one day all of that changes. A boat pulls up on the shore and a man gets out. And greater is He who is getting out of the boat that those who are tormenting the man. All that is left for them to do is to beg. The demons come out of the man and he goes off to tell people what the Lord has done for him. That’s freedom.
Are we experiencing freedom as followers of Jesus—or are we still dragging some chains around? If we are, here are a few thoughts on how to get rid of those chains,
1. Stop hanging around the tombs. Why would anyone want to hang around the tombs? The only reason this man does is because he has nowhere else to go. But as soon as he’s freed from his demons, he leaves. He leaves because the person who cast out his demons is the same person who tells him to leave. If there are dead places you’re frequenting in your life, physical places you have no business being or places you visit in your mind or heart, remember this: there’s no life to be found in the tombs—get out!
2. Say goodbye to your pigs. We’re told that “the large herd” of pigs that plunges into the water and drowns is about 2,000 (v. 13). That’s a lot of pigs. If they belonged to one person, it would be a devastating loss and the community would have to rally round him. Even if it was a community herd that belonged to many, it’s would still cause great hardship. Whatever the economic impact might have been, this much seems clear: the loss of their pigs was the price they paid for the man to be whole again and their community to be cleansed of demons. When you put it that way, it doesn’t seem as bad. Or, you can think of it another way—who really wants a herd of pigs that is possessed by demons? That would make for some nasty bacon (although it would probably fry itself).
The pigs go into the water and drown. The people of the community have a choice to make, do they want to embrace the man’s wholeness and their community’s healing, or hold on to dead things? They are unable to let go of their pigs.
My guess is that most of us have some dead things in our lives that we need to let go of. Maybe it is something important that didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to; or someone hurt us in some way; or perhaps it’s just old, tired ways of thinking. You can hold on to your pigs if you want to—just understand that while you’re holding on to your pigs, life is passing you by. And if you want to get on board—you can only do so at the price of your pigs.
3. Think about what the Lord has done for you and get busy doing something for Him. Freedom isn’t only about what we get rid of; it’s about what takes its place. If we’re not busy living for the Lord, we’re busy dying for something else. When we get busy doing something for God we find freedom in its fullness.