Mark 5:1-20 The Gerasene Demoniac


Mark 5:1-20


Jesus casts a multitude of demons out of a man in an episode that highlights the unsettling nature of his authority.


Though it comes only five chapters into Mark, the story of the Gerasene demoniac is the last narrated encounter of Jesus with a demon (in the later story of the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus casts out the demon without ever encountering it). Like in the first encounter in Capernaum, the demons recognize Jesus immediately, and address him with his proper title: Jesus Christ, son of the Most High God (5:7). This is another example of the Markan irony that both the crowds and the scribes don’t understand who Jesus is, even though the demons do.

In the midst of their struggle, Jesus asks the demon its name and he receives the reply “Legion.” “Legion” is a Roman word for a military unit, and it seems likely that the name is used to foreshadow Jesus’ coming conflict with the Roman authorities. This likelihood is strengthened by the result of their encounter: the legion is cast into a herd of pigs, an animal considered unclean according to Jewish dietary restrictions, but widely enjoyed by the Romans.

The reaction of the townspeople to this event continues the irony. Rather than rejoicing that Jesus has healed this man who formerly howled among the tombs, they beg Jesus to go away, foreshadowing the eventual rejection of Jesus by the crowds at his trial.