Rethinking The Gerasene Demoniac Story: Studies in Mark, Pt. 74

In Mk. 5.1-20 readers encounter the well-known story that features the "Gerasene Demoniac". Of course, this is Jesus' first encounter with strictly Gentile territory in Mark's narrative and this episode is sandwiched between Jesus' calming of the storm on the sea and the healing of a bleeding woman and Jarius's daughter. Typically, commentators focus here on the fact that, indeed, this is Jesus' first trek into Gentile territory. Some take that notion even further and suggest that the "legion" language is symbolic of Jesus going into Gentile areas and even overcoming the Roman Army / Legion.

I want to submit another idea. I want to suggest to you that in this story Jesus messed up. Yes, I believe He was the sinless, pure, Lamb of God but that doesn't mean that I think as a carpenter He never drove a nail in the wrong way or hit his thumb or as a child never tripped while running, etc. Surely, as a human, Jesus messed up sometimes, no, not He didn't sin but instead, He just didn't employ the best tactics or stategies; He had to learn just like all of us!!! This, in my opinion, is one of those cases. So often we focus on the shortcomings of the disciples in Mark's work but maybe that is all predisposed by Jesus' falling short of the mark.

Where I'm going with this is: Jesus' hope was to go into Gentile territory and reach the people there with His message. However, when He got there, something threw that all off. Jesus sent the demons into the local pigs and they rushed off a cliff and some drowned (I have more to say about the pigs, perhaps that'll come in the near future). A bit later, the pig herders find out about this and are infuriated (wouldn't you be?)! Their whole livestock is gone now; their whole well-being is down the tubes. How then, could Jesus be an effective minister/preacher at all? He couldn't!

Notice in the end of the story that two things happen: 1) The people ask Jesus to leave town, and 2) The demoniac asks to leave with Jesus but Jesus tells Him to stay and share the Good News. Here's my point: Taking these two things together, we see that while Jesus failed in such a way that He could no longer be an effective evangelist at that point, He realized that the man He healed, still could be. So, He tells the man to stay and share the Good News about Jesus, in effect, to try to change the people's opinions of Him. Later in Mark's story, when Jesus returns to that region, He is actually accepted and welcomed. Evidently, the man whom Jesus healed had done his job, a job that at that point in time, Jesus couldn't have succeeded at. Perhaps this is one storm that Jesus couldn't calm right away!!!


  1. I like these thoughts, Michael. Thanks for the post. Hammering his thumb is a good example. Still, I don't *necessarily* think the early departure shows a slip up. It's possible/likely Jesus wasn't planning (or able) to spend a long time there anyway. So one good convert may have been the plan all along.

    My particular supposition is based on my general perception that the twelve never seem to care much about gentiles. So I'm wondering what they'd think about even crossing to the other side, especially so early into their tenure as "the twelve". And therefore, I'm supposing, Jesus might have figured a quick trip was about all their faith could handle at that time. Whatcha think?

    PS: Just to make sure I'm not missing something, you're citing Mark 10:1 as the return visit to that region... is that right?

  2. Bill,
    Your suppositions seem to work and do not seem so far off-base. In the end, at this point, I think we just disagree with each other. Still, I'm not so sure that the disciples couldn't handle being in Gentile territory for longer than a couple of hours or something. moreover, if this is the case, a few hours surely doesn't seem like enough time to have prepared them for all the time they'd be journeying through Gentile territory in the rest of the story. So, if we take this view, Jesus slipped up by not preparing the disciples by giving them enough practice time in Gentile territory perhaps. Just some thoughts. I'm playing d's advocate a bit here, which means a good reply would be nice!

    See ya pal,
    oh, and great to hear from you again, hope your "chronological" work is faring well!


  3. Heh. Good point. A couple of hours was pretty brief. :)

    I look at it like this. Jesus had to pick twelve guys. Were there ANY twelve Jews in that day who weren't bred to hold an essentially bigoted view of gentiles? I'd guess not. So the Lord had his work cut out for him, no matter who he chose. And also - to your point - no matter how much *prep* he put in on that point.

    The Tyre and Sidon trip was at the tail end of Galilee. By Cheney's chronology, that's three full years after they ditched Jesus in Samaria. So yeah, they'd grown. Not so much, maybe, considering things we see in Acts. But a bit. And yet Jesus still had to do that 'dogs' dance with the woman. (sigh)

    The Gadarenes trip came some months after their naming as apostles, and some/several weeks before they were sent out in 2's for the winter. That's right in-between the Samaritan woman and the Syro-Phonecian woman.

    So I don't know. Maybe a couple of hours was just about right for that point!