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This piece of history gives us a very sad relation of a person that was possessed with a legion of devils: we read of few, if any, in the Old Testament, that were thus possessed, but of many in the New Testament. Our Saviour came into the world to destroy the works of the devil; therefore he suffered Satan to enter some human bodies, to show his divine power in casting him out.
Note here, 1. That the evil angels by their fall lost their purity, but not their power; for with God's permission they have power, not only to enter into men's bodies, and to possess them, but also to distemper their minds, and drive them to frenzy and madness, causing them to offer violence to their own lives and to do hurt and mischief to their own bodies. Thus did this possessed person here, wounding and cutting himself with stones.
Note, 2. That the reason why the evil angels do not oftener exert their power in doing mischief to the bodies and lives of men, is from the restraining power of God. The devils cannot do all the mischief they would, and they shall not do all they can.
Note, 3. The place where these evil spirits delighted to make their abode; among the tombs or graves, places desolate, forlorn, and solitary, which are apt to breed horror of mind, and give advantage to temptations.
Learn thence, That it is dangerous, and very unsafe, for persons, especially in whom melancholy prevails, to give themselves to solitariness, to frequent desolate and forlorn places, and to affect the being much alone; it giving advantage to Satan to set upon them with powerful temptations. It is better to frequent human society and communion of the saints, by means whereof we may be more and more strengthened and fortified against Satan's temptations.
Note, 4. That the devils own Christ to be the Son of God, and that he came into the world to be a Saviour, but not a Saviour to them; therefore they cry out, What have we to do with thee, or thou with us? O what an uncomfortable confession and acknowledgment is this, to own Christ to be a Saviour, and at the same time to know that he is none of our Saviour!
Note, 5. That though the devils do own Christ to be the Son of God, and do pay homage and worship, and yield service and subjection to him, as his slaves and vassals, yet it is not a free and voluntary service, but extorted rather, and forced from them by the power of Christ: He worshipped, and cried out, saying, What have I to do with thee?
Note, 6. What a multitude of evil spirits do enter into one man. O the extreme malice and cruelty of the devil against mankind, in that so many evil spirits did at once afflict and torment a single person; even a legion, many thousands of them.
Observe also, The unity and agreement which is amongst these evil spirits in doing mischief: though there was a legion of them in this one person, yet they have all but one name.
Learn, That the very devils have a sort of unity amongst themselves, and in their malice and mischievous designs against mankind they are as one. How happy were it, if good men were as much united in designs and endeavours for the glory of God, as devils conspire and combine against it!
Note, 7. The outcry which the devil makes at the appearance and approach of Christ, Art thou come to torment us before the time?
From thence learn, (1) That there are tortures appointed to the spiritual natures of evil angels.
(2) That the devils are not so full of torment as they shall be. Although they are as full of discontent as they can be, there will be a time when their torments shall be increased, when they shall have their fill of torment. This they know, and accordingly thus they pray, Torment us not before our time; that is, increase not our torments before the appointed time of their increase.
Note, 8. The devil's request, Not to send them out of the country, ver. 10: for being now among heathens, they thought they were among their own, and not in Christ's jurisdiction, as being not amongst his people.
Next, for permission and leave to go into the herd of swine.
Where observe, First, The devil's malice; he will hurt the poor beasts rather than not hurt at all.
Secondly, His powerful restraint; he cannot hurt a pig without permission: Suffer us to enter. Satan's malice indeed is infinite, but his power is bounded; it is postestas sub postestate, a power under a power. If he could not hurt the swine, much less can he afflict the body or soul of man without leave or licence.
Note, 9. How Satan's request is yielded to by our Saviour: he permits the devils to enter into the swine; not to satisfy their desire in doing mischief; but, first, to show his power over the devils, that they could do nothing without his permission: next, to show how great the power and malice of the devil would be, if not restrained: and lastly, That the miracle of casting out such a multitude of devils might appear to be the greater.
Learn hence, That sometimes Almighty God, for wise ends and just causes, doth suffer the devil to enjoy his desire in doing hurt and mischief unto the creatures: Jesus said unto them, Go.
Note, 10. What a contrary effect this miracle which Christ wrought had upon these people; instead of believing his divine power, upon the sight of his miraculous healing the possessed, the loss of their swine enrages them, and makes them desire Christ to depart from them. Carnal hearts prefer their swine before their Saviour, and had rather lose Christ's presence than their worldly profit. So desirous were these Gadarenes to get rid of our Saviour's company, that they pray and beseech him to depart out of their coasts.
Learn hence, Sad is the condition of such from whom Christ departs; more sad the condition of such who say unto Christ, Depart; but most sad the case of them who pray and beseech Christ to depart from them; which accordingly he did, and we read no more of his return to them.
Note lastly, How desirous the possessed man was to continue with Christ: after he was ocme to himself, he prayed that he might be with him. This he might desire, partly to testify his thankfulness to Christ, partly out of fear of being repossessed again by Satan, or perhaps to have the opportunity of hearing Christ's doctrine,and seeing his miracles. For such as have once tasted that the Lord is gracious, and experienced the pleasure and profit of Chirst's company, are very desirous of the continuance of it, and exceeding loth to part with it.
However, our Saviour at this time did not think fit to suffer him, knowing that more glory would redound to God, by publishing the miracle to his friends. Christ expects, after eminent deliverances wrought for us, that we should be the publishers of his praise, and declare to all, far and near, the great things which God hath done for us. Add to this, that our Saviour might not permit this man to be with him to avoid the suspicion of vain-glory; by which he might have given some umbrage, had he carried about with him those upon whom his greatest miracles were wrought.
And lastly, To show that Christ in his absence, as well as when present, is able to protect those that believe and trust in him from the malice of evil spirits.
Observe here, 1. The person who came to Christ on behalf of his sick daughter, described by his name Jairus; by his office, a ruler of the synagogue; by his gesture, he fell down at Jesus's feet and worshipped him. This gesture of his was not only a sign of tender affection in him towards his daughter, but also an evidence of his faith in our blessed Saviour; yet his confining Christ's power to his bodily presence, and to the touch of his hand, was a token of the weakness of his faith: Come, says he, and lay thine hand upon her, and she shall live. As if Christ could not have cured her without either coming to her, or laying his hand upon her.
Note, All that come to Christ are not alike strong in faith. Yet our blessed Redeemer refuses none who come to him with a sincere faith, though in much weakness of faith.
Observe, 2. How readily our Saviour complies with Jairus's request; Jesus went with him. Although his faith was but weak, yet our Saviour doth not reject him, or deny his suit, but readily goes with him.
Learn hence, How ready we should by to go to Christ in all our distresses, afflictions, and necessities, who is so ready to hear and so forward to help us, if we seek him in sincerity, though our faith be feeble.
Observe, 3. The great humility of our blessed Saviour in suffering himself to be thronged by poor people: Much people followed him, and thronged him. O humble and lowly Saviour! How free was thy conversation from pride and haughtiness: how willing to converse with the meanest of the people for their advantage! Our Lord did not only suffer them to come near him, but even to throng him. What an example is here for the greatest persons upon earth to imitate and follow, not to despise the persons, nor disdain the presence of the meanest and poorest of the people; but to look upon some with an eye of favour, upon others with an eye of pity, upon none with an eye of contempt.
As our Saviour was on his way to Jairus's house, a diseased woman comes behind him, touches his clothes, and is presently healed. The virtue lay not in her finger but in her faith; or rather in Christ, which her faith instrumentally drew forth.
Observe here, 1. The diseased person, a woman with a bloody flux. Let women here take notice of the miseries which the sin of the first woman has brought upon all women, amongst which this is one, that it has made their bodies subject to unnatural issues and fluxes of blood.
Observe, 2. The long continuance of this disease, twelve years. It pleases God to lay long and tedious afflictions upon some of his children in this life, and particularly to keep some of them a very long time under bodily weakness, to manifest his power in supporting them, and to magnify his mercy in delivering them.
Observe, 3. This poor woman was found in the use of means; she sought to physicians for help, and is not blamed for it, though she spent all she had upon them.
The use of physic is not to be neglected by us in times of sickness, especially in dangerous diseases of the body. To trust to means is to neglect God, and to neglect the means is to tempt God. The health of our bodies ought to be dear and precious to us, and all lawful means to be used, both to preserve it, to recover it, and confirm it.
Observe, 4. The workings and actings of this poor woman's faith: her disease was unclean by the ceremonial law, and therefore to be separate from society; accordingly she is ashamed to appear before Christ, but comes behind him to touch his clothes, being firmly persuaded that Christ had a power communicated by God unto him, miraculously to cure incurable diseases.
And see how our Saviour encouraged her faith, though she did not believe him to be the eternal son of God, but one to whom God had communicated by God, but one to whom God had communicated a power, of healing bodily diseases; yet, says Christ, This thy faith hath made thee whole.
Learn hence, That faith oftimes meets with a better welcome from Christ than it did or could expect. This poor woman came to Christ trembling, but went away triumphing.
Observe, 5. Christ would have this miracle discovered; he therefore says, Who touched me? and I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
First, in reference to himself, to manifest his divine power, that by the touch of his clothes he could cure such incurable diseases.
Secondly, in relation to the woman, that she might have an opportunity to give God the praise and glory for the cure.
And thirdly, With respect to Jairus, that his faith might be strengthened in the belief of Christ's power to raise his daughter.
Now from those words virtue went out of Christ, and he healed them, it is evident, that the virtue which did these miraculous cures resided in Christ, and was not communicated to him; and consequently proves him to be God; for the divine virtue, by which the prophets and apostles did their cures, is ascribed to God; God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul. Acts 19:11 But the miracles done by Christ are ascribed to the divine virtue dwelling in him. Accordingly here he says, I perceive virtue is gone out of me.
Observe here, 1. The doleful news brought to Jairus's ears, Thy daughter is dead. The Lord doth sometimes suffer the faith of his saints to be hard put to it, greatly assaulted with difficulties and trials.
Observe, 2. Our Saviour's seasonable word of comfort, Be not afraid, only believe. Christ is ready to comfort believers in the hour of their strongest temptations and greatest trials.
Observe, 3. Christ's application of himself to the raising unto life Jairus's dead daughter.
In order to which, 1. He goes into the house only with three of his disciples, which were sufficient to witness the truth of the miracle. Our Saviour, to avoid all show of vain-glory, and to evidence that he sought not ambitiously his own honour and praise, would not work this great miracle publicly before all the people.
2. He rebukes them for the show they make of immoderate grief and sorrow for the dead damsel: they wept and wailed greatly, with minstrels and musical instruments according to the custom of the heathens, who by a mournful sort of music did stir up the passion of grief at their funerals. To mourn immoderately for the dead is an heathenish practice and custom. It is hurtful to the living, and dishonourable to the dead; nor is it an argument of more love, but an evidence of less grace.
3. He adds a reason for this rebuke and reproof given them; The damsel is not dead but sleepeth. Vobis mortua, mihi dormit: "She is dead to you, but asleep to me;" not so dead as to be beyond my power to raise her to life. Souls departed are under the conduct of angels to their several regions of bliss or misery. It is very probable that the soul of this damsel was under the guard of angels, near her dead body, waiting the pleasure of God in order to its disposal, either to restore it again to the body, or to translate it to its eternal mansion.
Observe farther, The nature of death in general, and that of the saints in particular, described; it is a sleep. Sleep is a state of rest; sleep is a sudden surprisal; in sleep there is an insensible passage of our time; the person sleeping shall certainly awake, either in this world, or in the next. It will be our wisdom to prepare for the bed of the grave, and so to live, that when we lie down in it, there may be nothing to disturb our rest.
Observe next, The words which our Saviour used at the raising of the damsel, Talitha-cumi, Syriac words, to show the truth of the miracle, not like a conjurer, muttering a charm in unknown words to himself; and also to show the greatness of the miracle, that he was able to raise her by a word speaking.
Observe lastly, The charge given by our Saviour not to divulge this miracle: He charged them straitly that none should know it. That is, not to divulge it imprudently to such of the scribes and Pharisees as would not be convinced by it, but only cavil at it, and be the more enraged against him, and seek his death before his time was come. Also not to divulge it unseasonably, and all at once, but gradually, and by degrees: for it was the will of God that the divine glory of Christ should not be manifested to the world all at once, and on the sudden, but by little and little, during his state of humiliation; for his resurrection was the time appointed for the full manifestation of his Godhead. Declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Mark 5". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent