031026PM WOTB-4 Decapolis
The Power of One Life
Probably my favorite spot in the Holy Land is a tiny archaeological ruin called Kursi. It is the spot where I always remember that no matter how weak I am, how little it seems I ever get done—its not about me but the power through me of Christ.
You plus Christ is a mighty powerful combination. Do you know the power of one life? God wants to show us!
Have you ever thought how powerful just one life can be for Jesus? That is the lesson we will see tonight from God’s Word and from the Land of this Book!
This evening were going to the region of the Decapolis. Here we will find a lesson that can touch each one of us. God has made each one of us so special, so uniquely gifted – that only we can accomplish what He has planned for us. God has something for each of us to do for Him. I like to call it the power of one life. And that is the lesson that will learn this evening; Jesus Christ so vividly portrays this in the healing of the demonized man of the Decapolis.
First what is the Decapolis? The Decapolis: is a region mentioned by name only three times in the NT (Matthew 4.25; Mark 5.20; 7.31).
The name Decapolis means “10 cities.” Though the number of cities changed from time to time, the Decapolis was a group of independent city-states, thoroughly pagan and Hellenistic in makeup; several of them were founded by veterans of Alexander the Great’s army in the fourth century B.C.
When Pompey and his Roman legions took control of the area in 63 B.C., he kept the Decapolis independent from the Jewish territory to the west. Several of these city-states are mentioned in the Bible: Gerasa (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26), Beth Shean (then called Scythopolis-I Samuel 31:10), and Gadara (Matthew 8:28).
These towns had typically Hellenistic designs, with theaters where lewd plays were performed, temples where sacrifices were offered to pagan gods, and coliseums where nude athletic games and gladiatorial contests took place.
Each city controlled the areas surround it, spreading Hellenistic philosophy and religion. In full view of the religious Jews of Jesus’ town of Capernaum, the steep cliffs of the eastern shore must have seemed evil and menacing. Religious Jews would have resented its theater, stadiums, statues, and temples. Directly across the sea is the hump-shaped hill where the Decapolis city of Susita was located. The farmers of Galilee could see the sophisticated Gentile world barely eight miles away. Its culture must have been alluring to many of the conservative followers of the Torah. Some scholars believe the “far country” of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son could refer to the Decapolis. It was barely a day’s walk from Galilee. Certainly, the riotous lifestyle and the pigs were there.
The Talmud and one of the church fathers tell us that many people in New Testament times believed that the inhabitants of this area were those whom Joshua had driven from the Promised Land the seven pagan nations (Joshua 3:10; Acts 13:19) making this the land of the “expelled ones,” the worshipers of Baal. In this context, Jesus’ ministry here is remarkable.
His disciples probably hesitated when He suggested they row to the Decapolis (“the other side”- Mark 4:35). Once they arrived there, it was probably no surprise that they were greeted by a man possessed by a legion of demons — there was a Roman legion stationed nearby (Mark 5:1-20). Uncharacteristically, Jesus, having healed the man, sent him to share the Good News with the people of his town (possibly Susita, which was close by). Apparently, the man’s message was blessed before the next time Jesus visited (Mark 7:31-37). It is likely that the man from whom Jesus drove out the legion of demons returned to this city (or at least to this area) to tell others of the miracle (Mark 5:18-20). Some believe that the strong Christian community in Susita during ancient times was due to his witness.
Think of the implications of Christ’s trip across the Sea of Galilee
- After the trip to the Decapolis comes one of the events listed in all four of the Gospels. When Jesus fed the 5,000 He appeared to the Jews to be like a second Moses giving the Bread of Life in Mark 6.30-44. Jesus did this miracle by Capernaum where the Jews lived they collected 12 baskets like the 12 Tribes. This was a public declaration that salvation had come from God to the Jews.
- Next, Jesus fed the 4,000 in Mark 8.6-8 He does so by Kursi – which is on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After the meal they collected 7 baskets of like the 7 pagan gentile nations. So Jesus proclaimed He was the Bread of Life to all! So God can feed the Jews and Gentiles and even works on the East side (wrong side) of the lake.
- Rabbis said the pagans had devils so in Mark 4.35 going to the other side was a bad place. The Lake was called the Abyss so going across the lake to the wrong side was not a good thing.
- Mark 4.37-38 when the storm comes up as they headed to Beelzebub’s territory on the other side, they though that is what we get.
- Then Jesus calmed the Storm and they said hey that is great. Then Mark 5:2-5. look at the sequence:
Evil place + storm + Jesus calming storm = Jesus is bigger than storm (and thus evil)
They land safely + Demonized man runs toward them (out of frying pan and into the fire) + Jesus sets free = Jesus is God
- One note from Church History about the Decapolis and Kursi. This area was represented at all church Councils that established the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the Word of God. The Bishop of Kursi was at them all!
A Recounting of the Demoniac of Gedara by D.L. Moody
The demoniac was that wild man who lived among the tombs. He was the terror of all the women and children for ten miles round, and a good many of the men besides. They had tried to bind him even with chains, but he tore off the bands as Samson did the green withes and new ropes. He was absolutely full of devils; but when Christ comes to him he has only to speak the word and the legion of devils is cast out.
The cure of this maniac made a great excitement all over that country, not so much because the poor man was freed from Satanic influence and made sane, as because of the loss of that great herd of swine that the devils got into and drowned.
After the man is cured he wants to follow Christ–wants to be with him–is ready to follow him to the end of the earth; but Christ sends him home.
I can imagine the children see him coming, and they run to tell their mother, “O, mother, mother, father is coming!”
“Is he? Run and fasten all the doors and windows! Quickly!”
They are all afraid of him. When he has been there before he has acted like a madman; broken the chairs, tipped over the tables, dashed the furniture about, driven his wife out of doors, and nearly frightened the children to death. Now they fasten him out, and the children hide behind their mother’s dress and listen.
Hark! he knocks at the door; but they dare not let him in. He tries the door and finds it fastened. Then he calls, “Mary! Mary!”
“Why,” says his wife, “that sounds as his voice used to when I first married him! What can have happened to him?” Then she goes to the door, and says softly, “James, is that you?
“Yes, Mary, I have come home; you needn’t be afraid of me any more. I
am in my right mind now,”
The woman opens the door just a little; looks into his eyes; sees that he is gentle and kind. Then she throws it wide open, and springs into his arms, weeping for joy, and saying, “O James! James! what has happened to you?”
“Jesus of Nazareth cast all the devils out of me, and then sent me
home to you all safe and well,” answers the man.
“Who is this Jesus that you say has cured you?” asked his wife.
“Jesus–did you never hear of him? He is the great Galilean prophet. The people think he is the Christ. He goes all about healing sick folks, and casting out devils from people just like me. Only the other day he opened the eyes of a man who was born blind. You must go and see him, Mary, and take the children, and hear the wonderful words he speaks. Maybe he would take up Johnny and Sarah in his arms, and bless them, as he did some other little children.”
I see them talking together of the great joy that has come to them through this Jesus of Nazareth, and I am sure they love him very much in that household for what he has done for them. Pretty soon the children begin to get confidence in their father, and one after another they steal up to him and climb up into his arms. And now all that broken-hearted family are united once more. He kisses them all, hugs them, and tells them how glad he is to get back to them.
Then after a little they run out to see their playmates, shouting, “Papa is come! Papa is come! And he is good and gentle like your papa. Jesus did it! Jesus did it!”
Ah, my friends, Jesus is the great deliverer. I like to think of him as a physician who can cure every thing. He never lost a patient, and that is more than the most skilled doctors in Chicago can say.
 Ray Vander Laan, That The World May Know: Set 4 Leaders Guide for Faith Lessons 19-27, Colorado Springs, CO: Focus On The Family, 1997.
 Moody indicated that the initial idea for his narrative of the demoniac came
from Christmas Evans.