"My Name Is Legion"

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Last Updated on May 24, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 545

Context: Mark, after a brief account of Jesus' baptism and temptation, enters quickly into a narrative recounting the ministry of Christ; in it he tells of Jesus' preaching and of the people He cured of their infirmities. In Chapter 5 Jesus encounters a man possessed by devils–in other words, a madman. The unfortunate creature has become a problem to his community; he has great physical strength, which his insanity has augmented, and all efforts to restrain him have failed. Now he has either fled or been driven out; he lives among the tombs and wanders through the hills, doing violence to himself. At that time cemeteries were thought to be haunted by devils, who always lurked in unclean places or dwelt in unclean beasts such as pigs. It is evident that somewhere in the madman's tortured mind a spark of sanity lingers making him aware that something is very much the matter with him. He approaches Jesus and recognizes Him, and Jesus effects a cure in terms understood by His audience: he calls the devil forth and asks his name. The reply is in accord with a belief of the time, that he who learns the name of a devil has power over him. Jesus is told there are too many of the devils to name. When He replies that they must leave their host, they beg permission to enter a herd of swine. Jesus grants them leave; the pigs immediately stampede over a steep bank and are drowned in the sea. The madman's cure is thus effected, and the people flocking around to observe him find that he is sane once more. Moreover, now that their new hosts are drowned, the devils are somewhere in hell and thus effectively disposed of. This miracle is too much for the people who have witnessed it, and now they ask Jesus to leave the country. The former madman wishes to accompany Him but Jesus tells him to remain as an example of God's mercy and as a testimonial of the things Jesus has done.

And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.
For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.

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