Mark 5:5a Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out. . .
Not only is the dark side real and powerful, as we observed in the previous chapter, but it also exhibits a magnetic pull, a tug towards death’s horizon. Our wicked and sinful flesh often complies with this luring tug and, curiously, moves us right into the flames.
It is faulty to assume the man in Mark 5 transitioned from normal man to demoniac overnight. More than likely, the process of becoming a demonic was progressive. He was probably drawn in over a period of time, progressively succumbing to the pull of darkness on his soul until Legion was fully able to overtake him, leading to his life “among the tombs.” James wrote about how this deadly process works:
James 1:14-15 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (ESV)
The words “lured” and “enticed” are descriptive of the progression towards darkness. Like a moth drawn to the humming purple glow only to be zapped into oblivion, so people are drawn into darkness by deceptive enticements promising pleasure, power, and happiness, only to be ruined eternally in both body and soul.
The Dark Side Is Magnetic
Back to the Star Wars saga (sorry if you aren’t a fan), this drawing to the dark side is what happened to young Anakin Skywalker, the man who became Darth Vader. He began as a well-meaning and good-hearted kid. But soon the dark side enticed him, offering things he didn’t believe could be obtained if he remained in the light of goodness. In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin slowly progressed towards evil. In his mind he believed he was making right choices, but he was deceived and blinded by his pride. He couldn’t see that his choices would dehumanize him and eventually consume him, burning his body and soul to a crisp. His drift destroyed his identity.
Again, Star Wars fails as an illustration in many ways because it is set within a fictional pantheistic universe, but it does paint a vivid picture of the pull and tug of darkness. However, we do not have to watch a Hollywood production in order to observe this phenomenon. Often people feel the tug in their daily lives, and many find it irresistible.
Perhaps one of the following scenarios describes something that has happened or is happening to you.
- An attractive co-worker invites you to lunch. Harmless, right? Besides, things are not going well with your spouse, and you need someone who can sympathize with what you are going through. It’s just lunch and conversation – no reason to feel any guilt or worry that the relationship will eventually turn physical.
- You receive an offer to take a pill or smoke a joint at a party. That’s just what you do at parties, right? Most people, when they initially try a drug, don’t think they will go down a path of slavery, becoming a trapped addict. So you rationalize that you deserve to have some fun and escape reality for a while.
- You tell yourself you deserve to view pornography and that it really doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s just a way to satisfy a need and relieve stress. Judging by the number of people who use porn this way, you reason with yourself, this is a perfectly normal and acceptable behavior with no consequences. Right?
- A neighbor refuses to cut his lawn, which negatively impacts your property value. Taking this as a personal attack, you become enraged. Anger seethes within your heart as you whisper in your mind, “I’ll kill him.” You believe it is normal and even healthy to hate your neighbor for his negligence. There may be, for a variety of reasons, a number of people you hate in this way.
- You sell your car to an unassuming non-mechanic, not telling her that the engine has serious problems. “It still runs,” you say, and she gives you twice as much money as the vehicle is worth in that condition. Everybody does this, right? It’s just smart business. If that customer wasn’t such an idiot, they wouldn’t get ripped off, you reason. This doesn’t have to be a car, by the way; it could be any product or service you are involved in selling or buying.
- Parents, try this one on for size. You scream at your children as they cower in fear. Your eyes are popping out of your skull as you see the pencil marks zig-zagging the hallway wall. You can’t believe your kid would deface your property, so you seethe and yell as the child sobs. This is just your parenting style, you reason, that’s all.
These and many other daily scenes demonstrate the subtle pull towards darkness. Our fallen hearts lean and progressively slide towards it. Often, we aren’t even vaguely aware of the drift. But we must be aware of it, because as we have seen, the devil is described as a lion (1 Peter 5:8), and lions can be startlingly subtle. Just ask the distracted zebra that was peacefully grazing in the plain, completely unaware of any impending danger. Lion prey has a tendency to drift close to the silent predator without a care in the world, having no idea what is about to hit it. And then it’s too late. One minute the zebra is eating dinner, and the next minute it becomes dinner.
A Trip Down Hinds Road
I remember as a teenager longing to travel Hinds Road. My buddies and I just had to see what was down there. We couldn’t contain our excited curiosity; we trembled at the thought.
It was nothing more than a lonely dirt road through the thick woods near Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, Alabama. Why would we be so lured by this particular stretch of soil and gravel? Because we had heard that a group of devil worshipers gathered there late at night, that’s why. I mean, nothing raises the curiosity of teenage boys like the dark mystery of devil worshippers in the woods.
But doesn’t it seem logical to stay away from that kind of place? If we truly believed people were engaged in dark activities down Hinds Road, then why in the world did we want to go there? It was the powerful lure. We were drawn by our intrigue and by the possibility of excitement. Like a cat caught in high level white water rapids, it was futile for us to resist.
It is the same lure people feel towards horror movies. Surely nobody in their right mind loves to see people hacked to death by a masked man with a machete. But millions view these movies, often cheering for the fictional killer. Even though it is all fake, these productions still graphically depict brutal, meaningless slayings. But something about them has the ability to pull folks in. For many people the draw is irresistible.
“However,” you might object, “I don’t like horror movies or looking for devil worshipers on dirt roads.” Maybe not. Darkness pulls different people in different ways. It may be pulling you towards other (perhaps more subtle) forms of evil and darkness, as the scenarios listed above illustrate. Consider the possibility that you might be completely unaware of what is tugging on your soul.
To make the point, darkness might be pulling you towards religious self-righteousness – the kind demonstrated by the Pharisees in the New Testament. This type of person would never watch a horror movie, or would never tell when she did, and she would quickly condemn anyone who did watch one. Religiously-oriented darkness is extraordinarily dangerous precisely because it is so deceiving. It leads a person to falsely believe they have enough goodness on their own to please God. In their own eyes, they have willed themselves to avoid the darkness of the world. But in reality, because they are attempting to impress God with their good deeds, they are using him as a means to their own ends rather than worshiping him as the ultimate end. As a result, they are shrouded in just as much darkness, and perhaps even more, than those who openly live in it.
Jesus reserves his greatest condemnation for those who live in this type of self-righteous darkness:
Matthew 23:27-28 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (ESV)
But isn’t this just how a powerful enemy fights? Satan has the ability to make a man feel good and religious so that he is blind to the darkness that is destroying his soul. Just as a grazing zebra may be clueless of a hungry lion lurking nearby, you might be totally unaware of the subtle tactics the dark side uses to lure you in.
The Lying Song of the Sirens
In the animated movie Ice Age: Continental Drift, the main characters are floating at sea on a huge chunk of ice during the night. Suddenly, out over the water, powerful images of what their hearts so desperately desire begin appearing one after another. These mysterious images take on different forms for each individual. Diego sees Shira, an entrancing female saber-toothed tiger. Manny sees his wife and daughter, whom he missed terribly. Sid sees a cute female sloth, a perfect mate for him. Granny sees a charming, hunk-ish sloth, and she immediately lusts after him in a way that only an elderly lady sloth would.
The characters soon discover, however, that these beautiful and attractive figures are only illusions, enticing figures that are not what they seem to be. When Manny realizes this, he warns his friends, “They may look real, but they’re not!” Actually, the illusions are bait used by hungry sirens to catch dinner. Sirens are carnivorous monsters in disguise, who have long and sharp teeth. Their objective isn’t to satisfy but to ingest. In order to survive, Manny and his friends quickly reverse direction and make a very speedy getaway.
The sirens in Ice Age are based on the sea dwelling creatures from Greek mythology, known for enticing sailors to draw near to them. They reveal themselves as beautiful woman, singing hypnotic melodies that irresistibly tug on the hearts of the helpless men. But the sirens and their songs are mere illusions, baited hooks designed to lure food. When the sailors succumb to the temptation and turn the ship towards the lovely sights and sounds, they soon discover that what they thought was beautiful is actually deadly and what they thought would be satisfying actually consumes them. Instead of attractive women providing pleasure, the sirens are ferocious monsters who turn weak-minded men into a meal.
So it is with the dark side. It often appears as an attractive alternative, promising great pleasures to those who will follow its path. Like the sailors, many are unaware of the deceptions and disguises of darkness and easily fall prey to it.
This is exactly what is happening in the lives of religious hypocrites. They believe they must be good people, because what they do feels holy – they go to church, they try to do right, and they avoid the big sins. But this is all an illusion, as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees (“You are like whitewashed tombs”). In reality, this way of life is merely another form of darkness falsely portraying itself as light. In the end, those who practice self-righteous religion will be consumed.
Take a moment to study your heart. Is it being pulled and enticed? Make sure before you follow your impulses that you aren’t being drawn towards the lying song of the sirens.
The Dark Side Is Illogical
In addition to underestimating the magnetic pull of the dark side, another mistake often made by Christians is believing that the work of Satan and demons should make sense.
Most people at least attempt to operate on a logical level in their thinking. Someone says, “First, I’ll go to the bank to deposit my paycheck, and then I’ll go to the grocery store. That way I’ll have money in the bank to buy the groceries. Plus, I can go directly home after the grocery store, allowing me to get the frozen food in the freezer before it thaws.” Notice the logical order of events. Almost everyone uses logic this way, at least part of the time.
But we have a problem if we believe demons think this way too. They don’t, or at least we don’t have any biblical examples of it. They may think and plan some as they scheme their deadly activities, but in the overall light of God’s truth, their scheming cannot be considered sound, logical thinking or planning.
Because they do not accept the light of God, demonic beings and those influenced by them have dark thought patterns. Their cognitive processes can be compared to a drunk teenager driving extremely fast on a winding country road at night with no headlights or streetlights. He swerves aimlessly and recklessly collides with whatever gets in his way. Similarly, evil operates on the base level of impulsive and thoughtless desire rather than rational reasoning.
The demoniac was not the sort of person you could reason with. Imagine saying to him, “Hey, its okay, brother. Let’s sit down, have a cup of coffee, and talk about what is bothering you.” No, you can’t reason with the walking dead. This man was far too gone for that. Mark says that, “Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out” (5:5a). Nobody could have a logical conversation with someone in his condition.
When we see people today living dark lives, we shouldn’t be surprised when their words and actions don’t make much sense. They are driven primarily by the impulses of their own dark flesh, so they aren’t concerned about which decision is most rational. For instance, when a man is eaten alive by a heroine addiction, he isn’t interested in reasoning through true premises to a conclusion. He simply wants a fix, and he wants it right now, even if he has to hurt someone to get it.
Don’t expect to see any action within the realm of the darkness carried out on the basis of proper logical reasoning. In his condition, the demon-possessed man never said, “I did this on the basis of that,” as in, “I broke up the soil with a plow and planted seeds on the basis of my need to grow food and feed my family.” It is difficult to imagine him ever thinking, “I need to earn a certain amount of money so I can afford to make repairs on my house.” These are logical thoughts and statements, but this man’s ability to think reasonably was strangled by the darkness plaguing his soul. His mind and heart were overtaken, effectively putting a full stop to his sanity.
Indeed, the further a person is away from God and his Word, the further he is away from sanity. Since God is the Creator of the world, and since he is the divine Logos (John 1:1), things only make sense when they are considered in relation to him. Therefore, to be in darkness spiritually is to also be in darkness cognitively. A denial of God, or even merely ignoring him, leads to a loss of the sense of reality.
Once in my pastoral work, I counseled a man and woman who had opened their marriage up to other sexual partners. Obviously, this led to major darkness, bitterness, and brokenness in their relationship. I attempted to reason with the husband about his lusts and appetites. I advised him to get these under control with God’s help, or else they would ruin his marriage and life worse than they already were. I pointed him to Jesus for salvation, telling him that the grace of Christ could redeem him from his sin and transform his life.
The response he gave in return made no rational sense. He failed to see the damage he’d done or the damage yet to be done if his behavior continued. Essentially he said, “I don’t really see my lusts as much of a problem.” He made this statement even though his marriage was ripping apart right before his eyes. He was driven only by his impulses and appetites, not by the logical Word of God, or even basic common sense. Darkness isn’t interested in what makes sense. It is only interested in satisfying impulsive, fleshly desires.
Illogical Wardrobe Choices
The demoniac’s lack of clothing is a further evidence of his lack of logic. Luke tells us he was “from the city,” which implies he had something of a normal life before Legion possessed him. This normal life certainly involved wearing clothes.
But while under demonic influence, we read, “for a long time he had worn no clothes” (Luke 8:27). Part of his insanity involved a continual streaking through the hills. We know his nudity was part of his insanity because just after Jesus cast out the demons, one of the first things the man did was get dressed. His mind returned to him, and he quickly noticed his embarrassing lack of attire.
After Adam and Eve fell into sin, wearing clothing became a part of life in a fallen world. Indeed, the Lord himself clothed them, mercifully, as they exited the Garden of Eden: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).
When they were naked in the garden before the fall, their lack of clothing represented their condition of moral innocence. In other words, they were in a position where they could choose to obey God or not to obey God. After they chose to disobey, they immediately sought to clothe themselves to cover their shame. The first wardrobe consisted solely of fig leaves. Once God had confronted and cursed them for their choice, he clothed them with the animal skins.
Both fig leaves and animal skins are dead. In fact, most all the clothes people have worn since then have come from dead things, whether plants or animals. People wear that which represents what we are. We wear death because we are dead in our sins and trespasses. The refusal to dress is, therefore, a refusal to acknowledge our sin and depravity before the Lord. Those who throw aside their clothing and present their nakedness to the world are, in a sense, denying that they have fallen into sin.
One confirmation of this theology of clothing comes when we study the future state of God’s saints. The apostle John observed the clothing of glorified saints in this vision:
Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. (ESV, italics mine)
These glorious white robes worn by God’s people are symbolic of being clothed in the living righteousness of Christ. They represent the moral condition of glorified saints as people who no longer sin against God.
But as for now, in this age of wearing our death, when a person refuses to wear clothing in public (or stares lustfully at those who do), it is an outright refusal to acknowledge the fall of humanity into sin. It is a way of saying, “I am my own moral authority.”
The demoniac was either near naked or completely naked and worried none about offending the sensibilities of the people around him. Imagine attempting to visit the tomb of your deceased grandfather in order to pay your respects, when suddenly this naked, screaming lunatic approaches you. Matthew indicates that he and his fellow demoniac were “so fierce that no one could pass that way” (8:28). That would be a very disturbing visit to grandpa’s grave!
The demons infesting this man warped his ability to think logically. Darkness so frequently does this to the minds and hearts that succumb to its magnetic influence. It leads a person eventually to the graveyard, among the tombs crying out. But the demoniac wasn’t the only naked man we read about in the New Testament:
John 19:23-24 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (ESV)
The Romans usually stripped the condemned naked before crucifixion. The soldiers made the entire process as humiliating as possible, not even granting the condemned the dignity of a loincloth (paintings and movies of the crucifixion likely get this wrong every time, but for modesty’s sake it’s good they do).
Why is this significant? Because Christ was made “to be sin,” even though he “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was stripped naked so that the demoniac could be clothed with righteousness. Jesus was utterly humiliated so that the demoniac might be granted sanity, dignity, and a white robe. Jesus willingly took upon himself the full punishment sin deserves (even becoming sin), so that the demon-possessed sinner might be clothed and free. He did the same for you and me.
We will return to these glorious gospel realities later in the book. For now we must continue analyzing the dark of darkness. In the next chapter, we will look at what is perhaps the most devastating and misunderstood aspect of darkness – it kills itself.
This post is Chapter 4 of the book Drowning Swine.
Read Drowning Swine Online
Click the chapter links to read now
- Jesus the Missionary
- Here Be Demons (and Pigs)
- Darkness Is Dark
- Among the Tombs Crying Out
- Darkness Kills Itself
- Who’s the Boss?
- Team Affiliation
- Naming Your Demons
- Fighting Fire with Consuming Fire
- Why God Made Pigs
- The Idolatry of Economy
- Holiness, Sanity, and Missions
Appendix: Synoptic Harmony