STUDY | Spend the week studying Mark 5:1–20. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Jesus is strong enough to break any stronghold in my life.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
THE SPIRITUAL WORLD
Belief in demons and demonic possession has been on the decline in the West for a long time. Demons and their power to possess someone seems antiquated to the modern ear. Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “We’ve progressed beyond such a primitive way of looking at the world.”
The Bible disagrees with this view. It says a supernatural world exists alongside the natural one we experience with our senses. Inhabiting the supernatural world are spiritual beings, both good (angels) and evil (demons). Demons have one goal: to destroy God’s original design for people and the world. One of the ways they do this is through possession.
HE IS STRONG ENOUGH
This week your group will discuss a time when Jesus showed He is stronger than the evil forces behind sin. Each of us has sinful strongholds we can’t break on our own. We need someone more powerful than us to free us. Jesus is strong enough to break any stronghold in your life.
Q: How would you explain your belief in the spiritual world to someone who doesn’t believe in it?
Q: Have you ever had an experience with demonic forces? If so, share.
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
THE CHAINS FELL OFF
Gerasa was a Gentile (non-Jewish) town by the sea. Just outside of this town was a demon-possessed man who lived in a graveyard. Every waking moment of this man’s life was torture. If you were close enough, you could hear him wailing in torment. He would often go into violent bouts of rage. No one in the town could subdue him. Whenever they tied him up, he’d just break the chains. While he could break the chains that bound him, he couldn’t expel the demons inside him.
One day the man saw Jesus and His disciples from afar. The man ran to Jesus and fell before Him. Jesus commanded the demons inside this man to come out, but they protested by speaking through the man. “What are you doing, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Don’t torment me!” Then Jesus asked a question: “What is your name?”
“Legion, because we are many,” the demons replied. The demons begged Jesus not to send them out of the region but into a herd of 2,000 pigs feeding nearby. Jesus granted their request and expelled the demons. The chains fell off —he was free from the demons’ torment. It was another story for the pigs. Tormented by the demons, they rushed off a steep bank into the sea. Every single pig died. The pig herders saw all this happen and were terrified.
Read: Mark 5:1–20. Split into pairs and practice telling the story in your own words.
Q: Where do you see Jesus’s power and authority on display in this story?
A TOWN FILLED WITH FEAR
Immediately, the pig herders ran to town to tell everyone what happened. When they returned with others from town, everyone was astonished by what they saw. The formerly demon-possessed man was sitting at Jesus’s feet, clothed and calm, nothing like his former self. The townspeople were struck with fear and begged Jesus to leave.
Jesus granted their request. As He was preparing to get in a boat, the former demoniac called after Him, “Please let me go with you, Jesus!” Jesus didn’t grant this request but told the man, “Go home and tell everyone how much I’ve done for you.” The man did this and, whenever he shared his story, his listeners marveled.
Q: How can fear drive someone away from Jesus?
Q: Recall a time when you witnessed Jesus’s power in your life.
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
ULTIMATE POWER AND AUTHORITY
What does this story tell us about Jesus? It tells us He has ultimate authority over the natural and supernatural worlds. Jesus’s miracles weren’t magic tricks or ways for Him to show off. They displayed His unlimited power and the truth of His identity. He was the Son of God, and no person or being was stronger than Him.
All of Jesus’s miracles were pointing to a greater miracle—His resurrection. The resurrection shows us that Jesus won the victory over the powers of sin, Satan and death—for us. That’s why Paul could say, “Thank God that He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
The strongholds of evil are no match for Jesus. The gospel gives you hope that Jesus is strong enough to break the enemy’s strongholds that are keeping you from enjoying the life God has for you.
Q: Name a current stronghold in your life. How would it feel to be free of it?
Q: What’s one thing you can do this week to remember the truth that victory over your strongholds is possible in Christ?
SLAVERY AND FREEDOM
Satan and his demons will use any means necessary to lead you into sin’s deceptive and enslaving trap. Like with the man in the story, they seek your destruction because they hate you. However, the life God wants for you is a life of freedom. He saw the terrible effects of sin in you and showed you compassion by sending His Son to save you.
Jesus purchased your freedom at Calvary. This means that you’re no longer a slave to sin. Jesus gives you a new heart that desires Him, and new eyes to see the destructive power of sin. He gives you the freedom to choose not to sin. He gives you the freedom to walk by faith. When you walk by faith, you have access to Jesus’s power, which makes victory over strongholds possible.
Q: Describe how sin makes you a slave.
Q: Explain the following statement in your own words: “He gives you the freedom to choose not to sin.”
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
A WITNESS TO HIS POWER
Jesus gave the man in the story a new mission in life—to be His witness. It’s likely that this man was the first missionary to the Gentiles. He had a remarkable story to tell, and so do you! While the details of your story differ from his, you can share stories of where you’ve seen Jesus be strong and compassionate for you. You can be a light to those who feel bound by sinful struggles, past hurts, addiction, shame. You can give hope that victory over strongholds is possible in the strong arms of Jesus.
Q: What might keep you from being honest about strongholds in your life? Why would it be a bad idea to avoid honesty in this area?
Q: Name one person who needs to hear the hope that victory over strongholds is possible through Jesus.
Thank God that in Christ there is victory. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal any strongholds in your life keeping you from the life God wants for you. Ask for “divine appointments” to be a witness of Jesus’s strength and compassion with others.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- Read Mark 3:22–30 and reflect on what Jesus wanted to communicate to His opponents about His strength.
- Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
Belief vs. Faith
Believing in Jesus doesn’t save. Putting your faith in Jesus does. The demons knew who Jesus was and they feared Him. James makes this point in his letter (James 2:19). Faith embraces the truth of the gospel and is changed by it.
How Many Demons?
“A legion was the largest unit of the Roman army and at full strength had 6,000 soldiers. This does not necessarily mean that there were 6,000 demons in the man, only that there were a great many.”1
Understanding Their Fear
The townspeople rejected Jesus and asked Him to leave their town out of fear, ignorance and selfishness. Jesus was a powerful force that they couldn’t understand nor control. Their selfishness made them more concerned about the financial loss through the death of the pigs rather than showing compassion to the man formerly possessed by a demon.2
The Decapolis was “a league of ten highly cultured Greek cities, with all but Scythopolis being east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. Jesus’s amazing power is made known among the Gentiles.”3
Can a Christian Be Possessed?
The Bible says that believers are sealed and indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13–14). “Christians can never be demon-possessed because they have the protection of the one who crushed Satan and his demon host on the cross.”4 However, Christians can be impacted by demonic activity and come under oppression or spiritual attack. In those circumstances, Jesus is strong enough to set them free.
A “stronghold” can be defined as anything that deceives us about the true nature of God or our true condition. The enemy can get a stronghold in your life by sowing lies that God is not good or trustworthy. He can also gain a stronghold by minimizing sin and its consequences. He can also gain a stronghold by heaping guilt and shame upon you about your sin and turning your eyes off of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. See 2 Cor. 10:3–5.
1. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1902.
2. Walter W. Wessel and Mark L. Strauss, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 770.
3. D. A. Carson, “The Gospels and Acts,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2019.
4. Michael Horton, “Christians and Demonic Activity Today,” Core Christianity, October 2, 2018, https://corechristianity.com/resource-library/articles/christians-and-demonic-activity-today.