How Do You Feel? Surprised?

By: John Reiter

Posted: October 31, 2020

Category: Daily Devotional

Devotions on Emotions (and Scripture) by the First Pres Pastors

A reflection on Mark 5:1-13

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him anymore, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

This seems to be an appropriate passage for the week of Halloween. You’ve got shackles and chains, a man possessed by not one, but many demons, and an exorcism. It is also a great story depicting Jesus’s healing ministry and is perfect as we think about the emotion of surprise.

For me, there are several surprising moments here. For the disciples, they had barely made it across the sea alive after Jesus had calmed the waters during a storm. They finally made it to dry land and immediately were approached by a man who had been living among the tombs. We also have the surprising fact that the man knows exactly who Jesus is and calls Him, “Son of the Most High God.” Of course, the man’s condition of being possessed by demons is rather shocking as well.

I think the biggest surprise is Jesus’ mercy on the unclean spirits. Instead of casting them out into nothing, he honors their request and lets them enter the herd of swine (numbering 2,000!!!). Jesus surprises so many throughout scripture with healings and teachings that are counter to what people expected. Our God is a God of surprises!

Where has God surprised you lately? What is unique about a surprise from God? How do you respond?


Loving God, You are full of unexpected actions in our lives. Help us to respond to Your surprises in our lives with gratitude. May we in turn seek to show others compassion and mercy. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.