Mark 5 | Sermon Series

Dr. Rich Rudowske

About The Episode

A man. A legion of demons. A herd of pigs. And Jesus. 

Rev. Dr. Rich Rudowske recounts how a Ghanaian community heard this Gospel account for the first time, which led to compassion and transformation.

Rich Rudowske
Those crazy people, even one of them, is more valuable than all of what we hold valuable. And that’s what he thinks about every human life. And if it took destroying our whole way of life to make that point to us, that’s what he would do. 

Rich Rudowske
Welcome to the Essentially Translatable Podcast brought to you by Lutheran Bible Translators. I’m Rich Rudowske. 

Emily Wilson
And I’m Emily Wilson. And today we have a sermon series episode where Reverend Dr. Rich Rudowske is a preacher on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. But before we listen into that sermon, can you share a little bit about what inspired you in being able to preach to the seminary students? 

Rich Rudowske

Rich Rudowske
This was a passage. It’s kind of a weird passage in our cultural and sociological background, this passage where Jesus goes and drives a demon out of a guy into a herd of pigs and the pigs go over…o that’s a reasonably familiar story. But also, there’s a lot that’s kind of weird going on there. And some years back in my early days working in Bible translation, I’d heard about a language community in Africa that had wrestled with that story in an oral listening group. And a colleague of mine who had observed those interactions was reporting how they interacted with that story and what the different details of that meant to them and how that stood out. 

Rich Rudowske
And kind of a takeaway from the message is just ultimately, there is something good and good to be wrestled with there, that God has done something good and raised questions that make us value other people. And I don’t know if I’m going to take away too much from what’s in there coming up, but I think one of the takeaways in the audio of the sermon file itself is like, I don’t know if this is right or not, but it seems good. 

Rich Rudowske

Emily Wilson
So the initial audience for this sermon was the students and their families at the Concordia Seminary- St. Louis campus. And really, those trips were aimed at individuals being able to participate more fully in God’s mission through Bible translation ministry, focusing in on recruitment of people who felt called to serve as missionaries. And if that is something that the Lord is leading you to, is serving in his mission, we want to encourage you to reach out to us at that if you want to explore what it means to serve as a missionary in the Bible translation movement and if there is a good fit for that. 

Emily Wilson
So just as you’re reflecting on this sermon, just want to encourage you all to be praying for language communities around the world as they are diving into God’s Word and wrestling with it and what it means to be transformed by it. 

Rich Rudowske
Imagine with me, if you will, the scene in a northern African village outside of, actually outside the village in northern Ghana, West Africa. A few trees, some shade. About 200 people gathered together. A missionary has been there working with the people and has helped them with a Bible translation, has provided a recording of the text in the Gospel of Mark. And folks are listening to it. They’ve been as a group. This is their church. They’ve been listening to the Word of God. Literacy is rare in this language. There’s never been writing before. The only book in the language is the New Testament in this language. And so the folks are gathered together and they hear this story from Mark, chapter five. They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasene’s. 

Rich Rudowske
And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs of man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains. But he wrenched the chains apart and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones, and when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God, I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 

Rich Rudowske
For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. And they begged him, saying, “Send us into the pigs. Let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered. The pigs and the herd, numbering about 2000, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. 

Rich Rudowske
And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had the legion sitting there clothed in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.

And the people have been listening, and the recording stops, they jolt back to reality because they’ve been following the story, and there’s quiet and there’s a low of noise, and then they begin talking about it. “Wow, that was an amazing story”,  “Can you believe what happened in that story?” He said, “Yeah, the man, he was crazy. That was unbelievable that he was clothed and in his right mind.” 

Rich Rudowske
And the missionary is watching this from the side, and he’s starting to think what the people are focusing on, and they’re talking about these things. And then they say, did it say that all the pigs were destroyed? And they go back and wind it a little. Yeah, it says, all the pigs rushed down were destroyed. And they said, “Did it say Jesus gave them permission to do that?” And they go and says, “Yeah, Jesus gave him permission.” And then somebody pipes up and says, “Did Jesus offer to reimburse those people for those pigs?” And they’re starting to think, and the missionary is watching and he realizes this story is hitting these people on a whole different level than it’s ever hit you or me, because he’s thinking, these folks, their whole economy is also pigs. 

Rich Rudowske
They have herds of pigs, big communal herds of pigs outside of their village, and they have a few herd boys that go out there and take care of them. And so these guys, they’re really processing this story on a whole different level. And so they start to say, “Why would Jesus do this? Why would he go and destroy the pigs? Why would he do this to these people?” And there’s a whole lot of …it starts to get a little bit rowdy, a lot of communication. And finally one of the elders stands up and he calls for people to quiet down, and he says, “We, the elders listened to this story before, and we’ve been discussing it for some time. We thought it was a good story to bring to you, the people, because we believe that there’s an important lesson for us here.” 

Rich Rudowske
He said, now, when you hear about this man, this demon possessed man, do we not have people like this in our villages? And the people said, “Oh, yeah, and it’s true. There’s people like this, and they’re often outside of the village. They’re kind of kept away because they’re dangerous and they do things. They hurt people, they steal, and so they’re pushed out to the edge.” And so they said, “Oh, yeah, there’s people like this.” And he says, “And these people in this story, they had pigs just like us, didn’t they?”, “Oh, yeah, of course we have pigs. Pigs are life.” And they said, “And we love our pigs, don’t we? Of course, we love our pigs.” He said, the people, pigs are, I mean, pigs are life, right? So they have a little conversation about this, keep talking about this. 

Rich Rudowske
And the man says, now, these crazy people that are around our villages, they’re worthless, aren’t they? He says, “Oh, yeah. I mean, these people, they don’t do anything productive for society. They even harm society. They’re worthless.” He says, “…but our pigs, I mean, that’s valuable, right? Oh, yeah. I mean, pigs, that is where it’s at.” There’s a lot of discussion. If you have a pig, and if you have two pigs, you can make more pigs. And then if you’re hungry, you could actually eat some of the pigs, right? Or if you need to pay for your kids to go to school for fees and uniforms, you can sell the pigs. So pigs, that’s valuable stuff right there. And he said, we would rather like one of these crazy people would just disappear or whatever than anything happened to even one of our pigs, right? 

Rich Rudowske
Oh, yeah. I mean, the mean, they’re valuable. These guys are worthless. And he said, well, we think that Jesus is teaching the people in this village that those crazy people, even one of them, is more valuable than all of the pigs, all of what we hold valuable. And that’s what he thinks about every human life. And if it took destroying our whole way of life to make that point to us, that’s what he would do. Of course, that’s why the people are afraid. Of course, that’s why they asked Jesus to leave. They were afraid. He just destroyed their entire way of life. 

Rich Rudowske
And he would do that to us too, if that’s what it took for us to grasp that every single person is important, the missionary is like watching from the side, and the people, they’re afraid now they say, do you think Jesus is going to do this to us? That we’re going to lose our whole way of life and destroy pigs? Is this what it means to follow Christ and the elder? No, no. Just one thing that’s very important is this story. When you hear it in Mark, it’s happened before Jesus went to the cross, before Jesus suffered and died, and so we have treated these people badly. And Jesus is calling us now that we know to treat them better, but he can forgive us for what we’ve done. We’re forgiven because of the cross. They turned to the missionary. Isn’t that right? 

Rich Rudowske
It’s like, oh, they really got it. And so the people from that point in this village began to treat these crazy people around the village better and said, “Well, what else does this mean?” If every human life, even these people, are important, what about the women that are working, that are with us? What about our girls? What about the small boys that we send to the herds? Is every single life this valuable to Christ? And it changed. It began to change how they saw things in their community by grace, because they say, okay, we’ve been doing this wrong for all these years, but Christ has forgiven us and called us by the cross to live and walk according to his way and love people the way he does. 

Rich Rudowske
Now, the missionary hears that story, and maybe, and I guess my thought for you, as professors in the church, as students and future leaders in the church, maybe one of the questions you might ask is, “Well, did they get that right? Is that right? Is that what that text actually means?” I don’t know. Our hermeneutics and isagogics books would say, “Well, stuff that’s contextually based, that the original audience would have gotten out of a text like this. If it’s not clear in the text, then it wouldn’t be. If the original audience is just kind of hearing all that, we can’t know that for sure. So we can’t say definitively that’s what the case is. 

Rich Rudowske
But we do have to admit, we do well to admit that when we come from our western culture, suburban culture, we miss a lot of those things that people might have picked up on in the original text. So there’s something there and really just kind of a challenge for us who proclaim the Gospel. We need to take the opportunity sometimes to receive the Gospel and just to hear Good News, even in an unexpected way and from a source that we didn’t expect, in a way we didn’t expect. It’s too easy to sit there and say, yeah, that was good Law and Gospel. That wasn’t quite right, but it was close to judge and to diagnose and not to just receive the good news. And there was good news in that story for those people. And I think there’s good news for us. 

Rich Rudowske
And as an encouragement to, again, those of you who you’re going to be the leaders and leaders in the church, we want to be connected with how God is working around the world because we learn, we benefit, we gain. Mission can sometimes be seen as something and has kind of developed into something that we go and do for people. But it’s so much more enriching if we go and do it with people and then we stand back and let them do it and experiment and get it right or get it wrong, but hear and see and learn different aspects or different truths that we may not have been seeing or noticing from scripture, and at least bring that. Consider that, perhaps share that with our people so they can also be encouraged about how God’s at work in the world. 

Rich Rudowske
And if any of you, the text that was read over here that I blatantly didn’t preach on, the father told the son to go and one said he would go and didn’t go. One said he wouldn’t go, but ended up going, maybe some of you, God is saying go, and you’re thinking, well, I’m not sure I want to go. Or maybe he’s told you to go and you say, okay, I’m going to go, but okay, I’m really not going to go anyways. The Lord bless you and guide you in that decision. And whether you go or whether you’re leading a church and shepherding God’s people, you have an important role to keep the vision bigger and broader and to see and show how God’s working around the world. And may God bless you in doing that. 

Rich Rudowske
And may you always be willing and joyful recipients of his good news. Amen. 

Rich Rudowske
Every time I hear that story, the biggest takeaway for me is just to imagine what it’s like to wrestle with God’s word without the different cultural background I have or the different assumptions or the things that I’ve ignored and for every detail to stand out and possibly have some kind of meaning. That’s what I just think is really a cool part of watching language communities that are experiencing God’s Word in their language for the first time, all that is before them to choose from and wrestle with and deal with is really cool. 

Emily Wilson
I think, too, the questions, whenever I shared this story in a recruitment setting of presenting to university students or seminary students, the questions that were asked of, wait a second, did Jesus offer to reimburse this person and what happened next? And that natural curiosity of being able to look at the text with new eyes, exactly. To hear it with new ears and the openness of heart, to just explore and to walk in with a humility as well. 

Emily Wilson
To say, I don’t know all of the answers and that’s going to be okay, but to just be willing to be transformed and to see how God is working through different cultures to sharpen the church as a whole, I think that was the chief takeaway for me, and as I shared with presentations is like how we’re enriching one another in the body of Christ through these kinds of interactions because with a new lens and a new perspective, even if it’s not what we think, that we have something to gain as the body of believers as a whole. 

Rich Rudowske
Yep, definitely. Just seeing those perspectives and asking different questions will take you different places, and it’s all an adventure and a great blessing. 

Rich Rudowske
Thank you for listening to the Essentially Translatable Podcast brought to you by Lutheran Bible Translators. You can find past episodes of the podcast at or subscribe on Audible, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow Lutheran Bible Translators’ social media channels on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Or go to to find out how you can get involved in the Bible translation movement and put God’s Word in their hands. 

The Essentially Translatable Podcast is produced and edited by Andrew Olson. Our executive producer is Emily Wilson. Podcast artwork was designed by Caleb Rodewald and Sarah Rudowske. Music written and performed by Rob Veith. I’m Rich Rudowske. So long for now. 


  • Rev. Rich Rudowske delivers a sermon on Mark 5
  • Focus on Jesus driving out a demon into a herd of pigs
  • Hear about the cultural and sociological background of this story

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