Please read Luke 8:26-39 (See also Matthew 8:28 – 34 and Mark 5:1-20)
A. Jesus’ Power Over Demons Harassing People
This miracle demonstrates Jesus’ authority over demonic powers possessing people.
B. The Devil Opposes Jesus
The devil saw the Lord Jesus crossing the lake and realized that it bode no good for the dominion he had been exercising in that heathendom over all those years. It could well have been him casting a storm on the lake, firstly to drown them, but secondly also to prevent the group from getting to the shore of Gadara. Well, he failed to do so. Satan is mighty; but God is almighty. They all arrived safely in the land of Gadara; the disciples still wet and pale with shock, but otherwise unharmed. When our footsteps are directed by God, we are uncheckable.
C. God The Father Sends His Son To A Man And A People In Dire Need Of His Grace
Jesus was sent by His Father to the region of the Gadarenes to free a man named Legion. How great to be able to hear so clearly from the Father.
The moment when Jesus stepped ashore, it was confirmed that He had heard correctly, for a violent man roaring in anger, stormed Him from the graves. This man was bound by many demons. The devil was trying to use him to frighten Jesus away from himself and from the people of the land of Gadara, but he met more than his match.
D. Legion, A Man To Be Pitied
The demons had had possession of this poor man for an awful long time. They were in complete control of his life. His body and soul were their special home. They were evil squatters and were deliberately destroying the building which they occupied. They tormented the poor man day and night in the very core of his being.
When, at times, they exercised their evil power, he had no rest but kept walking aimlessly, uncontrollably, continually shouting, roaring at the top of his voice because of this unendurable harassment. At times he would pick up a sharp stone and cut himself, trying to ease the inner pain by inflicting physical pain on himself, such as when someone chews his tongue because of some other pain he suffers, but it brought no relief; on the contrary, his body became covered with open sores. Satan is a sadist who alleviates his own unbearable misery by torturing other beings.
While still at home, the demons had also stripped this man of his clothes and dignity. This was a real embarrassment to his family. At the beginning they tried to contain him by tying him up and handcuffing him, thereby keeping him at home so that they could take care of him, but the demons endued him with such power that he broke the chains and and fled into the veldt, putting much distance between him and other human beings. Later he took shelter from wind and weather in the empty tombs that were cut out in the nearby mountain. (Demon possessed people are quite normal at times, but the man could not stay with his people because he never knew when his violent guests would take control.)
E. Legion, the terror of the town
The people of that area were afraid of him and took care to stay at a safe distance. What would he have eaten? Probably his family sometimes took food for him and left it at a place where he could find it.
This human being was in a terrible state and there was no man or woman in that entire heathen nation that could help him in any way. Perhaps they sometimes spoke of him, clicking the tongue, saying, “Shame.” His relatives possibly wept for him but could not deliver their dear relative from the evil powers within him. The demons had embedded themselves inside of him and had him firmly in their grip. They were determined to torture him indefinitely and finally kill him in some way or other.
F. How Does One Become Possessed By The Devil?
Can such a thing happen unforeseen to any person? Can a person just walk down the street and then suddenly be taken into possession by a demon? No, definitely not.
Let us use an illustration. God covered our bodies with skin to protect it against germs that can cause infection. It is only when we willfully or negligently damage our skin, that germs penetrate our bodies (except of course by our airways and by what we eat).
Our spirit is even more safely protected by God’s grace from access by demons. We must therefore intentionally or by gross negligence, open ourselves for them to enter.
How does this happen? There are different possibilities. In Africa, one of the most common ways is using medicines or concoctions prepared by a witchdoctor. It can also happen when a person offers sacrifices to the spirits of his ancestors. Often a demon will pretend to be the spirit of one of the person’s deceased relatives. Or he may perform all kinds of miracles to impress the person and persuade him to open his life to him.
In the Western world, a vast array of occult (magical, demonic) practices are practiced through which contact with evil forces is sought to obtain supernatural power to effect healing of the body, predict the future, etc.
Some spiritual leaders even claim that when someone has sexual intercourse with a demon possessed person, the demon may get a hold on him or her.
Demons can also get a hold on people that continually indulge in thoughts of hatred and revenge, or in thinking gloomy and negative thoughts. When someone carries grievances towards others in his mind, he creates room for an unclean spirit to gain a foothold.
This process can be compared to a piece of metal attracted by a magnet: when some distance away, the pull the magnet exerts upon it is hardly noticeable, but the nearer it gets, the pull increases exponentially until it eventually clamps onto the object with an irresistable force. That is when the evil spirit takes over physically and its victim is helpless in its power.
G. The Uneven Battle: Legion And His 3000 Demons Versus Jesus, Filled With The Holy Spirit
(A legion is the largest unit of a Roman army consisting of 3000 to 6000 soldiers).
Why this man got demon possessed, we do not know, but what is clear is that he bore a great anger within him. He saw the boat approaching and the moment Jesus got out, he was there and the evil spirits began speaking through him. They knew that Jesus was the Son of God and had power over them. When Jesus instructed them to get out of him, they cried out by using the man’s speech senses: “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the most-high God? I pray you, don’t torment me.”
The demons revealed naked fear of the Son of God. They realized that they faced the Almighty, the King of the universe.
Then their arrogance melted into a plaintive pleading that He would not torment them until the destined hour for their eternal punishment would arrive. They knew that God had prepared a lake of fire for their commander and his angels, into which they will be cast on the day the final judgment will come upon this world. Seeing Jesus, reminded them of that day and caused them to fear that He might even right away command them to descend into the abyss, the lake of fire, deep below the surface of the earth, so they begged Him to allow them to enter into a herd of pigs that grazed nearby.
Their time to move around freely here was running out and they would use every moment to fulfill their pernicious task of seducing and harassing human beings because they were created in the image of God, their enemy.
H. The Devil, A Destroyer Of Everything He Comes Into Contact With
Their request was granted but the moment they entered the pigs, they continued their destructive work, drove them over a cliff into the lake and drowned them.
What a danger getting involved with the occult. Why would we, destined to be temples of the Holy Spirit, then use drugs that rob us of our God given reason that protects us, or why consult unclean spirits and run the risk of being possessed and dominated by such horrible, unhappy beings?
I. The impact this had on the owners of the pigs
There must have been a large number of pigs for more that one person watched over them and they reported the occurrence in the city as well as surrounding areas. This creates the impression that the pigs belonging to numerous owners, grazed together.
These owners were terribly upset by the loss of their animals. We may secretly sympathize with them for it must have been a considerable financial loss to them. May we ask reverently whether it was fair of the Lord Jesus to allow the demons to destroy the property of these people? Why do a favour to demons?
The answer may be that God was not doing the demons a favour but had other reasons for granting their request. Let us look at possibilities:
- He was using the opportunity to teach the Gadarenes that God ruled supreme over all nations and that they were to keep His commandments as much as His adjoining people, the nation of Israel. At that time the Law of God, given through Moses, made it very clear that a pig was an unclean animal and that it was sin to eat pork. Yet, the gentiles of Gadara, living next door to Israel, ignored this Law and farmed with pigs, slaughtered and ate the meat, for what else can one do with a pig,? It has no wool, neither can it pull a cart. They simply disregarded God’s command. They were making a living and acquiring wealth by what God defined as unclean and so He allowed that which was unclean, the unclean spirits, to rob them of what they had gathered against His will. This was an expensive but necessary lesson to learn.
- It also was a warning not to have contact with the devil by practicing witchcraft which is a common practice of heathen nations. They could see the results of so doing both in what the devil did to Legion and to the pigs.
- The possession and drowning of the pigs by demons, was as much an act of God as was the deliverance of Legion, but it was much greater news and rocked the whole community. In effect it focused the spotlight right onto the Lord Jesus. They might not have come to realize that He was God in the flesh, but they would certainly have concluded that He was no ordinary human being. Hereby Legion’s testimony would be strengthened. The Gadarenes would realize that a supernatural anti-demonic Person had visited them – a mighty man of God. This would have lead to further enquiry by some and be the first step towards coming to faith in the Christ sent by God. Even if it cost them a thousand pigs, it would have been a small price to pay for the deliverance of their souls from darkness and being brought over into the Kingdom of Light.
- By one mighty act, the Lord Jesus laid the foundation for the Gospel to spread though the land of Gadara.
- God makes all things to work together for good, even to those that do not yet know Him. His intentions with man are always good.
J. The Value Of A Single Person
Regarding Legion: one man is worth more than a thousand pigs, because he was created in the image of God. While an animal ceases to exist at death, man’s spirit lives forever. The people of Gadara should have been overcome with joy to see that one of their own people was delivered from such a terrible suffering.
K. The Liberated Legion
What happened after the possessed man was freed? He dressed himself in the clothes that bystanders, perhaps even the disciples, gave him. Then he fell at the feet of Jesus and begged Him to be allowed to accompany Him so that he could always be near to Him, wherever He would go. But, strange enough, Jesus refused his request and sent him back to tell his people what He had done for him.
Jesus has in his heart a very special place for each of us and also a unique life plan for everyone. Firstly, He wants us to witness of Him towards others. The Gadarenes who were well aware of Legion’s earlier condition, would immediately have seen that he was a totally new man, set free from the powers by which he had been bound. This would create the opportunity for him to tell them about Jesus so that they could also be delivered from the power of sin and death. This he also did, traversing the city to testify of the grace and divinity of Jesus.
L. Jesus, Rejected By The Masses, But Sought By The Individual
After this incident, Jesus tarried for a little while, probably to see what the reaction of the Gadarenes would be: would they invite Him to come and minister to them? There was Legion right before them, testifying of His goodness and power to bless human beings.
The Gadarenes however were not only amazed at His supernatural power but feared that He would use it to harm them, so they begged Him to leave their country. Had they rather implored Him to stay with them, would scores of others not have been healed or delivered from demons? The whole city could have been mightily blessed.
They saw Him as a threat. Isn’t that why so many people do not invite the Lord into their lives? They believe that He will rob them of the pleasures of life; that He will cast out their fattened “pigs”: the unholy things in their lives; the dirty jokes, frivolous talk, dishonest deals or bedmates to whom they are not married?
So, Jesus turned back, got into the boat and crossed the lake to the Galilean shore.
God the Father knew in advance that He would be rejected by the masses, but nevertheless sent Him to Gadara to deliver a single, lonely and broken sinner. What a great love!
By that same love, He also came from heaven so that you and I may be saved. Have you accepted Him and come to salvation? If so, never stop praising Him and testifying of His great deeds.
M. God’s Power Over The Evil One
Finally: Jesus has all power over the devil and his demons, so let us be strong and never succumb to fear when confronted with their manifestations; whether in nature or in man.
In Luke 10:19 it is written that He gives us authority over all the power of the enemy, promising that nothing will ever hurt us. In Christ, the child of God also possesses the power to cast out demons from others. How favoured we are.
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