I have one question today for readers to consider about our passage of Jesus driving demons out of a possessed man, resulting in their entrance into a herd of pigs that rush off a cliff into the sea: Should we call the condition of the pigs as having contracted a case of swine flu, or is it legionnaire’s disease? (You can’t get this depth of biblical analysis just anywhere!)
The region where the possessed man lived is in Gentile territory on the other side (eastern) of the sea of Galilee. This is the only recorded event from this trip that involved the stormy waters that were calmed. Is there a demonic element to both? Such is purely conjecture, but it is interesting to consider.
But what is clear in Luke’s writing (as a Gentile author) is that the mission of Jesus and the proclamation of the gospel is not going to be confined to the Jewish world. This is a major theme that Luke carries of course into the books of Acts.
The inclusion of this narrative is also to show that Jesus has the highest of divine authority – over the demons and fallen angelic workers of the kingdom of darkness. These demons (and there were many, as the name “Legion” implies – the word for the Roman military detachment of thousands) had entirely possessed this man. His condition is the most severe imaginable – naked, uncontrollable, driven from society.
Make no mistake about it, demons have significant powers. But wherever they come into an encounter with Jesus, they display a total meltdown. In the verbiage of Hans and Franz of Saturday Night Live fame, their “pumping of the muscle” totally leaves them and they wimp their way into complete “girlie men angels.” (Again, you can’t get this analysis just anywhere!)
But in all seriousness, what frightens you the most at this moment of your life? Is it as scary as what this possessed man was going through? Not likely. And the risen Christ who resides within you in the form of the Holy Spirit is that same power that caused these powerful demons to chicken out into a bunch of pigs who thought they were eagles!
The reaction of the townspeople is interesting. Rather than welcoming such a display of power and authority, they just want to avoid it completely. Is that not a picture of the common man in our world today? Rather than submit to God and his rule, they would rather avoid him and keep driving the car of their lives themselves.
It is also interesting to see the response of the now formerly-possessed man. Wishing to go with Jesus, he is instead told to stay where he is, but to bear witness of God’s work in his life. This reminds us that God has a place for each of us, and it will not be the same place. We may not all get prominent roles on the stage of ministry with Jesus, but we all have a role to play – our place to work in the vineyard (to use another metaphor). But in any place – large or small, prominent or remote – we should be an active and public witness relative to the faith that has changed our lives and given us a new purpose.
As well, our faith inoculates us from contracting demonic swine flu or legionnaire’s disease! There is nothing ultimately to fear from the kingdom of darkness.
Luke 8:26 – They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.
38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.