When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes, two men who were possessed by demons met him. They came out of the tombs and were so violent that no one could go through that area. They began screaming at him,
“Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God’s appointed time?” There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. So the demons begged,
“If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.”
“All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone. Matthew 8:28-34 NLT
More about one of the demon possessed men in the books of Mark and Luke:
Mark 5:9, 18-20
“Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.”
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.”
“The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.”
(Please read all of the verses of this same story located in Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39.)
Important Note: First, I’d like to address why Matthew speaks of two possessed men and the account in Mark and Luke only mention one man. To clarify the difference, I recently read this explanation from LifeMark Ministries: “…don’t be concerned that Matthew describes two men and the Mark and Luke accounts only describe one man. In the gospel accounts, it is not unusual to focus on the primary person (as Mark and Luke did). It is not a mistake or contradiction.”
(To read more from LifeMark Ministries or follow along with more of their great teachings go to: https://lifemark.mykajabi.com )
My Thoughts: Today we have a lot of content but it is important (and fascinating!) so I hope you read it all.
Jesus and the disciples go by boat to the region of Gadarenes which is somewhat unusual because it was probably inhabited by Gentiles. I believe it was Gentiles because the herdsmen were pig farmers. No old covenant Jew would ever be associated with these animals as they were considered unclean. (See Lev. 11:7–8.)
Another unusual thing about this area is that it was dangerous because violent, demon possessed men lived in tombs near the shore. Their violent behavior made it dangerous for anyone to pass through to any of the towns. But Jesus intentionally goes there.
The moment Jesus arrives, the crazed men address Jesus by calling him Son of God. The demons in the men are afraid because they know who Jesus is and they also know what is going to happen to them in their future. However, they quickly remind Jesus it is not God’s appointed time to destroy them.
The Bible tells us in several places demons know and fear Jesus. Jesus’ brother James tells us this truth with what appears to be a hint of sarcasm:
“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” James 2:19 NLT
These demons knew right away Jesus would heal the men of their torment but they wanted to remind Jesus it was not yet time for them to be banished to hell. The book of Revelation tells us (and the demons) what will be their future:
“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Revelation 20:10 NLT
In spite of their knowledge, the demons are still very much afraid of Jesus so they plead to be sent into the pigs. Jesus does so immediately, and the moment the demons enter into the pigs the animals are driven into the sea to their destruction.
Jesus wanted to show his disciples and the herdsmen who were watching that the demons true intentions were to kill the men. By contrast, when Jesus drives the demons out, it shows how much value He had for the men and His intentions were to heal them.
The herdsmen of the pigs immediately go to town to tell the people all they had seen. Instead of being amazed by the compassion Jesus showed to free the demon possessed men, they plead for Jesus to leave their town.
I find that very interesting, don’t you? They demonstrate by their words and actions they valued their pigs and their broken lifestyle more than Jesus or the lives of those men!
Jesus demonstrated He could restore the lives of those men with one command, which the herdsmen witnessed. So why wouldn’t they thank Jesus and ask for other lives to be healed like the recent crowds who had been following Jesus?
I believe the answer is we get so comfortable with our pain and trouble, we think what we know (the demons), is better than the unknown (healing) we don’t know. These people only knew a dark and demon possessed world, and by asking Jesus to leave they were saying they would rather have that than something different.
We read in the book of Mark one very violent man, filled with many demons was called Legion. He could easily break chains and shackles because of his enormous strength from all the demons. The demons even caused him to harm himself by using stones to slash his own flesh. That man was so grateful for the mercy and healing of Jesus, he begs Jesus to follow Him.
“This man lived in the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.” Mark 5:3-5 NLT
Instead of allowing the man to follow him, Jesus does something very compassionate; he sends the man back to his family and the town to proclaim what Jesus had done for him.
“So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.” Mark 5:20 NLT
In spite of the truth that the townspeople had no compassion for him, he obediently does as Jesus asks and returns to the town to share the great thing Jesus had done for him. His compassion for the town is so great, they are amazed at what they hear. I believe his great faith changed lives in those towns.
We are all commanded to do the same, did you know that? The last thing Jesus said before He ascended to Heaven was:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts of the Apostles 1:8 NLT
Let’s not keep our salvation story, our blessings, and all the good things Jesus has done for us to ourselves! We are His witnesses, and each of us is gifted in our own way to go and tell about Him.
Lord, we are your servants, may it be as You ask!
Closing Prayer: Father God, thank You for this story about the amazing healing of these broken men and that in spite of their brokenness, they were valuable to You. I love the stories that You show us over and over how You aren’t looking for perfect men and women to share the gospel, You are looking for willing men and women. LORD, I pray that my writing glorifies You, shares the good news of Jesus, and increases Your warriors for the Kingdom. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.