A man from the tombs. For Jews, tombs were an unclean place. They were not allowed to touch touch bodies. Demons drove these people (Matthew 8:28 mentions two of them) to live in this horrific place. Demons seem to take delight in causing misery and torment to their hosts. Satan has always appeared as an angel of light. He often makes big promises about the fun and pleasure people can have if they give in to his temptations, but such people are always disappointed and find themselves trapped and enslaved instead. James rightly said that we should resist the devil. Never give in and never give any foothold. See Ephesians 4:26-27
This man met Jesus as soon as Jesus got out of the boats. Some questions immediately pop into my mind. How did he know Jesus was coming? How did he know who Jesus was? What was his purpose? I believe this fact can give us some insight into the organizational ability and intel of Satan and his cohorts. These demons were seemingly sent to oppose Jesus’ work and cause disturbances and problems in hopes of preventing Jesus’ message from reaching the people. Satan and his dark spiritual forces clearly knew where Jesus was and were waiting to oppose him. This fits with the parable of the soils in the last chapter. In that parable we saw that where the sower was spreading seed, Satan was also there opposing the work of the sower and taking the seed from people’s hearts. This is a very stark reminder that Satan and demons are very real and are active in this world. They are actively working against God, against the church, and against believers.
Application: We should not be surprised to face opposition to following God. Rather we should expect it. Satan doesn’t want us to follow the Lord. He will put temptations in our path. He also doesn’t want us to tell others about the Lord or teach others about Him. We have to be alert. That means being careful to avoid any potential temptations. Billy Graham is a good example. He knew that people would be out to discredit his ministry and therefore he always had people go into his hotel rooms to make sure no women were waiting there to entice him.
The demon-possessed man possessed uncanny strength. No one could subdue him. He was stronger than everyone else and therefore free to roam around causing turmoil. Obviously people had tried many times to bind him, but every time he broke free. This story is kind of like Samson. Except Samson’s strength came from the Lord and this man’s strength came from demons. The problem was that people tried to subdue this man with their own strength. There is no evidence that they prayed or asked God for help. Their own efforts and their own strength were not enough.
Application: We cannot hope to win the spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons by our own power. He is stronger than we are and smarter than we are. If we rely on ourselves, we will lose. We have to rely on the Lord who is stronger than He is. How can we do this? We must be alert to temptations and always turn to the Lord through prayer and the Word. Follow the principles in God’s Word and pray for His help.
Jesus Encounter with the Demons:
- Clearly these demons were not submitting themselves to Jesus’ Their words make this very clear. So why were they bowing? It could have been mocking him (like the Roman guards who put the purple robe on Jesus.) If not mocking him, they could have been patronizing him in an attempt to get mercy and have a more favorable outcome to this confrontation.
- What business do we have with each other? See 2 Corinthians 2:14-18. The answer to these question is clear. They have no business with each other. There could be no cooperation. No mutual goals. No helping each other. No peace. The two sides are diametrically opposed and there is no hope of compromise or reconciliation. We should understand this and stay far away from evil. Do not consider doing something bad for a good purpose, telling white lies, or compromising for the greater good. We should avoid even the appearance of evil. The idea is not to see how close to the line we should get (that attitude is often seen in the sentence, “the Bible doesn’t say I can’t do it, so it must be OK), but should rather see how far away from the line we can stay (that attitude is seen in the question, “Does this glorify God. If He were here, would I do it?”)
- These demons understood who Jesus was. But they weren’t willing to accept him. This is a reminder of the idea we talked about before that intellectual agreement with the facts about Jesus does not equal a saving faith.
- Do not torment me! The Matthew account also includes their request not to be sent into the abyss. See cross-references and discuss. Some fallen angels have so disregarded the natural order and committed such abominations that God has seen fit to bind them there awaiting their final judgment and prevent them from influencing the world. The rest of the fallen angels and Satan will one day be judged and thrown into the lake of fire as well. These demons in this man were hoping to keep their freedom for as long as possible and avoid being bound in this abyss. That shows again that they knew their punishment was coming. Yet they still kept doing evil deeds. They had done them so much that there was no going back and no repenting even though they knew the final outcome was their complete destruction and punishment.
- Application: Sometimes we know ahead of time that something is sin. And yet becauseof the temporal pleasure that comes from the sin, we might just do it anyway and not care about the results. DO NOT EVER DO THIS. Sinning willfully against the Lord is a very dangerous proposition and those who do it are living very precariously. God could strike you down immediately like He did Annanias or Sapphira. Or you heart could become increasingly hardened and insensitive to sin as you get farther and farther from the Lord. Or you life could be completely ruined like Samson’s was.
- Legion –This man was possessed by man demons. Perhaps a person possessed by multiple demons could show multiple personality disorder. I personally believe that some things diagnosed in modern day as mental illnesses are manifestations of demon possession, not all but some.
- The demons requested to be sent into the herd of pigs. Their request likely had two motivations. One was probably that this was a convenient alternative to the abyss. The other is that perhaps they foresaw that the pig herders would become angry and this would lead to Jesus’departure from that area. These pigs were unclean animals so it could show that the Jews living in that area cared not for the law.
- Jesus gave thedemons permission to go into the swine. Why? The text does not give the answer. Some have speculated that it was a way to judge those Jews who had been raising pigs. But Jesus did not come to judge the first time and this seems to be outside of his mission. One thing this accomplished was that it gave a visible demonstration of the great evil power Jesus had delivered the man and that region from. We don’t know why Jesus granted their request but we do know that He is sovereign (the demons also realized this) and that He had a good reason to allow it. We will not always know why God does things, but we should trust that He does them for a good reason and His actions have always shown this to be true.
Jesus' Encounter with the People
- This event caused a big stir in that area and many people came to see what had happened.
- The demon possessed man was sitting down and dressed and in his right mind. In just a few verses, this man had experienced a 180 degree change in direction. His completely different demeanor was so shocking to the people that they seem even more frightened than by his evil rantings and ravings before. Those were a familiar evil, but this was something new which they didn’t understand.
- They implored Jesus to leave. This was their response to Jesus’miracle, asking him to leave. There is no indication that they thanked Jesus for handling their problem which they had tried and failed to do many times. There is no indication that they asked for more information about how He did this. They didn’t celebrate. They didn’t congratulate the man. They didn’t praise God for His goodness. They didn’t seek to understand more. They just wanted Jesus to leave. One reason was probably the financial loss some of them took. But another and more powerful reason was probably that if Jesus was gone they could just ignore this ever happened. They didn’t want to think about it. They didn’t want to understand it. They didn’t want to be enlightened. They wanted to continue living their comfortable lives with things they were familiar with (even if those familiar things were evil.) This is very sad and completely different than the disciples who often questioned about things they couldn’t understand. In today’s world, many people are like this as well. Perhaps they immediately reject the gospel because it is new to them and beyond their understanding. Most people would prefer to watch television or a movie than use their mind. Perhaps they even want to watch a show that they “don’t need to use their mind” to understand. This generation is mentally lazy. There are far more couch potatoes who go through life with dull expressions and ignore things they don’t understand than there are sincere learners who try to understand the world and are willing to study and dig and question to find the answer. We should be more like Mary who was always meditating on the amazing things happening around her instead of the scribes whom Herod asked about the birth of Messiah. These scribes didn’t even ask any questions or go to Bethlehem to investigate whether the Messiah was really being born there. (See Luke 2:19, and Matthew 2:1-2).
- The man who was demon possessed wanted to follow Jesus. This shows the change Jesus had made in Him. Before he was completely controlled by Satanic forces and spent his time wandering among tombs ranting and raving like a lunatic. Now he was calm and composed and sought to follow Jesus.
- Jesus perhaps surprisingly didn’t allow him to. Instead Jesus told him to go back and tell the people what Jesus had done for him. It is interesting that Jesus left the region when the natives asked Him too. But He didn’t leave it the same. He left one believer who could testify personally of God’s grace. This man could have a big impact.
- Application: Jesus did not train this man. This man did not go to seminary, or Bible school, or even a short term training. Probably one hour after his salvation (and he was a very evil man before), Jesus was sending him out to share the gospel. The man did not know a lot and he could not have answered many questions. But he knew what Jesus had done for him and he could tell this to others.
- Application: Ask people to share their testimony and thegospel to friends and family members from the moment they believe (and while they are still excited). Do not wait!
- We ourselves should be faithful to share and tell others without any excuse.
- The man was obedient. Sometimes we think that knowledge is a sign of maturity. It is isn’t. Obedience is. Jesus only told him to do one thing (that is recorded), but he did it. Are you obeying what God has told you to do?